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Overcome the Writing Challenges in Grad School

November 6, 2019
By GradProSkills
Source: GradProSkills

GradProSkills Writing Community It takes a community to write a thesis


Graduate students face one of the most challenging times of their studies when it comes to writing their thesis or major research paper. Overcoming this challenge requires a lot of internal motivation, something that does not come easy on a solo writing journey. This post proposes strategies to overcome challenges with writing your thesis, a paper or a grant application.

Participate in a writing retreat

Writing retreats, such as Thesis Boost or Thesez-vous, are increasingly popular in graduate school. These events, create a sense of community and can break the feeling of isolation; giving grad students’ the morale needed to finish their thesis.

A well-structured writing retreat brings together writing experts to give students the tools and techniques necessary to plan the writing process, set achievable goals, and acquire techniques to deal with writer’s block and procrastination. Furthermore, these events create a unique environment, by bringing together other graduate students with common experiences, to promote the sharing of lessons learned and tips among peers, as well as comradery.

Set realistic goals to keep you motivated

Concordia’s Thesis Boost retreat starts with an orientation session highlighting the importance of organizing the writing process. Grad students need to treat writing the thesis process as a regular project, which involves making a plan: setting goals, defining milestones and constantly reviewing progress against the plan. It is daunting to think about writing an entire thesis as one big task because students face overwhelming feelings of self-doubt about their ability to accomplish such a herculean job on their own.

It is advisable that students plan the amount of time it will take them to write their thesis by breaking the project into smaller milestones. For example, setting the goal to write one chapter every three months. This chapter milestone can then be further broken down into daily milestones such as a commitment to write 900 to 1000 words daily. The sense that writing two pages a day is a doable endeavor positively impacts graduate’s self-confidence, and helps them to become more focused on writing and less worried about how hard it is to complete their thesis.

Keep your focus by working in intervals

Grad students sitting to write their thesis are confronted with the desire to check emails and navigate in social media. Avoiding the distractions and procrastination urges one might experiment the Pomodoro technique or Forest. The Pomodoro method entails setting your timer for a twenty-five-minute cycle during which you can only write your thesis. Once this cycle is over you might take a five-minute break to have a coffee or go for a short walk. Scientists confirmed that our brain is more productive when you are focused on a single activity.

Block your calendar with dedicated thesis time

We might all know these techniques and advices, however the experience of participating in a Thesis Boost retreat might give you more than you expected. According to Nisa Remigio, a PhD candidate and GradProSkills Ambassador, the Thesis Boost retreat gave her the opportunity to free her calendar from ordinary life commitments and focus on writing her thesis. Nisa praised the benefits of goal setting reflection session as she was able to set a realistic goal for the three days and to follow up on progress against this plan.

The Thesis Boost also aims at bridging knowledge gap in relation to different aspects of the thesis writing process. It offers workshops such as “Clarifying expectations with your supervisor” that can help students make a plan that optimize the feedback process with their supervisor. Another workshop topic is “Planning your thesis submission” which explains Concordia’s procedures regarding the actual submission of the finished thesis. The upcoming Thesis Boost’s workshops are available in the schedule.

Fight isolation and find inspiration from peers

GradProSkills organizes writing groups comprised of Thesis Boost participants. They meet and write together every week for two hours, either in Loyola or in SGW campus. According to Nisa’s testimonial this has been one of the major long-term impact in her writing process, because Nisa can rely on peers when she needs motivation, companionship and a convivial writing environment. The group becomes like the safe harbor that grad students can hold on to and share their successes and challenges during the writing journey and grad school life.

Join us!

We hope this post has given you a taste of what a Thesis Boost retreat might do for your writing goals. Our team of writing assistants, librarians, and wellness consultants look forward to meeting you at an upcoming Thesis Boost.

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