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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

How to write a PhD thesis: 13 Tips for PhD thesis writing 

13 Tips for writing a PhD Thesis - Paperpal

Completing a successful PhD research thesis is extremely challenging, and how to write a PhD thesis is often a question in students’ minds. Fret not, there are many ways to make the process of PhD thesis writing less bumpy. This article will provide some PhD thesis writing tips to simplify the writing process and help you complete your thesis on time, while keeping your sanity mostly intact. 

Only about 50% of students enrolled in a PhD program ever complete it 1 . They drop out at many different points during the process for many different reasons. Some leave because the course work is too difficult or time consuming. Some leave for personal or financial reasons. One common cause of non-completion, or late completion, is the daunting spectre of PhD thesis writing. 

PhD thesis writing tips: How to overcome the challenge of writing your PhD thesis

First, remember that although writing a PhD thesis is difficult, this can be accomplished. Here are some things to consider that will increase your confidence and make the task of PhD thesis writing a bit less scary. 

  • Create an outline before you start writing – The most effective way to keep your work organized is to first create an outline based on the PhD thesis structure required by your university. Using an outline for your PhD paper writing has tremendous benefits. It creates a handy space to keep and organize all the little snippets of information and questions you will have during your preparation. It allows you to effectively plan your work and manage your time and makes the actual writing much easier. A thesis is shaped more than written, and an outline provides it the required PhD thesis structure. 
  • Follow all university guides – Be careful to ensure that you are meeting all the requirements of your university. This includes everything from topic selection to structure to writing style. It is extremely frustrating to spend a lot of time and effort on a section only to have to do it over because you didn’t follow the proper guidelines. Read all relevant material from your university over and over until you have it memorized. Then, check it again. 
  • Section order – It is usually best not to do your PhD thesis writing in chronological order. For researchers, the easiest parts to write are usually the Method and Results. So, gain some confidence first and write the Introduction and Conclusion last to tie it all together. 
  • Work extensively with your supervisor – Don’t forget that in the process of PhD thesis writing, help is right there when you ask for it. Do not hesitate to ask for guidance from your supervisor, advisors, or other committee members when you get stuck. Clear and regular communication with these important resources can save you untold heartache during the PhD research and thesis writing processes. This should not be a solo exercise; they have all been where you are now. 
  • Plan carefully, create rough drafts, and refine 2 – This is so important and basic to all academic research that it bears repeating. You will not write the final PhD thesis on your first try. Do not become frustrated, trust the process. 
  • Produce quality writing – Make sure your ideas flow easily and are clear and easy to read. This is not a strong skill for most beginning researchers, but it’s a skill that can be learned with a lot of practice. Therefore, edit, edit, and edit some more. If you need it, there are many places to get PhD thesis writing help and assistance. 
  • Details matter – Pay attention to the small things, especially with the document formatting. If you start out using the proper format, you will be saving a tremendous amount of time and grief later. 
  • Avoid plagiarism – Quote accurately, otherwise paraphrase. There is no excuse for being a lazy writer. Consider using a smart tool or service to check for plagiarism during your PhD thesis editing process to make sure you did not unintentionally copy any material. 
  • Rein in the references – Use a database, such as EndNote or Mendeley, to keep them organized and under control; check and double check citations and references with the bibliography to ensure they all match. Don’t forget to use the PhD thesis style required by your university. 
  • Keep it simple – Remember, this is only the start of your career, not your ultimate work 3 ; perfectionism can be a disaster. 
  • Make consistent progress – Try to write at least a little every day; check quotations and references when writing seems too difficult. 3  
  • Keep your reader in mind – As with all writing, your PhD thesis is meant to be read, so be considerate of those who read it; be concise, include all necessary data/information to support your argument but nothing extra. Strive to be understood and avoid unnecessary words. 
  • Be persistent and eager – Writing a doctoral thesis becomes easier if you are consistent and dedicated. All other things being equal, your attitude will ultimately determine your success. Have patience and work hard. Create work you will be proud of for a lifetime. 
  • Cassuto, L. Ph.D. attrition: How much is too much? The Chronicle of Higher Education.    https://www.chronicle.com/article/ph-d-attrition-how-much-is-too-much/?cid=gen_sign_in [Accessed 20 July 2022]
  • Curl, I. 10 tips for writing a PhD thesis. Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/10-tips-writing-phd-thesis [Accessed 20 July 2022]
  • Thomas, K. Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/aug/27/finishing-phd-thesis-top-tips-experts-advice [Accessed 20 July 2022]

A PhD thesis includes several key components, that are essential for the work to be considered seriously. These may vary depending on the research field and specific requirements of the institution, but generally include: ·         an introduction that presents the research question and context, ·         a literature review that surveys existing knowledge and research, ·         a methodology section describing the research design and methods employed, ·         a presentation of findings or results, ·         a discussion section interpreting the results and their implications, and ·         a conclusion that summarizes the main findings and contributions. Additionally, appendices may contain supplementary materials such as data, charts, or technical details.  

The time required for writing a PhD thesis can vary significantly depending on factors such as the research topic, the individual’s research progress, the specific requirements of the institution, and the researcher’s writing process. On average, it can take several months to a few years to complete a PhD thesis. The research, data collection, and analysis stages can span several years, with the PhD thesis writing phase itself often lasting several months. Here, AI writing assistants like Paperpal, designed for academics, can help you write better. Explore Paperpal and see the difference for yourself!

To select a suitable topic for your PhD thesis, start by identifying your research interests and areas of expertise. Consider the gaps or unresolved questions in your field of study and explore potential research avenues and read extensively in your area of interest. Consult with your advisor or mentors, who can offer guidance and help narrow down your options. Once you have a tentative topic, conduct a literature review to ensure its novelty and feasibility. It’s important to choose a topic that aligns with your passion, has potential for meaningful contribution, and is feasible given available resources and time constraints.

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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

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How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

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Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know

Trying to complete a PhD thesis in time for the October deadline? We share some advice on getting over that final hurdle

  • The key to a successful PhD thesis? Write in your own voice

Many PhD students are now in the final throes of writing their thesis. Turning years of research into a single, coherent piece of work can be tough, so we asked for tips from supervisors and recent PhD graduates. We were inundated with tweets and emails – and @AcademiaObscura helpfully created a Storify of the tweets. Below is a selection of the best tips.

1) Make sure you meet the PhD requirements for your institution “PhD students and their supervisors often presume things without checking. One supervisor told his student that a PhD was about 300 pages long so he wrote 300 pages. Unfortunately the supervisor had meant double-spaced, and the student had written single-spaced. Getting rid of 40,000 extra words with two weeks to go is not recommended.” ( Hannah Farrimond, lecturer in medical sociology, Exeter University)

2) Keep perspective “Everyone wants their thesis to be amazing, their magnum opus. But your most important work will come later. Think of your PhD as an apprenticeship. Your peers are unlikely to read your thesis and judge you on it. They are more likely to read any papers (articles, chapters, books) that result from it.” ( Dean D’Souza, PhD in cognitive neuroscience, Birkbeck, University of London)

3) Write the introduction last “Writing the introduction and conclusion together will help to tie up the thesis together, so save it for the end.” ( Ashish Jaiswal, PhD in business education, University of Oxford)

4) Use apps “ Trello is a project management tool (available as a smartphone app) which allows you to create ‘boards’ on which to pin all of your outstanding tasks, deadlines, and ideas. It allows you to make checklists too so you know that all of your important stuff is listed and to-hand, meaning you can focus on one thing at a time. It’s satisfying to move notes into the ‘done’ column too.” ( Lucy Irving, PhD in psychology, Middlesex University)

