There comes a time in every young (and not-so-young) Ph.D. student’s life when “the d-word” ominously looms over their academic careers. Um. Not that “d-word.” The other “d-word.” Dissertation. Fortunately, the Internet exists. No matter where you stand in the process, chances are you can wiggle your way out of it by consulting the following resources.
Presenting and Defending
- The Perfect Defense: The Oral Defense of a Dissertation:
Texas A&M’s Dr. Valerie Balester lectures on what to keep in mind when your dissertation defense requires public speaking, with information suitable for almost every major. You know she must be doing something right when even the YouTube comments are, for the most part, supportive and thankful.
If you’re unfamiliar with PowerPoint but feel it might improve your presentation immensely, check out how other students and educators are using the program (or similar slideshow software) for their lectures and presentations. Alternately, you might want to upload your own presentation so others might use it for research or reference purposes.
- The Best Defense…:
This essay by William and Matt Eventoff at Inside Higher Ed outlines some excellent strategies about executing the Best. Dissertation defense. Ever. Even if you’re petrified of public speaking.
- Presentation Zen:
While not exclusively about dissertations, Garr Reynolds’ blog Presentation Zen overflows with excellent advice about crafting effective visuals — something most Ph.D. candidates will surely need to know these days.
- Ten things I wish I’d known before I started my dissertation:
Maddy Potts shares with Guardian Blogging Students readers general advice about how to best approach your big dissertation defense day so your brain doesn’t implode from all the pressure.
- Google Docs:
Keep backups of your presentation materials and backups of your backups of your presentation materials here. You seriously don’t want Murphy’s Law kicking in before your scheduled defense day.
- How to survive a thesis defense:
Although hosted by the physics department at The University of New South Wales, the information Professor Joe Wolfe posted here resonates across major lines. He makes sure to outline in detail the sorts of questions and people you might have to maneuver once your dissertation defense begins.
- Toastmasters International:
Most doctoral candidates lack the time and money to join Toastmasters — and most schools provide personalized academic advice for free anyways — but the organization’s website still hosts some candid advice about effective public speaking.
- Presentation Magazine:
Public speaking and slideshow skills are the name of the game here, and graduate students might want to check out its online presence for tips on how to project confidence in themselves and their research come defense time.
- So You’re Defending Your Dissertation Tomorrow!:
Funny lady (and academic!) Gina Barreca simultaneously soothes nerves and delivers candid, last-minute guidance that you probably need to read sooner than the day before you defend your dissertation.
Public Domain and Open Source
- Internet Archive:
Home of the Wayback Machine and the largest online repository of public domain and open source media (including recordings, videos, books, software, and more), the Internet Archive makes for a great start when searching for valuable, reliable, and often first-person references.
- Project Gutenberg:
Especially useful for anyone looking for public domain books, letters, and essays in multiple digital formats.
- Open Culture:
While Open Culture’s archive of free lessons, books, and movies might not always work as primary resources — though film and cultural studies majors will no doubt adore the collection of free Hitchcock — they still work as quick supplements.
- MIT OpenCourseWare:
Should your dissertation happen to tie into any of the thousands of totally free courses available through the venerable Massachusetts school MIT, you’re in luck! They pull double duty as bibliography fodder and different perspectives on academic topics.
- YouTube Edu:
If it’s good enough for Ivy League institutions to post up their class lectures, it’s good enough for you to watch them and learn something.
- Creative Commons:
People use the Creative Commons licenses to share their creativity and educational expertise with one another, and dissertation writers might find images and videos to help punch up their points should they be allowed to take a multimedia route. You might even want to consider sharing your own charts and tables and other bits of research, too!
The peer-reviewed Merlot brings together higher education students and teachers from across disciplines with the intention of having them share and discuss their research. It’s also the home of the Open Textbook Project.
- iTunes U:
iTunes users and/or iDevice owners enjoy access to free videos, courses, podcasts, and other educational media straight from some of the world’s top universities.
- Libri Vox:
For visually-impaired students or their counterparts who prefer audiobooks, Libri Vox posts up completely free recordings of public domain literature.
A not-so-guilty guilty pleasure more appropriate for finding inspiration and experts than straight-up referencing. You might even get some ideas about crafting an effective presentation here, too!
Reference and Migraine Reduction
Your spell check won’t fix everything, so hit up one of the most trusted references for information about what word goes where. There’s also a thesaurus to help you avoid repetition, but make sure to know the connotations before pressing your findings into service in your dissertation and defense alike!
- Grammar Girl:
Since your dissertation is kind of one of the most important documents you’ll ever write and your defense is kind of one of the most important talks you’ll ever give, it’s probably a good idea to avoid some common grammar mistakes. Also probably some not very common ones, too.
