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What is a Dissertation Boot Camp?

Boot camp is a week-long opportunity for students currently writing dissertations to set writing goals, practice disciplined writing habits, learn new strategies, and connect with other dissertation writers. It’s offered several times per year and is intended to help graduate students make significant progress in their writing and their sense of community.

What do participants do each day?

  • Set SMART goals for the week before the camp begins and post those goals publicly.
  • Arrive physically or virtually a few minutes before their camp begins.
  • Spend a few minutes meeting other campers in discussing goals and plans for the day.
  • Experiment with the daily writing strategy or explore a resource shared by a Writing Center staff member.
  • Enjoy several blocks of uninterrupted writing time.
  • Review and update their writing goals for the week.
  • Spend a longer time at the end of each writing period reflecting on the process and developing a supportive community of peers.

When is the next camp?

Virtual camp:

  • July 22-26, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Sept 23-27, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Register below)

Virtual boot camps are open to all and can be repeated as often as you’d like.

Please note: We’re experimenting with a slightly flexible attendance policy for the virtual camps. We realize that some commitments are difficult to move or cover, so if you can commit firmly to the rest of the week, we’ll welcome you. Please register but indicate when you won’t be there on the registration form. That’ll help us organize discussion groups. Thank you!

In-person camp: October 14-18

  • Meets in the Writing Center, SASB North lower level, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Registration capped at 20 participants
  • First-time participants have priority registration. Returners should email to be added to the wait list.
  • Full commitment is required (no coming and going)
  • Registration fee is a non-refundable $20, which includes refreshments and lunch daily

Please note: “First-timer” means it’s your first time at the in-person camp. If you’ve only done the virtual boot camp, you’re considered a “first-timer” for the in-person camp. Click the appropriate link to participate:

Please be sure that you’re subscribed to the Graduate School Professional Development newsletter for updates about future camps.

What have previous boot campers said?

“I feel like I can actually write this thing, and that it can be good. Not only can I write it, but I can do it in a sane and enjoyable way.”

“I feel positive about my paper again. My brain is actually willing to think about my project without flying instinctively to other thoughts.”

“It was great to be surrounded by other students in the same situation. It made me feel less alone.”

“This was fantastic and by far the best and most useful workshop I have attended as a graduate student. I have already recommended it to all my friends and colleagues!”

You should register for boot camp when you are…

  • Actively engaged in the writing phase of your dissertation.
  • Ready to spend a total of 15 hours just writing (three hours each day for five days).
  • Able to commit to arriving by the starting time and staying until the end on all five days.

You should not register for boot camp if you are…

  • Not yet actively writing text that you plan to include in your dissertation.
  • Seeking a class or workshop about dissertations—what parts they have, what they should look like, step-by-step instructions for writing one, etc.
  • Not fully and reliably available on all of the specified dates.

Would you like to run your own boot camp?

We recommend participating in a Writing Center boot camp to get yourself into the groove. After that, connect with other campers (or colleagues who couldn’t make it here) to keep the momentum going in your own self-run boot camps. See this page for tips and tools.

Nuts and bolts

  • To be notified when boot camp registration opens, join the Graduate Student Professional Development list by sending an e-mail to with “subscribe gradevelopment” in the body of the message, leaving the subject field blank.
  • For questions about registration, contact Vanessa Dorriot Anderson at the Graduate School.
  • For questions about boot camp activities, contact Gigi Taylor at the Writing Center.