Self-Revising the Dissertation

Today, I’m proud to share with you a project that’s been on my mind for a long time now: a video presentation detailing the steps I took to revise my own dissertation. Sometimes it’s difficult to dive right into revisioning and redrafting (the components of revising) because there’s no clear first step. Every PhD has found a way through the mire; as I’m in a position to share my approach, I’ll do just that.

Revising from the Standpoint of a Developmental Editor

To bypass the hemming and hawing that can accompany the academic revision process, I ultimately drew on my training and experience in developmental editing. That approach allowed me to accomplish several important tasks all in one phase:

  • solidifying the argument from the ground up and restructuring accordingly
  • sharpening the thesis and its many permutations
  • addressing faculty feedback
  • polishing the writing
  • adding almost 100 pages of content

I emerged from this process with a defense draft of my dissertation that was stronger than the previous version in every way. To accomplish such a total overhaul, I had to have a way in; otherwise, it would have just been too daunting to start.

Sharing My Revision Experience

I surprised myself with how much I was able to improve my dissertation in a span of two months, so I have for some time known that I wanted to dissect and relate my experiences for others’ benefit. It’s what we all do: having accomplished, we look back and extend a hand to those who are following the same path.

The resulting twelve-minute video presentation details the process I used so that you can employ the tactics when next you face a draft—dissertation or otherwise—that needs serious attention. I call it “How I Self-Revised My Dissertation.”

Now, I’m firmly convinced that writing should be a collaborative process. As I even wrote in the acknowledgments of my dissertation, single-person authorship is something of a myth. Why the peculiar “self-revised,” then?

Certainly, I didn’t update my draft in a vacuum. Addressing the feedback of my committee, for instance, was a highly involved step in the process and one of the most meaningful. I use “self-revised,” however, to emphasize that the video includes tips that anyone can employ, regardless of outside feedback and guidance—or lack thereof. In other words, you can do this.

At this link, you’ll find a fully narrated strategic plan derived from the process I followed. I show how I diagnosed, dissected, nested, and fleshed out my dissertation draft, which, quite honestly, had major problems. (That’s why we revise: early drafts tend to bite.) The video is closed captioned, too.

My idea is that you can watch, take notes, and decide which steps fit your project, approach, and timetable. Then you can really get cooking on your next draft!


In the video, I mention several resources for you proactive revisers out there:

These and other tools are available in the Tweed resource library. And, as a handy bonus, this is a handout of the slides from the video presentation.

Just Move Forward

That’s what I want for us all: the cessation of ceasing, the end of stagnation. There is always a way to move toward our goals, but sometimes—especially when we’re going through a process for the first time—it’s not immediately clear. We have to wade in, and that’s all I describe in this video: how I assessed the situation, waded in, and lived to tell the tale.

After you watch, please let me know what you think! Email me or leave a comment (here or on YouTube).