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Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know

Trying to complete a PhD thesis in time for the October deadline? We share some advice on getting over that final hurdle

  • The key to a successful PhD thesis? Write in your own voice

Many PhD students are now in the final throes of writing their thesis. Turning years of research into a single, coherent piece of work can be tough, so we asked for tips from supervisors and recent PhD graduates. We were inundated with tweets and emails – and @AcademiaObscura helpfully created a Storify of the tweets. Below is a selection of the best tips.

1) Make sure you meet the PhD requirements for your institution “PhD students and their supervisors often presume things without checking. One supervisor told his student that a PhD was about 300 pages long so he wrote 300 pages. Unfortunately the supervisor had meant double-spaced, and the student had written single-spaced. Getting rid of 40,000 extra words with two weeks to go is not recommended.” ( Hannah Farrimond, lecturer in medical sociology, Exeter University)

2) Keep perspective “Everyone wants their thesis to be amazing, their magnum opus. But your most important work will come later. Think of your PhD as an apprenticeship. Your peers are unlikely to read your thesis and judge you on it. They are more likely to read any papers (articles, chapters, books) that result from it.” ( Dean D’Souza, PhD in cognitive neuroscience, Birkbeck, University of London)

3) Write the introduction last “Writing the introduction and conclusion together will help to tie up the thesis together, so save it for the end.” ( Ashish Jaiswal, PhD in business education, University of Oxford)

4) Use apps “ Trello is a project management tool (available as a smartphone app) which allows you to create ‘boards’ on which to pin all of your outstanding tasks, deadlines, and ideas. It allows you to make checklists too so you know that all of your important stuff is listed and to-hand, meaning you can focus on one thing at a time. It’s satisfying to move notes into the ‘done’ column too.” ( Lucy Irving, PhD in psychology, Middlesex University)

5) Address the unanswered questions “There will always be unanswered questions – don’t try to ignore or, even worse, obfuscate them. On the contrary, actively draw attention to them; identify them in your conclusion as areas for further investigation. Your PhD viva will go badly if you’ve attempted to disregard or evade the unresolved issues that your thesis has inevitably opened up.” ( Michael Perfect, PhD in English literature, University of Cambridge)

6) Buy your own laser printer “A basic monochrome laser printer that can print duplex (two-sided) can be bought online for less than £100, with off-brand replacement toners available for about £30 a pop. Repeatedly reprinting and editing draft thesis chapters has two very helpful functions. Firstly, it takes your work off the screen and onto paper, which is usually easier to proof. Secondly, it gives you a legitimate excuse to get away from your desk.” ( James Brown, PhD in architectural education, Queen’s University Belfast)

7) Checking is important “On days when your brain is too tired to write, check quotations, bibliography etc so you’re still making progress.” ( Julia Wright, professor of English at Dalhousie University, Canada)

8) Get feedback on the whole thesis “We often get feedback on individual chapters but plan to get feedback from your supervisor on the PhD as a whole to make sure it all hangs together nicely.” ( Mel Rohse, PhD in peace studies, University of Bradford)

9) Make sure you know when it will end “Sometimes supervisors use optimistic words such as ‘You are nearly there!’ Ask them to be specific. Are you three months away, or do you have six months’ worth of work? Or is it just a month’s load?” ( Rifat Mahbub, PhD in women’s studies, University of York)

10) Prepare for the viva “Don’t just focus on the thesis – the viva is very important too and examiners’ opinions can change following a successful viva. Remember that you are the expert in your specific field, not the examiners, and ask your supervisor to arrange a mock viva if practically possible.” ( Christine Jones , head of school of Welsh and bilingual studies, University of Wales Trinity St David)

11) Develop your own style “Take into account everything your supervisor has said, attend to their suggestions about revisions to your work but also be true to your own style of writing. What I found constructive was paying attention to the work of novelists I enjoy reading. It may seem that their style has nothing to do with your own field of research, but this does not matter. You can still absorb something of how they write and what makes it effective, compelling and believable.” ( Sarah Skyrme, PhD in sociology, Newcastle University)

12) Remember that more is not always better “A PhD thesis is not a race to the highest page count; don’t waste time padding.” ( Francis Woodhouse, PhD in mathematical biology, University of Cambridge)

13) Get a buddy “Find a colleague, your partner, a friend who is willing to support you. Share with them your milestones and goals, and agree to be accountable to them. This doesn’t mean they get to hassle or nag you, it just means someone else knows what you’re up to, and can help to check if your planning is realistic and achievable.” ( Cassandra Steer, PhD in criminology, University of Amsterdam)

14) Don’t pursue perfectionism “Remember that a PhD doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Nothing more self-crippling than perfectionism.” ( Nathan Waddell, lecturer in modernist literature, Nottingham University )

15) Look after yourself “Go outside. Work outside if you can. Fresh air, trees and sunshine do wonders for what’s left of your sanity.” ( Helen Coverdale, PhD in law, LSE)

Do you have any tips to add? Share your advice in the comments below.

Join the higher education network for more comment, analysis and job opportunities , direct to your inbox. Follow us on Twitter @gdnhighered.

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  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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Tips for finishing your PhD thesis on time

Scholar siân lindsay’s research on doctoral completion has yielded valuable insights and practical advice.

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The problems of meeting deadlines are as acute in academia as in any other line of work – if not more so. And perhaps the first high-stakes encounter academics have with this difficult-to-master discipline is the PhD.

Siân Lindsay, lecturer in educational development at City University London, has investigated the process of doctoral completion. She interviewed several PhD candidates at her institution as they were writing up their theses, in a bid to understand the factors that facilitate or obstruct their progress.

Dr Lindsay – who will speak about her project at a Society for Research into Higher Education event in London on 13 June – shared some of her discoveries with Times Higher Education .

“Overwhelmingly, students who were on track to complete their thesis on time had actually written their thesis as they went along,” she said.

“It seems really obvious to say, but the reason students don’t complete on time is because they don’t tend to have their thesis ready.”

She added that it was not particularly important what form such continual writing took, whether drafting chapters or keeping an academic diary, which is what she herself did.

“Every single day I’d write down what I’d done and why I’d done it, because when you write up your thesis you have to justify why you’ve gone in certain directions,” she said.

“Looking back on the diary helped me, particularly in the viva. I could use it to rationalise my decision not to approach it in a certain way.”

Dr Lindsay said she believed that “serial writing”, a term used by Rowena Murray in her book How to Write a Thesis , helped with the development of a thesis because you are not “just ‘telling’ knowledge, you’re ‘developing’ it”.

The second key factor she identified was a proactive supervisor who offered encouragement and feedback during the write-up.

“When you’re writing your thesis it’s very strange because you don’t know where the goalposts are. You can look at other examples of students’ theses, but it’s hard to figure out how your thesis needs to look. So your supervisor is key to guiding you towards what the end product should look like.”

Acknowledging that it was too simplistic to say “make sure you have a good supervisor”, she advised students to be “making and sustaining contact with your supervisor, particularly during write-up”.

“Then there are self-based factors: being motivated, organised, having self-discipline – strategies to understand how you work best,” she said. “Feeling overwhelmed” is common among PhD students, so breaking work into chunks can be a very productive approach.

“Having support and encouragement from friends and family and a good working environment are crucial too,” she added.

Immersing oneself in academic culture was a factor Dr Lindsay also rated highly. “At City we have an annual research symposium and students can present their work and talk about their research,” she said. “That’s so important because it not only prepares you for the viva, but it’s fun to do. Avoiding those offerings by universities is going to tempt you into isolation and wanting to leave the whole process. When you’re talking to other people, you’re getting new ideas and perspectives. It’s refreshing your isolated state of mind.”

