Writing a dissertation or thesis is a challenging task that became even more daunting during the global Covid-19 pandemic. To complete their work successfully, students need all the support they can get from their supervisors and the research community as well as academic transcription service providers. Many students have written about their dissertation project experience during lockdown. Experts say that strategies like creative thinking, setting achievable goals, cultivating healthy habits, and taking steps to reduce stress can help students finish their dissertation in these challenging times.
- Have a Mission – set reading and writing goals and focus on accomplishing them: There are different types of goals you can set such as goals to reading an article per day or writing a certain number of pages, completing chapters or chapter sections, meeting page or word count goals, or setting time goals. If you are reading an article, make notes and take quotes you can use, and put notes put notes together from reading and quotes. Meeting product goals such as page or word count can be challenging. With the extra demands of the pandemic, Eleonora Joensuu, PhD suggests switching to time goals, or switching between product and time goals on different days (in Thesis Writing at Home during a Pandemic).
- Set SMART Goals and Write them Down: Simon Fraser University (SFU) defines SMART goals as follows:
- Specific – Rather than general goals, set specific goals as they are more likely to be achieved.
- Measurable – Measure progress towards achieving your goal using established criteria for measuring.
- Achievable – Set goals that you are least 50% sure of accomplishing.
- Relevant – Make sure your goals fit with your immediate and long-term plans.
- Time-Frame Specific – Aim to achieve your goals within a certain time frame.
Write down your goals as you will more likely to follow them when they are formalized. Make sure you refer to them often and read them out loud to remind yourself of what you are working towards.
- Establish a Clear Workspace: When you’re working from home, space is limited and/or shared. But you need a clear space to work on your project. The best way to deal with this to share space with others by fixing specific times for using it. For instance, you use the dining table for work, establish the time you will need it with those who share the space. Fix the time that the table is free for everyone to use.
- Reassess your paper’s Priorities: With the ongoing pandemic, it is extremely important to have realistic goals. Work with your supervisor to see what analyses can be done from home and what cannot. Revise your study’s priorities based on this assessment. Maybe you would have less chapters than initially planned, but that would be acceptable in this unusual and unprecedented situation.
- Communicate with your Colleagues: Networking is crucial during a lockdown. Though physical conferences and seminars have been cancelled, there are many opportunities to reach out to colleagues and the research community in general. Social media is one of the best options to present some results, obtain fresh ideas, and get feedback on them. Moreover, scheduling check-ins with supportive and positive people during these challenging times can help you stay motivated.
- Be Mindful of your General Mental and Physical Wellbeing: When people are overworked, they may end up drinking too much of coffee or losing sleep. Both practices can affect your mental and physical health, and as a result, your project. Try not to disrupt your normal diet and exercise patterns even as you work to meet your deadlines.
- Ask for Help from your Supervisor and University Staff: To avoid getting bogged down during the dissertation writing process, stay connected to your supervisor, writing support services, and librarians. They will listen to your ideas and guide you on writing your dissertation. Schedule regular meetings with your dissertation supervisor during office hours to stay connected (timeshighereducation.com).
- Take Regular Breaks: Your brain can become fuzzy if it becomes tired and/or doesn’t have enough time to process information. So ensure that you schedule regular breaks. Stretch your legs, go for a walk, or take a nap. Breaks allow you to return to your work refreshed and can generate new ideas.
- Celebrate your Achievements: Whether they’re big or small, be sure to celebrate your achievements. Recognizing your successes is important to move forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic has moved doctoral dissertation defenses to move to virtual settings. This means that when you’re presenting your defense, you should take efforts to ensure that your internet connectivity is stable. You also need to know how to properly set up and present your defense on the virtual platform as well as the rules about virtual presentations and how to operate the screen sharing feature.
Students rely on their supervisors and research community for guidance and encouragement to write their dissertation and on digital transcription agencies to document audio recordings of interviews and other research related interactions. This support structure is vital to help them complete their project successfully during these challenging times.