Remember, a done dissertation is a good dissertation.
Many graduate students are in the home stretch of dissertation writing, and you are probably exhausted. You’ve written one of the longest documents you have ever or will ever write, and while you can see the finish line you know there is so much more to do. Make sure you have these five tasks out of the way, so that you don’t hit any preventable roadblocks.
Make sure the dissertation is properly formatted: Every school has different expectations, so make sure you know yours. Hint: the formatting is probably NOT what your current word processing program defaults to. Also, you’ll need a title page, the acknowledgments may be required to be in a certain spot, etc.
Have your documentation in order: Make sure you bring your signature sheets to your defense, and if there is anything that can be signed before the defense, have it signed. Also, make sure you know who is supposed to sign it. It’s not necessarily just your committee – it can include a department chair, for instance.
Ask someone else to read it: This can be an academic editor, your roommate, partner, grandmother, or whomever. If you’ve made it to the home stretch, you probably have a good dissertation. To be realistic, you probably do not have time to make major changes. So have someone read it just to make sure it makes sense. That paragraph you revised at 2am when you woke up panicked that you wouldn’t finish in time probably reads like gibberish, and you’ll be happy that you caught that before your committee does.
Check your citations, especially if you are using citation software: Is your Endnote library going to work properly when it’s time to import all those citations? Is your Endnote library up to date? You’ll only end up frustrated if you wait until the last minute.
Decide if you want the university to embargo your dissertation. When you complete and submit your dissertation, you’ll be asked if you want to make it publicly available via ProQuest. There are certainly pros and cons to making your dissertation available. If you intend to publish research based on your dissertation, the reasoning goes that an embargo is a wise idea because an editor will not have an incentive to publish material that is already publicly available. For instance, if you write a book closely linked to your dissertation, why would anyone buy it if they can access the dissertation for free? This is of course a decision you should make after talking with your advisor, peers, and mentors.
Remember, the dissertation is an enormous intellectual project, but it is also an administrative task. It’s this aspect that graduate students often forget about amidst the anxiety and excitement of finishing. So do yourself a favor and make sure that your checklist is complete, so you can really enjoy the feeling of being done!