Meanwhile, Dr Lindsay said that she was surprised at how few students had told her that they had “let their thesis fall by the wayside” because they had run out of money.

“A lot of the students went and sought part-time work anyway,” she said. “While they were writing they could have that part-time job as a distraction and it helped to structure the process. But being in full-time employment was a big no-no.”

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The done deal: Siân Lindsay’s top tips on finishing your thesis on time

  • Continual writing during your research project is key; don’t leave writing to the very end, as then the task of writing your thesis may seem impossible. Remember that the very act of writing things down can help you develop your ideas.
  • Making and sustaining supervisor contact and supervisory support is essential, especially when nearing the end.
  • Immerse yourself in academic culture and get talking about your research at conferences and research symposia. It is worth trying to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. This will be a valuable confidence boost for your viva.
  • Don’t get a full-time job, even if you are sorely tempted. However, a part-time job could work in your favour because it could help to structure your time, providing a break from unhelpful spells of isolation and giving you an anchor to the rest of the world.
  • Support and understanding from friends and family is important. Talk to them about the challenges you may be experiencing, especially during the final stages.
  • Find a writing-up environment that works best for you and minimises unhelpful distractions.
  • Reflect on what drives you to write your thesis. Breaking the task into manageable chunks with self-imposed deadlines works well for most, and being organised is paramount.

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Tress Academic

finish your thesis

#73: What’s needed to finish your PhD?

December 1, 2020 by Tress Academic

Are you uncertain if you are ready to submit your PhD dissertation? Or hesitant to wrap up your work and move your project to the finish line? You might be stuck in the wrong mind-set, or not sure if you’ve enough material, or simply procrastinating thesis submission. Let us help you to identify what might be holding you back, and how to figure out what’s really needed to make it to the finish line. 

Have you ever thought about what is actually needed to finish your PhD? Really identified what still needs to be done so that you can wrap it up? Have you identified the remaining tasks that you have to accomplish in order to complete your thesis and hand it in? Or are you dragging this out–conducting one experiment after the other, running another round of analyses, and asking yourself what else you might include?

We often observe that advanced PhD students are hesitant about wrapping up their PhD work, deciding on a clear strategy for finishing, and getting ready to hand-in their dissertation. Below, we discuss reasons why you might be dragging it out instead of finishing on time. We will also let you know how you can avoid getting stuck in the final PhD phase, and instead head towards your PhD graduation day with speed and determination. 

We have a super helpful free worksheet ‘ ‘Completing my PhD: what’s needed’ attached, which will help you to shift your mind and focus your attention toward those essential tasks you should be working on during the final months of your PhD so you can submit your thesis on time. 

If you want to hear more about how to complete your PhD study successfully, sign up to our free webinar for PhD candidates .  

finish your thesis

Phases of a PhD study

PhD projects go through different phases: 

In the start-up phase, you decide on your project goals, your individual research objectives or which hypotheses to test, and you study the literature, get your supervisory committee together, and design your experiments or decide on your field-work. 

Phase II: 

The second phase begins when you start executing your project – now you are working on achieving your research objectives. The emphasis in the middle part of your PhD is on project execution and data gathering. It also includes the writing of the scientific papers that will be included in your dissertation, and writing the dissertation itself. The transition from phase one to phase two is not always clear-cut, and some features can run parallel – especially if you are working with a series of sub-projects that together will form your overall project.

The final phase starts when your research draws to an end. This comes when your research questions are answered, data are gathered, and field-campaigns are completed. Your focus is now on doing remaining analyses, data interpretations, revising papers that came back from review, and on dissertation writing. While some parts of phase two and three may run parallel, the emphasis in the final PhD phase clearly is on finishing your PhD project, and getting your thesis ready so you can turn it in. In this final phase, your mind should focus on PhD completion and on your life after the PhD – if you want some inspiration, check out our blog post “Life after the PhD – it’s waiting for you!” 

finish your thesis

In the final PhD phase but stuck in the mind-set of an early PhD?

At the beginning of a PhD study, what exactly you are going to investigate or develop is often quite open- you are looking around for inspiration, ideas, latest approaches or methods. And even in the second phase, you keep an open eye on how to take your project further. As you are generating your own data and getting first results, you may come up with new ideas, and thus refine and improve your projects. So you work with the mindset of a researcher who’s on the lookout for novel aspects that can be included, or further work you could undertake to make your project even better. This is perfectly fine, and the way it should be in phase two.

Obviously at some point you’ve got to shift your mind, call it a day (or years), and stop watching out for new things. Your focus now should be on completing your sub-projects, papers, analyses, and wrapping up. This is the end-phase of your PhD, and you should now shift your mindset towards honing in on what you achieved and handing in. 

But not all PhD students manage this transition. Although the end of their PhD time (also regarding their working contract or scholarship) approaches, they cling to the mind-set of an early PhD student. 

Being ready to finish a PhD often is a deliberate decision you take rather than an automatic result of a definite end-point of your research. Because, well, the end-point may not be so clear after all – you could go on answering further research questions. Towards the end of your PhD, you may be at the height of your experience so far, you have insights you’ve not had before, and your research skills are well-trained. Plus, you may have exciting results and heaps of data, and in that situation it is very tempting to just go on with your research instead of heading towards the finish line. 

If you are a PhD student in the final phase, you should always ask yourself: What are you lacking so that your supervisors and faculty would accept your submission of the dissertation? That shows that you have shifted your mindset towards PhD completion. To give you a start with that, we’ve included a free worksheet ‘Completing my PhD: what’s needed’

Apart from working with the wrong mindset, there are a couple of other reasons why PhD students hesitate to enter the final stages of their PhD and move on to submitting their dissertation. 

Why aren’t you moving towards the end of your PhD?

Reason 1: procrastinating thesis submission.

You may feel quite comfortable in your role as an advanced PhD student. You’re well accustomed now to the daily trot of work at your department, your work is exciting, you’ve got nice connections to other PhD students and the wider scientific community. Why should you shake up your life and put yourself under the stress of completing? It may sound strange, but this is playing a big role. Although you know that your contract is running out, for now, you feel safe – and handing in will end that feeling of safety. 

Also, as long as you go on doing more analyses, reading, and writing, the outcome of your PhD is open, and you feel that you can still improve it. But when you decide to finish and present your work to the faculty for evaluation, it is fixed – judgement day! What you hand in constitutes your PhD, and that may feel scary, and may be the reason you drag-it-out. 

Reason 2: No clear idea how to move towards the finish line – being confused

Towards the final PhD stage, your project and results may look quite messy, and you may have difficulties bringing it all together. Maybe you have lost the overview of everything you did over the past years, and are lost as to how to finally mold it into one coherent thesis. Or you may still be awaiting final reviews of papers to be included in your dissertation, and may be unsure how to write up the other parts of your dissertation. 

If you want more directions for the final phase of your PhD, sign up for our free webinar ‘The 4 Secrets to a Successful PhD’ ! 

Reason 3: Uncertain if you have enough or what exactly you are lacking?

We often meet PhD students who think they do not yet have enough data, groundbreaking results, or sufficient knowledge in their subject area to get the PhD done and move on to the defence. However, this uncertainty is more frequently the outcome of muddled feelings, and quite possibly imposter syndrome for some, rather than being based in evidence. 

If that’s the case for you, ask yourself, why do you think you don’t have enough material yet to finalise your dissertation? Would you know any more or would you have better results if you postpone any longer? And since you are a scientist, why not get some evidence. 

finish your thesis

How to find out when you’ll be ready to submit?

