Writing a dissertation is a lot like writing a book. It is, by description, a self-directed procedure. There are typically no weekly deadlines from lecturers, no habitual discussions with classmates, no reading coursework, no one telling you what to do - you are on your own, writing something longer than you've ever written, and doing it without a net. This independence can make the progression seem very frightening. I trust, though -- and research supports the idea -- that even the prelude, never-to-reach-a-public writing that we produce is cognitively significant, and requisite in terms of how it moves us closer to and allows us to engender the supplementary writing that does go into our complete products. I want to suggest here that even the preface, we're-not-sure-where-this-is-going writing that we create is indispensable and imperative, and not something that we should defy. The writing we do not ever print enables us to create writing to print. This is one of the main practices in which a dissertation should be written with.

Graduate Dissertation

One of the myths of writing that many of us have become prey to is that we need to have planned out our inscription, to have planned correctly what it is that we want to speak, before actually sitting down to start thrashing out words on a keyboard. Nothing could be less true. No counsel could be more contradicting to how the act of writing and man cognition intertwines. For both freshmen undertaking their first justifiable research project and for experienced, accomplished scholars, the act of writing itself is one of the critical moments within which we actually learn and manufacture new information. This is one way in which people can create dissertations that can be regarded as masterpieces.

Writing is an act that refuses to be proficient. This is the power of writing, not its burden. We make new associations and learn what we want to say, even make new discoveries, in the act of writing itself. I am suspicious of universals, but 30 years of research into the cognitive act of writing shows that we find out new information when we write. This holds true in every discipline, from the humanities to the hard sciences. The "incompetence" of writing is that these acts of cognitive discovery that happen during the act of writing can make the act itself hesitant and non-linear. Unlike many of our professional tasks, it can be annoyingly impossible to foresee the time we need to complete a particular writing task. Some days the discoveries and language roll out, and on other days, they must be wrenched onward.

By allowing ourselves, or forcing ourselves, to produce writing that we know will not make it into a final product, we also open up a strategy for preventing or circumventing the writing blocks that many academics sometimes come across. Perturbing that the writing you are doing is inconsequential or unrelated is a fast track to momentous your own output. Just write. Then step back and take stock and sort out what writing has promise, and what doesn't, later.

The writing we create that will never really make it into a finished piece of writing is still productive, productive because it gets us to a cognitive summit we could not have otherwise reached. The procedure may feel incompetent at times, but that procedure is indispensable to the creation of information, no matter what our regulation, and no matter what form our writing takes.