5) Address the unanswered questions “There will always be unanswered questions – don’t try to ignore or, even worse, obfuscate them. On the contrary, actively draw attention to them; identify them in your conclusion as areas for further investigation. Your PhD viva will go badly if you’ve attempted to disregard or evade the unresolved issues that your thesis has inevitably opened up.” ( Michael Perfect, PhD in English literature, University of Cambridge)

6) Buy your own laser printer “A basic monochrome laser printer that can print duplex (two-sided) can be bought online for less than £100, with off-brand replacement toners available for about £30 a pop. Repeatedly reprinting and editing draft thesis chapters has two very helpful functions. Firstly, it takes your work off the screen and onto paper, which is usually easier to proof. Secondly, it gives you a legitimate excuse to get away from your desk.” ( James Brown, PhD in architectural education, Queen’s University Belfast)

7) Checking is important “On days when your brain is too tired to write, check quotations, bibliography etc so you’re still making progress.” ( Julia Wright, professor of English at Dalhousie University, Canada)

8) Get feedback on the whole thesis “We often get feedback on individual chapters but plan to get feedback from your supervisor on the PhD as a whole to make sure it all hangs together nicely.” ( Mel Rohse, PhD in peace studies, University of Bradford)

9) Make sure you know when it will end “Sometimes supervisors use optimistic words such as ‘You are nearly there!’ Ask them to be specific. Are you three months away, or do you have six months’ worth of work? Or is it just a month’s load?” ( Rifat Mahbub, PhD in women’s studies, University of York)

10) Prepare for the viva “Don’t just focus on the thesis – the viva is very important too and examiners’ opinions can change following a successful viva. Remember that you are the expert in your specific field, not the examiners, and ask your supervisor to arrange a mock viva if practically possible.” ( Christine Jones , head of school of Welsh and bilingual studies, University of Wales Trinity St David)

11) Develop your own style “Take into account everything your supervisor has said, attend to their suggestions about revisions to your work but also be true to your own style of writing. What I found constructive was paying attention to the work of novelists I enjoy reading. It may seem that their style has nothing to do with your own field of research, but this does not matter. You can still absorb something of how they write and what makes it effective, compelling and believable.” ( Sarah Skyrme, PhD in sociology, Newcastle University)

12) Remember that more is not always better “A PhD thesis is not a race to the highest page count; don’t waste time padding.” ( Francis Woodhouse, PhD in mathematical biology, University of Cambridge)

13) Get a buddy “Find a colleague, your partner, a friend who is willing to support you. Share with them your milestones and goals, and agree to be accountable to them. This doesn’t mean they get to hassle or nag you, it just means someone else knows what you’re up to, and can help to check if your planning is realistic and achievable.” ( Cassandra Steer, PhD in criminology, University of Amsterdam)

14) Don’t pursue perfectionism “Remember that a PhD doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Nothing more self-crippling than perfectionism.” ( Nathan Waddell, lecturer in modernist literature, Nottingham University )

15) Look after yourself “Go outside. Work outside if you can. Fresh air, trees and sunshine do wonders for what’s left of your sanity.” ( Helen Coverdale, PhD in law, LSE)

Do you have any tips to add? Share your advice in the comments below.

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Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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Table of Contents

In your academic career, few projects are more important than your PhD thesis. Unfortunately, many university professors and advisors assume that their students know how to structure a PhD. Books have literally been written on the subject, but there’s no need to read a book in order to know about PhD thesis paper format and structure. With that said, however, it’s important to understand that your PhD thesis format requirement may not be the same as another student’s. The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines.

But, let’s take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We’ll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We’ll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections. As you read through this toolkit, compare it to published PhD theses in your area of study to see how a real-life example looks.

Main Sections of a PhD Thesis

In almost every PhD thesis or dissertation, there are standard sections. Of course, some of these may differ, depending on your university or department requirements, as well as your topic of study, but this will give you a good idea of the basic components of a PhD thesis format.

  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary that quickly outlines your research, touches on each of the main sections of your thesis, and clearly outlines your contribution to the field by way of your PhD thesis. Even though the abstract is very short, similar to what you’ve seen in published research articles, its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The abstract is there to answer the most important question to the reviewer. “Why is this important?”
  • Introduction : In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it’s important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.
  • Literature Review : Within the literature review, you are making a case for your new research by telling the story of the work that’s already been done. You’ll cover a bit about the history of the topic at hand, and how your study fits into the present and future.
  • Theory Framework : Here, you explain assumptions related to your study. Here you’re explaining to the review what theoretical concepts you might have used in your research, how it relates to existing knowledge and ideas.
  • Methods : This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design. Here you’ll discuss the specific techniques you used to get the information you were looking for, in addition to how those methods are relevant and appropriate, as well as how you specifically used each method described.
  • Results : Here you present your empirical findings. This section is sometimes also called the “empiracles” chapter. This section is usually pretty straightforward and technical, and full of details. Don’t shortcut this chapter.
  • Discussion : This can be a tricky chapter, because it’s where you want to show the reviewer that you know what you’re talking about. You need to speak as a PhD versus a student. The discussion chapter is similar to the empirical/results chapter, but you’re building on those results to push the new information that you learned, prior to making your conclusion.
  • Conclusion : Here, you take a step back and reflect on what your original goals and intentions for the research were. You’ll outline them in context of your new findings and expertise.

Tips for your PhD Thesis Format

As you put together your PhD thesis, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips that might keep you on track.

  • Don’t try to write your PhD as a first-draft. Every great masterwork has typically been edited, and edited, and…edited.
  • Work with your thesis supervisor to plan the structure and format of your PhD thesis. Be prepared to rewrite each section, as you work out rough drafts. Don’t get discouraged by this process. It’s typical.
  • Make your writing interesting. Academic writing has a reputation of being very dry.
  • You don’t have to necessarily work on the chapters and sections outlined above in chronological order. Work on each section as things come up, and while your work on that section is relevant to what you’re doing.
  • Don’t rush things. Write a first draft, and leave it for a few days, so you can come back to it with a more critical take. Look at it objectively and carefully grammatical errors, clarity, logic and flow.
  • Know what style your references need to be in, and utilize tools out there to organize them in the required format.
  • It’s easier to accidentally plagiarize than you think. Make sure you’re referencing appropriately, and check your document for inadvertent plagiarism throughout your writing process.

PhD Thesis Editing Plus

Want some support during your PhD writing process? Our PhD Thesis Editing Plus service includes extensive and detailed editing of your thesis to improve the flow and quality of your writing. Unlimited editing support for guaranteed results. Learn more here , and get started today!

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Graduate-Level Writing Tips: Definitions, Do’s and Don’ts

professional communicators at work

Debra Davenport, PhD

In your communication master’s program, you will be expected to demonstrate well-honed writing skills in your essays. Your courses will require proficiency in real-world business communications, as well as scholarly writing and the use of APA formatting.

Real-world written business communications may include:

  • Executive summaries
  • News releases
  • Media advisories
  • Company fact sheets
  • Business reports

Academic papers are those you will write in your courses that:

  • Review and discuss the scholarly literature
  • Synthesize theories, models and course readings
  • Present critical analysis, research and scholarly insight in an objective manner
  • Are formatted according to APA standards
  • Are written in the scholarly voice

What Is the Scholarly Voice?

Essentially, the scholarly voice is unbiased, high-level and evidence-based writing that reflects the epitome of good grammar, syntax and tone. Follow the do’s and don’ts below to excel at this format in your graduate school essays.

Scholarly Resources:

  • https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/683/1/
  • http://blog.apastyle.org/
  • http://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/scholarlyvoice
  • http://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/scholarlyvoice/tone

The “Do’s” of Scholarly Writing

1. Use proper syntax. Syntax is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.” Syntax is an important aspect of writing that helps to ensure clarity. Incorrect syntax often results in sentences and paragraphs that do not make sense, and this can pose serious perceptual issues for professional communicators. See this article for a number of examples.

