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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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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
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
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 A Quick Read March 21 2002
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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5.0 out of 5 stars START NOW July 16 2000
When I first saw the book a strong urge came over me to get it. My inner critic said, what for? You're not a Phd candidate. Sure, you're writing a paper for a masters program but it isn't the same as a dissertation. Don't waste your money.
The argument was sound but the book's call was much stronger. I purchased it. It was the best investment that I had made. Whether you are a Phd candidate trying to get your dissertation done or a wannabe intimidated by the thought of having to write one, this book must be on your required reading list!
If you have successfully completed high school, college and graduate school (masters level) then you have already written your fair share of papers. You have the technical and disciplined skills to write. Well then, what is the problem in doing a dissertation?
Bolker teaches one about learning how to develop a process of writing that is best for you. Once done she moves you from the process to the basic mechanics of getting the dissertation done. It is never to late in getting a head start on learning how to finish your doctoral thesis even before you are accepted into a Phd program. Start Now! The book is a tremendous stimulator.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It helped me turn in a thesis July 12 2000
Joan Bolker's book can be a very big help for those people like me who have ten different things going on at once, one of which is a long-term paper. I bought this to help me complete my Master's thesis on the recommendation of a few people.
I credit this book with helping me prioritize things when it came time for the actual writing of the paper.
The 15 minutes a day title is a little bit deceptive, however. The program does not necessarily amount to 15 minutes per day strictly. And, that can be unrealistic anyway. I had actually tried a regimen like that before. But, while it can work for awhile, it can be very difficult to maintain depending on one's work schedule or environment.
The biggest help in the book for me (and why I rate it somewhat highly) is that it helped me establish a workable scheudule with my professor. I ended offering some suggestions to my professor as to how often we discussed the paper, etc., and it worked out nicely for both of us. I think when it comes down to it, you can examine the information in this book but tailor it to what your professor expects.
I can say that Bolker's book helped me in eventually turning in my Master's thesis. But, keep in mind that 98% of thesis work (particularly while having a demanding work schedule) is going to be one's own determination and commitment. And, this book is not going to provide that for you!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Revigorant!
Excellents conseils avec un soupçon d'humour! Un bouquin qui aide à la motivation avant ou pendant la rédaction, particulièrement dans les creux!
Published 14 months ago by Myriam
2.0 out of 5 stars pas utile
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... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jasmine Foulem
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, but not a miracle.
I read some of the other reviews that said this book was merely common sense or a waste of time, I have to disagree. Read more
Published on March 30 2011 by Jessica Nicholson
4.0 out of 5 stars Gets you thinking in the right direction
I bought this book just before I began to write my dissertation for a doctorate in counseling psychology. Read more
Published on April 16 2004 by Terry Portis
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing One Day at a Time
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004
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
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