The Learning Curves and Preparation for Writing the Dissertation

As I stated in my first blog, I was not the traditional student. It had been over 20 years since I had been in school when I returned to finish my Bachelor’s degree. There was limited writing in my undergraduate program and the writing that took place the papers was very short in length. I then made the decision to embark on graduate school, and that is where the lack of experience became very real. I was not prepared to write graduate school, academic quality papers but I quickly learned.

While pursuing my Master’s degree there were numerous papers and for the most part they were semi-structured. After the first round of papers had been graded, they looked like a vampire had gotten hold of them. There were so many track changes I needed track changes to follow the track changes <lol>. It took some time for me to adjust to this different way of writing and the learning curves were very steep. The content was not a problem but the style was not there for I wrote papers the way I talked.

Finally, my writing style started to develop. I learned by examining the corrections that were on the papers. I enrolled into a beginners writing class to basically start over and learn the mechanics of grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. Writing did not come easy for me and it was a constant struggle. As time progressed so did my writing and my papers took on form, structure, and style. I started getting confidence in my writing style by learning from my mistakes, corrections, and the writing class.

Since I had this “new found” confidence of writing, I just knew I was ready to start the dissertation writing and would not encounter any problems. When I embarked on my doctoral studies/course work the assignments were mainly papers ranging from 10-20 pages depending on the assignment and course. Little did I know that there was another learning curve waiting around the corner for round two of the writing phase.

When I started writing my dissertation the hardest part was narrowing down my topic and defending that topic with my mentor. Remember, regardless of what you might “think” you know what you want to research, it can always be refined over and over. Once I had it narrowed down to about 85% (15% wiggle room to keep refining), I assembled an organization plan for the subject matter. I made of list of all the items that I wanted to cover in my topic and why, sort of like a simple flowchart (I’m a visual person). Look at the plan then begin the elimination process (fine tuning) and then start the pre-writing.

Again, in my eyes the doctoral process is like an independent study especially for an online student. For the most part you are on your own when it comes to assignments, course work, and very little to no contact with peers and faculty except for weekly discussions. The dissertation phase can be equated to an independent study project. There are no deadlines from professors and no weekly due dates, just you and a blank word document page. The writing process is self-directed, self-motivation, and self-disciplined. If you do not have these requirements this is not the road to walk on.

Next month I will discuss the process I used to start my pre-writing, gathering information, and organizing the research. Get those fingers ready!

Ciao for Now!!