Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat 2022

Have you been waiting for an invitation to work on your dissertation? Dr. Wendy Carter-Veale is your “Head Coach.” We cordially invite you to join us on our Dissertation Writing blog! You’ve arrived at the right place. This is your page for making the most of your time here. You can finish your dissertation in 2022 if you make daily progress.


To begin, we’d like to congratulate all of our recent PhD graduates!
You can participate in the online Dissertation Writing Retreat from anywhere in the world. Students from various states in the United States and countries around the world attend the Dissertation Writing Retreat (DWR).

Our pre-registered participants are required to blog daily during their time at the Dissertation Writing Retreat and are encouraged to continue doing so until their dissertations are finished.
Please click here to join us online.


Introduce yourself by leaving a comment below (name, school, department.) You may use your real name or an alias. If you have a blogger ID, you may use it, but you do not need a username or password to participate.


Inform us about the project you’re working on and your objectives for today or the next few days. Blog every day, preferably twice a day (morning and afternoon/evening), to report on your daily goals, daily accomplishments, and daily goals for the next day.


We’ll repeat something we said before because it’s both important and true: Our graduates and participants pushed themselves (literally) to finish sections, get advisor approval for chapters, finish drafts, pass proposals, pass defenses, and turn in their final documents. These graduates have gone on to become professors, work in non-profit organizations, industry, and government agencies, and hold postdoctoral positions all over the world (e.g., France, South Africa, Egypt.)
Please return if you previously joined us and are still working on your document. We’re still here, and we’ll stay a part of the community that will support you! Make a list of your four-month goals and post them on this page. Online, you are not alone; this is your community. Concentrate on completing the task. “A good dissertation is a done dissertation” says coach Dr. CV.

120 thoughts on “Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat 2022

  1. My goal for today is to get as much of the medium level edits done as possible.

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  2. Checking in for day three. I am content with what I was able to accomplish yesterday and I have clear goals for today. I would like to finish formatting my dissertation document as much as I am able to with the chapter drafts I have now. The rest of my time will go to finishing this draft of chapter three. Yesterday I was able to complete the participants section and the sections on two of my measures. Today I am aiming to finish the sections on the remaining two measures I am using. I am excited to continue this morning.

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    1. Excellent Adrian, so you are working on Chapter 3 and doing formatting. Perhaps deciding to do the task that is easiest last so you have the focus for the task that require more brain power. Keep going proud of you.

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  3. FinalCountdown May 11, 2022 — 1:35 pm

    Good morning! On Day 3, I am feeling less panicked than I was at the end of Day 2 when I found a field of recently emerged literature that I needed to engage with. After walking the dog last night and sleeping on it, I feel better about where and how to incorporate this lit. I’m going to limit myself to skimming the 4 most relevant articles that I found, and add information on them to Ch. 2, my lit review. Then, I will figure out if I need to make any additional changes to Ch. 4 (Findings) based on this new lit, and go back to working on finishing the R&R style response to my advisor’s feedback on Ch. 4. My goal is to finish skimming the lit by 11am, adding it to Ch. 2 by the lunch break, and then working on the R & R response and sending it off at 3pm to give me 15 minutes to organize my questions before my 1-1 with Dr. C-V. I will then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening moving on to the edits that I know I need to make to Ch. 5 (Discussion), focusing especially on more international and ecosystem concerns. If I have additional time, which I don’t think I will, I’ll focus on general edits to whichever chapter strikes my fancy and/or starting an acknowledgements page, which I think will help me to focus on why what I’m doing matters as I consider all of the people who have helped me along the way and counted on me, as was discussed in the mini-workshop yesterday.

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    1. I here the music playing it is the final countdown. How are you rewarding yourself for this intense focus? What is your dog’s name…that walk helped you clear your thoughts. Give him an extra treat. Keep up the momentum this is very good.

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  4. Hafiz Nauman Akbar May 11, 2022 — 1:36 pm

    Hello all,
    Today I plan to work on table of contents, start chapter 1, and then go back to getting started on literature review.
    Best Regards

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    1. Hello Hafiz, After putting your TOC together you may consider doing an outline of Chapter 1. What are the major headings and subheadings for that Chapter. Doing so will help you to focus your writing.

      What does get started on the Literature Review mean for you? Have you searched, read and organized the literature in some systematic way and now about to begin writing. You may want to be more specific about what you mean regarding the Literature Review. I suggest making a list of all the tasks so you can keep track of the progress you are making. Have a productive day.

