In the second of two articles, offering dissertation help on how to finish a dissertation start to finish in two years, you will develop a time line for writing and defending your work to your committee. A small caveat is needed before you get started; some portions of this time line are dependent upon a quick response time being available from your university when you need it. I can speak from experience that at Columbia for example, this quick response time was very difficult to get. Nevertheless, this time line is based upon experience and many doctoral candidates before you have been able to follow it and graduate one year after they started their final and real dissertation draft.
Before starting this final year certain things must be in place. First, you must have established your own personal habits and timetable so that you are able to dedicate a half an hour a day, and 5 to 6 hours a weekend minimum to this work. Second, you must have worked out the support systems within your family, so that the normal ups and downs of life will not completely derail you during the year. Third, at the university level, you must have secured the help of a mentor or advisor whom you trust. Finally, as discussed in a previous article, you must have a working knowledge of the literature that impacts your topic, and not only a sense of how you will study it, but active permission from your university to pursue your study in that manner. With all these green lights giving you the go-ahead, you are ready to move ahead, plot your deadlines, and get started.
Backwards Mapping from Graduation
First, take out a piece of paper and write your graduation date at the bottom. Your dissertation needs to be finished and letter perfect one month before that date, therefore your final defense of dissertation needs to be six weeks before that. Why? Because few dissertations pass final defense without some requisite changes being required by the committee. Also, final copy editing, including letter perfect references, table of contents, etc. will need to be addressed. I recommend that you plan to have your dissertation to your mentor or advisor one month prior to your defense of dissertation. Some universities will ask you to have it to your whole committee at that time. All this adds up to the fact that you need to have your dissertation finished four months before you graduate.
Now that you know when you need to have your work done, you’ll have to plan for data collection and analysis components. Traditionally these stretched over at time period from six months to many years. Modern times, with graduates being less enamored of a lifetime of doctoral process, and with the advent of 60% “all but dissertation”, universities have allowed smaller studies that can be done over a shortened period of time. Therefore, depending on your methodology, and the size of your study, you may be able to collect data for two months and analyze the data or another two months, simultaneously writing chapters four and five. If you have a robust mixed methods study, or a particularly complex style of data analysis, or a participatory study, you may need to stretch past this four-month minimum.
You’ll notice that this leaves just four months for writing the first three chapters, defending your proposal, and obtaining IRB permission for your study. While this will seem ludicrous to a person who has been working on that part of the dissertation process for years, it is quite possible and in fact many graduates do it. The first three chapters of a dissertation follow a particular logic in order which is discernible through websites that offer dissertation help, books, and following model dissertations from your university and others. Start by Dissertation help cutting and pasting the headings you want both into a mock table of contents and into the document itself. Then shovel in everything in all the notes you have written as you see them fitting in chapters two and three. Proceed on moving towards final copy on chapters 3, and when it is done give it to your advisor or mentor for review as you move on to write a literature review that supports everything in your methodology but nothing surplus to it.
Remember that by this time you are an expert on your subject, and like all experts you need to hone what you know to match the needs of your audience. Your audience, in this case, is your committee and they are looking for two things: first and foremost, that you have put together a research study which is doable and rigorous, second that you can back up the need for that study through your discussion of the literature. In other words Chapter 3 is the most important chapter you write, and that is why my experience has taught me it should be the first written when composing the final draft. Chapter 2 is often the laziest chapter as you need to display your understanding as you discuss a minimum of 75 peer-reviewed articles and books. Daunting as that may sound; much can be done by stating clear simple facts that traverse multiple authors and then citing them all at the bottom of that paragraph. Finally, you knock out Chapter 1, following your dissertation models example of what goes where. The secret to a good Chapter 1 is that you say nothing more than what is needed at minimum in each section.