2. Follow the rules of punctuation. Common errors include incorrect placement of quotation marks and erroneous use of the semicolon. As an example, note that quotation marks follow periods and commas, (“The sky is blue.”)

3. Include references, citations and /or footnotes, no matter what kind of document you’re writing. Taking the time to locate sources that substantiate your statements demonstrate your proficiency as a scholar-practitioner and your commitment to excellence. Citations are required in your academic papers, but clients also appreciate this attention to detail. When pitching a project or campaign, the inclusion of reputable sources will support your recommendations and boost your own credibility.

4. Proofread and edit your work. Many errors are missed during the first proofread; be prepared to review your work multiple times.

The “Don’ts” in Scholarly Writing

1. Don’t write in the second person narrative. The second person voice is typically used in articles like this one, where the writer is intending to inform and instruct. According to WritingCommons.org , “writing from the second person point of view can weaken the effectiveness of the writing in research and argument papers. Using second person can make the work sound as if the writer is giving directions or offering advice to his or her readers, rather than informing [them].”

Here is a comparison of second and third person perspectives from WritingCommons.org:

  • Weak: You should read the statistics about the number of suicides that happen to your average victim of bullying! (2nd person)
  • Stronger: The statistics from a variety of research reports indicate that the suicide rate is high among victims of bullying; they are under so much psychological pressure that they may resort to taking their own lives. (3rd person)

2. Don’t rely on software to correct your writing. Certainly, tools such as spell check, grammar check and grammarly have some benefit, but they cannot replace firsthand knowledge and mastery of proper writing. I recall one particular paper I received several years ago that was, quite literally, gibberish. When I inquired about the content of the student’s paper, she replied, “Well, I used grammar check!”

Don’t hesitate to seek writing coaching if you have questions or concerns about any aspect of good writing. As graduate students in a masters-level communication program, writing excellence should be a top priority.

By taking an informed and proactive approach to your writing, you will strengthen your academic performance, hone your professional and communication skills and enhance your career.

Dr. Debra Davenport is an online faculty member for Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

Find out more about what you can do with a MS in Communication from Purdue University. Call us today at 877-497-5851 to speak to an admissions advisor, or request more information .

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.

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The PhD Proofreaders

Is English Your Second Language? Here Are 7 Ways To Improve Your Academic Writing

Nov 3, 2018


Writing a PhD when English is your second language is scary. It’s scary enough when English is your first language. 80,000 words, sometimes even more, in a technical language and at the highest level of academic rigour. Terrifying, right?

Here I present 7 tips you can use to improve your academic writing when writing your PhD.

I’ve   proofread countless PhDs   from people just like you and one thing stands out –   you’re doing great.  Sure, it’s hard and you sometimes struggle, but how many native English speakers can write a PhD in a second language? Not many. 

  So stop worrying. International students  pass at the same rate  as native English speaker and they do so quicker. To get onto your PhD program in the first place, you already had to show your competence in English. Don’t forget that.   

If your supervisor has ever criticised you, you’ve ever been told your English can be improved, you’ve ever had a chapter sent back for language errors or you simply want to improve your own English-language skills,  these strategies are for you.  

Interested in group workshops, cohort-courses and a free PhD learning & support community? 

phd writing tips

The team behind The PhD Proofreaders have launched The PhD People, a free learning and community platform for PhD students. Connect, share and learn with other students, and boost your skills with cohort-based workshops and courses.

Tip 1: spot your mistakes.

We know from our years of proofreading experience that most international students writing in English make the same few mistakes over and over again.

Overall their language is great, but a few errors show up time and time again.   Try and think about what mistakes you make most frequently . If you’ve ever had your work proofread, have a look at the changes that the proofreader made. Can you spot any patterns? If you can, make a note of the changes the proofreader made and see if you can learn them.

When you write something new, take another read through it, paying attention to these common mistakes.

Read it out loud – it helps.

Tip 2: Read, read, read

Spend time each week reading well-written journal articles or book chapters. Carefully consider how they have been written.

Often the problem with writing English in a second language isn’t just spelling or grammar, but sentence structure and academic tone. So think about how the authors have introduced their argument.

Ask yourself:

How have they structured their introduction? How have they structured the article as a whole? Do they use long sentences with lots of commas or do they keep their sentences short? How do they conclude? Thinking carefully about these things will help you understand your own writing. How do you introduce your argument? How do you structure your introduction? How does that compare? Is there anything you can learn?

Tip 3: Write as much as possible

Write as much as possible. The more you practice, the better you will become, especially if you’re having your work checked by a proofreader, taking note of their suggestions for changes and keeping an eye out for repeated mistakes and patterns. Writing PhD chapters as early as possible is good practice anyway, so it’s a double-win.

If your PhD doesn’t give you much opportunity to write until later years (maybe if you’re doing lots of fieldwork first), you can find other ways to practice. You can write detailed notes in English on your reading, or you could join the editorial board of a journal.

Tip 4: Take advantage of your university

Take advantage of the resources offered your university. Many universities now have dedicated departments to offer courses and training for those for whom English is a second language. You should definitely take advantage of these. They are often run by academics who are experts in teaching ESL students.

Tip 5: Write in English, but if you get stuck on a word include it in your first language

The worst thing you can do is write your thesis in your first language and then translate it to English. It’ll take you ages and it’ll make it difficult for a proofreader to understand, because different languages have different rules about things like sentence structure and word order, which means your translated text will read in a strange way.

Instead, write the text in English primarily, but if you are having trouble with a particular word, include it in your native language. You may already do this when you’re speaking in English and don’t know a particular word. It’s the same principle in writing.

Doing this will mean you can move forward in your thesis. Then, when you go through and edit things, you can translate the individual words into English.

Tip 6: Bigger is not always better

Lastly, you don’t need to write with long, complex sentences. These are hard to read and add an unnecessary level of complication to your work.

Instead, focus on presenting your ideas in short, concise sentences that are easy to read. Many of the problems we see when we proofread PhDs are down to poor sentence structure and using overly complex sentences.

If you use simple, shorter sentences, you will avoid these common mistakes.

Tip 7: Hire a proofreader

This advice applies to both native and international students. You can be the best writer in the world, but after you’ve written 80,000 words, edited it and re-read it twice, you’ve become so familiar with it that you will miss mistakes. Guaranteed. Everyone does.

You need a fresh set of eyes, those of a professional proofreader. They will be able to make sure you haven’t made mistakes and that your ideas and arguments are clearly presented.

Don’t forget that a PhD is a very technical document. It is difficult to separate how much of the struggle you have is because of the difficulty with learning the new technical language of your discipline – which native speakers also have to do and also find difficult – and how much is because of speaking another language. Often, the problem is because words that you already know are being used in new ways that are often contested. We know that definitions in academia are often hard to pin down; you may not understand the meaning of a word simply because the meaning of the word isn’t really known by anyone!

Again though, it’s hard not to assume it’s because of your problems with English. Remember that native speakers often struggle to understand academic text.

Remember, you’re doing great. There’s always room for improvement though, so follow these seven steps and you’ll be improving in no time. For more on how to improve your writing and to see how we can help you, visit our Knowledge Base.

Hello, Doctor…

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back. 

Share this:

Ellen Khin Than

I received much knowledge from your tips and guides me to improve my writing dissertation. Thanks indeed, really support me.

Dr. Max Lempriere

I’m glad the guide helped. Good luck with the thesis!

Jose Sandoval

These are very practical tips. Really helpful. What do you think about the use of Apps like Grammarly?

