Creativity and Dissertations

May 30th is National Creativity Day, but if you want to finish your dissertation, don’t get too creative. A cookie-cutter dissertation is just what you need!…

I see students getting bogged down frequently because they treat their dissertations like they imagine it would be to write a novel. They try to be creative, imaginative, original, unique. They only write when they feel the urge. They wait to be inspired.

Beyond the fact that you’ll never get you dissertation done this way, there are a few problems to this approach…

First, this is not how real novelists actually go about their work. You may have seen plenty of TV and movie characters who operated this way, but being a professional writer of any kind requires discipline and sticking to a rigorous work plan.

While a novelist may be passionate and creative about their story, it’s simply not the case that they only sit down to write when the feeling moves them. If they did, they’d never finish anything!

The second issue with trying to act like a “novelist” is in your attempt to be creative with your dissertation. Why?

Dissertations are supposed to be formulaic. Most schools provide you with vast reams of guidelines, rubrics, templates, and the like. You don’t get extra points for ignoring the process and format that’s been laid out for you.

On the contrary, if you don’t follow an established path, your committee will probably be confused or annoyed. It will take longer for them to evaluate your “creative” dissertation, and they’ll likely make you redo everything to comply with the guidelines, anyway!

Finally, even the notion that you should be creative for your dissertation adds extra stress to the process. It’s endemic of a larger urge to romanticize the dissertation.

Students hear that the dissertation is the highest form of scholarship and often put it on a pedestal so high that they cannot possibly each it. You have to be able to see yourself as a doctor, to see yourself graduating, to see yourself defending your dissertation.

Visualizing your success helps to make the dissertation process seem more attainable, not less. Developing a simple plan is key. Your plan should be mundane and actionable, not creative and fantastic.

Is your creativity turning into procrastination? Click here to schedule a quick, 15-minute chat with me to see if you’re a good candidate for our Fast Track Your Dissertation Coaching Program. If you are, then I’ll invite you to join the fastest group of dissertation students out there and help you to reach graduation a good year or two faster than you would on your own.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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