15 Great Books on How to Write a Dissertation

Welcome, whether you are at the precipice of embarking on a PhD journey or are already navigating through its complexities, I salute your dedication and fortitude. A PhD is more than just an academic journey; it’s a transformative experience that reshapes one’s perspective of life and learning.

My journey through the PhD labyrinth was fraught with trials and tribulations. I experienced first-hand the magnitude of sacrifice and the unwavering determination required to conquer the doctoral mountain. A web of support from your near and dear ones will be the lifeline that keeps you going during this arduous expedition.

In my case, my mother played the role of an unwavering pillar of strength until a life-altering event rendered her unconscious a year before my dissertation was due. Her loss nearly swayed me off my path, with thoughts of abandoning the journey haunting me on numerous occasions.

[Related:Best books on how to write a dissertation]

However, amidst the turbulent waves of despair, it was a trove of knowledge gleaned from books, the unwavering support from my family, and the guiding light of my mentor that kept me anchored. Thus, I persevered, steering through the storm towards the finish line.

So, as someone who has braved the adversities of a PhD journey, and emerged victorious, I stand before you, ready to share the wisdom I acquired on my journey. As a survivor of the most daunting challenges that a PhD student could face, my experiences are not only grounded in personal trials but also in profound learning.

In the upcoming series of posts on Selected Reads, I will unveil the lessons learned, tips, and tricks that steered me through my doctoral journey. However, today’s post is dedicated to sharing a curated selection of insightful books that played a crucial role in the fruition of my dissertation.

From combating procrastination and honing your writing skills to understanding intricate research methodologies and mastering time management, these books offer invaluable insights from seasoned academics.

They cover a gamut of topics, including conducting comprehensive literature reviews, creating supportive peer groups, harnessing technology for research purposes, drafting and editing your thesis, overcoming writing blocks, formatting and styling your dissertation appropriately, and much more. Make these your academic companions, and you’ll find your journey towards the coveted doctorate a lot smoother and more manageable.

1. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, by Kate L. Turabian et al.

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations

Turabian’s guide is a thorough exploration of the research and writing process, tackling each step with precision. The book expertly navigates Chicago’s two source citation styles and covers various facets of editorial style, including quotations and visual material.

Additionally, the manual offers practical solutions to overcoming the common fear of embarking on significant writing projects. An essential resource for anyone engaged in academic writing.

2. How to Write a Thesis, by Umberto Eco 

How to Write a Thesis

Eco presents an invigorating approach to crafting a thesis. Divided into six integral sections, the book covers all facets of the thesis-writing process. It delves into defining and understanding the purpose of a thesis, selecting a compelling topic, conducting detailed research, crafting a work plan, the actual process of writing, and finally, refining the final draft. Eco’s lucid style and practical advice make this book a valuable guide for any student.

3. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, by Joan Bolker

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

Joan Bolker’s insightful book offers a much-needed support system for dissertation writers. A co-founder of the Harvard Writing Center, Bolker presents valuable tips and encouragement for graduate students to keep them focused and productive. She emphasizes the joy of devoting oneself to a truly engaging project and teaches strategies to overcome fear and improve writing style.

4. How to Finish Your Dissertation in Six Months, by Scott Rank

 How to Finish Your Dissertation in Six Months

Rank’s guide provides practical strategies to write a dissertation within a relatively short timeframe. The book shares an effective daily habit, tips on making consistent writing inevitable, managing incomplete research, leveraging advisor meetings, and seeking active help from friends. A game-changer for those struggling with time constraints in their doctoral journey.

5. The Dissertation Warrior, by Guy E. White 

The Dissertation Warrior

White’s book aims to inspire and guide doctoral students on their transformative journey. He addresses various aspects of dissertation writing and personal growth, focusing on efficient time management, aligning research and writing efforts, drafting an impactful introduction, and constructing a comprehensive literature review. A valuable guide that connects academic perseverance with personal development.

