College of Liberal Arts

Dissertation Boot Camp

Thu, Apr 25, 2019

Summer 2019 Dissertation Boot Camp (LA 380L) sessions: 

June 6-20, 9:00am-12:30pm  Instructor Dr. Erica Whittington

July 15-30, 9:00am-12:30pm  Instructor Dr. Kristin Gilger


The overarching goal of the Dissertation Boot Camp is to provide graduate students at the dissertation-writing phase with the strategies, framework, and tools that they need to be highly productive and to complete their dissertation projects successfully. The course was originally proposed to the College of Liberal Arts by a group of Graduate Coordinators. It was piloted in the summer of 2013 and has been offered each summer since then. In summer 2016, the Dissertation Boot Camp expanded to two sessions to accommodate demand. In 2019, we have admitted 37 students from 18 departments, equally divided between first and second summer sessions. The course is designed for Liberal Arts doctoral students who have successfully defended a dissertation prospectus or completed their comprehensive exams. Students who have completed some or all of their dissertation research will benefit the most from the course, which provides group support during a time period that is often solitary and stressful.


The Dissertation Boot Camp is held during the summer, meets daily for two-and-a-half weeks, and begins with a workshop presented by writing specialists from the University Writing Center (UWC). The daily meetings include structured 2- to 3-hour writing blocks, editing and peer review, discussions about writing techniques, and presentations on time management, wellness, and work-life balance. A light breakfast is provided each day before students meet as a group with seasoned faculty and graduate coordinators, who share their experiences and address the strategic and procedural aspects of writing a dissertation. Students also meet individually with writing mentors from the UWC and are given access to a dedicated writing room in the CLA building, where they can work individually or in writing groups formed during the course.

During the Dissertation Boot Camp, students are expected to write roughly 2-3 pages per day, completing one 25- to 35-page dissertation chapter by the end of the course. They assess their strengths, weaknesses, and writing preferences in order to develop long-term writing strategies. They experiment with a variety of time management techniques for effectively handling a large writing project like the dissertation, and practice organizational skills and generative writing techniques. Finally, they provide constructive criticism of their peers' writing, consider aspects of effective communication with their dissertation supervisor and committee members, and develop strategies for balancing personal wellness, both physical and mental, with academic and professional demands.

Past attendees have written an average of 34 pages during the Dissertation Boot Camp. 

For more on how to jumpstart your dissertation, see:

Contact Erica Whittington ( with questions. 



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