But that’s so much to write

Heard again. Twice today. (And it was the second or third time from one student!) J I’m sympathetic and I recall my own assignments and dissertations years ago. (Is there anything worse than staring at a blank screen and thinking to yourself “100,000 odd more words to go – time to start the PhD dissertation”???)

A few thousand words in an assignment can seem like quite a bit. A small dissertation or research project (equivalent in workload to one to four classes) can seem like a daunting task as you start. However, with a good structure and an effective plan, you soon find yourself wondering where you can cut things back or eliminate material.

Introducing structure and making things clear and easy for the reader often introduces significant ‘volume’ that is not anticipated. By the time you have dispensed with the niceties of academic writing it sometimes seems that there’s little space left for what you actually want to say. Thus, while it may seem like ‘a lot of work’ to put together a short conference paper, when you inspect a template, plan what you want to say and the order to say it in, filling in the blanks and coming up with a complete conference paper is quite easily accomplished. On a much larger scale, the same principles hold true for a dissertation, where there is even more ‘academic filler’ that helps the reader and conforms to the established orthodoxy of how the dissertation should be structured and written.

Writing a little bit each day also breaks a mammoth task into something quite achievable. Knocking out 500 words a day for 20 days gives you 10,000 words of content – quite a bit towards the completion of short dissertation. If you have a relatively detailed structure you can even fill in one of these segments each day with 500 words, and you’ll have a complete dissertation before you know it, assembled with a little writing each day.

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