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  • Writer's pictureMaria Stefanidi

The Ultimate Dissertation Planning Guide

Maybe it's time to embark on your dissertation journey.

Or maybe you've (finally) come up with a research question.

No matter how far along you are in your dissertation journey, planning is crucial!

You'll always hear me say that dissertation planning is an integral part of any dissertation journey.

You see, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the mountain of research, data, and information you'll have to sift through to complete your dissertation if you don't have a plan. And now what? Well, now it's time to start planning your dissertation from start to finish! Ready? Let's get to work!

#1 - Create a timeline

The first step in planning your dissertation is to create a timeline.

Determine your own due date.

The first thing you need to do is determine your own due date.

This will be based on your availability and current schedule. Once you have a date in mind, break down the work that needs to be done into smaller tasks, and then assign each task a due date. Make sure to give yourself some wiggle room in case something comes up, or you get behind schedule. It's also important to keep in mind that this is your timeline; don't let anyone else dictate what you should be doing and when you should be doing it.

That way, you can ensure that you are making progress and that you do not get off track.

Set milestones.

Once you have your due date picked out, the next thing you need to do is create milestones. These are events or accomplishments that need to happen along the way to your final goal. For example, if your dissertation is due on December 1st, some milestones might be: finishing your literature review by October 15th, completing your data analysis by November 1st, etc. Having these milestones will help keep you on track and provide motivation when the going gets tough (which it inevitably will at some point).

Be realistic.

It's important to be realistic when creating your timeline.

If you set goals that are too lofty, you're likely to get frustrated and give up.

On the other hand, if your goals are too easy, you won't make enough progress.

Find a happy medium between the two extremes and trust that you'll be able to complete your dissertation within the timeframe you've set for yourself.

Make an actual plan.

Now that you have your date and milestones picked out, it's time to make a plan of action.

What exactly needs to be done in order for you to reach each milestone? Make a list of all the tasks that need to be completed, and then put them in order of priority. Not everything on your list will need to be done right away; some tasks can wait until later on in the process. But knowing what needs to be done and when will help keep you organized and prevent things from falling through the cracks.

#2 - Make a list of sources

The first step is making a list of everything you need. This might include books, journal articles, interviews, videos, lectures, etc. Once you have a comprehensive list, it's time to start acquiring these sources.

This step can take some time, so it's important to plan ahead and allow yourself plenty of time to get everything together. If you're having trouble finding certain items on your list, don't hesitate to reach out to your supervisor, fellow students, or me for help. Chances are, someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

Acquiring the sources.

Once you have your list of sources, it's time to start acquiring them. If you're looking for books or journal articles, your best bet is to start with your university's library website. Most libraries have an online catalogue that you can use to search for items. If the item you're looking for isn't available at your school's library, many libraries offer interlibrary loan services that can help you get what you need.

If you're looking for interviews or videos, try conducting a search on YouTube or another video-sharing website. You may also be able to find what you're looking for by searching on the website of the person or organization that created the video (e.g., TED Talks).

#3 - Outline the structure of your dissertation

So, you’ve done your research and gathered all your sources, and now it’s time to start outlining the structure of your dissertation. But where do you begin?

One way to begin is by organizing your thoughts into main categories and subcategories.

For example, if you are studying the effects of climate change on human health, you might have main categories like “Temperature Changes” and “Environmental Changes.”

Under each main category, you would then have subcategories that further break down those topics.

This will help you see the overall layout of your piece and what needs to be included. Once you have your main points down, start filling in supporting evidence and arguments for each one.

As you’re working through this process, keep your research question in mind so that everything stays focused and on track. By the end, you should have a clear idea of how all the pieces of your dissertation fit together.

#4 - Write drafts and revise

Now it’s time for the actual writing! Drafts are a great way to get your ideas down without worrying about perfection. Once you have a draft of each section of your dissertation, you can go back and revise each one individually. This will help you to make sure that your argument is clear and concise and that your writing flows smoothly.

Once you've revised each section individually, it's time to put all of the sections together into one final document. This is your chance to make sure that everything fits together perfectly. By taking the time to write drafts and revise them, you're ensuring that your dissertation is the best it can be.


Students often resist planning because it seems like a tedious task. But I promise you; it will be worth it when everything comes together smoothly during the writing process!

Planning ahead will help you stay on track and make sure that your dissertation is as clear and concise as possible.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your planning today!

Still feeling stuck? Click here to schedule a free, 30-minute Dissertation Coffee Session with me!

I'll be delighted to have a chat over a cup of coffee and help you get started on your planning!

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