Setting small goals when writing theses and dissertations
A thesis or a dissertation is a major writing assignment. And you need to remember that Rome was not built in a day. So therefore one of the best ways to complete your work and to a high standard is to set yourself a series of small goals.
This has multiple benefits. Because the goals are small it is possible to achieve them within a short or reasonably short amount of time. This gives you self-confidence. You are able to see the progress you are making when you achieve each of these small goals. It's a serious way to approach a serious subject. Here are some examples of small goals.
- forget about the actual writing
- keep it simple
- create milestones
- don't be your own worst critic
- ask for help
Some students think so much about the size of the task ahead of them that they become despondent. Forget about the actual writing and set yourself some small simple goals. It might be to research an aspect of your dissertation. You can achieve that in a day or two, even less. Here you're not thinking about the actual writing but rather about collecting material for the writing later on. You are taking your mind off something which may be a worry.
You're not the first person to be asked to write a dissertation. Millions have done it before you. It is not something new in the academic world. Go and read some other dissertations and see just how others have completed their task.
Create milestones which can be as minor or as major as you like. It might be that you will say, ‘I will write a page of the dissertation every day’. If you keep to this milestone, which is quite minor, by the end of week you will have half a dozen or so pages. You will be able to see the progress you are making simply by setting a small goal.
Don't be too harsh on the work you are doing. Self-confidence is a major factor. By all means ask other students and your supervisor for comments on your work but the aim here is to set the goal of always being positive.
One small but very significant goal is that you should never be afraid to ask for help. If you feel you are struggling with your dissertation, seeking advice and help from others is sensible and honourable.