Many dissertation students keep waiting until they have read enough before they begin writing. While reading the literature is critically important to completing your dissertation, I have seen many students use reading as an excuse for not writing. There is only one bottom line when it comes to dissertation completion – your must write it. It has been said that, “There is no good writing; there is only good re-writing.” It is important to write more than you think you need to write.

Once ideas start flowing from your mind to the written pages of your manuscript, you can use all of those various thoughts and ideas somewhere in your final product. In my own writing, I have found it is much easier to edit what I have already written than to write new material. It is your job to write the dissertation; it is a major mistake to assume that your Chairperson will write anything for you.

If they do any editing for you, most likely they will cross out a few words or sentences, correct your writing in a few places, or suggest a minor reorganization of some paragraphs. That is why it is important to have so-called extra content to subsidize possible future deletions.

More mature and experienced doctoral students tend to do research with participants they are familiar with or subjects/topics they care a great deal about. This gives them an advantage because they do not have to rely only on the articles they have read in order to write. Even though they may not have read all or even enough of the literature, they have a great deal of personal experience about the issue, the topic, or the problem they are researching.

They may even know quite a bit about the theories related to their research. In this case, I encourage them to write what they know to be true or think is true, rather than feeling compelled to wait until they have read all of the relevant literature. Remember this – with the proliferation of literature and research articles, it is impossible for anyone to read everything.

Ideally, you would read the literature first and then from the literature discern what to write about. In the practical world where you may be working full-time and have a family to care for that doesn’t always make sense, especially if you want to move faster through the process.

Now obviously, if you are not familiar with the participants and/or the topic, then you must rely on the literature; therefore, you have to read as many articles as you possible before you feel competent to write. On the other hand, when I have clients who are experienced with the participants and/or the topic, I often tell them to write as much as they can to get ideas out of their head and into their manuscript.

From there, they can go back and locate literature to support their points. If you will do this, it should minimize any doubts you may have about your own writing. In many cases this approach of writing first and reading second can contribute to a faster completion of your dissertation.