Dissertation Camp

We provide the support. We provide the time and space. You provide the writing.

Graduate students with approved proposals are eligible to apply for Dissertation Camp or Workshop.

We offer a week-long Dissertation Camp at least once a year (typically in April/May). It is announced by email from the office of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.

Dissertation Camp will

  • provide a week of intensive writing designed especially for doctoral students in the process of writing their dissertations
  • provide an opportunity to get advice from and interact with experienced writing consultants
  • describe and provide practice in strategies that facilitate drafting and completing a large document
  • assist with developing and enacting a sound, productive writing schedule
  • be a support group for PhD candidates from a variety of disciplines

Dissertation Camp will not

  • provide proofreading or focus on sentence-level editing or other matters related to standard written English
  • extensively cover discipline-specific matters of formatting or presentation
  • serve as a replacement for ongoing communication with your dissertation director and committee

A day at Dissertation Camp

  • will include morning coffee/tea and lunch at no charge
  • will be led by an English Department faculty member experienced in working with dissertation writers
  • will have discussion and handouts on resources and best practices
  • will involve uninterrupted “hands-on” writing time (facilitating a “feel for” what a productive writing schedule is and can accomplish)
  • will review the day’s points and practices

Dissertation Camp requires

  • that your dissertation proposal has been accepted by your committee (i.e., you have passed the overview defense)
  • a refundable $50.00 registration fee paid by personal check to the University of Pittsburgh; this fee is refunded at the end of Boot Camp if you attend all day for all 5 days. If you register but do not attend, or do not attend all 5 days, the $50.00 fee is not refunded. (One-day workshops do not require a deposit.)

Do not delay when an event is announced; Dissertation Camp is limited to 18 participants: “first-come, first-served!”

For alumni of these events, we offer monthly writing days.

For further information contact: Ellen Smith, Coordinator for Dissertation Boot Camp.

Dissertation writers at the University of Pittsburgh reflect on their experiences with Dissertation Camp and Writing Days:

“Dissertation Camp was one of the most productive writing weeks I've ever had. Not only did it provide structured time for writing (with great food and coffee!), but the facilitators did an excellent job sharing helpful strategies and tips. I highly recommend this wonderful opportunity for dissertation writers.” Molly Nichols, English, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

"After a year of on-site research, I knew I needed to shift into writing, but I didn't know where to start. Dissertation Camp gave me my first taste of real dissertation writing, in a structured, supportive environment. I also learned, for the first time, the awesome feeling of satisfaction that comes from having written for a full day, without distractions. Now I don't even miss Facebook!" Alexandra Oliver, History of Art and Architecture, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

"Like most challenges in life, the first step is the hardest when it comes writing your dissertation. The Dissertation Camp helped me not only to start writing my dissertation, but it helped me plan out my dissertation writing for the next few months and set realistic long term goals for my writing. The supportive atmosphere of the staff and fellow graduate students also made it a valuable experience. The graduate students at the camp were from a diverse set of disciplines, but we were all were struggling with similar problems when it came to writing a dissertation and finishing graduate school. Writing a dissertation is a daunting challenge, but the Dissertation Camp provided a supportive environment to begin my journey towards finishing my dissertation." James Gardiner, Geology and Planetary Science, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

"The Writing Center is a really good resource to catch up with advanced software on managing literature, to learn about taking notes, and to keep from getting lonely while writing. It is good to start even if you are in the early stages of graduate school." Nana Zhang, Biological Sciences, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

"Writing the dissertation can be a lonely experience. Dissertation Camp, and subsequent Writer's Days throughout the semester, provides an invaluable sense of community. I always  write more on these days because I'm in an encouraging, supportive environment surrounded by others doing the same work. My dissertation owes Jean Grace and Ellen Smith a great debt." Deirdre O'Rourke, Department of Theatre Arts, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

"Dissertation Camp provided structure and minimized distractions for a productive and focused amount of time. It also provided a group of peers that made writing seem a little less lonely." Dave Peterson, Theatre Arts, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences