When Should You Start Writing Your Dissertation? (SOLVED)

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In the world of academics, writing your dissertation is one of the most daunting tasks.

It can seem like a never-ending project, but there are some things you can do to help make it less stressful and more manageable.

When should you start writing your dissertation?

You should start writing your dissertation 13-20 months before the deadline. Most universities require a minimum of a year of credits to complete a dissertation. Each part of your dissertation takes time to prepare, plan, research, write, and edit.

There are, however, ways to speed up the process.

Consider this your step-by-step guide on when to start writing a dissertation and how to write it as fast as possible.

When Should You Start Writing Your Dissertation? (Each Section)

A woman writing a dissertation—When Should You Start Writing Your Dissertation
Image by author via Canva—When Should You Start Writing Your Dissertation

It will be easier if we break down each step into smaller chunks, so it doesn’t seem overwhelming or confusing.

Here is a table of the average time it takes to complete each part of your dissertation:

Dissertation SectionAverage Time To Complete
Prospectus3-6 months
Chapter 1: The Introduction1-2 months
Chapter 2: The Literature Review3-4 months
Chapter 3: The Methodology2-4 months
Chapter 4: The Results1-2 months
Chapter 5: The Discussion1-2 months
Defense2 months
When should you start writing your dissertation?

My strong recommendation is for you to start writing with the maximum number of months in mind (20+). The sooner you start, the more time you give yourself.

Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus is a formal document that provides the framework for a dissertation research project.

The prospectus is required by many universities and should provide:

  • An overview of the proposed dissertation topic
  • Its significance to scholarship in the field
  • A summary of the methodology to be used
  • A timeline for accomplishment

The purpose of writing a dissertation prospectus is two-fold.

First, the prospectus helps students stay aware of what they need to accomplish in their dissertation research project.

Second, it allows professors who serve on dissertation review committees to evaluate whether or not a student’s topic and approach are appropriate.

The dissertation prospectus often takes 3-6 months.

Chapter 1: The Introduction

The first chapter of your dissertation is where you’ll explain the problem or issue your dissertation will address.

Chapter one is usually 15-25 double-spaced pages.

When you sit down to write, remember that this is not the place for an abstract. It’s where you need to clearly lay out exactly what is at stake (and why it matters) with your research project.

Chapter one generally includes:

  • Your problem statement
  • Research questions
  • Your goals and objectives

You can expect chapter one to take between 1-2 months.

Chapter 2: The Literature Review

Your dissertation literature review is where you’ll provide an in-depth examination of the existing scholarship on your topic.

You can expect chapter two to take 3-4 months to complete.

Chapter 3: The Methodology (Research Methods)

This is the heart of your dissertation, where you explain precisely how you will conduct research to answer your problem statement and research questions.

This is also where you explain your data collection methods and how you will analyze the data.

Typically, chapter three includes three sub-sections:

  • Qualitative (Descriptive data)
  • Quantitative (Numbers, statistics)
  • Mixed research

You can expect chapter three to take 3-4 months.

Chapter 4: The Results

Once you’ve collected your data, it’s time to analyze that data in the form of tables, charts, figures, percentages, or statistics.

You will also use narrative to describe your findings.

Chapter four can take 1-2 months.

Chapter 5: The Discussion

Your dissertation discussion section pulls all your findings together and offers an analysis of the meaning of that data.

This is also where you provide recommendations, answer your research questions, and relate your dissertation to existing scholarship in the field.

Don’t forget that chapter five includes a conclusion.

You can expect this chapter to take 1-2 months.

Defense

The dissertation defense is also called the final oral examination.

It’s where you explain your research project and findings to your dissertation committee and answer their questions.

You should expect your defense to take 2-3 hours.

Remember that these numbers are averages. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to exactly how long a complete dissertation takes to write. As you will see, there are ways to speed up the process.

When Should I Start Writing My Undergraduate Dissertation?

You should start your undergraduate dissertation 12 months before it is due.

An undergraduate dissertation is a long piece of academic writing with the purpose of demonstrating your research skills, critical thinking skills, and writing abilities.

You will undertake independent research to write the dissertation. An undergraduate dissertation is not a research paper, but rather an original piece of work.

More like an extended term paper.

A typical length for an undergraduate dissertation is about 20-50 double-spaced pages (or 5-10K words).

It’s usually closer to 5k words.

Including research and writing time, your undergraduate dissertation is likely to take approximately 9-12 months.

When Should You Start Writing Your Ph.D. Dissertation?

Your Ph.D. dissertation is a long and arduous process that requires a lot of work, time, effort, and dedication.

Expect your doctoral dissertation to take 1-2 years.

Just like your undergraduate or graduate dissertation, you should start writing your Ph.D. dissertation as soon as possible.

And, just like those other dissertations, you can possibly accelerate the process.

By the end of this article, I’ll share a few strategies to cut your dissertation writing time down to a few months, weeks, or even days.

How Long Does It Take to Write a Dissertation?

Most students find that 6-9 months is enough time to write a dissertation.

A typical dissertation might only take 4-6 months (or shorter) if you put in enough hours per day. However, for many people with full-time jobs, that’s not really possible.

