This fourth and final part of the ‘how to write a thesis or dissertation’ guide looks at how you can save yourself time. The investment of some initial effort will pay dividends when you’re under pressure to deliver.

Saving time

Develop a compulsion for backing up

Make regular copies of all documents relating to your dissertation. There is no such thing as too many copies. Re-doing work is nothing but a waste of time.

Write down your notes and ideas

Right from the start. You will use them when it comes to editing.

Outline the entire structure of your dissertation before writing the content

Begin with titles and sub-titles, which your software can transform into a table of contents. Think of it as a skeleton. You don’t know which muscle to attach to which part of the body until all the bones are identified. The notes just mentioned will then become very useful to you.

Take notes when you read

Notes you take today will gain you a lot of time when you need them tomorrow. Store them all in the same folder on your computer. You can then do a key-word search to find out which authors to cite for a particular idea.

Reference your notes

Write down the bibliographical reference for each of your reading notes as you go along. Better: format the reference so that all you have to do is paste it into your References. Even better: use reference management software.

Ask non-specialists to read your work

When you have been working for many months or years on the same subject, written communication becomes difficult. When you are very familiar with the subject, explanations are no longer necessary, terms no longer need to be defined, and important points are not given enough explanation. If you listen to what non-specialists have to say about your work, you improve your chances that your writing will be clear.

Read part three: Structure

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March 29, 2011

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