I think for most people Grammarly is really useful. For some though it won’t be enough – it’s not great at huge bodies of text, or if your English language skills aren’t great. That’s where a proofreader comes in.

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  • 06 November 2018

Twenty things I wish I’d known when I started my PhD

  • Lucy A. Taylor 0

Lucy A. Taylor earned her zoology PhD from the University of Oxford, UK. She is now a postdoctoral researcher at Save the Elephants in Nairobi, Kenya, and a visiting researcher in the Department of Zoology at Oxford.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Starting a PhD can be tough. Looking back, there are many things I wish I’d known at the beginning. Here, I have curated a list of advice from current PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from the Department of Zoology at my institution, the University of Oxford, UK, to aid new graduate students.

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Tip 1: Break it into such small, discrete goals that you almost feel silly writing them down individually.

This is by far the most important skill on this list. I only started developing this skill while writing my thesis but have since honed it while working in industrial R&D.   Subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page   for the next blog post “Why I left academia in search of self-development”.

The value of this skill cannot be understated and luckily can be easily learned by anyone. Here’s how I make it work: Set aside 15 minutes for planning out your next 10-20 hours of work on a project. Create a large to-do list for each project (there are a lot of great Excel templates online). You can list some big milestones further out but keep the tiny details within range of tasks you could finish in the next few days. Every morning, review your tasks, add new discrete tasks that are now within range. Add a number (1-10) to every task to denote the order you’re going to work through them for this specific day. Stick to the list and avoid jumping to topics off-list that pop up. If something important   and   urgent pops up, add it to your list and give it a number.

Some examples for your shortlist if you were writing a thesis:

  • Send email to professor about feedback from Chapter 4
  • Re-format figure captions from Chapter 4
  • Write two paragraphs about results from experiments on October 4 th -12 th
  • Create summary plot for above experiments
  • Import and reformat data from experiments October 19 th -27 th
  • Write rough outline for rest of Chapter 5
  • Send outline of Chapter 5 to professor
  • Review feedback from professor on Chapter 4
  • Make list of changes in Chapter 4 based on professor’s feedback this morning
Are you the type of person that writes “Make List” on your to-do list just so you have something to cross off? Do you write down tasks you just finished just to cross them off?

If you are, you have a head start on this method! Creating and working through a list in this much discretized detail has a lot of secondary effects. You’ll be forced to plan out your work in greater detail (and prioritize better). You’ll be more likely to use small chunks of time effectively to make progress and free up more time for yourself. Most importantly,   you’ll finish your day with a sense of accomplishment and forward momentum because you got things done , instead of the feeling that you moved the needle from 23% to 24% complete after 10 hours of work. As ridiculous as this list may sound, I’ve found it has a profound psychological effect on my motivation and momentum for the rest of the day. The key is to have the discipline to spend those first 15 minutes of your day planning instead of reacting to every thought or email that comes in. Try it out for one week straight and make modifications based on what is working for you.

Tip 2: Write everything that comes to mind, then trim and re-organize later.

If it’s flowing in your mind, get it into the whitespace of your document   somewhere . I’ve found that most technical writing blocks come when a person doesn’t know how exactly to write the next thing or isn’t sure what exactly should come next, even though they have ideas and words in their head for later sections. Your brain can get stuck running in circles testing out different ways to present the information and become paralyzed by the endless possibilities coupled with the lack of a clear path.

How can you put a puzzle together if you don’t know what the pieces look like?

It’s much easier to decide on the best idea flow   after   you’ve put the bulk of each idea onto the paper. When you have all the information in place and pseudo-organized, pick through it with a fine-tooth comb to trim down superfluous sentences and smooth out the transitions between paragraphs. Then, send the section to your adviser and group members for feedback. Continue writing other sections while waiting for their feedback.

Tip 3: Recognize that you don’t have to close every single loose end.

The point of your thesis is to document your discoveries and progress so that a new person can carry the torch forward without starting from scratch. If you found something interesting but can’t explain it, just present the data and state the questions still to be answered. Include your ideas about what could be done next to get closer to the answers. If you’ve spent more than three hours banging your head against the table staring at one plot, it’s time to move on to the next section. You’ll be surprised how working on other parts can stimulate ideas that can help close the difficult section off later.

Tip 4: Set up your formatting correctly immediately when starting.

Hopefully you’re proficient in LaTeX. If not (I wasn’t), learn how to properly assign section and sub-section headings in Word and to keep consistent formatting between them. This will be critical for auto-updating your table of contents. It will also help you collapse sections and jump around in your 200+ page document from the sidebar “Navigation Pane”. Create actual captions for your figures and tables using the built-in functionality and link references in the text to those captions. Now, when you add a new image earlier in the document, the figure and all its references will be updated automatically. Make sure to also set up your citation editor right away using the recommended format and make sure it can auto-generate the reference list. You may have gotten away with manually formatting these for short journal article submissions, but you will have untold headaches clicking through the text and re-numbering each reference if you don’t do this from the start. Check with your Graduate Studies department to see if they have a pre-formatted document you can use.

Thesis focus struggle

Tip 5: Remember that this is a struggle for   everyone .

If you find yourself getting lost in self-deprecation, re-frame your thinking. Instead of “Why can’t I focus on this?” ask yourself “What factors are causing me to lose focus and how can I limit these or mitigate their effects?” Instead of asking “Why can’t I make sense of this data?”, re-frame it as “How can I present this data factually while pointing out the unknowns?”

Tip 6: Put your phone on airplane mode and out of arms’ reach.

You already know that your phone is the #1 distraction you have. Make the distraction less of a willpower issue and more of a practicality issue by putting your phone on airplane mode and putting it somewhere on the other side of the room, in a box, in another room, etc. The further away, the better. Now you’ll have to weigh the hassle of getting up and retrieving it to quickly check it for notifications.

Tip 7: Use an auto-responder on your email or put it in Do Not Disturb mode.

Once your phone is hidden, it’s time to take care of distractions on your computer. Both Gmail and Outlook have functions to turn off notifications or stop retrieving messages altogether for set periods of time. For instance, you could set your send/receive interval to once every 4 hours. Another trick is to turn on your auto-responder to say something along the lines of “Thanks for your message. In order to focus on my writing, I’m currently only checking email at noon and 6pm. I will get back to you as soon as possible.” Others will pick up on this and email you less often and only about real issues.

Tip 8: Set a visible timer for focused work periods.

I found it much easier to sustain a 45-minute focused session if I knew I had a planned break coming up soon. There are several apps available for setting timers and some that can also mute your notifications while running. If you schedule your breaks (and actually give yourself a break when the timer runs out), you’ll be less likely to want a break at the first sign of frustration.

Tip 9: Build in a short 5-10 minute exercise routine for your breaks.

After a few good hours of focus my biggest hurdle was feeling anxious or restless. Some nights I would decide it was a “workout” night and every 30 minutes or so, I would get on the floor and do a few minutes pushups, crunches, bicycle kicks, leg lifts or planks. After a few minutes of this I’d be tired enough that I would   want   to sit back down and settle in. The big advantage was getting my blood flowing, which can stimulate your brain and give a small energy boost.

Tip 10: Work in an environment around other people who are focused (leverage social pressure).

Do you feel like exercising at high intensity more in an empty gym or one where there are dozens of others giving it their all? For me, it’s the latter. There’s a subconscious social pressure I feel to not stick out as slacking. I found the same effect in the library or coffee shop.

For some ridiculous reason, I felt like people behind me would judge me if I had Facebook up on my screen or was playing a game on my phone.

