5 Tips to Help You Succeed on Your Dissertation

By Hazel Isaac-Smith, PhD
Office of Dissertations Research Specialist, College of Doctoral Studies

man thinking while reading a book

Remember the day you decided to embark on your doctoral journey?

You felt surged with energy and could visualize how your life would change, you could hear yourself being introduced as “Dr. _____,” you could see the pride in the eyes of your friends and family…

Then you started your doctoral program!

You had been warned that less than two percent of the population in the United States has a doctorate degree. It will not be easy, they had told you. Yet, you were sure you would easily be one of the two percent.

Somehow, the reality seems much different than the daydream.

There are very high content classes to take; lengthy, scholarly papers to write (all in APA format); deadlines and requirements that seem unreasonable.

You are losing momentum, and you haven’t officially started your dissertation.

What do you do? Here are five key points to remember to be successful in your dissertation process:

  1. Motivation is key! A study by the International Journal of Doctoral Studies states that a desire for a better life is a key motivator and a contributing factor in success for all doctoral students. May I suggest that you continue to daydream about how your life will change? Keep that goal in mind by visualizing where the completion of your degree will take you. Leave visual cues around to help you remember and stay focused.
  1. Time management is your best friend. You will need to account for not just your days, but also for the hours in your days. Make certain that a significant part of your week (minimum of 20 hours) is dedicated to your doctoral studies.
  1. Perseverance is what will make not just your dreams come true, but will also get your dissertation done on time. Don’t quit! Keep writing and rewriting no matter how many iterations are required. This is what writing a dissertation is all about.
  1. Support your efforts by formulating a close, strong group of “significant others” to lean on. These are the people who will give you encouragement, provide a pep talk and give a gentle but firm nudge when you need it. These are the people you will thank in the acknowledgment of your dissertation when it is completed.
  1. Believe in a higher power. There will be days you will feel beaten and run-down, and you will question your path. No one will understand unless they have written a dissertation themselves. It is times like these that you will need a higher power to turn to for all that you need to meet your goals. Place at His feet what weighs you down, and start each day with a renewed strength to complete your goal!

Thinking about earning your doctoral degree online or on campus? Visit Grand Canyon University’s website for more information!

More about Dr. Isaac-Smith:

Dr. Hazel Isaac-Smith is a senior research specialist for the Office of Dissertations, College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University. She has 15+ years of teaching and administrative experience in higher education. Dr. Isaac-Smith has a BSc in communicative disorders from Andrews University; BEd from the University of Toronto; MEd in special education from York University in Canada and PhD in emotional/behavioral disorders from Arizona State University.

Dr. Isaac-Smith has a passion for working with adult learners in higher education and brings substantial teaching experience, having taught students ranging from preschoolers to doctoral students. Her research interests lie in the field of linguistics, pragmatics of language and psycholinguistics. At Grand Canyon University, Dr. Isaac-Smith’s primary role has been to guide doctoral learners and their dissertation committee members to successful completion of their dissertation journey.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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