How I Use a Journal for Dissertation Work

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been largely absent on here because I’ve been very busy with my dissertation, work, family and friends visiting… you get the idea. But, I just defended my dissertation yesterday and am enjoying a weekend off before I finish writing my paper, due in at the end of the month! I use a journal to stay organized with my content and on track.

First off, a little disclaimer: what I have isn’t really a bullet journal. I tried to bullet journal once and my perfectionism was having none of it. I was never satisfied with my layouts and content and was constantly tearing pages out, it was a real source of anxiety for me. However, it does somewhat resemble one and these ideas might fit nicely into bullet journal layout for the organized student.

Without further ado, here are page types I have:

Contact information: Because I would be kind of in the shitter if I lost it. For obvious reasons, I’m not including a photo.

Table of contents


Timesheet: So I can see how much I actually work on my dissertation so I know whether to celebrate or pick up the pace over the weekends.


“Braindump”: Basically just my ideas pages.


Dates to remember: An overview of when deadlines, meetings and my holidays are until my final report is due in.


To do list: This is the biggest one… small tasks to be done to chip away at my monster of a paper. My tasks will often fill two pages every week!


Meetings and workshops: Notes from my meetings with my supervisor and any other useful information I gather from workshops that can help me with my dissertation.


Tables and graphs: I like to print out up-to-date tables and graphs as it helps me visualize my data and keeps me from going from document to document and sheet to sheet looking for one particular set.


Back-up log: An addition that should have come much earlier… I keep track of the date and where I’ve most recently backed up all my work if, God forbid, my laptop craps out on me.


Photo by Jess Watters.


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