Photo of computer, coffee cup, pad of paper, pen, iPhone

Are you a procrastinator who suffers from writing anxiety?

Try one of the following writing prompts. Writing prompts are a way to brainstorm your project and have a record of your thoughts. Using these prompts are a way to “word vomit” onto the page. This is not the time to be perfect. This is not the time to make sense. This is the time to be silly and creative. Write down whatever comes to your mind without judgment. 

Here are my top 25 most useful writing prompts for dissertation writing:

  1. I most hope to write . . .
  2. I am most curious about . . .
  3. I am most excited about . . .
  4. I am most interested in . . .
  5. What is this chapter/section/paragraph about? 
  6. The purpose of this chapter/section/paragraph is . . .
  7. What’s my best current guess about what shape this chapter is going to take?
  8. What bothers me most about this chapter, and can I think of any answers to my worry? 
  9. What is the problem you are trying to address?
  10. In plain English, what are you really trying to say here? 
  11. How do the characters in this story change? 
  12. How did our understanding of the world change based on this data?
  13. What is going on here? 
  14. What did you learn?
  15. What was surprising?
  16. What is your argument?
  17. Why do we care and why is this important?
  18. Why are you telling us that?
  19. If your data could talk, what are the questions you would ask it?
  20. What is the data asking you?
  21. What does your hunch tell you about the data?
  22. What misgivings do you have about the data?
  23. What are you worried about?
  24. What are the counterarguments? 
  25. What are the gaps in your argument?

This brings me to the next issue that many graduate students face when writing: Time and space. Are you having trouble dedicating time to writing your dissertation? Do you lack the quiet space to do so?

Try out these writing prompts at​ at our dissertation writing retreat from August 12-15 in the UMC Aspen Rooms. In this four-day coffeehouse-style workshop, you will get the time and space to finish that final push on your dissertation before the fall semester begins. A writing consultant from the Writing Center will also be available on an on-demand basis for one-on-one meetings to workshop papers, dissertations and theses. And the best part? Free breakfast and coffee are provided each morning. 

Space is limited, so reserve your spot in the dissertation writing retreat today.

Here are some additional tips for how to make writing prompts work for you:

Pick a writing prompt, set a timer for 15 minutes, and go. When the timer goes off, you are done. The rest of your day may be filled with literature reviews or revising. But you have completed at least 15 minutes of productive writing. 

Do what works for you. Maybe that means writing with a notebook and pen before you even get out of bed. Maybe that means doing your daily 15 minutes before breakfast. Maybe that means doing your 15 minutes before checking email. Maybe that means writing before bed.  

Set up positive reinforcing rules for yourself. Maybe that means no phone or screen time allowed if you don’t complete your writing goal for the day. They key is to give yourself a reward every time you finish your goal. 

Contact & Information

For more information on the dissertation writing retreat and other writing support services, check out the Graduate Writing Program. 

Check out all of our professional development opportunities.

For any questions or more information, email Sarah