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Tips for managing your progress toward completing your dissertation

Major rules of thumb for managing your progress toward completing your dissertation are as follows:

  1. Managing your progress toward completing your dissertation is YOUR responsibility, not that of your committee, your committee chair, the graduate adviser or anyone else. Take responsibility for it.

  2. Make sure you have a PhD, not excuses for not having one.

  • The PhD Committee

    1. Choose your committee members carefully and strategically. Know what you want from your committee as a whole and individual members in particular. Then pick your members accordingly.

    2. Keep ALL members of your committee informed of your progress at all points in time.

    3. Ensure that lines of communication are always open with all members

    4. Its your responsibility to call, write memos, provide chapters, etc. to keep your committee informed of your status, progress, and problems. You call them, they will not call you.

  1. Expectations for the oral defense

    1. The oral is NOT the completion of your dissertation (although you will surely wish it was!) You WILL need to make revisions.

    2. Expect that you will have to make revisions after the oral defense

    3. Almost never does an oral defense lead to the conclusion "Pass with no revisions"

    4. Rarely does an oral defense lead to "Pass with minor editing revisions"

    5. The vast majority of oral defenses lead to a "Pass with significant/substantial revisions"

      1. Therefore, plan on spending at least two full and hard weeks of work after the oral. Better yet, plan on a full month of revisions and be happy if you only need to spend two weeks.

  1. Planning and scheduling

    1. Don't plan to hand in your final thesis to the grad school earlier than two full months after your planned oral defense date because:

    2. You will not have your thesis done when you expect and you will ask your committee to slip your defense date by two weeks

    3. Your planned oral date will occur at least two weeks after that because of scheduling conflicts with your committee

    4. You will need to make revisions

    5. You will get sick, have your printer break down, have your computer crash, and other Murphy-driven occurrences will cause delays.

    6. Follow grad school dissertation guidelines from the beginning

    7. Get a copy of the dissertation format requirements on the day you finish your third comprehensive exam

    8. Set up a template file in your word processor in the correct format to meet those requirements, including correct margins, page numbers, etc., etc., etc.

    9. All of your writing for your thesis should be ready to hand to the grad school - that way you don't have problems at the end.

    10. Make sure that the intext citation or footnote format you are going to use fits the grad school requirements. Then stick to it.

      1. I recommend using intext citations since they are easier to follow and it is easier to make sure you have the citations in the reference section at the back as well.

      2. Start creating an accurate, complete, and correctly formatted bibliography today.

      3. Whenever you read a new article or book, put in a complete, and correctly formatted citation for it, including page numbers for articles and chapters, volumes, issue numbers, etc. Its easy to do it at the beginning, its impossible to do it in the last two weeks before you deposit your thesis.