When you begin your postgraduate degree, you commit to submitting a thesis at the required standard before you graduate. Failure to submit a thesis on time results in prolonged periods of misery and serious stress because of years of delay in completing this project.
Submitting a good thesis is difficult but not impossible. Personally, I was unable to find a practical, useful methodology to guide me along my way, so I created my own.
As your academic year begins, the assignments, activities or the thesis itself will cause you to struggle. You will have setbacks and disappointments, but you will experience feelings of achievement and success if you put in the work and seek help when you need it.
The most crucial action you can take right now is to reorient your mindset and get your systems in place. This will be the foundation from which your planning will evolve.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.”
Many times, in my practice as a coach, I’ve watched students with the appropriate systems and daily habits succeed beyond their own expectations. Many of their peers who push back against planning and working in discrete, incremental sections, struggle to stay afloat from day one.
The task of writing your thesis is the proverbial banquet that you can’t consume at a single sitting. No matter how smart you are, I assure you, there is no way to get the best result without breaking the project down into logical, manageable sections. This approach precipitated the synthesis of The Dale Method.
The Dale Method is built from a unique blend of evidence-based coaching, psychological theories and personal experience. It is a tried and tested formula for academic success, for any year of study, or for writing your thesis itself.
The 6-phase methodology addresses all the elements of postgraduate study, resulting in the student feeling in control throughout the year: (1) timelines; (2) sacrifices and contracting; (3) habits and motivation; (4) planning; (5) psychological challenges; and (6) PACT. These phases are not linear but cyclical and flexible in nature; the individual moves in and out of each phase depending on the immediate challenge.
It was inappropriate for me to structure the book into a chapter for each of the six phases. These are ever-present throughout your thesis process.
I emphasise that the book is a practical guide which focuses primarily on the overall process and necessary systems for achieving your deadlines. It does not provide help with specific content or how to conduct a sound study: this is the work of the student and their supervisor or any other leading expert in the field of research. I use the term ‘supervisor’ synonymously with ‘advisor’ or ‘chairperson’.
The difference between success and failure in any endeavour is motivation. Once you divide the overall project into its logical components and complete these, the consequent feelings associated with success will maintain a high level of motivation.
This book is geared to master’s and PhD students, but the principles and techniques have been successfully used for those on any other academic quest. For this reason, I trust that the material will be used for years to come as the new crop of students face future challenging projects. For consistency and readability, I use the term ‘thesis’ interchangeably with ‘dissertation’ and ‘research project’.
I hope this book offers practical guidance and motivation during your thesis journey. My aim is to provide you with confidence and techniques to alleviate misery, stress and anxiety. In addition, I wish you the most rewarding study year: enjoy the process, savour the learning, be authentic, and most importantly, stand up for what you believe in.