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In thinking about how to respond to this, I came across Helen Sword’s recent article in which she reports on the broad range of writing habits described by all sorts of successful academic writers.What becomes immediately clear is that there is not just one time of day, amount of time nor place that works best – for each person it’s different and depends entirely on all sorts of other factors in their lives.
But, the thesis does have to get written if the candidate is to get their degree.
Keeping a diary to see where the time disappears to can be invaluable.
And many writers respond well to having some kind of accountability built into their process.
I for one find that external deadlines are a very useful way of forcing me to get on with the job!
So, all these other commitments and responsibilities mean is that every day is NOT the same, and therefore each of those 720 days of a three-year candidature doesn’t actually allow for the same space for writing.
So then, the 110 words per day plan is already breaking down.Assuming five-day weeks and one month for holidays each year, that makes for 720 work days. So why do doctoral writers struggle to get this done? When I meet with doctoral candidates who appear to be busy writing, they often disappointedly say they are still working on the task they were doing last week, and the week before, and the week before that.Many start out being very optimistic about how quickly they can write certain sections of the thesis.Finding out what suits each individual – or adapting to what one’s own life allows – is part of succeeding in this world of doctoral writing.It is sometimes too easy for supervisors and writing teachers to imagine that Ph D candidates have only their thesis to work on, and can devote themselves full time to writing.By Cally Guerin The idea of being able to create a schedule to write a thesis seems pretty obvious, straight forward and achievable.If there are 80,000 words to be written over three years, where’s the problem?But of course, many candidates are enrolled part time, they might have (sometimes substantial) work commitments, and many have family responsibilities for children and/or elderly parents – after all, the median age of Ph D candidates in Australia is 35, a life stage where much of this family commitment is at its peak.Even those who are relatively free of other work and family responsibilities might have teaching duties, or may be preparing conference presentations or journal articles.Is it possible to make a realistic assessment of the time we need to put aside for writing in order to meet our targets?The long term schedule – planning to submission With doctoral students I like to have an early conversation about the expected length of the thesis, so that we all agree on the size of the writing task.