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Do Not Leave Graduate School Before You Get Your Degree | FinishLine, Tips Tools Techniques for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation from Dr Wendy Carter

January, 2008 spacerVolume 4, Issue 1

In This Issue:

No More Excuses:
Resources to Help You Reach Your Goal

Happy New Year! It’s January and time again for me to celebrate another birthday.

If you’re like most people, you’ve already made several New Year’s resolutions.  We at TA-DA! (Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished) hope that one of them is to finish your thesis or dissertation by the end of 2008!

Of course, to make sure that resolution comes to fruition, it must be supported by an action plan and deadline.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to slack off and slide back into old habits once the shine of the new year begins to fade, winter break ends, and you fall back into the same old routine.  To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, use our TA-DA! CD to help create a detailed plan for finishing your thesis or dissertation, and take advantage of our Winter Break Challenge to make some progress before school starts up again.

And while you’re on winter break, reflect on the following questions.  Do you always need to do everything yourself?  Do you have trouble seeking out or accepting help?  Does everything have to be absolutely perfect before you’ll share it with peers, your advisor or other committee members?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, make another resolution to break these bad habits!  No matter how knowledgeable or capable you are, the reality is that there are always plenty of others from whom you can learn.  Don’t try to go it alone!  By pinpointing helpful resources, you can learn more and shorten the length of time it will take you to reach your goal.

That’s why this newsletter is dedicated to encouraging you to find those people and places that can speed up your learning curve and otherwise help you to accomplish your goal of finishing your thesis or dissertation.  Following are just a few resources that can be of great assistance to you.

Of course, one of the most helpful resources by far is our TA-DA! CD. This CD is designed to guide you step-by-step through the entire process of finishing your thesis or dissertation, and to help keep you motivated along the way.  The tips and guidelines included on the CD will make the process much, much easier … including the writing phase.  It also provides tools to help you overcome procrastination, frustration, and any other obstacles you may face.  Most importantly, the TA-DA! CD will show you how to organize and plan your time and actions so that you complete at least one task every day … and that’s what it will take to make sure you finally get finished.  Our motto is “A Good Dissertation is a Done Dissertation.”  Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done!

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Use an Editor
Editors can serve as another helpful resource for students, particularly those who are still fine tuning their writing skills.  In the academic realm, the use of editors is still somewhat controversial; some faculty and graduate associations argue that graduate students should be able to write well enough to function without an editor before they earn a PhD.  Many others argue, however, that since graduate students are not required to take writing classes, it should not be expected that good writing skills will just “magically” appear.  Writing is a skill that can only be perfected by a lot of practice … and the limited number of seminar papers that graduate students are required to complete does not represent enough “practice” to perfect the necessary skills to become a proficient writer.

Our own position is that it’s just plain smart to have your dissertation edited, particularly if you struggle with writing.  One of the most common roadblocks to students finishing their thesis or dissertation is the frustration and humiliation they experience from the writing and review process.  We feel that worrying about writing skills is a waste of time.  Your paper should be judged on the substance and merit of its content, not on how many misplaced commas or misspelled words it contains.  A good editor will make sure that’s where the focus remains.  Editors won’t “write” your paper; they will simply ensure that your ideas are grammatically clear and correct.  That’s why even some faculty members use editors when they write scholarly articles!  Get a FREE quote from two websites that deal with academic editing or

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Find a “Coach”
There is a considerable difference between an advisor and a thesis or dissertation coach.  An advisor is, first and foremost, an academician with considerable responsibilities that do not involve you.  A thesis or dissertation coach, on the other hand, is paid to focus on you and help you finish your degree by listening to all of your concerns … academic or other.
Thesis/dissertation coaches focus on a holistic –- not strictly an academic -- approach to finishing your degree.  In person or on the phone, they can discuss your project on an individual basis in absolute confidence, and also serve as a sounding board for stress relief.  They can offer both academic and emotional support to help you complete important tasks, as well as provide the tools you need to achieve your goals, which enable you to accomplish more with less effort.  Coaches can help you get organized, and regularly track your progress to ensure that you stay on top of tasks.  Their goal is to work in every possible way to help you write your thesis/dissertation, finish it, and get it published.

