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Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis [Paperback]

Joan Bolker
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 15 1998
Expert writing advice from the editor of the Boston Globe best-seller, The Writer's Home Companion

Dissertation writers need strong, practical advice, as well as someone to assure them that their struggles aren't unique. Joan Bolker, midwife to more than one hundred dissertations and co-founder of the Harvard Writing Center, offers invaluable suggestions for the graduate-student writer. Using positive reinforcement, she begins by reminding thesis writers that being able to devote themselves to a project that truly interests them can be a pleasurable adventure. She encourages them to pay close attention to their writing method in order to discover their individual work strategies that promote productivity; to stop feeling fearful that they may disappoint their advisors or family members; and to tailor their theses to their own writing style and personality needs. Using field-tested strategies she assists the student through the entire thesis-writing process, offering advice on choosing a topic and an advisor, on disciplining one's self to work at least fifteen minutes each day; setting short-term deadlines, on revising and defending the thesis, and on life and publication after the dissertation. Bolker makes writing the dissertation an enjoyable challenge.

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Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis + How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing + The Craft of Research, Third Edition
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"Fifteen minutes!" you say. "That's too good to be true!" Okay, author Joan Bolker admits she gave her book the title Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day to get the reader's attention. And she admits that it's unlikely you'll actually finish a dissertation at that speed. As she tells her clients, however, a mere 15 minutes is much better than no writing at all when they're stuck. As a clinical psychologist who cofounded the Harvard Writing Center, Bolker has helped hundreds of writers complete their dissertations. She offers suggestions on how to create a writing addiction so that you feel incomplete if you don't write every day and stresses the need to set reasonable goals and deadlines for yourself to keep from getting discouraged. She also offers strategies for dealing with both internal and external distractions and for fending off writer's block. Even more important is the advice on some of the more awkward issues related to dissertation writing, such as how to choose your adviser carefully. (For example, when faced with the tradeoff between a famous advisor who is inaccessible and a less famous advisor who is willing to make time for you, Bolker advises, "If choosing a politically advantageous, famous advisor makes it unlikely that you'll complete your degree, it's clearly not worth it.") The book even includes a helpful appendix for advisers that could become the basis for an honest discussion of what student and adviser can expect from each other. Throughout this excellent book, Bolker acts as a therapist, cheerleader, and drill sergeant, all rolled into one.

While some of the book's advice is of interest only to dissertation writers, much of the information--on battling writer's block, for instance--is valuable to anybody engaged in writing. Rather than being filled with rules defining how to become a great writer, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day is about finding the process by which you can be the most productive--it's a set of exercises that you can use to find out more about you and the way you write. Along the way, you'll do a bit of writing. And that's what matters, especially when you experience writer's block--as Bolker says, "Write anything, because writing is writing." With its helpful advice and supportive tone, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day should be required reading for anyone considering writing a dissertation. --C.B. Delaney

About the Author

Editor of the best-selling The Writers Home Companion, Joan Bolker, Ed.D., has taught writing at Harvard, Wellesley, Brandeis, and Bard colleges. She is currently a psychotherapist whose speciality is working with struggling writers. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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IF YOU ENJOY RESEARCH and writing, some of the greatest gifts life can offer you are time, space, and a good rationalization for devoting yourself to a project that truly interests you. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for doctoral/masters candidates July 9 2004
Format:Paperback
I am about 70% of the way through my PhD thesis, and this book has helped me tremendously. After less than two years of part-time study (working full-time as well), I have not only written around 200 000 words of draft and edited text, but I have published three papers and have a fourth currently sumbitted. I credit most of this from the advice in Bolker's book. Sure, I adopted my own partiucular way, but I have followed much of what is in the book.
As Bolker suggests, if you write as you go, all the bits and pieces begin to thread themselves together. Simply passively reading or collecting data won't do it.
The biggest problem with this approach is that I will almost certainly finish well ahead of the minimum four years required for part-time PhD candidates at my university (the English PhD system is more arduous and longer than the American system).
I highly recommend this book for all PhD and masters students, and I only wish I'd known about it when I was an undergraduate, as it would have helped me tremendously then, also.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting tips July 24 2000
Format:Paperback
When I read the title of this book I couldn't believe it - fifteen minutes a day! I then bought it and found it very interesting and amusing. I must say however that the book hinges sometimes on simple good sense or says something that the student perceives the minute he gets into grad school. This book is very recommended if you don't have a clue on what you'll do next and you really need some advice. It is also great if you haven't had any contact with the "academic culture" before you entered graduate school.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but not a miracle. March 30 2011
Format:Paperback
I read some of the other reviews that said this book was merely common sense or a waste of time, I have to disagree. Writing is a difficult process and the author gives some practical advice that some people will find useful and others will not. The most useful part of her book (for me ) was explaining how to get into a habit of writing. If you write every day, even if some days it is only for 15 minutes, it is still better than doing nothing. It's building a momentum of productivity and it helps.

