As I get ready to start my dissertation, I am finding Joan Bolker’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day both very insightful and comforting. The humor keeps the life of a writer more bearable. I came across these strategies for completing the first draft:

  • Sit down with all your writing, hold your nose, and read through everything you’ve written several times, looking for different things: 1) materials that stand out, and 2) dominant themes.
  • Read for interesting or annoying questions that occur to you as you go through what you’ve written.
  • Read for organizational markers.
  • Read in order to organize, marking themes with codes, numbers, letters, or colors.
  • Read to extract a provisional outline.
  • Read through and put a check in the margin to anything that’s interesting, or seems like it might have potential, or even seems terribly wrong.
  • If you find recognizable paragraph in the mess, try summarizing each of them in a single sentence.