Even if that judgement was an illusion, I harnessed it to stay on-task. I found this especially helpful after 11pm or so to know that there were others doing the same thing. If all your friends are going out to the bar, do you get FOMO (fear of missing out) more at a coffee shop around others who are studying or staying home in the dark by yourself?

Thesis writing environment

Tip 11: Change scenery regularly until you find your ideal spots.

My favorite part about thesis writing is that   I could work from anywhere . This is a novelty you may never have again in your life, depending on your field. Take advantage of this and find those magical hangouts where you can find your flow and blaze through your work.

In three months of writing, I visited at least eight different coffee shops plus every library on campus.

There were two or three that really worked for me, depending on the time of day. Even after a half-day at one of your favorite spots, it can be reinvigorating to move to another later in the day.

Tip 12: Find your best writing jams and don’t listen to them unless you’re ready to get in the zone.

This is a proven psychological trick. Do you still have a throwback song you associate with middle school or high school sports? Something your team listened to in the locker room to get pumped up? You can manufacture these associations in your brain in a similar way. Find your best playlists, and make sure to pause them while you’re taking breaks or if you find yourself distracted. When the music is on, it’s time to work. Listening to your best playlists while doing other things will dilute the association in your brain, so stay disciplined with this one!

Tip 13: Take a mid-day break with some form of exercise or activity.

The most productive day you can hope for is 10-12 hours of focused effort. If you deprive yourself of breaks early in the day you’re likely to grind to a halt in the evening and lose the equivalent of your would-be break time in procrastination and distraction. Be proactive about scheduling in your down time to elevate your productivity later in the day. For me personally, my best days included several short breaks evenly spread throughout the day plus one mid-day break of ~2 hours. This larger break was usually some combination of exercise, cooking, eating or cleaning. Experiment and find what works best for you!

Tip 14: Set aside 10 minutes in the morning to honestly review what went well and what didn’t work the previous day.

An honest self-assessment will do wonders for improving your methods each day. Approach it like an athlete watching game tape to identify weaknesses. Where did your distractions come from? How did you feel throughout the day?

When was your most productive time and what factors lead to that productivity?

Make changes in your strategy for the upcoming day, and review again the following day to see if it was an improvement.

Tip 15: Add an expected time of completion (ETC) to every item on your to-do list for that day.

This follows Tip #1 to break down projects into tiny discrete and definitely conquerable tasks. Make a reasonable guess of how long each thing should take if it goes smoothly. If you do well and get ahead of schedule, reward yourself with an extra break. If you get behind schedule, you’ll start to feel a sense of urgency that will motivate you to catch up.

The alternative is giving yourself 3 months to complete thousands of micro-tasks, at which point you’ll always feel overwhelmed and unsure of your pace to completion.

Tip 16: Take care of your body.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Monitor your caffeine intake, your hours of sleep, your periods of exercise and the types of foods you eat. Keep it balanced day-to-day with only the occasional late night push when you're really in the zone. 

Tip 17: Dedicate time to being social!

If you’re writing your thesis you are likely approaching the end of your time at your school. This may be the last few months you have to spend with all of the friends and colleagues you’ve made along your journey. Don’t forget to dedicate a few hours a week to be social and relish in the time you have left to all be together. This is a time of your life you’ll remember forever, so better mix in some great memories!

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Sailing Through Your PhD Thesis: Writing Tips

The last step in becoming a Doctor of Philosophy is writing a comprehensive document about your research: the thesis, or dissertation. This requires scientific acumen, storytelling skills, and attention to detail.

As a recent PhD graduate, I’d like to share some insights with you about how to leap over the final hurdle... and even enjoy the process.

Start to write with the right mindset and in the right place

I’ve decided to talk to you about how to write your thesis because one month into writing mine, I had a panic attack. My progress was super slow, and I was well behind my schedule. So, my first bit of advice is to make sure you set achievable goals and be realistic about your writing speed .

Writing your thesis will probably take longer than you anticipate, so make sure you allow at least 3-6 months for it – although be prepared for the fact that it can take longer. If you begin with this mindset, you’re likely to be happier with the progress you’re making.

Secondly, find a comfortable writing spot: whether this is your office, a library, or even a coffee shop. You might want to try out several places, as you will probably need more than one – and if you get bored, you can always go to the second place. Also, every person has a best time of day to write, so try to write in those hours. Keeping track of your productivity will help you identify the best writing conditions, which will help you keep up with your schedule.

Where to start… and where to end

Take a look at previous students’ theses to get some ideas about the structure of your thesis. Then outline yours, and start to fill up the parts. Also, make sure you know your institutional specifics for the thesis format.

Typically, a thesis consists of five main parts:

  • Introduction
  • Material and method
  • Results chapters
  • Discussion and the references.

When writing the introduction , think about the main message of your thesis, and write about the background knowledge that readers need to easily understand your research. Walk the readers through the story, starting from the general concept, then lead them to your specific research interest by explaining relevant research articles. Given that minor corrections to the introduction are very common, always make sure you have adequately written about the background and include most recent studies. Don’t go too deep into the experimental details when writing, but if it is important, be prepared: they may ask you about it in the viva. At the end of your introduction the reader must know what the gap in the field is that you are trying to fill, so highlight the importance of your research question.

Usually people start by writing their result sections and leave the introduction for the end. Writing the results should be straightforward as you explain your data in short, succinct sentences. Make sure your figures match your explanation and the flow of reasoning. Also, avoid using small images because that can frustrate the examiners. Lead your readers’ eyes as you point to the important features of your figures; imagine the examiners nodding their head when they go through the explanation of your data. You should give a short explanation about the meaning of your results, but leave the detailed implications of the data for the discussion.

Discussion is the heart of scientific writing, and the showdown of your research argument. You need to explain the relevance of your results to previous work, and the influence of your research on the field. In the discussion, you need to connect your results section to your introduction, discuss the significance of the findings and write about future research that follows your work. It is always helpful to get a second opinion about your discussion.

Have fun while writing (and take breaks)

While you are writing you may face writer’s block and feel like you can’t progress any further. Don’t freak out; this is absolutely normal! Here are some tips to avoid this happening.

Have regular breaks from writing. Give yourself a day or two off per week. Go for a walk or sightseeing, have a drink with your friends or loved ones. If you are into sports, regular exercise can help you to regain the energy to come back and finish writing.

While you’re writing, it’s best to have small breaks every 90 minutes or so. You can ease your mind by listening to music or watching LIVE STREAMS! Yeah, this was my way of giving my brain a bit of rest. I used to watch the seals and bears live footage from a LIVENATURECAMS YouTube channel, or the live earth view from NASA HDEV High Definition Earth Viewing Cameras. Believe me, it helped me a lot to briefly take my mind away from the thesis and boosted my concentration.

Further tips for writing your PhD thesis

  • Attend your university thesis writing courses . They are run by experts that will give you great tips on how to write more efficiently.
  • Start the document in style . Formatting the document from the start will make it easier at editing time.
  • When you write a section leave it for a couple of days, then come back and edit it. This will help you to see mistakes more easily, with fresh eyes. You can repeat this process several times until you can’t find any more mistakes. Then, it’s time to give your thesis to somebody else to proofread .
  • Give your supervisor enough time to read your thesis . Believe me they are busy, so agree a timescale with them.
  • Read your references one more time . Sometimes the reference management software makes mistakes.
  • Don’t forget this is your story… and nobody knows it better than you!

So, enjoy and hopefully sail through your thesis! Have fun writing, folks.

More resources

  • A good book about scientific writing that I really liked was Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword
  • Fundamentals of Editing: The Editing Process
  • The Four Steps of Editing
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Zeinab Leila obtained her PhD in developmental Neuroscience at University College London in the labs of Prof. Nicoletta Kessaris and Prof. William D Richardson . During her PhD project, Zeinab has investigated the regulatory role of transcriptional modulators in specification of different subtypes of cortical interneuron. She is now continuing this work as a postdoc.

