Ph.D. Thesis Writing Tips from Experts

Has it been three years already and you’re feeling like the walls are closing in on you, or the air is getting thinner? Or do you still have all the time in the world to write your thesis? Well, time does matter because the more of it you have, the better this article is going to be of help to you. Be that as it may, even if your time is limited, your situation has a cover, but you’ll still strain and run around as you attempt to make ends meet; I think this should be the first tip – make the most of your available time.

Ph.D. thesis has been written for decades now, and many postdocs have thought it kind to share their experience with those still in the process. Below you’ll find the finest advice and guidelines from those who have already made it.

  1. Preparation

Usually, you’ll have around three years to work on your thesis. It’s a lot of time, or is it? It depends on your plan. The first thing you should do as soon as you are aware that you should be working on your thesis is to consider all the resources you have at your disposal and how you are going to utilize them. Efficiency should be a factor here. Time is perhaps one of the most valuable resources you have at your disposal. You’ll find that it will play a vital role in influencing the degree of stress and frustration you’re likely to experience during the process (Hayton, 2012). Consider the research that will be necessary, the experiments, and equipment that you’ll need to facilitate the process. These are your other resources. You should have a general plan that will involve how you’re going to work with all these resources such that by the time your thesis will be due, it’ll be ready for submission.

James Hayton, Ph.D., wrote his entire thesis within three months (Hayton, 2012). He owes this achievement to adequate preparation. Hayton spent three years doing his research, experiments, and taking note of anything that could require in the process of writing his thesis. Because he had everything he needed in place, writing his thesis was a simpler task since he just needed to convert all the knowledge, results, findings, and skills acquired in writing. That’s the power of good preparation.

  1. Making work Easy

Make use of reference managers, project management software, and any other tools that will prove useful during the process of writing your thesis (Cannon, 2017). A decade ago, you would have had to do many things manually, or you would have had to take many steps to complete a process. Today, you’re even encouraged to make use of applications tailored for specific tasks. If there’s any process involved in the preparation or even writing of your thesis that has an application that can make the procedure run smoothly by saving time and money, by all means, use it. Three years may seem like a long time, but you’ll be surprised how fast time passes by. Besides, you have other things to do than writing your thesis. If you save time and energy by making use of aids that quicken the process, you will have extra time and energy to produce a better thesis, as well as to do whatever else you like.

  1. Consider the Ways of your Institution

If you’re working on obtaining your Ph.D., the chances are that you are part of an institution of higher learning that has developed its own culture and ways of doing things; particularly citations, references, and formats for various academic writings. Also, the chances are that you too have your way of doing things, and if your way conflicts with that of the institution, you’re likely to go through a painful process of doing things repetitively. It is not amusing in any way, manner, or form. Unless you want to find that out the hard way, it will be wiser to give priority to the customs of your institution and ensure that you observe whatever formatting, citation, and reference styles they prefer (Curl, 2016). In case you need clarity about anything regarding the formatting and alternative preferences of your institution, your supervisor ought to be in a position to provide all the help you’ll need (Cannon, 2017).

  1. Establish a Good Relationship with your Supervisor

Your supervisor is the key to making the thesis writing period a smooth one. If you have a good relationship with them, they’ll be able to provide you all the help you’ll need. You don’t have to be their best friend or pester them with irrelevant things like being in their office now and then.

To begin with, check with them if they’ll be comfortable reviewing the drafts you’ve written for a chapter before proceeding to the next one. Instead of doing an entire draft of the thesis and then giving it to them for review, it’s better you do a chapter and then have them review it first before doing the next chapter. It will help you understand any formatting styles preferred by your institution, as well as getting used to the particular writing style your institution wants (Patel, 2016)? By having your supervisor review one chapter and then later making any revisions necessary, by the time you’ll have written a couple of chapters, your thesis will have fewer mistakes – if any. It’s better to correct one chapter, than correct an entire thesis that took months to write.

Developing a good relationship with your supervisor will make them more willing (even if they don’t find pleasure in the task) to lend a hand where possible.

  1. Stress Management

Writing a professional PhD thesis is not a walk in the park. Things can get stressful and frustrating at any moment (Harrison, 2010). Things are normally tough for most people when they are starting. Most people are not sure what to do, where to start, what they want to write about, and how to do it. Then there are the research and experiments. That can be especially tough when you have limited resources for conducting the necessary experiments or research you want. There’s also laziness. Without motivation, most people just get stuck in procrastination, and the next thing you know, time is almost up, and your thesis is due. At other times, things start on a high note and then when you are halfway done with your thesis, you get stuck somewhere. It happened most of the time when you expected something to go one way, but then things turn out completely different or something else that you had not anticipated just shows up and complicates things which happen during the last stages of preparing your thesis. Perhaps you already did your drafts and finished, and then you realize that something is wrong. Maybe the results of an experiment were not accurate due to some unexpected variable. It’s things like this that mostly leave people stressed and frustrated. Sometimes the stress is so intense that people just get paralyzed and unable to make any significant progress (Harrison, 2010).

It’s in this light that it would be beneficial for you to come up with an effective stress management strategy (Harrison, 2010). Firstly, relax and focus only on things you can control. It’s pointless worrying about things that are beyond your control. If you know yourself well enough, it would be beneficial to identify the best stress management techniques that work for you and employ them during this period. Something else that will prove very helpful is employing a helping hand. Team up with a friend, colleague, or alternative partner and make a pact to check in on each other to see the progress being made. Your partner doesn’t have to be a Ph.D. student in the process of writing a thesis like you. It just has to be someone you’ll be accountable to and who’ll care about you enough to check on you per your agreement to ascertain that things are running smoothly.

  1. Be Real

Be authentic. You are an individual, and you are you, so be you. You have your unique style, personality, character, and lifestyle. You have your way of expressing yourself and doing things. So don’t get stuck in doing things mechanically that your work seems it like was done by a particular already known individual, or worst of all, a computer. Chip in some of your personality and style but always within the guidelines of your institution. It will make your work original, interesting, and above all, your own (Hope, 2012). Anyone who knows you or who will ever read your thesis will feel your spirit, and they’ll henceforth identify that style as yours and always recognize it wherever they read it.


Cannon, L. (2017, January 20). Tips for Writing a Ph.D. Thesis | Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences UTHSCSA. Retrieved from Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences:

Curl, I. (2016, April 6). 10 tips for writing a Ph.D. thesis | Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved from Time Higher Education (THE):

Harrison, S. (2010). How to write a Ph.D. in less than 3 years: a practical guide. Bloomington: AuthorHouse.

Hayton, J. (2012, February 28). How I wrote a Ph.D. thesis in 3 months. Retrieved from James Hayton Ph.D.:

Hope, D. A. (2012, July 16). Surviving a Ph.D. – 10 Top Tips | The Thesis Whisperer. Retrieved from The Thesis Whisperer:

Patel, S. (2016, November 16). 10 tips towards Ph.D. thesis submission – Ph.D. Life. Retrieved from Ph.D. Life:

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