Self-Help For Graduate Students Part 3: Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

Publishing Info: Bolker, Joan. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998.

Time Investment: 150 easy-to-read pages; it’s possible to read it one chapter at a time, as you progress toward your degree.

I love Joan Bolker. Reading this book has brought me to the point of tears more than once. I quote her constantly when giving advice to colleagues. Occasionally I imagine writing her elaborate tributes or fan mail.

Joan Bolker has excellent experience to recommend her for the job of helping you write your dissertation. She started two dissertations, only one of which she finished. She knows the difference, first hand, between a failed dissertation and a successful dissertation. Second, she worked as a therapist to that’s right! struggling doctoral students for years and years.

Joan Bolker doesn’t just want to help you finish your dissertation—she wants you to enjoy writing it. To do so, she offers ways of analyzing your own work habits. In fact, she’s the main reason I began this blog. Also, her chapter on how to choose committee members and what to do when you have problems with your committee prompted to me to change my committee in a way that infinitely sped up my progress.

“If you’ve tried, God forbid, to train a puppy by beating it, you’ll know that you can end up with a docile dog, but not one with any spirit or joy. Puppies who are trained with praise and treats grow into lively, obedient dogs.” This has been one of the most vivid images in my mind for the past three years. Rewarding yourself for accomplishing small, realistic goals by calling a friend, going outside, or taking a bath works infinitely better than punishing yourself for not accomplishing your goals by piling on more work.

More on Joan Bolker next week, but by then, you should have bought the book already!


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