Learn from peers:.

Figure out what other PhD students did before you, what exactly they have included in their PhD theses, and what was necessary for them to complete successfully. Ask postdocs who recently got a PhD from your faculty how much they included and what they submitted, and how the entire evaluation process went for them.

Discuss with supervisors:

Obviously this is also an issue that you discuss with your supervisors. But be careful what you ask them. They may be as excited about your findings as you are and would certainly have ideas for more or additional work, while forgetting that your contract is coming to an end. Above all, you should be clear about wanting to complete, and communicate that you are keen to achieve that. Then you can discuss if you’re ready or which essential bits are still missing. 

Often, the last PhD committee meeting is used to give the green lights for entering the final PhD phase, wrapping up your PhD work, and moving it toward submission. This is a perfect occasion to ask your supervisors if there’s anything that is still required from your side, or if they think you’re good to go. 

Check PhD regulations:

Finally, look at the exact requirements of your university or faculty – do you fulfil all formal criteria for finishing your PhD? Including the educational part, coursework with necessary credit points, teaching or supervision, you name it! What are the administrative or formal steps you have to undertake upon handing in your dissertation? So get those PhD regulations out one more time and double-check exactly what you have to do. 

Gauge the benefit of going on with your PhD work :

Ask yourself if there is an additional benefit to continuing? Like: A really big breakthrough is just around the corner and would amplify the impact of your PhD work. Or you could have significantly better chances on the (post-doc) job market. So, how does the additional time and resources you invest in completing later stack up against the benefit of completing sooner (and being on the job-market sooner)? If your university has a ‘pass’/‘fail’ system and no grading for your PhD work, and you know that you can finish with great results already – then why should you go on?

Consider the above mentioned points, and then make a decision on when you will be ready. We suggest you make up your mind for yourself. It’s important that you know what you want to do. It is a sign that you are ready for graduation if you are able to judge your achievements realistically and make that decision for yourself. Do you want to hear more about how to complete a PhD?

We’d love to help you make the remaining time in your PhD more enjoyable. Would you like to hear more about how to complete your PhD study successfully, sign up to our free webinar for PhD candidates  

Resources: 

  • Blog post #2: So you want to finish your PhD on time?
  • Blog post #43: Life after the PhD – it’s waiting for you!  
  • Blog post #60: Are you delayed with your PhD?

More information:

Do you want to successfully complete your PhD? If so, please sign up to receive our free guides.

Photograph by thisisengineering at unsplash.com

© 2020 Tress Academic

Finish Your Thesis Academy

The "Finish Your Thesis Program" is step-by-step self-study program for both Masters & PhD students with specific emphasis on healthy work-life balance in graduate school. 

When you join the program, you also get access to our online "Finish Your Thesis Community"

Our Trainings Cover

-Time management & productivity skills

-Goal-setting and planning in graduate school

-Academic writing skills 

-Communication with your supervisor and committee

-Self-care in gradate school

-Successful proposal & thesis defense

The "Finish Your Thesis Program" also includes 3 bonus training sessions and access to our online community. 

What is the "Publish Your Research Program"?

The "Publish Your Research Program" is a comprehensive curriculum that shows you step-by-step how to write up your research in a paper, and submit it to journals.

We also include additional guidelines for choosing the appropriate journal and avoiding the most common reasons for rejection. 

The "Publish Your Research Program" includes 6 group coaching sessions and 6 live writing sprints with other students in the program, to offer you accountability in the process of writing up your publication

What is the "Dissertation Writing Workshop"?

The "Dissertation Writing Workshop" is our Membership Program specifically for students in the process of Dissertation Writing 

Our Membership Benefits include:

-Access to our online community & Core Curriculum with new trainings every month

-Group Coaching Program with accountability from our community and writing coaches

-Accountability through Self-Assessments and our Daily Progress Tracker

Members will have access to high-level of structure & accountability, as well as premium content for academic writing (PhD thesis & publications).

In addition, Members will have the opportunity to network with each other for added accountability as well as career development. 

Please contact us at [email protected] for more information

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Ten Simple Rules for Finishing Your PhD

Jacopo marino.

1 Department of Chemistry, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Melanie I. Stefan

2 Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Sarah Blackford

3 Society for Experimental Biology (SEB), Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom

Introduction

After years of research and with completion in sight, the final year of the PhD often represents the most challenging time of a student's career, in which the ultimate reward is the PhD honor itself. A large investment in time, energy, and motivation is needed, with many tasks to be completed; concluding experiments must be carried out, results interpreted, and a research story mapped out in preparation for writing the final thesis. All the while, administrative obligations need attention (e.g., university credits and mandatory documents), papers may need to be published, students mentored, and due consideration paid to planning for the next career move. Without some form of strategic action plan and the employment of project management skills, students run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and run down or of not meeting their final deadlines. Personal time management and stress resilience are competences that can be developed and honed during this final period of the PhD.

Here, we present ten simple rules on how to deal with time issues and conflict situations when facing the last year of a PhD in science. The rules focus on defining research goals in advance and designing a plan of action. Moreover, we discuss the importance of managing relationships with supervisors and colleagues, as well as early career planning.

Rule 1: Plan Your Last Year in Advance

Preparing a plan of action for the final year of your PhD is vital. Ideally, devised and agreed upon with your supervisor, a plan will help to optimize the time left and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. Individuals plan in different ways; some prefer to work towards their goals in a stepwise linear fashion, whilst others are more comfortable flitting from task to task until all the jobs are done. There is no definitive way to plan, so find out what works best for you. You may decide to map out a timeline, or perhaps a mind-map is your preferred planning style. Whichever method you use, it's important that you adhere to your plan whilst allowing for some flexibility (but not distraction or procrastination).

Your time frame will vary according to the organization of your graduate school, your supervisor or advisory committee, and even your graduation date, but one year before submission of your doctoral thesis is the time when you should decide on how best to invest the last months of your research and associated activities. Having a plan of action will help to avoid time wasting, e.g., being distracted by superfluous experiments that might be interesting but are not necessary. Furthermore, from a psychological point of view, referring to a concrete plan can make you feel more secure and in control. Ideally, the supervisor and PhD student should both agree on the overall plan (with provision for the unexpected, e.g., technical issues), with intermittent reviews every few weeks to check that progress is being made. Your supervisor should also be able to advise you on the organization and writing of your thesis—for example, its structure—and the number and length of chapters to include.

Rule 2: Make Your Priorities Clear

Select the activities you want to include in your plan. What are your priorities? They are likely to include experiments that will give the thesis a conclusion or that may be necessary to publish a final paper. Mandatory administrative tasks will also need attention, and allowing time to prepare for your next career move will give you the best chance of a seamless and successful transition post-PhD. As a final year PhD candidate, you are likely to have acquired high-level competencies comparable to those of a junior postdoctoral researcher, in which case your supervisor may offer you responsibility for new projects or graduate students. Saying no to him/her can be difficult for various reasons, e.g., fear of potentially creating conflict in your relationship or causing a negative reaction or of perhaps losing the opportunity to be included in future research activities and publications. It can also be difficult to let go of a topic or project to which you are wedded or to miss out on the opportunity to help train the next generation of scientists. In such situations, referring back to your plan (Rule 1), previously agreed upon with your supervisor, should help to remind you both of your priorities and deadlines, making negotiation easier. However, should any conflict of opinion arise between you, bear in mind that finding a mutually agreeable solution is the best way forward. You can take advice from a mentor or refer to the many publications that provide approaches and tactics for effective negotiation. If the relationship between you and your supervisor is more complicated and cannot be resolved by a discussion, you may need to turn to your graduate school, your academic committee, or other senior managers in your institution, who can act to mediate the situation.

