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Graduate Studies

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Dissertation Boot Camp​

Boot camp [noun]: a short, intensive, and rigorous course of training (Oxford English Dictionary)


The Oxford English Dictionary defines “boot camp” as  “a short, intensive, and rigorous course of training”.  The Merriam Webster offers this definition: “a program or situation that helps people become much better at doing something in a short period of time”. 

The Dissertation Boot Camp is designed to enable you to make substantial progress in writing your thesis in a supportive and distraction free environment and to join a community of other thesis writers.

To achieve this goal, you’ll spend the majority of your time writing, with breaks for snacks, and lunch.  Each day begins with a very short presentation on practical tools and strategies to use during the week.   To help you make the most of your commitment, the Boot Camp organizers will create a supportive and encouraging writing environment that is specifically designed to help you be productive and write free of distraction—no Internet access and cell phone use except during lunch break, quiet, conversation free space and fresh and healthy food —to enable you to concentrate on writing.  You’ll eat lunch with other graduate students from across the university who are also writing theses. 

Our expectation is that you will arrive every day of the Boot Camp with materials prepared and pre-work done to enable you to focus on writing. The two most significant components of this pre-work will be, first, to plan your goals for the week (meeting with your supervisor to discuss these goals may be useful) and, second, to organize the materials (articles, notes, data, charts, etc.) that you will need to bring with you to Douglas Library so that you can write without interruption. At the Boot Camp, you can expect to write between 5 and 6 hours each day.

During the five days, you will also have the opportunity to sign up for 25-minute one-on-one consultations with the expert staff of Student Academic Success Services: Learning Strategies and the Writing Centre to get personalized feedback on your written work and advice on how to address any barriers you encounter in your writing.

How you can prepare

  • Decide which portion(s) of your project to focus on and set clear goals for the week (it may be useful to discuss these goals with your supervisor)
  • Gather necessary materials ahead of time
    • Hard copies or saved PDFs of sources
    • Your notes
    • Previous drafts/comments
  • Consider what you’d like to focus on during a 1:1 consultation

NB: Priority to attend the camps go to doctoral students and those nearing completion. 

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"I enjoyed the Dissertation Boot Camp and Thesis Persistence 101 programs that were offered by the SGS. These programs helped to keep me motivated during my candidacy exams and through the initial stages of dissertation writing. I was able to sustain the writing momentum that these programs generated, long after they ended. My favorite part was the friendly and supportive writing community that was formed during these programs. Not only did I get to meet some new friends in other faculties, but I also received useful support from sessions with learning strategists and writing consultants. Participants also had a fantastic cheerleader in Colette, the SGS Manager, who kept us all energized!"

Yi Mei, PhD Candidate, Education