“Group Coaching” is also valuable.  Using this scenario, one coach can provide counsel to several students over the phone (via a bridge line).  Everyone involved agrees to confidentiality, and the group is configured to guarantee that no one in the group will be in competition with another.  The advantage of this approach is that you can accomplish more in less time, and also have the opportunity to work with students in different disciplines from all over the world.  The group setting also provides built-in peer support.

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The Academic Ladder, founded by Gina Hiatt, Ph.D., offers a full range of services for graduate students, post docs and professors.  You can use any level of the services provided, or combine them to best meet your specific needs.

Hiatt suggests that isolation and lack of accountability are two of the primary reasons graduate students struggle to complete their degree.  She believes that most graduate students don’t spend enough time interacting with others about the process of writing their long-term project, and therefore feel confused and ashamed when they aren’t able to motivate themselves to do what it takes to finish the job.

As a result, Hiatt designed the “Academic Writing Club” to facilitate interaction between students and their peers, as well as with coaches.  The Club’s online environment provides structure, accountability through daily online check-ins regarding the writing process, and interaction with a coach and other online group members who provide helpful feedback, encouragement and motivational camaraderie.  To check out this helpful resource, visit

The website also offers individual coaching (which is usually structured as weekly, but can be customized to fit any schedule), as well as weekly telephone coaching groups for students in the humanities, sciences or social sciences.

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The four resources listed above can give you a helpful boost towards completing your thesis and dissertation, and will most likely lead you to numerous other people and places that can assist you in achieving your goal.  So what are you waiting for?  Access these resources now to begin this New Year with a bang, and start turning those resolutions into realities!!!

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Email Question of the Month:


. . . At present I am writing my PhD at the University of West Indies Trinidad and Tobago. I am pursuing a Doctoral Degree in the area of Health Economics. The topic I have chosen for my research is: “The implementation of National Health Insurance in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago: The choice method of physician’s reimbursement services”. I am trying to find information on "literature review". I want to view a sample of a literature review using the Chicago style. Also, how long must a literature review be??????

Stay Bless


Thank you for contacting me at TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. Writing a literature requires that you are able to tell a full story rather than worrying about the number of pages. See Part 2 of my newsletter on Writing a Literature Review.

I often suggest that students try to create a picture diagram of the debate in the literature. Afterwards add how your contribution fills the gap in the literature.

Also you should also create a spreadsheet listing each article separately. The headings of the columns should be: Author, Title, Year, Research Question, Methodology, Findings, Sample Size, Does this Research Support MY Research Question?

In the last column you can answer Yes, NO, Neither.

By creating this spreadsheet you can sort these articles accprdingly to help you write a literature review...i.e. what studies have the same methodology but different findings, or the same findings but different methodolgy? etc.

You can share this spreadsheet with your advisor to ask him or her if any major studies are missing.

A literature review using Chicago style would not be different a literature review using APA or IEE style. The format of your citations determine the style; Hence, you can use Endnotes software to format your citations using Chicago style or any other style format you need. I am sure that if you looked in the top journal in your field all of the articles would use Chicago style.

I hope this information helps you to move forward.

Dr. Carter

Special OfferIf you haven't ordered your TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished™ CD yet, don’t wait until you are finished with your coursework to start thinking about getting it. Don't wait until you're wondering how to begin or how to stay on track to finishing. Take another look at TADA! right now.


Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.

About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters' degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. To learn more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at Privacy is our policy. TADA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers' names or e-mail addresses.


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Inside This Issue:

No More Excuses: Resources to Help You Reach Your Goal

Email Q & A of the Month

Dr. Carter Is Co-author of a New Book

Next FinishLine Features:

Tick Tock, Tick Tock: Keeping Up With Your Cohort


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