1. Talk with your professors about areas of need or research gaps in your field. Your professor may have a topic he is hoping that a student will research. This is an ideal situation because of the aid and encouragement he will naturally give you along the way. If you can agree upon a topic early in your program, you will, of course, want to take as many courses as possible with that professor to address topics related to your dissertation.
2. Ask your professor to connect you to likeminded professors. Professors who think in likeminded ways, even if in another discipline, will help build your base of contacts and may serve on your dissertation committee later. They can also give you new models and paradigms for examining your work from a different perspective that will prove helpful.
3. Talk with fellow students about their projects. Find the scope and sequence of those dissertations being written in your field. Decide where you fit in to the conversation. Identify the student who is most likeminded or has a related topic and connect with him from the beginning of your work.
4. Start with questions. If you aren’t sure of your topic, or don’t have a professor who will help identify these gaps in the research, take note of the questions others are asking. Those questions will help you identify where the research gaps are and engage you in the conversation that exists in your field.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask your professor if you can focus an assignment toward your interests. For example, request to do a project in a different way in order to meet some of your research needs. Professors like for you to connect with the subject matter of their course and often will be impressed with your vision how to integrate a course into your work.
6. Compile a bibliography as you go. This will serve not only as a bibliography for your dissertation but also likely your resource list for comprehensive exams. Keep this research close at hand throughout your course work. This bibliography can be foundational for your literature review as well. Having the major books of your research reviewed ahead of time can take one of the biggest chunks of time out of your dissertation writing.
7. Have a clear vision moving forward. Go ahead and write your abstract or thesis statement so that it will not only guide your research and writing but also your course selection and thinking toward your dissertation.
8. Take advantage of opportunities to present your research at professional meetings. There is no greater way to get to know your work and bring focus to it than to teach or present to others. The comments and critique will most certainly prove helpful as you write and develop the direction your writing will take.
9. Work with each professor. This is the beginning and end of successful class work as well as dissertation writing. Good relationships make working together easier. This will benefit you not only as a student but also later when you are officially a peer!
— Dr. William, Edit911 Staff