In the past several months I have given a number of talks to graduate students across the U.S. on the topic of successfully completing a dissertation. Here are some of the tips that I have shared with graduate students.

1. Know Your Area of Study. Study the research literature with a critical eye. Know what has been done in the area and speculate on what still needs to be done (this will give you ideas for research topics). Read key journals regularly.

I also encourage students to research the literature both broadly (going outside of a focused area) and deeply (tracing the research back to its early roots). This helps in defending the dissertation (and in oral comprehensive exams) - demonstrating that you have a good grasp on previous research.

2. Find a "Prototype" Article (or several). Find an article(s) that most closely resembles the design and type of research you are proposing (e.g., if you are validating a measurement instrument, find a published exemplary study validating a related scale). Follow the general structure of that research report.

3. Give Constant Attention to Your Writing. Good writing is not only critical for a successful dissertation, but it relates to success in your professional career in Psychology (or in just about any professional endeavor).

Keys to Good Writing
a. Tell a story
b. Learn how to revise and re-revise
c. Write from the "reader's perspective" - seeing your own writing as a reader will.
d. Get and use feedback (have friends read for clarity; go to university writing center)
e. Write every day (even if it's not your dissertation, practice helps; set aside dedicated time to write)

4. Develop a Thick Skin. Get used to criticism. Learn how to listen to the criticism constructively to improve your work.

Follow these guidelines and your dissertation process will be easier. I tell students headed for academic careers to think of the dissertation as only one "product" in a career that will produce many such research projects.

Follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/ronriggio

Recent Posts in Cutting-Edge Leadership

5 Ways That Men’s Friendships Differ From Women’s

Are men from Mars? There are real differences.

5 Things You Need to Know About Body Language

Expert tips to improve your nonverbal communication.

Top 5 Questions About Psychology and Sports

What can Psychology tell us about sports, athletes, and crazed fans?

What Do Your Tweets Reveal About You?

Twitter can reveal your personality, infidelity, relationship status and health.

10 Steps to Developing Your Leadership

Here is how to get ahead in your organization.

Which Type of Perfectionist Are You?

Is your perfectionism adaptive or maladaptive? Take the test.