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How Long Should Your Dissertation Take

How long should your dissertation take? The answer: not as long as you think. Most of the time academics confuse time with quality. When a project takes a long time, it's almost always believed to be more valuable than one completed more quickly.

This belief becomes very obvious in the dissertation process. It is widely accepted that it might take one, two, (or more) years to craft, execute, and analyze a dissertation worthy research question.

While this is common belief, it is incorrect.

Here's why:

Most dissertations can be completed in a year or less, with two exceptions. The first (and most obvious) exception is when your study will require data collection or longitudinal research over a long period of time. For example, if your research design requires observation over a two year period, you won't be able to complete the dissertation in a year or less. Makes sense, right?

The second exception to the year or less rule is if you do not work consistently on your dissertation. Similar to exercising at the gym, you must show up regularly to achieve any lasting benefits. You do not expect to work out once and remain fit for the whole rest of your life. Likewise, you can not expect to work on the dissertation in a random manner and believe you'll finish quickly.

Aside from these two exceptions, though, you can be finished (or extremely close to it) with twelve months of extremely focused effort. Of course, some of you are putting in extremely focused effort, but there is one more thing missing: a defined plan.

If you don't know where you're going, you can not know when you'll arrive. This holds true for the dissertation writing process, and for life. If you do not know what actions to take, in what order, success will elude you.

Remember, do not confuse time with quality. If you were going to be given $1million dollars for finishing the dissertation in the next six months, could you do it? (Probably.) Wouldn't you be extremely motivated to finish, and do whatever it took to win the prize?

You very likely would.

Adopting that same mindset and approach to finishing your dissertation (whether or not you'll win the million dollars) is exactly what is necessary to finish quickly.

Your dissertation should take as long as necessary to create a good quality paper. This will require less time than you think.

Keep yourself on track by asking yourself, each day, "What's the fast track to dissertation completion?" and then take the next action that you can think of.

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