I think some of the reviewers wanted a magic bullet for their writers block. There isn't one, writing is work, this book provides some useful tools for you to get that work done faster.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Revigorant! June 20 2013
By Myriam
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellents conseils avec un soupçon d'humour! Un bouquin qui aide à la motivation avant ou pendant la rédaction, particulièrement dans les creux!
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2.0 out of 5 stars pas utile April 7 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Un pep talk sans portée. Bon pour la récupération. Tout est dit dans le titre. Ecrivez 15 minutes par jour et au bout de quelques semaines vous arriverez au bout de vos peines.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quick Read March 21 2002
Format:Paperback
The subtitle for this book is probably the more telling about the contents. This book is more of a guide to the whole process of writing the dissertation rather than the physical act of writing. Bolker discussing the writing as well as choosing a topic, choosing an advisor for your dissertation, and choosing a committee for your dissertation defense. Covered in the book are some of the psychological barriers that can hinder your finishing the dissertation, and some pitfalls to avoid (such as political battles with your advisor).
The primary thought is to develop the habit of writing. Some of the ideas may sound familiar to you, but they are no less true. Bolker states that you must develop the habit of writing everyday if you are going to build up the stamina and fortitude to completing the task. She does suggest a support group to assist in this.
The biggest draw for this book, for me, was that Bolker is an authority. She started two dissertations, one of which she did not finish. She has also worked with many students in writing their dissertations, and she knows from experience what works and what doesn't (she points out a problem that can arise from writing solely on the computer).
I would recommend this book to anyone beginning the journey to finishing a dissertation. Do not take this information lightly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gets you thinking in the right direction April 16 2004
Format:Paperback
I bought this book just before I began to write my dissertation for a doctorate in counseling psychology. The main strength of this book is it helps you plan and break down the dissertation process in small steps that can be easily managed. It is easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged with the dissertation and many do. The advice in this book will help you finish. I did complete my dissertation in about two years while working full time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Writing One Day at a Time Feb. 7 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I am in the middle of writing my masters and this book was perfect for overcoming my writers block. I can't thank the author enough for helping me through this anxiety. My favorite quote is from her daughter about focusing on "Writing One Day at a Time." This book seems to be the reverse of alcohols annonymous (where you are trying to give up an addition to drinking alcohol), instead this book seems to be about learning how to become addicted to writing every day.
Many kudos to the author for a well written book!
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars waste
Save your money. This book might be a good resource for someone CONSIDERING grad school, but overall, it does not provide any profound advice if you are already in grad school. Read more
Published on April 7 2011 by Jordana
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't fall for the hype
If you are a Ph.D. student looking into the face of writing your dissertation and you think this book is going to help, think again, and again, and again... Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2004 by Robert L. Gorena
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Ph.D. Candidates
This is a quick read that provides some of the best advice on controlling and writing the dissertation that I've seen. Read more
Published on June 26 2003 by Margaret L. FalerSweany
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential book for grad students in the humanities
This is one of the most helpful guides to writing a dissertation ever published. Bolker suggests that students write early and often as they shape their dissertations. Read more
Published on April 27 2003 by Mary McKinney
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a gem
This book is a gem. I like it because it takes a process approach to teach people how to write. The book suggests process measures and promises that if you make sure you meet these... Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a gem
This book is a gem. I like it because it takes a process approach to teach people how to write. The book suggests process measures and promises that if you make sure you meet these... Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2002 by maha
5.0 out of 5 stars Stressed Doctorate Student
Anything that can make you laugh in a time of extreme stress is worth it. This book has helped me get focused, and actually work on my dissertation. Read more
Published on July 7 2002
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