Rule 3: “The Truth Can Wait”

A research project is never really finished, so do not try to do everything before submitting. In fact, the perfect doctoral thesis does not exist; there are students with good research projects and many publications and others with more difficult and testing challenges who are still waiting for their first paper. If the project is ambitious, it might take several years to reach the final goal, and thus the thesis might only be a small part of the whole story. If the project is going well, it will open up new research questions and future directions, some of which will be beyond the scope of a PhD. At some point, you need to decide that what you have is enough for a PhD and start writing (a strategy we heard described at a dissertation-writing seminar in Cambridge as “the truth can wait”; it helps to write this on a post-it note and stick it on your computer!). Starting to write the thesis is not easy when there is a sense that more could be done to accumulate more data and a fuller story; a common mistake is to go back to the lab instead of getting started with the results chapters of the thesis. To postpone writing will cause delays and not necessarily improve the thesis whilst increasing the prospect of unfulfilled and extended deadlines. Thus, once the experiments that you have agreed on have been completed, it is really important to start writing with the data in hand.

Rule 4: Enlist Support

Finalizing experiments and writing the thesis (and even papers), as well as considering your next career transition, can be stressful and even isolating. It is a contrast to the relatively more relaxed earlier years of the PhD experience, and the writing process does not come naturally to everyone. The prospect of facing these stresses alone can make the experience even harder to bear, so it is advisable to communicate with and find support in those you trust and respect. Relying on such people during this period can help to ease the strain and enable you to achieve your final aims so that you arrive at your PhD graduation with your sanity still intact! Talking about personal feelings with selected colleagues usually helps you to realize that you are not alone, whatever difficulties and challenges you might be experiencing with your research project, supervisor, or coworkers. Sharing uncertainties and talking through issues can be constructive, helping you to understand the strategies other people use to cope with similar problems. As well as colleagues, it can also help to talk to friends and family, even though they won't be as au fait with the highly particular challenges you are experiencing. You can share your feelings and anxieties with them, but they can also act as a welcome distraction to help you to relax and take a break from thinking about the stresses of your PhD.

Support and advice can also come in the shape of courses, books, blogs, mentoring, etc. There is much published on the subject of how to write a thesis [1] . Furthermore, graduate schools, such as those in which we are based, usually offer courses to help PhD candidates improve their personal and professional skills. For example, the University of Zurich organizes courses on, amongst others, time and self-management skills, managing conflict, and academic writing and publishing [2] . The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard lists workshops and resources offered across the university on topics such as scientific writing, time management, and overcoming procrastination. In addition to relying on your supervisor, postdoctoral researchers in your group or department (or even friendly collaborators) may agree to read chapters of your thesis and comment on aspects such as content, logical flow of ideas, and the overall structure. At a later stage, you may want to engage someone to check your grammar, spelling, and reference style (this can be especially important if you are not writing in your native language). If your PhD defense includes a presentation, try to practice beforehand, preferably in front of some of your peers, and include asking for feedback and possible questions that may come up. This should make you feel more prepared and confident.

Rule 5: Get Familiar with the Software

Being familiar with software for both writing and making figures will facilitate the creation of your thesis. One of the most effective tools with which to produce a scientific document is LaTeX ( www.latex-project.org ). This software, freely available, is not as immediately understandable as other text editors, but the advantages are greater: it offers a professional layout similar to published books, it makes the insertion and management of figures easier as their position in the file does not depend on text editing, and it allows for easy typesetting of mathematical equations and referencing of articles from a bibliography database. Moreover, the text file size does not increase while inserting figures, making its handling easier. An example LaTeX package for typesetting dissertations is “classicthesis”, written by André Miede ( http://www.miede.de/index.php?page=classicthesis ). Although advantageous, LaTeX can also present disadvantages. In contrast to commonly used text editors (e.g., Microsoft Word), it does not make it easy to track changes in the manuscript, often a preferred way for supervisors to correct theses in an electronic form. Therefore, we suggest you discuss the preferred software with your supervisor when you agree upon your plan (Rule 1).

A professional design software can also speed up the creation of figures for your thesis, which can be further used for your final PhD presentation, so check whether your institution provides an introductory course to some of these software packages. Taking a one-day class can save you a lot of time later. Organize your bibliography; many excellent reference managers exist that allow you to catalogue and annotate the papers you have read and integrate them seamlessly with text processing software (e.g., Endnote or the freely available Mendeley and Readcube). Choose one that fits your needs and check whether your university provides institutional licenses (and be disciplined about adding each paper you read to it!).

Consider using version control software. This allows you to keep a log of all the changes you make to a file or directory and makes it easy to recover a previous version if something goes wrong or to merge two versions of a file. This is often used in software projects to produce, document, and improve computer code, but it can also be useful when working on a long text document, such as a dissertation. Commonly used free version control systems include git/GitHub [git, github], Subversion [svn], and Bazaar [bzr] (see Table 1 ).

Most important of all is to have a backup strategy. A hard-drive crash at the wrong moment can set your work back by weeks and jeopardize the timely completion of your thesis. Institutions or departments will often have a backup system employees can make use of. This may require you to install a specific piece of software on your computer that backs up your data at regular intervals or to save your file on an institute server. Contact the information technology (IT) department at your institute to learn about your options.

Rule 6: Know Your University's Procedures and Regulations

During the course of your PhD, you will have been acquiring project management skills, such as organizing your time and resources, reviewing progress, and meeting deadlines. In order to avoid last-minute surprises, you can capitalize on and develop these skills during the final year of your PhD. Prepare a list of all the documents and certificates that you will need, even before you start writing; it will be of critical importance to include this information in your plan and priorities (Rules 1 and 2). Having a good working relationship with someone who can help you to navigate a bureaucratic process will usually be an asset and will ensure you are familiar and aware of all the rules. Considering the amount of documents and certificates that are needed for handing in a thesis, it is advantageous to introduce yourself to the institute secretary or human resources manager, as well as any other staff who can help you to deal with the administrative side of the process. Don't rely on previous documents, which may have been revised since the last person in your group graduated. Be aware of all the necessary institutional administrative requirements (e.g., credit points, research seminar attendance, publications, etc.), as well as the faculty criteria, including deadlines (as well the date of the graduation ceremony), thesis copy numbers and format, font size, binding, and supporting documents. Take time to go through the list of documents and start collecting them in a folder. Get the formatting right early on, e.g., by using a dedicated template file. With your documents in order, you are bound to feel you have the situation more under control, which can help to reduce stress and enable you to focus more closely on writing your thesis.

Rule 7: Exploit Synergies

You are doing a lot of work for your thesis, so use it to your advantage. The literature review in your introduction can also be used to write and publish a future review article, an idea that might also be welcomed by your supervisor. If you are intending to write a grant proposal for a postdoctoral fellowship on a similar research topic, you can use some of the thesis introduction and future directions as a basis for your research plan. If you are keen to gain teaching experience, you could propose a short course on your specialty area. For instance, at Harvard Medical School, senior graduate students and postdoctoral researchers can be involved in lecturing on short, specialized “nanocourses” [3] . You may also be able to deliver a specialized lecture within a class your supervisor is teaching or, ideally after you have completed the PhD, teach at a workshop or summer school.