- Expert Advice at GradShare:
GradShare, a social media site for graduate students, offers up a section with detailed information straight from experienced education professionals. Check out what they have to say about everything from choosing an advisor to picking a dissertation topic to actually writing and defending it.
- The Thesis Whisperer:
Twice a week, this blog-style newspaper delves into all the ins and outs of your dissertation, with globally curated advice covering pretty much everything graduate students need to know about the grueling writing and presenting process.
- To Do: Dissertation:
Just because Kathryn Linder stopped updating her blog doesn’t mean the archives, ebooks for Kindle, and general advice about the dissertation process have lost any of their value.
This collaborative blog and podcast brings together graduate students from across fields and schools to talk about issues pertaining to their experiences, including the dissertation and defense process.
Compile “lenses” of your online-based research – or counsel regarding writing and defending your thesis — and use them as a quick method of accessing necessities. The site heavily encourages you to share themed lists for the benefit of other users, too, and you might find some from fellow students, professors, and professionals within your chosen major.
Known primarily as a smartphone app, Evernote is also available for free online and acts as another excellent tool for organizing personal notes and interesting websites integral to your dissertation.
HTTrack users won’t panic when their internet decides to screw with their minds shortly before deadlines, because the software allows them to download entire websites for offline browsing and reading.
Designed for doctoral candidates hung up on some portion of their dissertation research or writing, Phinished provides a forum and chat function for crowdsourcing possible solutions.
- The Research Whisperer:
“Just like The Thesis Whisperer – but with more money,” the subtitle touts, and it’s pretty much truth in advertising!
- Google Scholar:
Because filtering through porn and spam only wastes your time, Google now hosts an engine exclusively dedicated to searching for legitimate academic abstracts and articles.
- Microsoft Academic Search:
Another valuable research tool, Microsoft’s answer to Google Scholar will also help you ferret out the best resources supporting your main ideas.
Pretty much every college or university out there subscribes to the massive JSTOR database, which hosts thousands of journals and millions of multimedia resources specifically curated for scholarly visitors. Snag the login information from your library and get to reading!
Ten thousand libraries across the globe participate in an international catalogue perfect for the doctoral candidate requiring something rare. In addition, subscribers can also compile lists and bibliographies as well as write reviews to help (or warn!) fellow students about specific holdings.
Take advantage of this free tool when polling and surveying groups small and large, though you have to pay if your project requires a more grandiose scale.
- Networked Researcher:
Social media offers up Ph.D. candidates a chance to exchange their findings with one another, and Networked Researcher provides them with advice on best practices as well as a blogging and discussion outlet.
- Literature Review HQ:
Learn all about how to get the most out of your chosen research materials through reading strategies that may very well grant you an edge come defense time.
If your dissertation involves interviewing experts outside academia, this ubiquitous social networking site dedicated to the professional life might unearth a few willing names and faces.
Look, we know that Wikipedia’s open editing structure isn’t always reliable enough to include in a bibliography or works cited page. But scanning through the notes so often reveals a treasure trove of truly legitimate citations that might very well work as scholarly references.
Download or print custom or ready-made “thinking trees” for organizing and outlining research before plunging into your actual writing.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab:
One of the most popular writing-related references on the web covers just about every formatting style and dishes out excellent advice about starting and finishing a most excellent paper. There’s even a series of exercises to help you loosen up before jumping into a hardcore project.
Create a bibliography in a flash, with multiple options conforming to multiple citation styles, and even pick up some tips and tricks about research along the way.
University of Nottingham’s Pat Thomson dedicates her entire blog to the art of writing academic papers (which includes theses and dissertations) and getting published in books and journals.
- Writing Theses and Dissertations:
This five-page writing guide by Yale University is simple, straightforward, and highly recommended for Ph.D. students a little overwhelmed by the intimidating document.
- How to Write an Abstract:
Before cobbling together a viable abstract, consult Berkeley’s easy-to-follow guidelines and read particularly standout examples from different fields.
- Thirty Tips for Dissertation Writing:
Steve Tjoa distills advice culled from a Rachna Jain workshop into 30 major points to keep in mind before and during your writing.
- Time Management for Writing:
Effectively managing your time and balancing your life is crucial writing the best dissertation you possibly can, so intently research Columbia University’s favorite recommendations from various experts.
- The Three Month Thesis:
James Hayton is all about streamlining and de-stressing the dissertation process without ever compromising on the quality of the research or writing.
Now that you’re finally done writing the crazy thing, ProQuest would probably be delighted to publish your dissertation — assuming your school doesn’t already require you to submit it!