Writing a doctoral thesis requires a huge amount of effort and it is no surprise that most students experience problems at some point. As with other aspects of writing your thesis, problems that affect your work need to be managed - you need to identify what the problem is and why it is happening, take action to resolve it, and monitor your progress to make sure your approach works.
Recognising the Problem
The first step towards managing a problem is to recognise that a problem exists and to understand its causes. We have seen how a regular process of monitoring your progress and reviewing this against your plan should play a key part in how you manage your work. This sort of active approach puts you in control of your work as well as giving you a mechanism for identifying any problems.
Most likely any problems you experience will be quite straightforward to recognise and understand. For example, perhaps you are not following your plan closely enough and so are losing time on writing content that you do not need. Or perhaps you are not giving sufficient time to working on your thesis each week or are letting other commitments get in the way. If you are experiencing problems such as these, reviewing the sections on managing your writing and managing your time should give you the guidance you need to get your work back on track.
Other Common Problems
Many students find though that at some point in their final year they experience problems with their work that seem more difficult to resolve. These include:
If your work is being affected by any of these problems, it is important to take action as soon as possible - problems like these only become harder to resolve the longer they are left.
Recognising the problem is an important first step - next you need to think about what actions you can take to resolve it.
Both procrastination and perfectionism can stem from a lack of confidence. There is no doubt that writing your thesis is a huge challenge - but it is one you are capable of meeting. Breaking down your work will make it much more manageable. Instead of seeing your thesis as one single task, use your plan to break it down into a series of small individual tasks each one of which contributes to building the whole. This will help you to keep things in perspective and give you a much greater sense of control and progress. Making use of your plan in this way is also important if the problem is lack of focus.
Also, do not forget that your supervisor and your colleagues are available to offer support and advice.
If the problem is more serious, for example long term ill health or a bereavement, you should discuss this with your supervisor at the earliest opportunity for advice as to what options are available.
If your work has been affected by a problems such as those described above, you may find that you have fallen behind in your work. With effort, you can get yourself back on track - but this requires a positive approach. It can therefore be useful to think about the strategies there are for managing your motivation.
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Managing Problems >