The Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin - Madison
The Writer's Handbook
Writing a Dissertation

Resources for Dissertators

This page lists some useful books and websites for graduate students working on dissertations.

Unless otherwise noted, books are available for consultation in the Writing Center.

Helpful books for dissertators

Becker, Howard S. (with a chapter by Pamela Richards). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. 1986.

Students in any discipline will find Becker's advice helpful. Sample chapter titles: "Persona and Authority," "Learning to Write as a Professional," "Getting It out the Door," and "Terrorized by the Literature."

Bolker, Joan. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. 1998.

By a co-founder of the Harvard Writing Center, now a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping dissertators. In her words, "This book is a collection of successful field-tested strategies for writing a dissertation; it's also a guide to conducting an experiment, with you as your own subject, your work habits as the data, and a writing method that fits you well as the goal."

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research.

Thorough and sophisticated treatment of the research process: moving from a topic to a research problem, building a convincing argument, drafting, and revising. Also includes a helpful chapter on "Communicating Evidence Visually."

Cone, John D., and Sharon L. Foster. Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish: Psychology and Related Fields. 1993.

Practical advice on such subjects as finding and refining topics, selecting a committee, and managing time; overviews of the proposal and of each dissertation chapter; material on measurement, statistics, and data handling.

Gillis, Christina M. Scholarly Arguments: Strategies for Writing Persuasive Proposals in the Humanities. 1993.

According to the Grants Information Center, provides "very brief general advice for proposal writers for humanities research." Available in the UW Memorial Library Grants Information Center (HG177.5/U6/G55/1993).

Locke, Lawrence F., Waneen Wyrick Spirdoso, and Stephen J. Silverman. Proposals That Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals. 4th ed., 2000.

A useful general guide for students writing proposals. Annotated bibliography; annotated samples of experimental, qualitative, quasi-experimental, and grant proposals.

Meloy, Judith M. Writing the Qualitative Dissertation: Understanding by Doing. 1994.

Based on a study of dissertations and on data collected from faculty and students. Shares their comments and offers questions to consider at various stages of the process in brief chapters that include "Selecting and Working with a Committee," "Preparing and Defending the Proposal," and "Connecting Focus, Literature, and Ownership."

Peters, Robert L. Getting What You Came For: the Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or Ph.D. Rev. ed., 1997.

Packed with practical advice ranging from choosing a school to finding a job. Chapters on the dissertation deal with the committee, topic, proposal, writing, and defense.

Przeworski, Adam, and Frank Salomon. "The Art of Writing Proposals." New York: Social Science Research Council, 1995. 25 Feb. 2002<http://weber.ucsd.edu/~proeder/Proposals.pdf>

Rudestam, Kjell Erik, and Rae R. Newton. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. 1992.

Treats the dissertation process from finding a topic to the oral defense. Chapter on results gives detailed information on presenting statistical information in tables and graphs. Section on process, subtitled "What You Need to Know to Make the Dissertation Easier," includes practical advice on managing time and dealing with writing anxiety, including "Twelve Tricks to Keep You Going When You Write."

Simon, Marilyn K., and J. Bruce Francis. The Dissertation Cookbook: From Soup to Nuts, A Practical Guide to Start and Complete Your Dissertation. 2nd ed., 1998.

Although some readers might find the relentless cookbook metaphor and the sloppy editing annoying, many graduate students highly recommend this book, which supersedes the hard-to-find Proposal Cookbook. Contains sections on each chapter of the five-chapter dissertation common in the social and behavioral sciences, as well as sections on getting started, choosing a topic, types of research, instruments, statistics, sampling, and appraising data. Most of the information is relevant for writers at the proposal stage. Many practical tips, hands-on exercises, and checklists.

Sternberg, David. How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation. 1981.

Still in print and in demand for its practical, symphathetic advice, offered in a readable, entertaining style.

Zerubavel, Eviatar. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1999).

Working from the premise that "It is methodicalness and routinization. . . that help us produce theses, dissertations, and books," (p. 3), Zerubavel presents a detailed process for coming up with a realistic writing schedule and deadlines.

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Helpful websites for dissertators

Bibliographic Database Management Systems
http://library.wisc.edu/citation-managers

Graduate Student Resources on the Web
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~Edanhorn/graduate.html

Graduate School's Master's Thesis Guide
http://www.grad.wisc.edu/education/completedegree/mguide.html

Graduate School's Dissertation Guide
http://www.grad.wisc.edu/education/completedegree/pguide.html

Writing Center Website
(handouts; links to other writing sites)
Writing Center Home

Copyright Law and Graduate Research
http://www.il.proquest.com/hp/Support/DServices/copyright/

Grants Information Center (Links to Seminars and Workshops, FAQs, Funding Sources)
http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/Memorial/grantshp.htm

Graduate School Seminars
http://www.ohrd.wisc.edu/ohrdcatalogportal/Default.aspx

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