Take advantage of opportunities to deliver a talk as an invited speaker at a conference or at another institute, for example, if you are visiting a research group or investigating possible postdoctoral options. This will give you the chance to practice your defense presentation in front of an unfamiliar audience and, at the same time, allow a potential future supervisor and colleagues to gain a more complete picture of your research interests, skills, and personality.

Rule 8: Pay Attention to Your Career

It is not always easy to decide on which career path to follow after your PhD. You have been trained primarily towards an academic research career, and so many PhD graduates choose to continue on with a postdoctoral position as their first career destination. This is perfectly acceptable, and many industrial employers look upon early-career postdoctorals favorably. However, it is worth bearing in mind that permanent tenured positions are hard to secure nowadays and competition is tough, with less than 5% of those who complete a PhD ultimately realizing an academic career [4] . For those who are determined to have an academic career, a strategic research plan is crucial; for those who are unsure, a viable alternative career plan is equally important.

Knowledge of your professional and personal skills and capabilities, personality, values, and interests, as well as how to map them onto the job market and sell them to employers, will help you to make effective career decisions and a successful transition to your next job. In addition, factors such as your personal situation and priorities, mobility, and preferred work–life balance all need to be taken into consideration before entering the complicated world of the job market. Be ready to make compromises either in your work or personal life, depending on your priorities. Take advantage of courses and professional career guidance and coaching while you are still at university, as they are usually offered free of charge. Along with books and websites, face-to-face career support can help raise your self-awareness and knowledge of the job market so you can start to decide which types of career may best suit you. Blackford's book and blog [4] contain useful material on career planning for bioscientists, with concrete examples of different career paths within and outside of academia, and further information and resources. In addition, the Science Careers portal offers an online tool [5] to create an individual development plan and explore your career options based on your skills, interests, and values. Also, take advantage of dedicated career job boards associated with specialist websites, such as that of the International Society for Computational Biology [6] .

How soon should you start job seeking? Finding a job whilst writing up your thesis can seem like an attractive prospect, but it's important to consider that applying for jobs can easily take up as much time as working a full-time job. Then, if you do secure a job, the time left for writing up your thesis, completing experiments, and wrapping up your lab work will be seriously limited. It is exceedingly hard to write a doctoral thesis in the evenings after work or on the weekends, so in case you are offered a job before you have finished the PhD, consider seriously how this might affect your work and life. On the other hand, finishing a PhD when scholarship money has been seriously reduced (or has run out) comes with a different set of challenges. Many students need to tap into their savings (if indeed they have any), drastically reduce their spending, and move out of their accommodation. Losing employment at the university can also affect health insurance, social security, and visa status. Finishing up a PhD under these additional constraints and pressures can be extremely challenging, both logistically and psychologically. To ensure that you can concentrate all your time on (and get paid for) finishing your PhD, start planning ahead one year earlier. Be aware of your university's regulations, talk to your supervisor about the funding situation (is it possible for you stay on as a postdoctoral researcher for a short period?), and know what you need to do in order to finish on time (Rule 1).

Rule 9: Network

Unofficial statistics tell us that only around 30% of jobs are advertised, so to enhance your employment prospects you would be well advised to network in order to access the hidden job market. During the final year of your PhD, and even earlier, you can build up and extend your network so that your chances of finding the job of your choice are optimized. If you are looking for research positions, your supervisor might have contacts or know about positions available in academia or industry. Reviewing your personal network further will reveal it consists of colleagues, friends, and family. You may also have a wider network of collaborators (research and industry), people associated with your research whom you have met during the course of your PhD, as well as many others. Conferences, seminars, informal gatherings, and learned societies are great places to meet the academic community face to face or to broaden your horizons. Job fairs are held at universities and sometimes during conferences, where experts from industry look for potential employees as well as sometimes provide informal advice on your curriculum vitae (CV). Try to exploit these opportunities if they come your way.

A relatively recent, and highly democratic, addition to the networking system is social media, through which it is possible to meet people online from all over the world and from all walks of life. More and more professors, researchers, students, policy makers, science “celebrities”, science communicators, industry personnel, and professionals have a presence on social media, using it primarily for work-related purposes. Researchgate, LinkedIn, and Twitter are probably the most useful platforms for networking with academia, business, and the wider world, respectively. Your online profile should be fully completed and reflect your expertise, achievements, and personality. Used to greatest effect, social media will give you access to information, jobs, and influential people—its importance to you as a PhD student cannot be overestimated.

Rule 10: Leave on Good Terms

Wrap up the work in your lab, especially if you are leaving the institute. This includes any required training of new personnel in the methods and techniques you use, having lab notes in order, making it easy for other lab members to access your protocols and data, organizing and labelling your reagents and equipment, and documenting your computer code. If someone is taking over an unfinished project from you, take time to hand it over. Discuss with your supervisor to find a solution for who will do the final experiments, how to proceed with the writing of journal manuscripts, and what should be the order of authorship. If you have started a project that you want to take with you to your new lab, discuss with your supervisor how to handle possible future publications and how to agree on material transfer. If your work resulted in patents or patentable innovations, make sure you are clear about regulations concerning patents and intellectual property, both at your PhD institution and at the institution to which you are moving. Stay in touch with your former colleagues and cultivate the contacts you have made in graduate school; they are sure to be useful during the course of your career.

Acknowledgments

Jacopo Marino is grateful to colleagues from the University of Zurich for the everyday discussions that have inspired this manuscript. Melanie I. Stefan is likewise grateful for discussions on the topic with fellow predocs (and sympathetic postdocs) at the European Bioinformatics Institute. She would also like to acknowledge advice and support from Nicolas Le Novère and Susan Jones, which helped her navigate her PhD and graduate in a timely manner. She has since learnt a lot from discussions with colleagues at the California Institute of Technology, the University of Tokyo, and Harvard Medical School.

Funding Statement

The authors have received no specific funding for this article.

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Tips for Completing Your PhD Thesis on Time

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Completing a PhD course is undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling pursuits for academics. Recently, however, a new term arose: ABD (“All but Dissertation”). ABD refers to students who have completed their coursework and passed the exam, but have yet to complete and defend their theses. Indeed, ABD students are more common than previously thought. The PhD Completion Project revealed that the ten-year cumulative completion rate for PhD students ranges from 64% (engineering) to 49% (humanities). While not all students advance to the doctoral writing stage before dropping out, a significant portion do, based on these numbers. Leaving graduate school without finishing your thesis has psychological and occupational consequences. Completing your thesis on time is, therefore, essential for career advancement and personal growth.

Overcoming a Time Crunch

Being pressed for time will likely happen, especially if you are holding down a part-time job during your doctoral studies. The pressure to finish is greatest during the last year of your PhD and this is usually the time when conflicts and tensions arise. There are tips that can help you finish your PhD on time , even when you’re pressed for it.

  • Prepare an action plan for your last year. This will help you optimize the time that you have left and avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the things that you have to do.
  • Clarify your priorities. Ask yourself what you intend to finish first and stick to it. It may be helpful to break down your priorities into smaller and simpler tasks.
  • “The truth can wait.” That is, it is vital to start writing your doctoral thesis once you have your data, even if more can be done.
  • Know all the rules and regulations of the university. Prepare a list of all the documents and papers that you will need before you need them. This will help you avoid pitfalls in your last year.
  • Familiarize yourself with software. Producing scientific documents entails the use of specific programs, such as LaTeX. While the program may not be as easy to understand as other editors, there are marked advantages such as ease in publication and faster manipulation of images.
  • Pay attention to your career. While you may think that this is not the best time to think about your career , it is. Your career should follow suit after your doctoral studies, and focusing on what lies ahead will help you frame the current situation.

