We recently posted about some useful workbooks and manuals designed to make dissertation writing, dissertation editing, and dissertation formatting easier. But there are plenty of other books out there that aren't specifically about dissertations that can still be useful for dissertation writers. These are some of the books about writing that helped me the most when I was writing my dissertation.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

We read chapters of Lamott's classic Bird by Bird in my very first class in graduate school. Since then, I've frequently assigned it to my own students. Lamott's book is important for dissertation writers because she acknowledges that writing is hard. Sometimes, you don't feel inspired to do it, but you have to do it anyhow and just get it done. Through anecdotes about her own life as a writer, and through practical suggestions, she helps you get through the tough parts of writing something as ambitious as a dissertation. Lamott advises writers to work through a project “bird by bird” - that is, a small piece at a time. While her advice isn't specifically about dissertations, this tip can make writing a dissertation feel more achievable.

Peter Elbow, Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing

Elbow is a composition teacher, and the author of a number of books about writing. In Vernacular Eloquence, he shows how we can use the same sentence structures that we use when we speak in our writing. He's not advocating for a simplistic or colloquial approach, but rather a more natural approach. Elbow argues that by speaking, we learn to use language well, and we can use those same skills in good writing. It's an empowering approach, especially for dissertation writers who may not think of themselves as writers, or who may find writing difficult.

Susan Rabiner, Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published

Rabiner's goal in this book is to help authors write non-fiction that gets published, but she has good tips that can apply to dissertation writing, as well. Specifically, her advice to use simple structures to communicate complex ideas is an excellent framework for creating scholarly writing that is effective. She also discusses how to be persuasive in pitching an idea. This skill can come in handy for dissertation writers in the dissertation proposal stage, when writing abstracts for conference proposals, or when writing grant proposals.

Books about writing are great, but no replacement for expert, personalized coaching. A dissertation consultant can work with you to help you realize your academic goals, and a dissertation editor can help you develop a polished dissertation that will impress your committee. If you need dissertation help or dissertation services, we're here for you.


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- Debra F.

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