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Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final Text (my reading notes)

Over the past six weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the PhD journey. Mine wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t say it was a nightmare. I made a commitment to read more stuff about how to better guide my own doctoral students, and I’m sharing what I’m learning with the world too. The more books I read on the topic, the more I come to a realization: we need to learn how to mentor doctoral students. Our own experience isn’t enough.

When I received my copy of Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final Textby Peggy Boyle Single, I had exactly the same thoughts about the book as my good friend, Dr. Luis Alvarez Leon, and by Professor Jon Henner did: somebody approved that book cover.

BUT, this is a perfect example of that old saying “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”. Single’s book is magnificent, and despite the fact that she’s a former student of Robert Boice, she seems much less strict than Boice. Most of us who write about scholarly prose have both praised and sometimes criticized Boice for his blanket approach to solving writers’ block, as outlined in his “Professors as Writers” book and other work he’s done. Single calls her nicer, kinder set of strategies, “The Single Method”. Many strategies Single suggests I’ve already applied in my own work and passed on to my own students.

Single’s Method is very similar to mine, though she has her own quirks and I don’t think I would ask my students to follow all her routines.

If my doctoral students write in the book format, I ask them to clearly identify 3-4 contributions. I do the same if they consider the 3 papers format (3 manuscripts for publication in journals). At any rate, all three should (combined) posit a Throughline (as per Germano): a coherent thread that

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