How To Create A Plan For Your Advanced Higher History Dissertation

Believe it or not, the hardest thing about writing a dissertation is to quit fearing it, quit moaning about the fact that you have to write one—and simply GET WRITING!

And you do not have to move consecutively from the introduction to the chapters to the closing. In fact, you might want to save your introduction for the end.

Tips for Planning Out Your Dissertation that Work—I Promise

Here’s what I know about writing a dissertation and from talking to all the other graduate students who were working on dissertations in other subjects, like history.

Tip One: Save the Introduction for LAST

Here’s why: Your major, overriding thesis is liable to change. For example, you may discover a better overall focus as you write each chapter. Plus, as you reread and find quotes for each individual chapter, you might get new insights into your major topic that need to be mentioned in the introduction.

Tip Two: Work on Your Works Cited as You Go

What I learned is to take the time and cut and paste, at least, the author’s name, the journal, and the issue, and page number quickly into my sticky notes (now available on Mac and Windows) or a file called “working works cited.”

If you do not do this, you might forget where you found this particular quote and any dissertation is going to end up very long, and you will use the same scholars over and over. For example, you might quote the most respected scholar on your particular period and area of history say, 45 to 60 times in a dissertation—how are you going to know which book, journal article, or web accessible article you found it in without first taking note of it. You will not have the time to hunt it down—and it may be a quote that your whole argument hinges upon.

Tip Three: Take notes on everything—books, and use staples or clamp -type clippies to append the reference to everything you use.

For books you have to return, or that you’ve inter-library loaned, you’ll want to have something in your working works cited like this:

Smith’s book titled “The Vietnam War: The Mei Lai Massacre”

Introduction quotes: p. 5, 7, 9,

Chapter two quotes: p. 10, 47, and 14

And so forth. For books, note the author, title, edition, and year of publication—your dissertation committee will check your citations at random.

For articles, print them off – if you’re smart—and append the citation to the front in a very secure manner. Highlight your quotes and star the extra special ones.

These tricks will save you tons of grief—I promise.