A common mistake that many dissertation students make is believing that they have to read all the literature before they start to write. Ideally, this principle would work, but in order to stick to the deadline, you need to begin writing as quickly as possible. Your product will require numerous revisions and editing before you finalize it, so it is important to begin writing to develop the ideas in the body of your dissertation as soon as possible.

The Trap

This reminds me of the first dissertation-coaching client I had, whom we can call “Susan.” She lived in the mountains at Big Bear Lake in Southern, California, which about 55 miles away from where I lived. She often called to talk about her dissertation, but I never got anything in writing from her. She called week after week to talk and talk, and after about three weeks of this, I asked her when she was going to send me something to look at. This was at a time before email and Fax were invented.

Getting Ready…

Susan was a great example of someone continually “getting ready” to do something. I pointed out to her that it was costing her money to talk to me, number one. Number two, with every week that went by, she felt more and more like a failure because she hadn’t yet done anything. I asked Susan to commit to mailing me at least one sentence on a daily basis.

Over the next two weeks, she started sending a letter every day— in fact, sometimes two letters a day arrived from the Post Office! Initially, it was only one sentence, but soon she was sending me complete paragraphs. After a while I was receiving a full page or more.

You can see where this is going.

Getting There…

Susan started sending me more and more content. We were also talking on a weekly basis so that I could give her feedback. It didn’t take long for this process got her creative juices flowing so that suddenly I was getting thick packages from her. Pages and pages and pages.

This helped build up her momentum, and then there was no stopping her! Susan’s initial problem was that she was just stuck, and she needed to start writing something—anything—to get her moving on her dissertation. My suggestion is to start writing as soon as possible, especially if you are somewhat familiar with the problem/issue/participants of the study.

Write what you know or believe to be true.

Literature can be added later. The Rev. Robert H. Schuller said, “Starting is half done.” This is wise counsel. Only by beginning can you move on to completion.

And of course, the completion of your dissertation is what you want.