I have no idea how to start writing my dissertation.
January 3, 2013 8:51 AM Subscribe
I don't know how to write my dissertation.
posted by anonymous to Education (19 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I am a humanities graduate student (working on a topic for which primary sources are mostly abroad) and have passed my exams, had my dissertation topic approved, and applied for some travel fellowships to do research next year. Almost a year has passed since my topic was approved and I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing now. I'm starting to get pretty depressed and am losing motivation to continue.
I did reading in the course of preparing for my exams and topic submission, but I still don't feel like it's enough (but acknowledge that maybe I never will). I talked to my advisor about my confusion and s/he encouraged me to just start writing. I've tried this, and it's only made me feel more overwhelmed and confused. I also haven't been able to travel for primary research much yet, and so I feel like what I'm writing is sort of pointless and based only on secondary sources.
I have always been a hard worker (or at least I assume so because I've made it this far), but I've reached a point where I have no idea where to direct my energy. I successfully completed a M.A. thesis and so I tend to think that once I get moving on my dissertation, I will be fine. For now, though, I am at an absolute, miserable loss as to how I can begin. With every day that passes without any tangible accomplishment, my anxiety level goes up a notch and I wonder more whether I'm just not cut out for academia.
My question is, for those of you who have completed a dissertation or similar, how do I get started on this thing?
I would also be interested in any strategies for breaking up the process of getting started into small, manageable tasks. While I was preparing for my exams, it worked really well for me to divide my reading list into daily assignments, etc. but the dissertation seems so much more nebulous that I haven't been able to figure out how to do this with it.
Thanks for any advice!