6. Authoring a PhD Thesis, by Patrick Dunleavy 

Authoring a PhD Thesis

Dunleavy’s comprehensive guidebook offers practical advice on formulating creative ideas, structuring them logically, drafting and revising text, and successfully completing a dissertation. It covers important aspects of the doctoral journey, such as facing examinations and getting work published. An essential resource for PhD candidates looking to effectively manage their work and intellectual challenges.

7. Getting the Best of Your Dissertation: Practical Perspectives for Effective Research, by Dave Harris

Getting the Best of Your Dissertation

Harris draws from multiple disciplines to provide a series of perspectives aimed at making your dissertation process more efficient and satisfying. The book delves into integrating dissertation work into your life, developing a productive writing practice, managing relationships with professors, designing research, and more. A comprehensive guide for achieving greater value from your doctoral journey.

8. Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation, by Randy L. Joyner, William A. Rouse, Allan A. Glatthorn 

Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation

This book is a well-rounded resource for scholars seeking guidance in every phase of their research journey. The book provides insights on utilizing new technologies, effective planning, engaging writing style, defense preparation, and more. The updated fourth edition includes current case studies, which demonstrate the effectiveness of the teachings contained within.

9. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing, by Paul J. Silvia

How to Write a Lot

Silvia provides strategies to dismantle common excuses and bad habits that hinder writing. His approach encompasses various academic disciplines and offers practical steps to motivate academics to be more prolific writers. The book discusses how to write, submit, and revise academic work, promoting a balanced work-life while achieving writing goals. The second edition includes an additional chapter on writing grant and fellowship proposals.

10. Writing for Social Scientists, by Howard S. Becker 

Writing for Social Scientists

Becker’s guide is a refreshing take on academic writing, emphasizing the importance of simply starting to write and then revise. It uncovers the eccentricities of academic writing, such as unnecessary wordiness and the passive voice, and provides practical solutions to overcome them. This is a must-read for writers aiming to improve their style and efficiency in academic writing.

11. The Elements of an Effective Dissertation and Thesis, by Raymond L. Calabrese

The Elements of an Effective Dissertation and Thesis

Calabrese offers a systematic guide to writing an impressive doctoral dissertation or a master’s thesis. The book breaks down the elements of the dissertation, providing detailed descriptions, definitions, and examples. The approach accommodates both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, helping students understand what content to include and where it fits best.

12. Dissertation Without Tears, by Natalya Androsova

Dissertation Without Tears

In this empowering guide, Androsova tackles the pressure and guilt associated with dissertation writing. The book offers tips to find joy and fulfillment in the writing process, stressing the importance of self-compassion. It debunks 58 myths about dissertation writing and replaces them with a healthy mindset that facilitates a smooth journey to the finish line.

13. Demystifying Dissertation Writing, by Peg Boyle Single 

Demystifying Dissertation Writing

Single’s guide offers a straightforward and systematic process to dissertation writing. The book aims to enhance writing fluency and productivity, offering guidance on topic selection, planning, scheduling, and actual writing. It is especially beneficial for those who feel they aren’t receiving enough guidance and for those seeking to increase their writing productivity.

14. How to tame your PhD, by Inger Mewburn 

How to tame your PhD

Dr. Mewburn, founder of The Thesis Whisperer blog, shares practical strategies for efficient research and writing based on her own doctoral journey. The book consists of re-edited and expanded blog posts offering a wealth of advice on completing a PhD effectively. It is a companion guide that demystifies the PhD process and guides readers towards successful completion.

15. The Dissertation Journey, by Carol Roberts, Laura Hyatt

The Dissertation Journey

This guide is a comprehensive resource for developing and writing a quality dissertation. It provides updated coverage of conducting a literature review, harnessing technology for research, and using progress tracking tools. The guide is filled with sample forms, resource lists, and other user-friendly elements, making the dissertation journey smoother and more manageable.