Dissertation Resources

Private Dissertation Tutorials
Though the Emory Writing Center is best known for its undergraduate writing support, we also provide support for graduate students writing dissertations in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Today we are working with more graduate students -- from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences -- than ever before.  

Staffed by graduate student fellows and Emory's most talented undergraduate writers, the EWC is a close and comfortable community of writers who believe that collaboration, conversation, and active listening and reading are essential parts of the writing process.  During 30-minute or one-hour sessions, dissertation writers can work with either graduate tutors or advanced undergraduate peer tutors to brainstorm, outline, identify research tasks, organize or restructure a chapter. We only ask that dissertation writers select small sections -- ideally 5 but possibly 10 pages -- on which to base the session.

While we are not a drive-thru editing service, our tutors can also identify repeated sentence-level issues and help the dissertation writer develop self-editing strategies.  Our model is simple: tutors read at the beginning of the session while writers reflect on their project and, for the rest of the session, the two engage in a focused conversation about the writing that is as laid-back or as high-energy as the dissertation writer prefers.

Dissertation & Writing Resource Library
The center maintains an extensive collection of writing resources, including handbooks, synonym finders, citation guides, inspirational readings on writing, instructor manuals, and handouts.  We also have the following books on dissertation writing, which all are welcome to look through on site: Joan Bowker's Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, Robert L. Peters's Getting What You Came For, and Moxley and Taylor's Writing and Publishing for Academic Authors.

Dissertation Workshops
Since offering the first workshop in the fall of 2001, the WC's dissertation workshops have proven to be very successful, filling up within hours of first announcements and bringing together graduate students from a large variety of disciplines. Keep an eye out for announcements on the graduate student listserv.

Suggested Readings:

Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day
(Breaks the dissertation in manageable pieces and gives tips on writing process.)

Robert L. Peters, Getting What You Came For (New York: Farrar, 1992)
(Emphasis on graduate school politics and the realities of the profession.)

David Madsen, Successful Dissertations and Theses (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1983).

The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams
(Outlines various approaches to the research process and provides suggestions for how to focus your project.)

How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation by David Sternberg.
(No holds barred advice on dealing with problems of writing.)

Professors as Writers and How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency by Robert Boice

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
(Dealing with the daily task of writing.)

The Clockwork Muse (1999) by Eviatar Zerubavel.
(Covers "the planning and scheduling of any large writing project, by a social sciences academic.")

Tips Collected During WC Workshops:

  1. Skim the bibliographies in the books that are useful for your field and then read everything listed.
  2. Just start WRITING!
  3. Form or join a dissertation workshop with people in your area, not necessarily in your exact field of study. This can be a great way of getting feedback, support and motiviation.
  4. Read dissertations in your field. These can be excellent teaching models of what to do and what NOT to do. You can order some through interlibrary loan and the UMI website has some that can be downloaded.
  5. Do something every day -- whether fifteen minutes of reading an article, or four hours of sustained writing.
  6. Aim for "three pages a day" of writing.
  7. Set a room or space aside for just dissertation work.
  8. Find a way to effectively deal with daily logistics and be extremely organized.
  9. Attend a dissertation boot camp.
  10. Make sure "pleasure and fulfillment" are not abandoned during the writing process.