Writing projects, especially lengthy ones like dissertations and books, are hard work. There are lots of moving parts and changing ideas we need to keep straight to express our thoughts clearly.

Advisors, committee members, and publishers sometimes make suggestions or set requirements whose purpose can be difficult to understand. It can be hard to break up such a large project into manageable pieces. Setting a reasonable schedule and sticking to it is also hard.

Take the dissertation, for example. It requires several specific kinds of evidence to be presented in fairly standard forms. To write a quality dissertation, you need to be able to learn and juggle each of those items and many more. It’s no wonder that the task often feels overwhelming. Advisors, research, writing, schedules, evidence, literature reviews and methodologies—it may feel like too much for a single person to master

That’s when you need to ask for help. Maybe getting help is as simple as asking someone you trust to listen to you vent after an emotionally draining week. But sometimes, help needs to be more formalized, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s why dissertation and writing coaches like the ones at Defend & Publish exist.

In the early stages of particularly long projects, you may find yourself struggling to formulate a topic or articulate research questions. Later, you might be unsure about how to write a strong literature review or to figure out what a massive pile of data actually means. Toward the end, you may need help with navigating your committee or general formatting and editing requirements. These are all places where a coach legitimately can help shoulder the weight of finishing a dissertation. Similarly, book projects and even academic articles for publication can benefit from a coach’s eyes.

Working with a coach isn’t cheating. Coaches offer necessary support and guidance so that you can successfully complete important professional writing tasks.

Action Steps

  1. Think about what kind of help you need: a friendly ear, a surrogate advisor, a writing coach to help you maintain balance or a productive pace.
  2. Act early. Don’t wait until you’re drowning in your dissertation or other writing project. It’s easier to finish a project well having started it with support than to have to regroup in mid-project. (But it’s also better to regroup in mid-project than to flounder alone!)
  3. Contact a coach like the ones at Defend & Publish who can help with a wide variety of issues throughout the writing project process from conceptualization to completion.