Writing Habits: A Dissertation Group

This group was ongoing in 2016 and 2017 at Old Dominion University.


This group is hosted by the English Graduate Organization (EGO) and facilitated by me. While the group focuses on daily habits for dissertation writing, it’s open to all English PhD and MA students, because these habits ideally begin early in graduate study.

What It Is

Our group reads in order to learn about research on those daily habits that support productive writing and timely dissertation completion. During our discussion of the readings, we focus on behaviors: experimenting with a range of potential strategies, discerning which strategies work best for each of us, and cultivating those strategies as habits. Between meetings, participants practice self-selected strategies. Also between meetings, as I encounter other relevant readings online, I post these via Pinterest and Twitter via #DissIn15.

What It’s Not

This is not a therapy or support group; it is not a place to exchange, workshop, or seek feedback on the dissertation itself. But of course anyone in the group can start another group to serve these purposes!


We meet once a month at a regularly scheduled time. For the fall and spring semesters, we are meeting on the first Thursday, as follows:

Past meetings & readings:

  1. 02/16/16 — Introduction to Joan Bolker’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day
  2. 03/15/16 — Chapters 1 & 3
  3. 04/19/16 — Chapter 6
  4. 05/10/16 — Chapters 4 & 5
  5. 06/21/16 (led by Dr. Phelps; Dr. VanHaitsma away)
  6. 07/12/16 — Chapter 8
  7. 08/09/16 — Chapter 9
  8. 09/01/16 — Managing a Dissertation and a Classroom; Dissertating While Working; The No-Fail Secret to Writing a Dissertation
  9. 10/06/16 — “Writing Research Memos and Dissertation Journals” from Before the Dissertation: A Textual Mentor for Doctoral Students at Early Stages of a Research Project by Christine Pearson Casanave
  10. 11/03/16 — Leading by Exemplar: The Benefits of Asking Good Questions about Other People’s Writing by Robert B. Desjardins; “Insider Persona” in Voice: Practical Suggestions for Doctoral Writers by Susan Carter; Doctoral Writing and Feedback: Moving on from Negative Emotion by Susan Carter (h/t Daniel L. Hocutt)
  11. 12/01/16 — Completing Your Dissertation without Tears from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center (h/t Diane Cooke)
  12. 02/02/17, 7-8:30 p.m. — Joan Bolker’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, Introduction & Chapter 1
  13. 03/02/17, 7-8:30 p.m. — Chapter 3
  14. 04/06/17, 7-8:30 p.m. — Chapter 4


The meetings are held at a distance, via Zoom, which EGO arranges.


My goal is to help interested students to develop a community of proactive dissertation writers whose regular writing habits support successful, timely, and hopefully enjoyable completion of dissertation projects.