The people who finish the dissertation are not smarter or better or more virtuous than anyone else.  But they do follow certain disciplines that help them bridge the gap from "ABD" to "PhD" - check out the disciplines on this page to make progress on your next steps.

The “Next Step” Discipline for Finishing the Dissertation

Many people are unable to complete major projects because they focus on immense tasks.  But mountain climbers, marathon runners, and dissertation finishers know the same fundamental truth:  Focus on the next step

For the purposes of our work in Finish The Dissertation, the next step is a specific task that can completed in 45 minutes.  If something on your list takes more than 45 minutes, it’s not a task, but a project.  Here are some examples of “next steps” for dissertation writers.  Please choose one that you will commit to for next week and that you will be willing to share with your colleagues:

- Call your advisor to schedule an appointment to review your progress.

- Read one research article and summarize it using complete citation information, a very brief summary, and direct quotations (not paraphrases) of the most important findings.  Please be sure to include the page number for direct quotations.

- Ask advisor for three exemplary dissertations in your field and download them.

- Read one chapter of an exemplary dissertation and write a paragraph about what makes it exemplary.

    - Outline one chapter of your dissertation.

    - Write one part of the outline for a chapter (not the entire chapter – just one part of the outline).

    - Go for a walk with a loved one to talk about why your dissertation is important to you.

   - Call each committee member and ask if their schedule will allow for your dissertation defense during the month and year you intend to defend your dissertation.

  - Google each committee member and find one article or book that each person has written on your research question.

  - Create a Zotero, Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote, or other free cloud account where you will store your research notes, outlines, drafts, and every other element of your dissertation.

  - Send an e-mail to the three most prolific authors in your field and ask if they would be willing to have a 15 minute phone conversation with you about your research interest.

Write the “postmortem” report, dated two years from now, about the reasons that your dissertation failed and after each reason, write a way to prevent that failure.

Call Doug Reeves at 781 710 9633, or e-mail at, for a free one-to-one consultation.  There is never a cost or obligation.  All that is required is a sincere desire to finish your dissertation.

Finish the Dissertation

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