You can follow Zeinab Leila on Twitter here or LinkedIn here .


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Assay Genie

29 PhD Thesis Writing Tips

29 PhD Thesis Writing Tips

At Assay Genie, we have compiled a list of 29 PhD Writing Tips that we think you will love! If you enjoy these tips, be sure to check out some of our other PhD/Post Doc related resources .

1. Write Now, Edit Later

Putting words on paper and not editing them will be the biggest challenge during your PhD, but getting as much down as possible and letting those scientific juices flow will allow you to write a lot of your PhD fast. Next step is to take a break and reflect, only for you to return to what you have written and cleaning it up. Remember, editing is as important as writing as your PI/Professor will soon get tired if you aren’t serving up a PhD quality piece of work.

2. The Laptop Trick

This is a fairly easy and motivating tip for writing your PhD thesis or dissertation. So what you do is place your charger as far away from you as possible (but not too far!!!) and start writing without your laptop cord plugged in. It’s now a race of time to see how much you can write before your laptop goes dead, but remember save regularly!

3. Talk Your Thesis Out on Evernote

Sometimes it’s easier to talk than it is to write, using Evernote to type your speech might save you a lot of time and get your thoughts on to paper a lot more clearly. Again you will need to return to your Evernote recording as it will not correctly translate what your have said, some words like Phosphorylation or de-ubiquitination just won’t work, try use keywords in these instances to save time.

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4. place writing blocks in your calendar.

If you haven’t got a calendar, get one, but don’t become preoccupied with it. Set up your week in advance and block book where you are going to spend time writing, give yourself time to relax, and remember putting in 12 hour shifts will get your nowhere fast, pace yourself.

5. Set a Submission Deadline

In many cases you will be given a thesis submission deadline by your University which will be based on when your academic year finishes or for how long you have paid fees for. However, in some cases this is just a mythical deadline with many Professors keeping their students on as unregistered students to allow them carry out some more experiments or allowing them to delay correcting due to more “important” issues. If possible you should try and work towards a final deadline, so as to avoid problems with having to re-register.

However, working towards a long term goal won’t be as easy as just writing and submitting on the day, you will need to incorporate more short term goals to keep your motivation up and project how hard you need to work as you come to the finish line. If possible try and break your chapters or segments of chapters into chunks and work towards writing those chunks in a defined period of time. Getting these chunks together and corrected will keep your motivation up and ensure you stay on the right track. Something you will also need to do is give yourself some breathing space at the end, you do not want to be getting corrections in the days or week before submission as you will still need to find the time to print your thesis, collate and submit it to the University.

I had to print my thesis three times before I submitted the final copy, which was down to how I still had to make corrections and print. Printing your PhD thesis will also be an expensive day at the printers, if you can, try and put some money aside for printing and binding. It cost me 250Euro to print mine, money I didn’t have aside as a student, so saving for this rainy day will give you some extra cash for partying that night!

6. Talk with Professors/Post-Docs

By now you will have probably spent the past 4-5 years working on your PhD and will have just spoken about it to a a handful of people. Talking about your project to other Professors or Post-Docs in your department will help you articulate what your project is about before your put pen to paper. It will also allow you to think logically about your project and how you need to tell the story during your PhD thesis.

Related Resources

7. set yourself phd thesis writing goals.

By the time you write your PhD thesis, a few years may have passed since you last composed a piece of scientific writing. Maybe you wrote a paper in the meantime which will be a huge help and give you the right start to putting your PhD thesis together. However, if you haven’t written a significant piece of scientific writing in a long time this may affect your writing style and can result in an uphill battle to get words down on paper or the computer screen.

8. Prepare Your Data

When you discuss writing up you thesis with some of your colleagues, some will say all they have to do is format their figures and write up. However, collating and formatting figures can be one of the most time consuming parts of writing up. With blots to scan, crop and label, histograms to prepare and legends to write, composing figures can be a mammoth task. Preparing your data in advance, will also show you where you are lacking data, where you need a nicer image or where you need some more numbers.

9. Place Figures in Your Dissertation

Sometimes it’s just damn difficult trying to convey what your project was about, how a protein complex formed or how signaling elements looped to create feedback. Creating diagrams/pathways of these complexes and signalling cascades will help your convey your message and give your examiner an easier time to understand certain concepts.

10. Stay on Top of Scientific Publications

Just like the news you will need to keep up with scientific publications doing your thesis writing. Sometimes publications can add to your theories and overcome vagueness in the field. Also, when it comes to VIVA time knowing your field in depth will only get your through to the PhD finish line, so read read read!

11. Use Google Docs for Feedback

Placing your thesis in Google Docs will allow you to maintain a single version of your PhD and prevent you from saving your thesis everywhere. It will also allow your Professor to access the copy, makes edits and hopefully hasten the process, especially if your Professor travels a lot.

12. Cite Your Sources

Everyone reads then writes, but might forget where they got the data from or a certain quote, make sure to update your references as your write. Using Mendeley will help and here we provide some tips for using Mendeley.

13. Take a Break

After reading ten papers or more finding a point to start or a good open line to a chapter can be tiresome. Allowing the data from the papers to settle in your head will allow you to run through some opening lines in your head and allow you to formulate some ideas or hypothesis regarding the subject.

14. Look Posters or Presentations for Thesis Content

During your PhD you will have probably attended a few meetings and presented a few posters. Using the figure legends and abstracts might save you time in putting together figures for your PhD thesis.

15. Write About What You Know

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up on sections in your PhD thesis due to lack of knowledge about a subject or an area or your just are finding it hard to convey your message. Go for the low lying fruit and write about content you already know something about, by the time it comes to writing about the hard stuff you’ll have the confidence to sail through it.

16. Don’t Count Words

As long as your PhD is full of correct information and your arguments support your data it doesn’t really matter how long your PhD thesis is. If you can, strive for 150 pages, this should give you enough space to tell your story and get your message across.

17. Follow the PhD Thesis Writing Cycle

What can help is setting a reasonable goal of 500 words a day in the beginning which will help get your wordsmith juices flowing and hopefully keep you at the computer till something happens. Some days you may only write 400 words, maybe even 100 words or a sentence which I just about managed on may occasions during my PhD write up; however, some days you will write 2,000 words if not more and you will steam through your PhD thesis write up.

Keeping your motivation while writing is extremely important and if you are not making significant progress, this can be a huge stumbling block . Sometimes graphing your word count can help to motivate. This is especially useful information when you have had a slow day and gives you a target to readjust to for the next day’s writing. Finding time to write while you are on the go will also be hugely helpful. If you have time while waiting for a bus or a train, why not write a few words and email them to yourself. Every little helps, especially in the long run and will get you over the line faster.

18. Accept Help in Writing Your PhD Thesis

Although your name will be on the front of the thesis countless friends and family will have helped you a long the way. When writing up don’t be afraid to ask people for help, they’ll understand and it will definitely remove some of the stress of running small errands.

19. Do As Much As You Can In Advance

You might think this is a bit of a weird one to start with as you have time at the end of your PhD to write up right? Correct but here me out.

For me, if I had opened up my laptop on that first Monday after I finished in the lab to write up and I saw a blank page I would have completely freaked out. Over the course of my three and a half years in the lab collecting data I also had to write a transfer thesis and I had the opportunity to start writing manuscripts about my research too. All were sold foundations to build my PhD thesis upon.