The time it takes to complete a dissertation varies by type (undergraduate, graduate, Ph.D.) and by length:

QuestionHow Long
How Long Does It Take To Write a Dissertation Chapter?2 weeks – 1 month
How Long Does It Take To Write a 5,000-word Dissertation? 9-12 months
How Long Does It Take To Write a 10,000-word Dissertation?9-12 months
How Long Does It Take To Write a 15,000-word Dissertation?13-20 months
How Long Does It Take To Write a 20,000-word Dissertation?13-24 months
When should you start writing your dissertation?

The benefits of working on a dissertation greatly outweigh the costs.

If you’ve done your research and prepared properly, you can do the actual writing of your dissertation very quickly.

Is 2 Months Enough To Write a Dissertation?

It is definitely possible to write a dissertation in two months or less, but it depends on the amount of pre-work you have done and how much time you can dedicate.

It also depends on the dissertation requirements for your specific school.

Here’s how to write your dissertation in two months:

  • Let go of perfectionism (strive for excellence within your timeline)
  • Don’t aim for an original idea (instead, synthezie existing information)
  • Leverage the power of journal articles (they are short and will be a lifesaver)
  • Create strict timelines with mini deadlines for research, writing, and editing

Can You Write a Dissertation in 2 Weeks?

It seems unlikely, but it is possible.

For example, if you’re writing a fashion dissertation and only existing research is involved, then you can finish it in 2 weeks.

If there’s extensive library research mixed with many revisions, then it’ll probably take months to complete your dissertation.

With that said, if you prepare properly and you’re ready for 10-12 hour workdays, you can get it done.

Here is how you can write a dissertation in 2 weeks:

  • Take the first 5-7 days to do some heavy research and prepare all of your notes.
  • The next step is to set up a daily target and focus on hitting it. Aim for between 1,000 to 2,000 words per day for 5 days.
  • It’s best to break it all up into smaller tasks while keeping the main goal in sight.
  • Lastly, you’ll want to take the last two days to proofread and edit your dissertation to make sure it’s 100% ready to go.

If your total dissertation is over 10k words, then adjust the daily word count appropriately.

The most important (and longest) part of a dissertation is the research and preparation stage. The better you handle this part, the easier you’ll find your whole dissertation experience.

This is a great video about how one woman finished her dissertation in a week:

Video by Derin Adetosoye via YouTube—When should you start writing your dissertation?

Can I Write a Dissertation in 5 Days?

This might seem like an even more impossible task, but it is possible.

You’ll be working harder and longer hours. You’ll need to schedule five days where you do nothing else but work on your dissertation without interruption.

The key is focus, organization, and getting your first draft written.

Two areas where you can save a lot of time:

  • Topic
  • Research methods

Probably the most important factor in getting your dissertation complete in five days is choosing your topic. I highly recommend that you choose a topic that you already know very well and have already researched.

Another time-saving tip is to choose faster research methods.

This means research methods where you don’t need to ask anyone else for information or wait for replies (such as interviews, etc).

Can You Write a Dissertation in 3 Days?

This timeframe can be a little tricky, but dedication and discipline can help you make it happen.

Remember to outline everything and figure out the length of your dissertation. If it’s 10,000 (or more) words long, then you’ll need to crank out over 3,000 words per day.

Get that coffee brewing.

You’re not the first person to write a last-minute dissertation, so just keep reminding yourself that it can (and has) been done.

These are my best tips:

  • Choose a familiar topic.
  • Accept that you will get very little sleep.
  • Write in frenzied bursts (I call these writing sprints).
  • Use writing tools like speech to text software (most people speak faster than they write).
  • Don’t stall for anything.

Let me emphasize the last point. Whatever you do, keep writing. If you don’t know something, skip it for now (or forever).

If you can’t find a bit of research, don’t waste more than 30 minutes looking for it.

Write whatever section comes easiest. You don’t need to write in order.

Always remember this motto: “Done is better than perfect.”

What’s The Fastest Way to Write a Dissertation?

This is probably the most common question among students who need to write a dissertation.

The fastest way to write a dissertation is by following these steps:

  • Select a Topic With a Proven Track Record—Ideally, write on a subject that you’ve thoroughly researched and writen papers about in the past (with good scores).
  • Get Organized—Use outlines and planning to save time and be more productive.
  • Time Boxing—Block out chunks of time (hours or days) for working on your dissertation. Explain to your friends, family, and co-workers to not interupt you unless there is an absolute emergency. Turn off your phone and get to work.
  • Use a good AI Writer—Not all AI writers are created equal. A good AI writer will generate complete and original, grammatically correct paragraphs based on your promts. With the right AI assistant, you can produce 3-5K words per day with no sweat.

You can also get dissertation help (from writing services) to finish as quickly as possible. However, this may get expensive and many people consider it cheating.

Final Thoughts

Some students complete their dissertation in 24-hours or less.

This usually does not include time for preparation, research, and defense. Personally, I don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to write your dissertation, but it’s nice to know that you can write one very quickly in a pinch.

Further Reading:

Sources

American Psychological Association (APA)
Science.org