Key Tasks for Finishing Your PhD on Time

Finishing your PhD thesis on time is not as daunting as it sounds. Although many students will be pressed for time, completing your study is possible with a little ingenuity from your part.

  • First, ensure that you meet all the PhD requirements set by your institution. Never presume anything without double-checking with your institution and your supervisor. This can save you from a lot of wasted time and stress.
  • Keep a good perspective. Your peers are unlikely to read your thesis , but they are likely to read journals and articles resulting from it.
  • Contrary to what most people say, your introduction should be written last. Breaking your thesis into defined stages is important for success. On that same note, your conclusion also should be written last.
  • Get familiar with project management applications, such as Trello.
  • Buy your own laser printer. This will save you from having to rush elsewhere to have your drafts printed. It will save you time and money as well.
  • Get feedback on the entire thesis—from start to finish. Getting feedback for individual chapters is fine, but you should aim to get feedback on the entire work.
  • “Begin with the end in mind.” Make sure you know when your doctoral studies are supposed to end, and when your work will be considered as done.

Planning and Writing Your Thesis

Breaking down your tasks into manageable blocks is one way to ensure that you actually finish the entire thing. There are plenty of techniques to help you along the way, such as the 25-minute Pomodoro for academic writing. Undoubtedly, writing your thesis is at least as hard as performing the actual study, but it is never impossible. With the right tools at your disposal and a positive mindset, you can finish your PhD on time. Below is a checklist of things that you need to do to get to graduation day.

  • Draft your proposal and research design
  • Acquire IRB consent
  • Pilot study
  • Gather data and information for your study
  • Analyze your data
  • Write, write, and write some more . Ideally, aim to write for a minimum of 30 minutes a day
  • Defend your thesis

Completing your PhD paper on time is definitely possible. Knowing the tips and tricks of the trade can help you to get on your way towards a life in academia.

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Thanks for the very useful article to complete the Ph.D. thesis before the deadline. The doctorate course is very difficult for the student so the student could not able to complete the work on time. But your article helps to finish the article to complete the work for the students.

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5 Shortcuts to Finish Your Thesis 12 Months Sooner

finish your thesis

Written by Dora Farkas, PhD

“I had to fight to get my thesis approved. At some point, you just have to put your foot down and talk about graduation. Eventually, my committee gave me the green light to defend,” Amy told me at her thesis defense party.

I was a fifth year PhD student, and I had already started looking for jobs, but the thought of having “the talk” with my supervisor about graduation terrified me.

I was trapped in a vicious cycle.

I was hesitant about fully engaging in my job search because I didn’t know when I would finish my thesis.

At the same time, the subconscious fear of, “What will I do after graduation to pay the bills?” paralyzed me when I tried to work on my thesis.

Amy’s story made one point crystal clear: I couldn’t leave my thesis up to chance.

Showing up at work and generating lots of data would not guarantee a PhD degree.

After my conversation with Amy, I became laser-focused on the question, “What do I need to do in order to graduate?”

I talked to my thesis supervisor until we had clear requirements for my graduation. It took several heated, but civilized, discussions.

While it may feel intimidating to speak to your thesis supervisor about graduation, they are more likely to respect and support you if you are honest with them.

As expected, there were disagreements at my committee meeting, but this time I took a firm stance.

I remembered Amy’s advice and I made sure I was well-prepared by having answers written down for their usual objections, and having backup slides with more details.

My committee members tried to push me as hard as they could, and they all had different opinions on which direction would be best.

Thanks to Amy’s advice, I had the courage to speak up about why I thought I could graduate in a year, even as three distinguished professors glared at me in disbelief.

By the end of the meeting, we had agreed on my graduation requirements, which consisted of a series of experiments that could be realistically completed within the following year.

If I had not taken a firm stance, perhaps my thesis would have taken an extra 12 months, or maybe I would have dropped out altogether.

5 Shortcuts To Finishing Your Thesis 12 Months Sooner

My motivation soared once I realized that I had to become my own project manager.

I had one year left before my anticipated graduation date, and there was a lot to do, especially if I wanted to look for a job too.

There was no time or energy to waste.

finish your thesis

1. Don’t be “everyone’s helper”.

I used to pride myself on responding to emails quickly and being “everyone’s helper” in the lab.

It made me feel good that my expertise was valued.

The problem was, the more I helped others with their work, the more dependent they became on me, and the more they sucked up my time and energy.

Once I started tracking my time, I realized that I spent an unreasonable number of hours responding to other people’s demands.

I was not doing my thesis a favor, and I was not doing the other people a favor, either.

If I wanted to graduate in a year, I had to make my thesis a high priority.

I was still available to help others, but I found a way to “protect” my thesis time by working in the library, not responding to emails right away, or just telling people that I was in the middle of something.

2. Map out the path to your finished thesis.

Your thesis will not write itself.

The fastest way to finish your thesis is to know what you need to get done to satisfy the requirements, and then map out a plan.

The idea of creating a map may seem intimidating for a few reasons.

First, if your graduation is far in the future, you may not know what you need to do to finish it.

Students who graduate first in their class (for example, in 4 years instead of 6 years) usually start mapping out a plan as soon they begin research.

Your plan will change (because research and life are unpredictable), but having a plan will help you gain clarity about what you need to do and by when.

The second reason it can seem intimidating to create a map, is that you may discover that you need to do more than you want to, or that you don’t have enough time to complete everything.

It is better to know sooner, rather than later, if your thesis timeline is unrealistic.

You may be able to simplify your thesis question, or get funding for another semester, but you need to create a realistic timeline.

Don’t just “hope” that somehow your thesis will be finished.

Map out a plan and discuss it with your supervisor, so you can take the right steps to get your thesis done and move on with your life.

finish your thesis

3. Start every day fresh.

After I clarified my thesis requirements and created a timeline, I came to work every morning with the question:

“What can I do today to make progress on my thesis?”

On some days, I had to set up a new experiment, on other days I had to write parts of my thesis, but I started every day fresh.

My stress levels reduced tremendously once I let go of any guilt I felt about not getting enough done the day before.

When you let go of guilt (or fear of how long something will take), that’s when you can put all of your focus on what’s in front of you, and actually get work done.

This may sound simple, but how many students do you know who complain about how slow their writing is?

I was one of those students too, until I realized that beating myself up was not only counterproductive, but it also alienated well-meaning friends.

Starting every day fresh (without guilt about the past, or fear of the future) will not reduce your stress, but it will also open up room for the creativity you need to pull your thesis together.

4. Break the chains of your desk.

Have you ever heard the saying: “The only way to finish your thesis is to glue yourself to your chair and stay there until it is done” ?

This conventional wisdom had the following effects on me:

1) Chronic back, shoulder, neck, and wrist pain.

2) Eye strain and tension headaches.

3) Glacial (almost negligible) progress on my thesis.

The worst part was, the harder I worked, the less progress I made.

In retrospect, this cycle makes perfect sense.

How can you be creative if your whole body is tense and your eyes are strained from staring at the screen all day?

In order to have the mental stamina to write your thesis, you must take regular breaks throughout the day (at least one 10-minute break every hour).

I used to feel guilty about taking breaks until I realized that my best ideas came to me while I was outside walking.

I wasn’t the only person who experienced this phenomenon.

Several studies have shown that the creative part of your brain is activated when you are not actively focusing on a task (i.e. sitting at your desk, staring at your screen) .

If you feel stuck, go for a walk and most likely you will come up with an idea to help you keep moving forward.

finish your thesis

5. Pick your work environment carefully.

The environment where you work may not be the optimal place for you to concentrate.

