Doctoral thesis is an easy thing to compose - really?

Doctoral candidates who have completed their entire course of schooling except for their dissertation are unfortunately quite common. This phenomenon has led all too many potential candidates to believe that writing a doctoral thesis is impossibly hard, and this prediction of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Writing your doctoral thesis need not be the end of your academic career. In fact, it can be—and should be—easy.

If it’s easy, why do so many people fail?

This of course is the key question. The truth of the matter is, a doctoral candidate’s entire career up to this point has been designed to prepare them for writing their dissertation and has given them all of the resources they need to do so. There are two primary reasons why doctoral candidates fail to complete their theses:

  • Fear Fear of failure runs rampant due to the great amount of pressure put on doctoral candidates to succeed. Those that do succeed and write their theses don’t do it by stressing over whether or not they’ll get their doctorate. Instead, they remain focused on the tasks at hand, and they’re good at focusing on one discrete task at a time, whether it be research, writing, or presenting. Don’t view the thesis as a dragon to be slain, but rather as a cumulative set of tasks that lead to a reward.
  • Poor time management This is undoubtedly the biggest obstacle for most, if not all, PhD students. While they have the intellectual ability and academic experience to write a thesis, it is the largest solo project they’ve yet to take on, and they tend to put things off, procrastinate, and fail to plan adequately.

Key to Success

The key to success, to beat both the obstacles of fear and of poor time management is to plan exhaustively. Of course, the plan will have to be adjusted accordingly as the student will come up against many things that require flexibility, but there should still be an overarching plan with set goals along the way. In addition to an inclusive plan from start to finish, there should also be a weekly plan which indicates small goals the student plans to complete each week. Also, students should consider planning their writing time very generously; often they focus on research, and find that writing is the greater challenge.