It’s been about half a year now since I submitted my dissertation. I started writing about a year before the submission. While I was still doing the last experiments in the lab, I was already thinking about the rough structure of the dissertation and writing the methods section. Below I have compiled some tips that might be helpful when writing your dissertation.
1. choose a suitable text editor
An important point to think about before writing is choosing a text editor. The most popular text editors are probably Word and LaTeX. OpenD also offers a text editor for writing scientific papers. I chose LaTeX because it is especially good for large texts and offers the possibility to include high-resolution images. However, it takes some time to get used to LaTeX, especially if you have no computer science experience. Word has the advantage that it is clearly laid out and most people already have experience with the text editor.
2. create the illustrations
Before the writing phase, it is useful to have already created the illustrations completely. It is important to note that figures from published papers are often copyrighted. If you want to use these illustrations in your dissertation, you must get permission from the publisher where the publication was published. This is usually possible on the publisher’s website. In order to make the illustrations fit the text perfectly, it is best (although also very time-consuming) to create them yourself. For simple illustrations, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint, while for complicated illustrations, graphic software such as Illustrator or Inkscape is better. I created my illustrations with Inkscape, because the vector program is free and allows you to make any scalable illustrations.
3. find a suitable literature management program
Choosing a suitable literature management program, e.g. Zotero, EndNote, or Mendeley, can save you a lot of time. I started loading relevant publications into Mendeley early in my doctoral studies. Important text sections can be marked and notes added in this program. It is always best to check directly whether the details such as title, authors, and journal have been transferred correctly because this is where errors sometimes occur. Citations can then be easily inserted into the text via Bibtex in LaTeX or via a plugin in Word.
4. make a time schedule
Writing a dissertation is an extensive project and it makes sense to schedule the time beforehand. I first divided the dissertation into chapters and then made a plan of when I would devote myself to which chapter. It can also be helpful to divide the chapters into further subchapters to divide the work into as small and manageable steps as possible. Set realistic intermediate goals and start writing as early as possible to develop a writing routine.
5. find a place where you can write well.
Everyone has their own preferences as to where writing goes best. At home, there might be distractions from the TV, at work from colleagues. Some people can concentrate well in the library, others prefer to write in a café. Every now and then, a change of location can increase productivity. You may even want to rent an apartment in the mountains or in an exotic location to continue writing in peace and quiet.
6. take your time to write
The junior research group leader tells you that he/she has written his/her dissertation in three weeks, the parents wonder when you will finally take a “real job” and you yourself just want to finally finish your doctorate. But a dissertation is not written overnight. It takes time to organize the data you’ve collected over the years and package it into a coherent story. Writing also takes practice. Writing regularly will help you develop a writing routine.
7. schedule breaks
Sitting in front of a screen all day is tiring. Sometimes you get writer’s block and can’t get a sentence done for hours.
A walk in the fresh air, a coffee with a piece of cake, or a chat with colleagues and friends can help to clear your head, gather motivation, and then concentrate again.
8. pay attention to regular working hours
Everyone has a specific time when they are most productive. While one can work best in the early morning hours, the other is most efficient at night. Maintain a regular rhythm that allows you to make the most of your productive period. 9.
9. ask friends and colleagues for help
Both for proofreading your dissertation and for moral support in the writing process, friends and colleagues are indispensable. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Besides, you can always search for some help on the internet. There are plenty of essay writing services that can you help you out for a fair amount of money.
10. you can do it
There are bad days when you think you will never finish. But you can do it! Don’t give up and keep going, you’ve already accomplished so much. Once it’s done, you’ll be immensely proud of your accomplishment.