The graduate writing stage

The graduate writing

Writing an essay, dissertation or thesis is often a writing project of unprecedented magnitude and can be a daunting task. Your most buried limits and fears can resurface. The writing background usually involves the ability to plan your daily goals and boost your motivation on your own. In order to properly complete this step, it is important to fully understand what can hinder the writing process. You can also consult the text Obstacles to writing at the graduate level in addition .


The blank page phenomenon represents the difficulty in organizing, planning and initiating the writing task, when the preliminary stages (research, reading, knowledge of the subject, etc.) have been completed or fairly advanced. It is manifested by a blockage, a discomfort, which can be composed of several emotional states: anxiety, fatigue, feeling of helplessness, guilt, impression of trampling and feeling of incompetence. To deal with these unpleasant feelings, the person may tend to turn to other tasks, which he feels more capable of carrying out.


The blank page phenomenon is rarely due to a single cause. Although it can occur in students who have already had this type of difficulty, it can also appear for the first time during higher education. Here are several aspects that can affect productivity at the writing stage. A first step to improving efficiency is to identify possible sources of writing difficulties.

1. Fear of failure

“I’ll never make it…I don’t have the skills, I suck!…”

The fear of failure can trigger diffuse anxiety, a feeling of incompetence or inferiority. It is often the consequences of failure that are anticipated (eg impact on self-esteem, career, judgment of those around you). Failure is often perceived in a very global way: performance becomes the yardstick for measuring your personal value.

2. The impostor syndrome

“I know deep down that I don’t have what it takes… sooner or later people will realize that I’m not smart enough…”

The impostor syndrome is a variant of the fear of failure and relates to the feeling of not deserving one’s successes, of believing that these are attributable to external factors (e.g. chance, opportunity), rather only to his own abilities or qualities. The person then fears that his shortcomings will be exposed. For example, a student may doubt his potential to pursue higher education and fear that by writing his dissertation, he will be unmasked by his supervisor.

3. Perfectionism and high demands

“I have to produce something superior to what is usually done…I have to write 10 pages a day and I will not take more than one day off a week…”

A perfectionist sets very high, even unrealistic standards, which generate anxiety. The pressure to reach these standards can lead him to impose rigid rules on himself or to wait until he is in an ideal disposition to accomplish a perfect job. In addition to this text, you can read: Perfectionism: when the best becomes the enemy of the good .

4. Self-censorship

“My manager won’t find it good… It’s not good enough, better start over…”

Self-censorship is a form of internalizing criticism, usually coming from authority figures (eg parents, teachers). It leads to self-censorship and to the immediate rejection of the ideas that come to mind. Some people will struggle to write a single sentence or question the choice of every word.

5. Procrastination

“I’m not inspired, I’m going to do this before I start…I still have time…”

Procrastination is the difficulty in getting to work, in disciplining oneself. It manifests itself in an irresistible impulse to run away from the work to be done, putting it off until later. It may stem from the attitudes described above, but may also be related to other factors. It implies, among other things, a difficulty in time management and organization. Leaking provides temporary relief, but as the delay builds up, the pressure to make up for lost time grows. Although it may have several sources, in any case, this blockage makes it possible to avoid facing failure and criticism. You can also consult the text Procrastination and interactive training on this subject .

6. Myths related to writing

“Writing well is an innate talent… It takes a refined vocabulary to produce a good text… A long text is better than a short one.”

Writing is a skill that is learned and developed through regular practice. Communicating the results of scientific work is an important skill to develop in graduate studies. Possessing a well-researched vocabulary can be an asset, but the use of a simple and precise vocabulary also makes it possible to clearly convey one’s ideas. Finally, even if the number of pages may at first sight leave the impression that the work required more effort and investment, a short and concise text can have more impact than a long, winding and redundant text. .


It is utopian to envisage writing a dissertation or a thesis in a few days or weeks, as could be the case for the written work carried out within the framework of your courses. The task is too great to be approached in this way. The phenomenon of the blank page can occur when the student has read extensively on a subject, without taking notes, which can then lead to a feeling of scattering and difficulty in selecting the relevant information and finding the vein of departure. Thus, do not wait too long before starting the writing, rather alternate the phases of reading and writing. Here are some strategies to promote greater efficiency.



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