I realise this is not going to be possible for everyone and there might be cases where you do have to start with a blank page, but any prep you can do before your writing up stage will ease you into it a little more. As you progress through your PhD maybe write out your methods in thesis style, or whenever I had a new result that would make a figure for my thesis, I put it into my final format ready from day 1. It was always good to have the thought of writing a final thesis around and I tried to prepare myself for that as best as I could in advance. And I cannot stress enough how much that helped me.

20. Set Out a Clear Structure With Your Supervisor Beforehand

In case you didn't know, PhD theses are split up into different chapters. Traditionally, that is one for the introduction, one for the methods, usually three results chapters and a discussion chapter primarily. So even if you have prepared anything in advance, I highly recommend not starting to build it all until you have sat down with your supervisor and had a good old discussion about what results contribute to what story and the order of your chapters. It might have to be adjusted further down the line but hopefully will only be smaller adjustments then rather than huge shifts in order.

My supervisor and I spent a good 3 hours in a meeting debating the order of my results in each chapter and then the order of the chapters. Why? Well, your thesis will ideally have structure to read well. If it reads well then your examiners in your viva will, fingers crossed, be happier and make your viva much more relaxed.

21. Work To a Time When You Are Most Productive

I am a firm believer that if you are not in the zone for something then it is pointless forcing yourself to do it. Unless you have to of course. But I, for example, just cannot focus in the mornings. When I was at home writing up, I would be much more productive by binging Netflix or something in the morning, cracking on with a short writing stint before heading to the gym for a break. Come back, grab some lunch and then I would be focussed for the rest of the day normally. Some days I wasn't ready to write until about 7pm and could write until 2am if I was in the zone. This obviously won't work for everyone so find something that works for you.

22. Use the Pomodoro Technique

One thing that did help me to focus on the more difficult days was the Pomodoro technique. 25 minutes of writing followed by a 5 or 10 minute break and repeat for however long I could or had scheduled. A simple technique that I am sure most of you have heard of, but it helped me to get back in the writing zone when I was struggling.

23. Keep Hydrated

I cannot stress this enough. Your brain is going to be doing a lot of work when writing up so make sure you keep hydrated so you can focus and keep going. It also helps to get up and walk around every so often. Not far just to stretch your legs out and feel like you've had a bit of a break away from the screen.

24. Switch Up Your Workspace

After 2 months of writing up at home at my desk, every position was uncomfortable and I had lost all motivation. There were suddenly too many distractions around and I wasn't getting anywhere. So I packed all my stuff up and headed to a different environment. Over the last month of writing, I spent my days in the library, at my work desk, some days at home, local cafes or even a hotel when I was away at an event. It helped me get finished so quickly in the end that I wish I had done it sooner. So I highly recommend writing in different places to refocus again. Preferably in a place with a good supply of coffee.

25. Break It Up into Smaller Chunks

Okay so theses are already chopped up into chapters, and each if those chapters as a series of subheadings. And sometimes even the sub headings have sub headings. So I say why not take advantage of all these smaller chunks when it comes to maintaining progress and accomplishing a little each day when writing. This also links in nicely to my next piece of advice.

26. Set Yourself a Goal Schedule

Set yourself a submission deadline. It might sound obvious but there were so many students I know that didn't have the hard deadline that I did and just kept writing and refining and not really getting any closer to submission. Utilise all these smaller chunks that your thesis is broken up into and set yourself a realistic and attainable schedule. Remember to factor in time to get any feedback from supervisors too. So you might say that in week 1 of writing up you want to complete Chapter 1 and then edit that chapter in week 7 for example. Find a plan and schedule that works for you.

27. Find Yourself a Thesis Writing Buddy

Whether you're writing in a cafe or the library or even at home find someone that can keep you accountable. I joined an amazing Slack community set up by the amazing Krishana Sankar called Grad Write Slack. There were loads of researchers from all across the world working on various writing projects. So no matter what time you were working there was usually somebody - perhaps someone in a different time zone - that you could be productive with and start a few rounds of ‘pomo’ aka tip 4. But having that writing buddy definitely helps, especially if you are stuck and you can bounce some ideas around too.

28. Review Your Thesis/Dissertation Before Submission

Read through sections you have written to look for spelling mistakes, bad sentencing and bad scientific phrasing. Reviewing your work will also help you to generate ideas for the next sections or chapters and determine what you need to write about next. Going for easy wins (i.e content you already have a good depth or reading) will help you generate content faster and remove some of the procrastination associated with writing. Finally, depending on how busy your PI is or how long they take to read your chapters, the review process can add weeks to how long it takes. Submit your chapters regularly to your PI for correction and critique.

29. Enjoy The Day You Submit Your Thesis

The day you submit should be one of the greatest days in your life. You will have spent a lot of time preparing your PhD thesis so why not put some effort into celebrating your achievement. You’ll only do it once so make it epic!

PhD Overview

Phd thesis length.

A PhD thesis is a long and detailed piece of academic writing that requires significant amounts of research and careful planning. Depending on the discipline or field in which you are pursuing your PhD, the length of your thesis may vary. However, in general, PhD theses tend to be quite lengthy, typically ranging from 50-100 pages for humanities disciplines, to 200-300 pages for scientific disciplines. PhD students typically spend several years working on their theses, and therefore it is important to carefully consider the length and structure of your thesis before you begin writing.

PhD theses are typically divided into chapters, with each chapter serving a specific purpose. For example, the introduction chapter may present an overview of the research topic and discuss key concepts, theories, and methodologies relevant to your field. The literature review chapter may focus on a selection of existing research related to your topic, highlighting important findings and gaps in knowledge. The results chapter is where you present the findings from your own research, while the discussion chapter allows you to reflect on these findings and place them in the wider context of existing knowledge. Finally, the conclusion chapter offers a summary of your key findings and recommendations for future research.

PhD students should consult with their supervisors to determine an appropriate length and structure for their thesis. However, it is important to keep in mind that a PhD thesis is a significant investment of time and effort, and therefore it is important to make sure that you are prepared for the challenges of thesis writing before you begin.

PhD Thesis Format

To successfully complete a PhD thesis, it is important to have a clear understanding of the different sections that are typically included, as well as the format and style required for each section. Some key elements to consider include:

Overall, PhD theses are highly structured documents that require a significant amount of time and effort to complete. By understanding the key elements and formatting requirements of a PhD thesis, you can ensure that yours is well-written and effectively communicates the results of your research.

PhD Thesis Defense

PhD thesis defense is an opportunity for the student to present their research findings to faculty, other students, and the general public. The defense is also a chance for the student to get feedback on their work from knowledgeable people. PhD thesis defenses can be nerve-wracking, but they don't have to be. By being prepared and knowing what to expect, you can feel confident and fully engaged in the process.

As part of your PhD thesis defense, you will typically need to:

If you feel nervous or overwhelmed leading up to your PhD thesis defense, remember that this is a normal part of the process. By being well-prepared and confident in your work, you can approach your PhD thesis defense with confidence and ease.

Thesis vs Disseration

The PhD thesis and dissertation are two very different types of academic writing. While a PhD thesis typically focuses on original research, a dissertation is generally more theoretical in nature, exploring existing literature in the field and analyzing it from an academic perspective.

Despite these differences, both PhD students and dissertation writers should approach their writing with a critical eye, approaching each task with rigor and thoroughness in order to produce high-quality academic work. Whether you are writing a PhD thesis or a dissertation, it is important to carefully consider your research question, methodology, and analysis in order to produce a well-written and insightful final product.

PhD Thesis Discussion and Conclusion

The discussion section of your PhD thesis is where you detail the significance of your findings and explain their implications. It is important to make sure that your discussion is clear, concise, and grounded in your data. Here are some tips on how to write a successful PhD thesis discussion:

If you are struggling with writing your PhD thesis discussion, consider working with a skilled academic writing service. Professional writers can help you develop a strong discussion section that effectively engages with your research findings and conveys their significance to your readers. With their help, you can be confident that your PhD thesis discussion will effectively convey the findings and implications of your research, resulting in a strong final product that is sure to impress your professors and earn you the success you deserve.

