Books and Software for Dissertation Writers

We have identified some books, software, and websites that have been useful to writers of dissertations. This page offers you a brief introduction. But don't read books about writing your dissertation instead of writing your dissertation!

Books

How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul A. Silvia

Finish Your Dissertation Once and For All: How to Overcome Psychological Barriers, Get Results, and Move on with Your Life by Alison B. Miller

Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the Conversation by Irene L. Clark, Alfredo Mendoza, Chakarat Skawratananond, and Artis Walker

The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer's Block by Hillary Rettig

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis by Joan Bolker

The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books by Eviatar Zerubavel

We think that Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams (and Joseph Bizup) helps writers understand what on the page makes writing easy or hard to read. We highly recommend it for any writer.

Citation, Note-Taking, and Content-Generation Software

Pitt makes Endnote available to you. This software allows you to create a library of sources that you can then cite in your writing. It will automatically format citations and bibliographies in the style that you choose. Mendeley is free software that works in similar way and may be a better fit for you, depending on how collaborative you are as a researcher. The University Library System offers regular instruction for both Endnote and Mendeley. You can read more about both at the ULS site.

Evernote allows you to organize your own notes, files of many kinds, and Internet finds. You can add it to your browser to easily save pages or clippings. Apps allow you to synch your notes across platforms or to annotate files, organize contacts, and more.

Scrivener is a content-generation tool for long documents. It helps you organize and develop your content and it keeps track of your research. It allows you to look at your work in many different ways and even manages drafts.

Xmind is free open source software that allows you to do detailed and sophisticated mind mapping. (A professional version is available to buy.) Some writers find that mind mapping allows them to articulate their ideas, draw connections in productive ways, and plan work.

Productivity Software and Websites

Have you ever wished you could just turn off the Internet so that you can work without distraction for a while? Freedom allows you to do that. You specify the number of minutes that Freedom should block your access to the Internet (and email!). This low-cost software is available for Mac and Windows.

If you are a Mac user, Self Control can allow you to block your own access to any distracting aspects of the Internet while still allowing you to do online research.

Rescue Time will not only block sites, but it will also analyze your computer use and tell you how much time you spend, for example, writing and how much on surfing, Facebook, or email. By helping you better understand how you use your time, Rescue Time can help you make better choices.

The Pomodoro Technique relies on using segments of timed writing (using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, perhaps) to structure and advance your writing. Focus Time is a fun app that works with the Pomodoro Technique. Instead of using a kitchen timer, this app helps you to work for four twenty-five minute sessions (with a short break between each segment), followed by a longer break at the end. The app also presents you with statistics on your writing time.

Write or Die is an application that allows you to select incentives and disincentives to drive your work process. Incentives include music you like, for example, while disincentives—which appear when you are not keeping up with your goal word count—include annoying sounds and colors and having all the vowels removed from your words.

750 Words encourages you to write at least 750 words a day. You type directly into a page at the website; you can then export it to your word-processing software. Your writing is private, but you have the option of publishing your word count via social media. The site tracks your producivity and even makes it possible to keep track of other aspects of your life (movies you have seen this year, for example) if you wish it to.