Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat Blog


Welcome to your virtual Dissertation House and Writing Retreat

Congratulations on making it to the Dissertation Writing Retreat (DWR).

In the era of Covid 19 where we are all at home possibly sheltering in place, we
still have goals that we want to accomplish. With the COVID-19 coronavirus
wreaking havoc across the world, for instance PhD completion provides
universities with the opportunity to participate in a virtual Dissertation Writing
Retreat. As part of Dr. Carter’s Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished (TADA!)
program and the Dissertation House at University of Maryland, Baltimore
County (UMBC), we have always had an online component for graduate students across the
globe who could not participate face to face.

The focus is the same: The Dissertation Writing Retreat activities focus on
places where students typically have problems: conceptualizing a topic,
developing a pre-proposal, writing a literature review, writing a proposal,
analyzing data, writing the last chapter, and editing.

The purpose is the same: The program is designed for doctoral students who
are writing their dissertation proposals, first dissertation chapters, or who have
found their writing progress stalled, or who desire expert guidance and the
opportunity to join a community of dissertation writers.

The commitment is the same: Students accepted to the Dissertation Writing
Retreat will commit to attending a writing session from 8 a.m.-6:00 p.m.,
Monday-Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. See below for detailed daily

To participate, you will be asks to blog twice daily at the start of the day and the end of the day. On the first day you will be asked to posts answers to the following questions:

  1. What will you work on?
  2. How much time will you spend daily working on it?
  3. Tell us how much progress you are making, or problems you are having.
  4. At the end of everyday plan what you want to accomplish the following day

Ready, Set, Go… You can tweet your participation with #phdcompletion

427 thoughts on “Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat Blog

  1. Day 3: My plan for today is to flesh out my new lit review spreadsheet with general papers for chapter 1 and specific parameters for the papers that will be relevant for subsequent chapters. Chapter 4 has the least amount of work done so I will focus on fleshing that out more today. This will include deciding on sub sections for results and determining if any experiments need to be completed before making this chapter “complete”. definitely not aiming for perfect but shooting for enough to defend in less than 51 days!


  2. Carmen Varela May 12, 2021 — 1:44 pm

    Last night I finished up entering in my references for the lit rev section that I am working on into the excel sheet. Today I plan on getting a rough draft written for that section and maybe start on organizing my references for the next section. Fingers crossed!!


  3. Restructuring the methods to meet the needs of potential data.
    Tomorrow Meeting with IR and Advisor. Continue restructuring methods after data possibilities are discussed.


  4. Jessica P Montoro May 12, 2021 — 9:06 pm

    Finished theoretical framework for papers 2 and 3, still working on the writing 1 page of ERI and 1 page of SCI for chapter 2. Looking forward to a productive evening!


  5. I found it difficult to concentrate today. I have managed to narrow down my references for affect theory. The theory itself is connected to a debate in the humanities because it draws from neuroscience and related sciences. I didn’t want to get bogged down in this discussion but didn’t want to ignore it, either. This theory is fundamental to this chapter, so making sure I know what I’m writing about is essential.

    After establishing this, I plan to write a few paragraphs about recent research into fan communities and then transition into talking about the specific context of the fan community I am examining for this chapter.


  6. Good afternoon,

    I’ve been working on my statement of the problem today. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made today as I am almost done with the document. I plan to send it off tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll begin working on my literature review.



  7. Third day of the retreat, I really got into some of heavier and more mathematically abstract papers and articles that I’ll be adding to my literature review. These took longer to chew through than I had anticipated, a minor setback. I forge onward nonetheless.


  8. I was able to brainstorm ideas on what theories to use for one of my variables and I created a system to organize my literature review.


  9. Today, I reviewed the literature and retrieved 16 articles and thus far have summarized 10 of them. I plan to search more articles and wrap up my search for articles today. Hopefully tomorrow, I can get all of them summarized in the early morning, and complete the introductions to Chapters 3 & 4 most of the day. I can then outline my discussions and fill in the outline for chapter 1 with articles tomorrow evening.

    Thank you again for the insightful guest speakers and the frank candor of their experiences and the willingness to speak to us about not only personal but also professional experiences.

    Warm regards and have a lovely night, everyone!


    1. PS- I will of course also start summarizing tonight as much as possible but I want to focus on my search for now.


  10. After meeting with Dr. Carter-Veale, I slightly adjusted my goals for today. I restructured a section of the introduction and read 2 articles. Though I did not get to outlining the literature review, it still feels like a productive day. Progress is progress, no matter how small it is!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Baby steps are still step as long as you are moving forward.


  11. Hello, everyone! Today I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. C-V for the second time and get some very helpful feedback on my writing. Prior to the meeting, I worked on revising my ToC & Problem Statement, and gathering and organizing literature. The feedback I received helped me develop an action plan to create a living outline for my work as I progress forward. I plan to add organized bullet points into my ToC (that I’m transforming into a working outline) to organize my literature review. This will help me ensure that my paragraphs *stay on topic* and contribute to my overall argument. Thanks for the support, feedback, and guidance today (and all week)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Day 4 starts tomorrow I look forward to seeing implement some to the tips, tools and strategies.


  12. Carmen Varela May 12, 2021 — 9:37 pm

    Today I planned on getting a rough draft made for one of the sections of my lit review. While I got a few sentences down, it wasn’t anywhere near what I had hoped to accomplish. I realized (after talking with Dr. C-V) that I had spent a lot of time today doing zombie activities that I could’ve reserved for when I was tired. As someone who struggles with putting my ideas into writing the traditional way, Dr. C-V gave me some great advice and showed me some tricks and alternative ways that I could get words on paper. I plan on trying out some of these new methods tonight and see if I can make further progress in my writing. Tomorrow I will focus more on actually getting words (and paragraphs :P) written.


    1. Carmen good for you for working late and coming up with an alternative plan tomorrow.


  13. Moving PhorwarD May 12, 2021 — 10:11 pm

    I completed the edits for chapter 3, including additional descriptive tables. I have started a list of questions to ask my methodologist regarding some of the tables (what order he would like variables in, etc.). I also had to order the transcription of an audio file that I never got transcribed. This evening I will work on a timeline for how I can continue this momentum over the next ~50 days, so tomorrow I can spend with deeper edits to chapter 1.


    1. Sounds like a plan and sounds like you are becoming the project manager of your dissertation.


  14. Today was power packed. This morning Dr. Carter-Veale reviewed preparing for and doing your dissertation defense. Everyone please remember when the committee is discussing (arguing) over any point you do not and should not respond unless and until called upon to respond. Also please read your dissertation before the defense let it be fresh in your memory.


  15. After meeting with Dr. CV again I adjusted my goals to prioritize making a list of zombie tasks (rather than keeping them in my head), making a timeline for my 13 days/chapter goal && finding ways that work for me to finish this work once the retreat is over. We got this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it. Tick tock 50 more days starts tomorrow.


  16. The Two Minute Elevator Pitch:
    John Maxwell talks and writes about connecting with others. That two minute speech should not just communicate but connect with the listener. When you connect with the listener they remember and are more likely to respond to a call to action. So decide who you are and how you want your research to be received. In other words why is your research important/relevant to the listener. How does it impact their life or the life of someone they may know. What is the value in it for them. Know what you need related to your research and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
    Write out your research pitch and be comfortable with it.


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