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Dissertation Plan

Designing a comprehensive dissertation plan is a critical element in successfully researching and writing a dissertation. A dissertation plan is not to be confused with a dissertation proposal, which is a paper the student submits to the dissertation advisory committee proposing a topic and research methodology for the dissertation. A dissertation plan is a blueprint for carrying out the work necessary to complete the dissertation process successfully and on schedule.

The most important aspect of the dissertation plan is the schedule. The student should look at the time period between the present date and the date on which he or she plans to finish the dissertation. When the student has determined the overall time period for the dissertation process, he or she should then attempt to estimate how much time each aspect of the process will take. In many cases, the nature of the research study may dictate a certain time period that will be required. When estimating the time needed for the study, the student should consider doubling the estimate to compensate for unexpected complications and delays that may arise. Successful dissertation plans must be realistic about the time that will be required.

Next, the student should estimate the time that will be necessary to outline and write the dissertation. The student's decision regarding the outline will depend on his or her attitude toward outlines. Some students prefer to create highly detailed outlines, while others work from very minimal outlines. The student's dissertation plan should reflect his or her outlining preferences.

The student can estimate the time required to draft the dissertation by comparing the desired word or page count with his or her own typing speed. If the student is an accomplished typist, he or she may complete the draft more quickly than a student who types slowly. As with the research portion of the dissertation plan, the student should allow more time than seems necessary.

The student should remember to account for other responsibilities when creating the dissertation plan. The student may have a job, a family, volunteer commitments, and other constraints on his or her time. The effective dissertation plan will leave room in the student's daily schedule for other responsibilities. In general, it is best to be conservative when estimating the speed with which the student will be able to complete the dissertation.