Written by Sean Mac Fhearraigh

Seán Mac Fhearraigh PhD is a co-founder of Assay Genie. Seán carried out his undergraduate degree in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, followed by a PhD at University College Dublin. He carried out a post-doc at the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge. Seán is now Chief Technical Officer at Assay Genie.

  • #PhD and Post Doc

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Tips for PhD students: General Tips, Writing, Publication, and Presentation

phd writing tips

General Tips

  • Wellesley College, How to E-mail Your Professor
  • Dr. Lucy Taylor, Twenty things I wish I’d known when I started my PhD
  • Dr. Jim Kurose, 15 pieces of advice I wish my PhD advisor had given me
  • Dr. Eric Zwick, The 12 Step Program for Grad School  
  • Dr. Matt Might, 10 easy ways to fail a Ph.D.
  • Dr. Matt Might, Productivity tips, tricks and hacks for academics
  • Dr. Robert J. Stenberg, Self-Sabotage in the Academic Career
  • Dr. Tatyana Deryugina, How to be a productive researcher
  • American Economic Association, Mentoring Reading Materials  
  • Dr. Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana, Practical phd | a transparent source for all things PhD
  • Dr. Jan Sauermann, General resources: writing paper, the editorial process, and job (market) advice
  • Dr. Paul Grey, What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 299 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career (Book)
  • Dr. Arthur Spirling, On Being a (Successful) Graduate Student

Literature Review

  • Skimming for Content for Academic Article
  • Literature Overview
  • Other hints and links to the tools
  • Kevin G. Barnhurst. Reading in the Social Sciences
  • Amelia Hoover Green. How to Read Political Science: A Guide in Four Steps
  • “Predatory” Reading
  • How to Read an Academic Article – Walters (slides)
  • Heather K Evans. Cheat sheet

Academic Writing

  • Columbia University, Common Bugs in Writing
  • Dr. Philippe C. Schmitter, The “Ideal” Research Proposal
  • Kenzie Mintus, Dr. Mintus’ Handbook for Social Science Research
  • Kenzie Mintus, Sociological Research Nuts and Bolts
  • University of Manchester, Academic Phrasebank
  • Dr. Stephen Howe & Dr. Kristina Henriksson, (2007). PhraseBook for Writing Papers and Research in English (pdf)
  • John H. Cochrane, Writing tips for PhD students
  • Brett Mensh and Konrad Kording, Ten simple rules for structuring papers
  • Kurt Gray and Daniel M. Wegner, Six Guidelines for Interesting Research
  • Dominika Langenmayr :  Academic Writing
  • UCLA Graduate Writing Center. Citation and Academic Integrity, Part II: What’s in a Citation ? (Slide & Video)
  • Dr. Jessica Hoel:  Selecting and prioritizing research projects
  • Dr. Eric Zwick, A Graph is Worth a Thousand Citations
  • Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza, Want to Become a Prolific Scholar? Try Daily Writing!
  • Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza, Ten ways To Write Every Day
  • Part 1: Structure and Style of Scientific Writing
  • Part 2: Journal Article Submission Process
  • Part 1: Revision, Editing, and Proofreading
  • Part 2: Grammar Review
  • Part 3: Articles ( The, A, and An )
  • Part 4: Word Choice
  • UCLA Graduate Writing Center. Academic Writing for ESL Graduate Students (Slide & Video)
  • Dr. Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (Book)
  • Writing Literature Reviews: a Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Book)
  • Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing (Book)
  • UCLA Graduate Writing Center. Dissertation and Thesis Support: Writing Groups and Resources . (Slide & Video)

Manuscript Writing / Publication

  • Dr. Paul J. Hauptman, How To Write A Paper …And More (PPT)
  • Dr. Ezra W. Zuckerman, Tips to Article-Writers
  • Dr. Holman, Mirya R. Mirya Holman’s pre-submission checklist
  • Dr. Wendy Laura Belcher, Writing your Journal Article in 12 weeks (Book)
  • Dr. Monali Ghosh , Choosing the Right Journal — A Comprehensive Guide for Early-career Researchers .
  • Dr. Amy Finkelstein. Advice on how to write great research papers in economics .
  • Dr. Arthur Turrell. Craft Writing Papers .
  • Part 1: Six things to do before writing your manuscript
  • Part 2: 11 steps to structuring a science paper editors will take seriously
  • Part 3: Writing the first draft of your science paper — some dos and don’ts

Peer-review process of publication

phd writing tips

  • What does the typical workflow of a journal look like? How should I interpret a particular submission status?
  • Dr. Marc F. Bellemare, How to Publish in Academic Journals ❤️
  • Dr. Robert Joseph Taylor, Publishing in Peer Review Journals (PPT) ❤️
  • Dr. Tatyana Deryugina, How to know which journal to submit your manuscript to
  • Dr. Gabriel Rossman, how we broke peer review and how to fix it
  • Journal editors on what makes a good review
  • Dr. Arthur Spirling, Rejection
  • Dr. Adam Goulston, Best Ways to Avoid Desk Rejection of Your Manuscript | AJE
  • 5 ways you can ensure your manuscript avoids the desk reject pile (elsevier.com)
  • Matt Pavlovich, The art of suggesting reviewers (cell.com) ❤️
  • The DOs and DON’Ts of Selecting Preferred Reviewers – Methods Blog
  • How to find peer reviewers – an editor’s guide – Editor Resources

Dissertation writing

  • Dr. Gary King, Dissertation Advice
  • By Dr. P. Paul Heppner – Writing and Publishing Your Thesis, Dissertation, and Research: A Guide for Students in the Helping Professions
  • By Terrell, Steven R – Writing a Proposal for Your Dissertation: Guidelines and Examples
  • By Fred C., Irby, Beverly J – Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: Lunenburg,
  • UCLA Graduate Writing Center. Writing the Social Sciences Dissertation Proposal (Slide & Video)


  • Designing your Poster – Tips on Visual Storytelling (stanford.edu)
  • Dr. Amanda Yagan, Writing and Presentation Advice  
  • Dr. Rachael Meager, Slides on public speaking for academic economists (especially for grad students)  
  • Dr. Paul N. Edwards, How to Give an Academic Talk
  • UCLA Graduate Writing Center. Conference Proposals and Presentations In the Social Sciences (Slide & Video)
  • UCLA Graduate Writing Center. Preparing a Conference Poster in the Social Sciences (Slide & Video)
  • Marilynn Larkin. How to give a dynamic scientific presentation (elsevier.com)
  • Dr. Itai Yanai, Twitter Thread on how to prepare for the presentation, actually present it, and then answer the questions .
  • Reasoned Writing / A Framework For Scientific Papers
  • How to tell a compelling story in scientific presentations (nature.com)
  • Structure Your Presentation Like a Story (hbr.org)
  • Storytelling for Researchers (squarespace.com)

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    Kim Thomas Wed 27 Aug 2014 02.00 EDT Many PhD students are now in the final throes of writing their thesis. Turning years of research into a single, coherent piece of work can be tough, so we...

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    The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines. But, let's take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We'll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We'll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections.

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    A free one-page PhD structure template. Using this free PhD writing template, you can quickly visualise every element of your thesis. View collection. Use our free tools, guides and templates to learn how to structure your entire PhD thesis. All expertly written and designed to help.

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  21. 6 Essential Study Tips for the PhD Student

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  24. Tips for PhD students: General Tips, Writing, Publication, and

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