Shortcuts and Pitfalls: What to Avoid when Working on Your Dissertation (Part 2)

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Dissertation Motivation

In part one of this series, we discussed general tips on how to make your dissertation process as smooth as possible. These included not fighting with your mentor/chair, not plagiarizing, and not skimping on research. If you would like to refresh yourself with those tips, go ahead. In part two, we will be discussing picking a topic, keeping a reference list, and ensuring your sources are up to date.

Do not pick a topic on a whim: Something that we see quite commonly is students who decide to pick a topic on whim and then get frustrated when they find out that it has either been done before or there is nothing to indicate that it is actually a problem. This piggybacks off of a tip mentioned in part one—do your research. You need to determine if there is actually a gap, which means you need to determine if said gap fits your specialty. Picking a topic on a whim generally indicates to a chair that you cannot be bothered with finding something of importance, so you are willing to put in half measures to get your project done. Some people will choose a topic that is near and dear to them, and that is much better than choosing one randomly; however, make sure there is actually something for you to study in the first place.

Do not wait on putting together a reference list: This is pretty self-explanatory, but do not wait until the last minute to put together a reference list. As you write your chapter, update your references as you go along. Waiting until the last minute usually means you will forget some references, some DOIs, or you will undoubtedly mess up the formatting. By taking the time to actually put the list together while you work, you will decrease the likelihood of it getting torn to shreds by your mentor or committee over something as small as improper APA formatting. Additionally, by keeping a running reference list as you work, you will not have to worry about throwing it together as you approach the end of your dissertation, thereby potentially postponing your graduation date.

Do not skip over your out of date sources: This is a big one and it goes hand-in-hand with the previous section: do not brush off your out of date sources. The more time you spend on your dissertation means the higher the likelihood of you having to replace your sources with current ones. As you progress through your study, be sure to constantly update the sources that can be updated, as this will ensure that URR does not send the document back to you, telling you to try again. Some sources cannot be updated, but these will most likely be seminal sources that are exceptions to the rule. However, if a source can be updated, go ahead and knock it out. This will save you from a lot of grief when you get closer to your graduation date. Just as a reminder, current typically means no more than 5 years out from your intended graduation date. That means if you intend on graduating in May of 2018, then your sources cannot be older than 2014 (yep, they count the years individually, not sequentially).


Want more tips from our dissertation experts? Fill out the form to the right to request our 7 Secrets to Completing Your Dissertation in One Year download.

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