When should you begin writing-up your thesis? As soon as you finish reading this ..... No really!..... Literally as soon as you are done here.

It is absolutely never too early to begin the writing process. The problem for most of us though is getting down to it. But before we tackle that, a quick re-wind: In case you have been advised to research for 3 years and then write-up, or are planning to start writing in year 3 / towards the end - pause. Think about it:

  • Are you seriously planning to write intelligently about work you have done 2-3 years ago?
  • Is it wise to research, and trust that the results / findings / material will work, and provide all you need when you actually put it through the rigour of writing at thesis-level?
  • Are you prepared to become essentially a full-time writer in the last months of your doctorate? Can you actually do this?
  • And, if you are not an experienced writer, is it wise to start learning this skill when there is a very big and scary deadline looming..?
  • They only advise you they don't make the changes for you so you have the freedom to take or leave their suggestion. It is still your piece of work.
  • Professional proofreading is great for those with English as a second language as they can pick up on your grammatical or spelling mistakes and help you to write in the correct style.

I'm hoping these are enough reasons to persuade you to get on with writing NOW.

  • If, like me, you have a phobia of blank pages, a good trick is never to have to write on one. Do you have a thesis plan, or outline, or similar? If so, slice it into plausibly small chunks (these might equate to possible chapters, or sections, later), and stick each one at the top of a new file. Now, whenever you have anything to write (see below), just dump the text onto one of these pages. Don't let yourself be blocked by not knowing where something fits - just dump it into whichever page(s) it might possibly fit into. You can sort things out later when it's time to edit. This is good - editing is much easier than writing, because it does not involve a blank page!
  • Set yourself clear targets. Two in particular can help
  • Write every day. Set yourself an amount, and stick to it. But make it easily manageable, e.g. 50 or 100 words. You can always increase it later. 100 words a day is 4000 words a month, or half-a-thesis a year.
  • Practice writing, and getting feedback on it. You need to practice this, and get used to the pain of it. Start by getting feedback from other doctoral researchers. And get it from writing-experts within your institution. They usually provide an excellent service, but it is likely to be one that will require you to invest time, over time, i.e. don't leave it until year 3.

By the way, if you would like to learn English as a second language you should read this article.

These are just a few techniques - there are plenty more. But the most important thing is to start now, so close this newsletter, and open a document.