Kaitlin Gallagher is a PhD Candidate specializing in Biomechanics at the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and a permanent author for GradHacker. You can follow her on twitter at @KtlnG.
At the beginning of January I opened a word document and started to write my dissertation. I hadn’t collected a single participant and am probably a couple years away from defending my thesis. That being said, it felt good to start writing and here are seven reasons why you should be writing as soon as you begin anything related to your thesis collection:
Methods sections are easy to write when your brain is fried. You might already have a methods layout from your proposal, but there were probably changes as you started to collect data, so keep this updated as you go. That way, you are still moving forward. The same goes for reporting any equipment tests that are done prior to collecting any participants.
You sit around waiting for your computer to process data. This is a perfect time to do some thesis writing. Think of it as a way of pseudo multi-tasking.
New literature is being published all the time. Like I mentioned in my first GradHacker post on maintaining literature reviews, journal articles are constantly being published on topics related to your field (or all too related) so be sure to keep adding to your literature review as you go.
Spread your writing out. At one point or another you may have shuddered at the thought of writing. Well, yes, maybe you don’t enjoy writing, but I think you're going to enjoy writing as you go in smaller chunks then doing it all at once near the end of your degree. There is a lot to write and leaving it in one chunk at the end may not be great for your motivation.
Save more time for editing at the end. When writing my proposal I had no idea how much time I would spend editing. If you use some of these freeform writing styles (no editing as you go) the review process will take a long time.
There are standard items that need to be included in all documents. Your university has a standard document format that you must follow for your thesis document. Create this document, especially your title page, and use it for…
MOTIVATION! There is a document at the end of this that will be completed and you are working on it right now! By writing as you go, you can keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim it may be. The advice that Peg Boyle Single gave in her book Demystifying Dissertation Writing (one of Five Great Reads for Grad Students) was to print off your title page, post it in your workspace, and use it for motivation as a reminder about your final goal for the dissertation.
Have you been keeping up on writing parts of your dissertation throughout your data collection or have you found it difficult to manage? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
[Image taken by Flickr user NicoleAbalde and used under the Creative Commons License]