Grad Students: Beat the Writing Blues
By Daniella Snyder
I’m Daniella Snyder, a second-year graduate student at Villanova University, and your ‘Cat in Falvey Library’s Stacks. I’ll be posting about academics–from research to study habits and everything in between–and how the Falvey can play a large role in your success here on campus!
This post goes out to my fellow graduate students, and a question that we have heard regularly over the last two weeks:
How’s your thesis going?
Whether it be from co-workers, classmates, or professors, the question is anxiety-inducing. The timeline I had envisioned for myself might have been too demanding, I keep getting distracted, I love procrastinating…the list goes on and on.
However, I’m not here to stress you out any further. Instead, I want to help you. Over the course of the last few days, I’ve found tons of thesis and dissertation writing tips, tricks, and testimonials, and I’ve listed some of the best pieces of advice below. Wildcats: best of luck, and get writing!
1). It’s okay if you don’t write every single day. In her Inside Higher Ed article, Christine Tulley writes that, despite the popular “hour a day” writing schedule, real-life academics “carve out time and space for writing in an impressive variety of ways,” and advises a weekly writing day. If that sounds more doable than a daily writing sesh, read Tulley’s article.
2). Get in the driver’s seat. Dora Farkus, PhD, shared her own dissertation-writing journey in this online article. Farkus advises that you have to be your own project manager. “The purpose of grad school is to learn how to become an independent researcher,” she writes, “you are not at the mercy of your thesis supervisor,” and that you are at the point in your education where you know what is realistic to accomplish.
3). Accept that you will never feel like writing. In a different online article, Farkus makes it clear that you should not wait to be inspired to write. However, there are a few steps you can take to “warm up your writing muscles:” listen to music that puts you in the mood to write, watch a motivational video, or visualize all the things you will do once your thesis is finished. Then, she advises, start typing gibberish! Get something down on paper until words flow naturally.
4). Be intentional when writing. Instead of writing “work on thesis” in your calendar, Farkus and Tulley assert that you should be specific, such as “Finish Section II of Chapter I, 3-5 p.m.” This way, you can feel accomplished when you do finish the task. Further, by setting specific time restraints, you’re more likely to mono-task (the opposite of multi-task!) during that time frame.
5). Finally, not writing is writing (sometimes). Of course you know that you should take breaks when writing, but Tulley writes that on your walk to get more coffee or doing your laundry, you should use that time to think about what you worked on. Do you feel proud? Are there still problems to tackle? Who can you send it to to for constructive criticism or revisions? This way, you’re not allowing your break time to distract you from your project, and you’re still making progress towards your end goal.
Daniella Snyder, graduate assistant for the Communication and Marketing department at Falvey, is currently working on her master’s thesis.
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