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  5. Letetsia A Fox May 11, 2022 — 1:49 pm

    Day 3: My plan is to finish making the edits on my literature review that were given to me by my advisor. I made a lot of progress on this yesterday and am close to being finished with this. I will also be working on fleshing out my problem statement and sending it over to Dr. CV. I already have a problem statement written up, so I will be going through the dissertation proposal cookbook to strengthen and edit my current problem statement. Last night, I found that I ran out of steam after dinner, and it was helpful for me to work on a smaller task like creating my reference page (which I had not started even though I have been working on my literature review for months). I will plan to work on this again from 6:15-8 because it still needs a lot of work.

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    1. Letetsia, great job keep it up. Use the same mentality after Thursday.

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  6. I was able to make the graphs I need and feel really good about what they look like! I’m integrating them into the chapter now, with labels and clear mentions in the text. My goal is to finish that before I leave tonight, so that I can spend tomorrow on the two harder edits I have left on this chapter, allowing me to leave here with a completed dissertation chapter.

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    1. FANTASTIC! I am so excited for you. This is great progress.

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  7. I completed the outline for Chapter 3, I was still having some formatting issues. I was able to set up a meeting with the ScholarSpace at the Graduate Library to figure out the issues. I going to begin working on Chapter 1 outline tomorrow.

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    1. LastSprint good for you for seeking help with the formatting. You will not be getting a degree in formatting but you can’t get a PhD without it. Welcome to day 4.

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  8. Today I was able to complete a full draft of chapter 1 (literature review). I now have to go back in to make minor edits and work cited but I am TIRED . Going forward I think I will either work on my acknowledgments section to gain more energy or by some miracle go into editing advisor feedback for chapter 2.

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    1. Imanijoyce be bold and be confident as you begin to write that section about your contribution. Welcome to day 4.

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  9. Today, I polished up the completed table from yesterday and added it to my dissertation doc. I also started outlining what figures I want to include in my introduction and have started adding. Then I went back to my microscope info sheet and decided to add the material & reagents I utilized for all of Chapter 2. I have it 95% completed (assuming there may be some I missed which I’ll tackle tomorrow morning – “easy” category). I will now go through my methods section and update the information with it’s appropriate vendor and catalog no. For the remaining time, I will work on my second table. So far I have found some literature to help complete it.

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    1. Hello and Welcome to day 4. Congrats on getting the chapter to 95%. Make the most of the last day of the retreat.

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  10. Day 3. Today ‘s thoughts on helping me to stay motivated… What is helping: realizing (with the help of Dr. Carter-Veale) that I need to write two sections of my intro chapter each day to stay on schedule. What is not: looking at the weather forecast which is indirectly telling me to go outside. Tomorrow, I will remember the former, not think about the latter, and write my next two sections. If I do, then I will use the latter as my reward.

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    1. Brian, Begin with the end in mind. I love this approach and I strongly believe in rewarding yourself after completing your goals. Start a zombie list for the last reward trip up north. Good luck.

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  11. FinalCountdown May 11, 2022 — 9:23 pm

    Reading the new articles took me much longer than I thought they would (which I can’t believe still surprises me at this late stage of the game, LOL), so I didn’t get as much done as quickly as I hoped. But, I did read and take notes on the articles that I needed to, started figuring out where I needed to plug in those, had my meeting with Dr. C-V, and finished and sent to my advisors the R&R style doc summarizing my Ch. 4 revisions. Tonight, I’m going to put my in-text citations in alphanumeric order for a little zombie break, and then I’m going to insert the new material that I need to based on the new lit that I just read. Tomorrow, I’m going to start on the Ch. 5 edits that I want to make unless I get any feedback from either advisor before then, in which case I’ll address that first. I’ll also continue to work on reformatting it into OARD format.

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    1. Welcome to day 4 of the dissertation writing retreat. Good for you for getting it done and moving on to your Zombie list

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  12. With day 3 coming to an end, I have found that I am close to hitting the goals I set for the day. I will probably not be able to work on my “zombie task” of adding to my reference list, but I am fine with this because I spent some good time on making sure that I full address the edits that my advisor gave me. I had quite a few edits and she is very detail oriented, so these edits took up more time than I had initially anticipated. I also found myself getting stuck in some of the emotions surrounding my topic. As an alumna of an independent school who had primarily negative experiences, immersing myself in the literature can be emotionally taxing as it brings those feelings back to the forefront. I will continue working on not dwelling on the feelings, but simply acknowledging them and moving on.

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    1. Hello Letetsia and welcome to day 4. Good for you for acknowledging those feelings, reflecting on them, and more importantly movinng on. Dr. Tross talked about that yesterday in his presentation glad to see that you paid attention to his encouragement.

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  13. I set out to continue writing this chapter that I’ve been working on all week, and I’ve complete two-thirds of the chapter as of today. My goal for tomorrow is to make as much progress as possible for the last third of the chapter and, hopefully, finish it be the end of the day tomorrow.