Many students notice dramatic changes in their performance when they change their environments.

A simple modification, such as working in a library instead of your apartment, can double your focus.

Keep in mind that an environment that works for your friends may not be the best for your thesis writing.

Some students work best in silent environments, such as a library, while others prefer a little bit of background noise, such as a coffee shop.

If you have to work from home, some rooms may be more conducive to working than others.

Try out different work environments (consider asking friends or family about lending you a spare room for thesis writing), before deciding which environment (and which time of day) is best for you.

Bonus: Surround yourself with positive people.

Surround yourself with positive people who can support you, both academically and emotionally.

One of the most common challenges that graduate students face is that they feel isolated and lose motivation to do work.

In colleges, there are support groups organized by the teaching assistants and the residential community.

In graduate school, many students do not have any type of support.

First-year students usually start out enthusiastically but, due to lack of accountability, many of them lose track of time and fall behind on their thesis.

In contrast, students who join a support group feel that being part of a community is one of the best ways to keep themselves motivated.

Simply knowing that someone else believes in you, and celebrates each milestone with you, will motivate you to finish your thesis, and move onto an exciting career.

Are you working to finish your thesis? If so, Dora’s Writing Accelerator Bootcamp is opening soon. This Bootcamp differs from other thesis writing bootcamps in that it is not just one weekend. Instead, it trains each PhD student to write their thesis in the context of their everyday life, no matter how busy they are, even if they can only squeeze in 15 minutes a day. It is for “real” PhD students with “real” schedules, who cannot put their lives aside to write their thesis. The Bootcamp is several weeks long and by joining, you will get support until you Finish Your Thesis. Learn more about the Writing Accelerator Bootcamp here.

finish your thesis

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ABOUT DORA FARKAS, PHD

Dora Farkas received her Ph.D. from MIT in the Department of Biological Engineering and worked for several years in the pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Scientist. Dora is a thesis and career coach and the founder of the online Finish Your Thesis Program & Community, which has helped hundreds of graduate students finish their thesis.

Dora Farkas, PhD

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5 Tips on How to Finish your PhD Thesis in 8 Weeks

For many PhD students, the journey to complete their thesis can feel like running a never-ending marathon. Fortunately, with the right strategies and motivation, you can tackle the task of finishing your thesis in less than 8 weeks. In this blog post, we’ll give you 5 tips that will help you power through to the finish line. So lace up and get ready—your PhD is almost complete!

1. Establishing a Time Management Plan

finish your thesis

For successful completion of a thesis, it is essential to establish a structured and efficient time management plan. Start by creating a timeline that is tailored to the topic being researched and goals that need to be met by the end of the eight-week period. Identify the tasks and steps that are needed to be completed including data collection, analysis, forming arguments, outlining main ideas, writing drafts and proofreading and make sure they fit logically in the timeline so you can refer back to it while completing the work.

Organize your workspace to help you stay on task. Small organizational tools like sticky notes or index cards can help quickly direct tasks when needed. Working with limited time also requires perseverance; stay focused on short-term goals rather than overwhelm yourself with long-term ones. Lastly, consider limiting distractions such as checking emails or messages or frequent social media breaks during your focus period; create designated off time for these activities which will help you allocate a more realistic amount of time for research and writing.

2. Utilizing Available Resources

A doctoral thesis can often seem like a mammoth task that is impossible to finish in 8 weeks or less. However, with careful planning, use of available resources and discipline, it is possible to complete an impressive thesis in a short period of time. In order to achieve this goal, here are five valuable tips:

  • Take advantage of all the available resources: Many universities offer resources such as dedicated staff from the academic writing team and library services that can help reduce the amount of work you need to do. Make sure you’re taking advantage of what’s there so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • Utilize online research platforms: Technology has made researching much easier and faster than ever before. Utilizing online research tools such as Google Scholar , Academic Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) and others will allow you to quickly find quality sources for your paper without spending time in libraries or digging through bookshelves for knowledge.
  • Create a timeline: You’ll need an organized plan in order to write an effective dissertation in 8 weeks or less. Creating a timeline will help break up the work into manageable chunks that won’t overwhelm you and will make sure you stay on track throughout the writing process
  • Stay organized with folders: Keeping folders for each section of your dissertation will help manage your content so it is easier for you to focus on writing when needed instead of rummaging through documents trying to locate something specific during key moments when time is precious

3. Developing a Writing Schedule

finish your thesis

Developing a writing schedule is one of the most important things you can do when attempting to finish your PhD thesis in a short amount of time. This schedule should include all the components of writing and revision, from researching to creating an outline, drafting to editing. It should also account for activities like taking breaks and going for short walks or getting enough sleep.

Creating a well-defined timeline gives you something tangible that you can set goals around and helps ensure that your workflow is consistent, focused and maintained throughout your allotted time frame. Generally speaking, it’s wise to plan out how many hours per day you will devote to the process and how long each task will take. For example, if research takes two hours, drafting takes three hours and editing takes one hour, block out six hours in your schedule.

It helps if you find an accountability partner who can help keep you consistent in completing these tasks. Communication with your mentor/supervisor can also ensure that you’re staying on track. Creating deadlines and clear objectives for every task helps you stay focused until completion, thus staying ahead of schedule with your dissertation writing services .

Keep in mind that any unforeseen changes in your work can affect this timeline; plan extra time into each part of the process for unexpected setbacks or distractions. Additionally, give yourself permission to adjust tasks as needed when necessary — this could include taking breaks or revisiting topics that you did not fully understand previously — so that your progress stays on track as best it can.

4. Eliminating Distractions

First, set aside an uninterrupted period of time where you will only be working on your thesis and nothing else. Make sure that your study space is distraction-free and comfortable. If you feel too comfortable, like in bed or on the sofa, do not work there since working in those environments may tempt you to take naps instead of staying productive. Establish a strict routine where you set limits over Internet use, TV viewing and other activities that can easily distract you from concentrating on your work. Give yourself regular breaks and reward yourself after completing tasks or chapters. Create a timeline and plan when tasks need to be completed so that you don’t fall behind schedule. You can also seek help from writing professionals if you feel overwhelmed at any point in the process.

5. Completing the Final Touches

finish your thesis

Once you have finished the bulk of your PhD thesis writing, there are several fine-tuning aspects that need to be considered in order to make sure that your paper is a polished and professional piece of work. This can often be the most time-consuming part of the process, but it is essential for submitting a high-quality document for examination. Here are five tips that may help you make those final touches:

  • Proofread thoroughly: Make sure to check for grammar, spelling, punctuation and typos; consistently run spell checks and proofread multiple times. If possible, ask someone else to review your document as well.
  • Neaten up the formatting: Pay attention to layout and make sure all pages are consistent with regard to font type, margin size and structure of headings/subheadings; include page numbers as well as references at the end of each section or chapter.
  • Consider adding figures/diagrams: Review your text again; if appropriate – visuals (e.g. diagrams) can often assist in explaining complicated topics/concepts more succinctly than written text alone – though ensure accuracy where appropriate in any accompanying text as sometimes images take readers away from the main message being relayed.
  • Update your existing bibliography: Add new sources gathered during data analysis or from other recent research (if applicable) – be precise with any references added; include full source details without fail so that readers can find information easily if desired; it may help to use a referencing software like EndNote or Zotero in order to save time when updating your bibliography entries quickly.
  • Check file format specifications: It is essential that any specified format across all sections of your thesis adheres meticulously – these might include saving all pages on A4 paper size using appropriate margins (eg 12 pt Times New Roman); save documents correctly (.docx or .pdf) when sending files electronically; request advice on hard copy submission methods too if required – eg providing a printed copy versus binding specifics etc).

