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Should You Limit Yourself on the Number of Dissertation Drafts to Be Completed Before the Final Submission?

Most exceptional pieces of writing, no matter what type of writing, will have had a number of drafts before a final version. The trouble, of course, is knowing just how many drafts are required to write an effective paper.

Given that most graduate students will likely be working on their dissertations up to the days prior deadlines, it stands to reason that there isn’t much room to write four or five drafts.

But even if you had the time would you want to write as many drafts of your dissertation or would it be better to limit yourself to fewer? The answer is that you should limit yourself to no more than three drafts: A rough or beginner’s draft, a second draft, and a final draft.

Rough or Beginner’s Draft: A rough draft of beginner’s draft is an opportunity to write down all of your ideas freely without being inhibited by correct spellings or proper grammar. A rough draft will usually be a lot longer than your final dissertation and will include several extraneous pieces of information, facts, and quotes. This draft will also have several repetitive parts and run-on sentences. It’s okay. This draft is an important way of getting it all down on paper so that you can review and organize. Many students skip this draft phase, even though it’s quite simple and makes writing the entire dissertation a lot easier.

Second Draft: Despite being called a second draft, this is actually your first attempt at a clear, well-written version of your dissertation. Using your outline and beginner’s draft as guides, this second draft should be organized with section or chapter divisions, an introduction and conclusion, transitions, and otherwise be close to what you might have considered handing in to your professor if you were first starting your college-level education and only expected a passing grade. This second draft incorporates the largest improvement of writing in all of the stages and might actually several rewrites as you go section by section.

Final Draft: When looking at published works, students forget that they are reading the final, revised and edited version of someone’s writing. Your second draft may look complete, but if you were to review your work line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and section by section, you would find a number of misspellings, punctuation mistakes, and inconsistencies throughout. It may not seem like your final draft looks all that different from your second draft but making all of these small edits go a long way in helping you write a superb dissertation.

Systematically writing several drafts may seem a little awkward or time consuming at first. But if you’ve gotten this far academically you will likely recall that some of your best writing benefited from more than just a couple of drafts. Sticking to the above will help you become a more productive writer. You’ll find that writing this way becomes second nature, and you’ll get a lot more quality writing done in less time.