Contributed in 2014 by Shaun Stevenson, PhD Student, Carleton University
For those of you looking for non-traditional resources to help you through the dissertation process, blogs can provide insightful perspectives, reserves of relevant articles and links to helpful information from across the web. Better yet, they are often a wonderful and humorous place to commiserate about the sometimes woeful process of dissertation writing. This article will look at three excellent blogs that you may just want to turn to when struck by that familiar feeling of procrastination.
The Thesis Whisperer: Humour, insight and helpful hints
Appearing in no particular order, let’s begin with the aptly titled The Thesis Whisperer. Hailing from the Australian National University and dubbed a “blog newspaper,” this blog compiles engaging and succinct entries from around the world. Its scope extends far beyond the actual writing process and includes posts on just about anything you could think of surrounding a dissertation, from time management skills, how to create an authoritative voice in your writing and managing the complicated terrain of ethics approval. It also contains a lot of colourful posts from good-humoured academics, including the astutely named “Academic assholes and the circle of niceness” and “How I broke up with my supervisor”. The blog prides itself on being to the point, with most posts limited to 1,000 words or less. It is wonderfully organized, and likely has something for everyone, with a nod to other like-mined blogs and websites in the sidebar. It also welcomes submissions from other dissertation-raddled academics.
The Three Month Thesis: I don’t believe you, but go ahead and inspire me
With a name like The Three Month Thesis, the next blog I’d like discuss initially had me feeling a little suspect. Referred to as “your uncommon guide to thesis writing and PhD life” by the blog’s author, James Hayton, I thought there had to be some gimmick here. Hayton explains how, after nearly giving up on his PhD altogether, he rallied his motivation and actually wrote his entire dissertation in just three months. All skepticism aside, his post “How I wrote a PhD thesis in 3 months,” is both believable and inspirational. In 10 straightforward steps, a listing-style deployed through many of his posts, the author carefully and concisely explains how his three-month thesis was possible. And while those of you in year 5, 6 or 9 may cry nonsense at the practicality of this, his tactics and tips will resonate no matter what stage you’re at. All of the posts found on this blog are presented in a refreshingly sparse, yet on-point style. I especially loved this simple but wonderfully insightful post on overcoming procrastination: “Procrastination hack: Get to zero.” Yes Hayton is a full-time “thesis coach,” and yes this blog promotes his services, but hey, quit being so jaded and take his free advice for what it is! [Please note that the author of this blog has since contacted us to let us know that his blog has been renamed]
GradHacker: Writing a dissertation in a digital age
Third is GradHacker [now hosted by Inside Higher Ed]. Written across universities, disciplines and career stages, GradHacker was initially began with the intent of teaching other grads about technology related to graduate life and networking. It has since expanded to ‘hacking’ all aspects of grad life. While this blog contains topics similar to those of the aforementioned blogs, I highlight it for its original emphasis on technology. GradHacker’s careful attention to the increasingly technological aspects of dissertation writing set it apart from some of the more general blogs. Posts highlight software programs that help you build your own research database, how to get the best use of electronic referencing tools like Zotero, or simply what it means to be a more tech savvy graduate student. Putting theory into practice, GradHacker also hosts its own podcasts. This blog is really a one-size-fits-all resource for dissertation writing and all things graduate-related. Its focus on technology gives it a bit of an edge, and gives you all the more reason to spend time reading about writing your dissertation, rather than actually writing it!
Go back to Writing Resources: Science and Engineering.