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Writing for Social Scientists, Third Edition

Writing for Social Scientists, Third Edition

How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article.

Third Edition

Howard S. Becker

200 pages | 12 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2020

Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing

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Rhetoric and Communication

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Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article: Second Edition (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)

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  • Publication date December 15, 2007
  • Language English
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ University of Chicago Press; Second edition (December 15, 2007)
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finish your thesis

Howard S. Becker

I was born in Chicago, IL on April 18, 1928. Went to the Robert Emmet grammar school in Austin (a neighborhood of Chicago, and to two years of high school at Austin High School before starting, in 1943, as a freshman in the University of Chicago College, which I graduated from in 1946. I got a master's degree in sociology from Chicago in 1949 and a Ph. D, in 1951. I kicked around as what was then called a "research bum" for 14 years, doing research on marijuana use, medical students and college students, until I became Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University in 1965. I left there in 1991 to join the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, and retired from Washington in 1999. SInce then I've lived in San Francisco and now spend about three months a year in Paris as well.I've received a number of honorary degrees (from the Université de Paris 8, Université Pierre-Mendes France (Grenoble, France), Erasmus University (Rotterdam, Netherlands), and École Normal Superiure (Lyon, France).

As many people know, I was a professional piano player-in bars, strip joints, etc.--for some years before becoming an academic, and I continued to play for many years. That has showed up in my research and writing in a number of ways, most recently in the book I co-authored with Robert R. Faulkner called "Do You Know . . . ? The Jazz Repertoire in Action."

You can get more information and access to many of my articles on my web page: http://home.earthlink.net/~hsbecker/

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  1. How to finish a PhD thesis quickly

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  2. 5 Shortcuts to Finish Your Thesis 12 Months Sooner

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  1. 💯How I did write A+ Thesis 📚

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  3. Want To Finish Your PhD Or Publish Papers FASTER? Do This

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  5. Why it's essential to know yourself as a thesis writer

  6. Dissertation Writing 101: Why You Have To Let Go #shorts

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  1. Finish Your Thesis

    Elaine Alden Mathematics Coach Ed.D. St. John's University, Instructional Leadership Adjunct Professor, Pace University Engage with Finish Your Thesis on social media Download Now!! Get started with your free copy of "Finish Your PhD Faster" Download my strategic guide to fire up your motivation, get laser focused and get your PhD 12 months sooner.

  2. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion

    Step 1: Answer your research question Step 2: Summarize and reflect on your research Step 3: Make future recommendations Step 4: Emphasize your contributions to your field Step 5: Wrap up your thesis or dissertation Full conclusion example Conclusion checklist Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about conclusion sections

  3. What Is a Thesis?

    Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience.

  4. Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know

    1) Make sure you meet the PhD requirements for your institution "PhD students and their supervisors often presume things without checking. One supervisor told his student that a PhD was about 300...

  5. How to Write A Thesis When You Can't Even Look At It Anymore

    If you're struggling to start or finish your thesis, you're likely feeling some type of fear. Fear is often the underlying emotion behind procrastination, not "laziness" or lack of motivation. The good news is that once you identify your fear (even if you don't have a solution), your writer's block will start to dissolve.

  6. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  7. Tips for finishing your PhD thesis on time

    Continual writing during your research project is key; don't leave writing to the very end, as then the task of writing your thesis may seem impossible. Remember that the very act of writing things down can help you develop your ideas. Making and sustaining supervisor contact and supervisory support is essential, especially when nearing the end.

  8. #73: What's needed to finish your PhD?

    Your focus is now on doing remaining analyses, data interpretations, revising papers that came back from review, and on dissertation writing. While some parts of phase two and three may run parallel, the emphasis in the final PhD phase clearly is on finishing your PhD project, and getting your thesis ready so you can turn it in.

  9. Finishing a PhD

    Finishing your PhD can be quite a daunting process. Completion and dissertation anxiety are extremely common and will often make this period feel a lot scarier than it actually is. ... Major corrections - If you're given major corrections then the thesis will need considerable improvement before you can achieve doctoral status. Rewrites and ...

  10. FAQ

    The "Finish Your Thesis Program" is step-by-step self-study program for both Masters & PhD students with specific emphasis on healthy work-life balance in graduate school. When you join the program, you also get access to our online "Finish Your Thesis Community" Our Trainings Cover-Time management & productivity skills

  11. How to Finish Your Dissertation

    If you have only one way to finish your dissertation (write it) and you know the three challenges you need to overcome to do the writing (isolation, perfectionism and procrastination), then the key question is: How can you create an environment and support systems this year that will enable you to write on a regular basis?

  12. Ten Simple Rules for Finishing Your PhD

    Rule 1: Plan Your Last Year in Advance Preparing a plan of action for the final year of your PhD is vital. Ideally, devised and agreed upon with your supervisor, a plan will help to optimize the time left and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.

  13. Grad School Survival: What You MUST Do to Finish Your Thesis

    If you really want to get your thesis done, you MUST implement new habits that get you closer to a finished manuscript. The good news is that hundreds (probably millions) of students worldwide have already finished their thesis. If they could do it, you can too.

  14. Tips for Completing Your PhD Thesis on Time

    By Enago Academy Oct 10, 2023 3 mins read 🔊 Listen Completing a PhD course is undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling pursuits for academics. Recently, however, a new term arose: ABD ("All but Dissertation"). ABD refers to students who have completed their coursework and passed the exam, but have yet to complete and defend their theses.

  15. 5 Shortcuts to Finish Your Thesis 12 Months Sooner

    2. Map out the path to your finished thesis. Your thesis will not write itself. The fastest way to finish your thesis is to know what you need to get done to satisfy the requirements, and then map out a plan. The idea of creating a map may seem intimidating for a few reasons.

  16. 5 Tips on How to Finish your PhD Thesis in 8 Weeks

    Fortunately, with the right strategies and motivation, you can tackle the task of finishing your thesis in less than 8 weeks. In this blog post, we'll give you 5 tips that will help you power through to the finish line. So lace up and get ready—your PhD is almost complete! 1. Establishing a Time Management Plan. Source: liquidplanner.com.

  17. PDF WRITING FOR SOCIAL SCIENTISTS

    HOW TO START AND FINISH YOUR THESIS , BOOK, OR ARTICLE BY HOWARD S.BECKER. TABLE OF CONTENTS. HOW DO YOU WRITE ? • Turn and Talk ( 2-3 mins) - Explain your process of writing to an elbow partner( How do ... your earlier work on the topic or project has already led you to believe. Do 'freewriting."

  18. Writing for Social Scientists, Third Edition: How to Start and Finish

    How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. Third Edition. Howard S. Becker. With a Chapter by Pamela Richards and a New Preface. For more than thirty years, Writing for Social Scientists has been a lifeboat for writers in all fields, from beginning students to published authors. It starts with a powerful reassurance: Academic ...

  19. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis

    Howard S. Becker (1928-2023) made major contributions to the sociology of deviance, sociology of art, and sociology of music. He received a PhD from the University of Chicago, where he was also an instructor in sociology and social sciences. He was professor of sociology at Northwestern University for twenty-five years and later became a professor of sociology and an adjunct professor of music ...

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    Finishing Your Thesis When You Believe You Can't When it comes to finishing your thesis, the last couple of months (or years) are a mental challenge of persistence and commitment: "How do I force myself to write, when I can't stand looking at my thesis anymore?"