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    1. Vi good progress. I believe you can complete that chapter today. Let’s agree that that is the goal leave today with a completed chapter. GO FOR IT!

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  14. Minority Motherwork Project May 11, 2022 — 10:44 pm

    I ended up editing my problem statement and using those edits to change different parts of the proposal so it was more in tandem with the statement. I did not make it as far through the proposal cookbook as I thought because my problem statement needed a lot of work. I am happy I took the time to edit it to create more harmony between different elements of the proposal. I added to my weekly memo to my adviser, and decided to use the time to focus on my research question. I am so happy with my progress this week (less in word count more in internal structure) that I decided to prepare for the literature review next week. I used my new research question and the template from Dr. CV to make the literature review spreadsheet.

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    1. Minority Motherwork Project, I am so happy for you. This is good progress keep at it!

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  15. This is the fourth day of the DWR. It is our final day. It was a pleasure to meet and converse with you all. This morning, we will conclude our two-minute elevator pitch practice, and this afternoon, we will hear from an alumna. In addition, I will deliver the mini-lecture “Preparing for Your Defense.”

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  16. Good Morning,
    My plan for today is to write a theoretical framework and code the data in NVivo. I am so thankful for this oppertunity.

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    1. Asi, very happy to meet you. Take the strategies from today and keep at it!

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  17. I will begin outlining Ch1 and processing some schematics that I have completed for grant that I was funded by.

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  18. FinalCountdown May 12, 2022 — 1:29 pm

    I did some general editing of the dissertation as a whole last night while doing the zombie task of changing the in-text citations, so I only got through Chapters 1 & 2, and didn’t get to inserting the new lit. Today, I’m going to start by emailing my advisors to see if I can still expect feedback on the draft as a whole from them today. Then, I will work on inserting the new literature in the places I identified. I hope to have that done by the lunch break at noon. Barring receiving additional feedback from my advisors, I will then focus this afternoon on making the edits that I’ve identified needing to in Ch. 5 (Discussion), finishing the zombie task of reformatting citations and doing general edits as I go, and doing other edits/reformatting to put it into OARD format. If I have additional time and/or need a motivating zombie task, I’ll start on my acknowledgements page. This should set me up well for being able to focus completely on making revisions from my advisors’ feedback for the next four days until the final draft is due on Monday.

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  19. Hafiz Nauman Akbar May 12, 2022 — 1:32 pm

    Hello all,

    Today I have to resume my work on chapter 1, focusing on “statement of the problem” and then following the rest of the outline.

    Following Dr Carter’s advice, I added this new task to the list yesterday to first outline the two chapters. I did that yesterday before leaving and that has certainly helped me to organize my thoughts around these sub-tasks.

    I am looking forward to finishing first chapter by the end of retreat today. For second chapter, I believe I will continue to work on it after the retreat.

    Best Regards

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  20. My main goals today are to organize the the task Dr. Carter gave me, complete and add the second table in my introduction. That will conclude the goals I set for the 4 days. I will then focus on editing the last 2 sections of my introduction (adding more info on the technology + microscopy). I want to add 2 figures – miRNA biogenesis pathway and sample well design. If I complete these tasks, I will start working on bullet points/rough draft of chapter 2 intro.

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  21. Minority Motherwork Project May 12, 2022 — 1:58 pm

    This blog exercise is so helpful I decided to start my own writing log to maintain after this ends. It felt good waking up this morning, and only allocating a certain amount of time to email so I could log in to the meeting on time. I was admittedly nervous about my pitch, but the time I spent preparing was helpful to also see if elements in my proposal outline were clear and consistent with it. I don’t have as many pages as I thought I would, but the internal framing is solid. After completing the pitch exercise also feels like my work is finally legible since my colleagues were able to repeat my overall topic back to me, with additional words like “village” to convey the phenomenon I am trying to describe.

    The proposal cookbook is only supposed to take 2-4 hours, but it has taken me longer because I keep returning to my actual proposal to make some changes. I say this to express that it is really helpful in the process of editing the material I have. I hope to spend the morning and afternoon just finishing the book so I can really focus on just writing tomorrow and in the weeks after.

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  22. Hi all! Today I’m plugging away on this chapter. I’m about half way through this last third of the chapter and I think I’ll be able to finish the draft by the end of today. If I’m able to finish before the end of the day, I plan to begin outlining my theory chapter.

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  23. FinalCountdown May 12, 2022 — 9:39 pm

    Thank you so much for making this retreat available to us and sharing all of your expertise! It was incredibly helpful, and I got a lot done and was able to overcome some of the blocks that have come up as I’m finishing. Best of luck to everyone, and thank you again!

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