Counting the Cost

Consider the following advice when thinking about a potential project:

Be Realistic about your Timeline.

We all know that writing takes time.  But how much time a project will require is sometimes difficult to judge, especially if you have no prior experience with an extended project.  Consider that you will need ample time for research (exactly how much research is hard to say from the beginning), including time to clarify your specific topic.  Be sure to budget plenty of time for secondary literature review, as well as time to reflect on primary sources and develop your own thoughts.  You must have sufficient time set aside to write initial drafts of important chapters and sections for review by an advisor or reader, and you will then need time to respond to their feedback, rewriting some or all of your initial work and conducting additional research.  After taking stock of the full scope of work required, consider that there are many other important responsibilities in your life that require your time and attention.  How will you project with work responsibilities, family and community relationships, rest and recreation, and spiritual well-being? 

Clarify Realistic Goals.

As you take stock of your available time, energy, and interest for your project, consider also the purpose of the final project.  Do you want to publish your work as an academic monograph, or are you content simply to submit your dissertation and complete the PhD?  Is an article to be published in a respected journal, or could you publish it more easily on the web?  These goals will tighten or relax the requirements and pressure you feel and the pace at which you write.  Give yourself freedom to avoid perfectionist tendencies and decide on a responsible goal for your writing.


Choose an Interesting Topic.

Since you will be spending a significant bit of time reading, thinking, and writing about your topic, choose a topic that interests you.  Topics that are interesting are also usually important—whether to how people think, how they live, or both.  Finding a topic about which you are especially passionate is an excellent way to infuse your academic work with zeal, focus, and momentum.

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