Your PhD is a performance with many acts. Don’t get stuck on one scene.

Writing a PhD isn’t a linear process, but we often treat it like it is. We often think, ‘when I finish writing the literature review I can move on to the theory framework and only when I’ve written the theory can I move on to methods, and so on…’

The danger of working in this way is that you can get stuck. You can spend so long trying to make one chapter ‘perfect’ in the mistaken belief that you can’t progress until you have done so that you fail to progress in your thesis.

The PhD writing process isn’t linear. Parts of your literature review or theory framework chapters for example may only become clear to you when you’ve written your conclusion, but for as long as you treat it linearly, you cause unnecessary headache.

What’s the solution? It’s easy: write as much as you can of a chapter or section before moving on, but if you find yourself struggling with a particular line of argument or to make something fit, leave it and come back it later once you’ve worked on other parts of the thesis.

You’ll likely find that everything becomes clear at a later stage, when you’ve ironed out details in other chapters. Make the problem your secondary concern and move on to other parts of the thesis. You’ll find things just ‘click’ into place.

Draft chapters are just that: they’re draft. Accept that a draft is unfinished and only needs to be ‘good enough’. Move on to another section and chapter and make a note to come back and revisit the sticking points at a later date. You’ll be amazed at how simple the problem seems when you do.

Good luck.

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