University of Wisconsin–Madison

Dissertation Help

You are in the homestretch! The final step to graduation is writing your dissertation – no small feat. In addition to the essential support and feedback that your faculty advisor, mentor, and committee members will provide, be sure to take full advantage of the following opportunities.

Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp

Summer 2018 Writing Camps

Camp 1: May 14-18, 2018
9am–3:30pm (Monday-Thursday), 9am–1pm (Friday)
Location: Helen C. White Hall

Camp 2: May 21-25, 2018
9am–3:30pm (Monday-Thursday), 9am–1pm (Friday)
Location: Discovery Building

The UW–Madison Writing Center and the UW–Madison Graduate School are pleased to sponsor two Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camps during May 2018. Acceptance in the program is competitive, and participation is limited to twenty (20) dissertators per camp.

The Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camps are made possible through the generous funding and support of the Mellon Foundation, the State of Wisconsin, the UW–Madison Graduate School, and the UW–Madison Writing Center.

  • Camp Description

    The dissertation writing camps focus on three core components:

    1. They provide participants with intensive, focused time to write in a supportive atmosphere amid other writers.  Those selected to participate must attend the entire camp and should plan to write for at least five hours every day.
    2. Since research shows that successful research writers talk about their work and that talk is essential for effective writing, participants have multiple opportunities to discuss their work.  Writing support is provided in the form of one-to-one conferences, in which participants can discuss any aspect of their dissertation writing process with Writing Center instructors. Participants may be expected to occasionally share their writing with other camp participants.
    3. Dissertation writing camps offer brief daily writing exercises and workshops on topics such as setting realistic goals, managing one’s time, organizing a major project, obtaining useful feedback, and staying motivated.
  • Value of Writing Camp

    Writing a dissertation can feel like a mountain you have to climb to finish your PhD, and often, one that you’re climbing alone. But graduate students at UW–Madison can embrace that journey with a group of other dissertators at the Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp.

    The dissertation writing camp, which takes place each year in January and May, provides students with dedicated time to write and discuss their work with peers, while also engaging in workshops about goal-setting, time management, and staying motivated.

    “Being able to focus all my energy and time to writing and [being] in an environment where others were motivated to do the same made all the difference,” said dissertator Chelsea Blackburn Cohen, who participated in the writing camp in January.

    When she applied for the camp, Blackburn Cohen wasn’t close to being finished with data analysis for her thesis, which focuses on the forced displacement of academics worldwide due to the political or ideological nature of their intellectual work. Being accepted to the camp prompted her to prepare her data. During camp, she was able to write almost an entire analytical chapter.

    A partnership between the Writing Center and the UW–Madison Graduate School, along with funding from the Mellon Foundation and the State of Wisconsin, make the camps possible.

    “The Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camps are intended to help dissertators develop effective writing habits; gain practice with setting and achieving writing goals; and experiment with new strategies for planning, drafting, and revising their dissertations,” said Nancy Linh Karls, who directs and coordinates the camps.

    She added that participants benefit from the peer support offered by other dissertators in the camp and from individual consultations with Writing Center instructors about their writing.

    In addition to providing extra motivation for many students, the camp serves as a support group. Fei Sun, a dissertator in the dairy science program, said being a dissertator can feel isolating if you’re the only one in your department. For Sun, being around other dissertators at the camp makes him feel like he’s not alone in his journey.

    “I’m surrounded by 20 other people who have the same goal, and meanwhile we’re supported by the instructors if we have any questions,” he said.

    As an international student whose first language is not English, Sun said the camp showed him that writing a thesis in English is difficult for international and American students alike.

    “I would highly recommend more international students apply and participate in this camp,” he said.

    Dissertation writing camp participant Katherine Robiadek said she became better at being her own coach through the writing process. She said the workshops led by Writing Center instructors helped her recognize her own approach to writing while also improving her style.

    During writing time, participants can choose an area where they can talk with peers while working, or sit in a quiet space to work alone. Robiadek selected the quiet space, knowing that is how she works best. But at the end of each day, she said coming together with peers from units across campus to reflect on her progress was a valuable way to work toward her goals.

    “That interdisciplinarity was really helpful to get us outside of our own departments,” she said. “We were able to really riff on each other and play off each other’s experiences.”

  • Eligibility Requirements

    Participation in UW–Madison’s dissertation writing camps is limited to UW–Madison dissertators. Acceptance in the program is competitive, and each camp is limited to a maximum of 20 participants. You are eligible to apply for dissertation camp if you meet all of the following criteria:

    1. You have achieved dissertator status
    2. Your dissertation proposal has been approved
    3. You have a vision for your overall project as well as for specific chapters
    4. You have completed the research or data collection that is needed to underpin the writing you will do in camp
    5. You have drafted at least one chapter of your dissertation
    6. You have your advisor’s approval (see below)

    Applicants will be selected based on their anticipated time to degree completion, the importance of dissertation camp at this stage of their project, and to ensure broad disciplinary representation.

  • Application Process

    The Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp application has two components:

    • an online application form, submitted by the applicant;
    • an online advisor endorsement form, completed by the applicant’s advisor.

    The application process is managed entirely through an online system, available at the UW–Madison competitions website, Scholarships@UW. To apply, visit and then click on the “Visit My Scholarships” button on the left-hand side of the page and log-in using NetID, if necessary. The online application system allows you to start your application and return to edit and update it any time before the deadline. The application will become available on February 19, 2018. All parts of the application (including the advisor endorsement form) must be submitted by the deadline of March 9, 2018 at 12 pm (noon) in order for your application to be considered by the review committee.


    Your name, campus ID, and contact information will be pulled automatically into the application. Please make sure the information on file is up to date and accurate at the Student Center. You will need to provide the following information to complete the application:

    1. your advisor’s first name, last name, and e-mail address;
    2. your anticipated graduation date;
    3. your dissertation title and a dissertation abstract (not to exceed 250 words);
    4. information on your dissertation progress and your specific writing goals for camp;
    5. indication of your motivations for attending camp and specific research/writing topics of interest to you.

    Limited funds are available for students in the Arts and Humanities who would be unable to attend camp without financial support. These funds would be used to either cover transportation from beyond Madison or for childcare to support attendance. Participants will be reimbursed after submitting documentation upon completion of camp. If you need funds in order to attend camp, please describe the need situation.

    Advisor Endorsement Form

    Once you have completed the application, click the Next button at the bottom right-hand corner of the page. Click the Add Recommendation button. You will be asked to provide the name and email of your recommender (your advisor). You may also include an optional note. Click the Save and Send Email button to request an endorsement. Your advisor will receive an e-mail that provides them a link to an online endorsement form. While the language of Scholarships@UW requests a “recommendation,” please note that your advisor does not need to write, upload, or send a letter of recommendation. After you have requested an endorsement, it is important that you check the online system to see whether your advisor has completed the advisor endorsement form. Once you have completed your application, you can send additional reminders to your advisor at the Recommendations section of the application.

    Application Submission

    To submit the application, navigate to the Submit page by clicking Next on the Recommendation page or clicking the Submit tab. Verify that your contact information is correct and current. Answer the two remaining certification questions and then click Submit Application.

    Should you have any questions related to the Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Writing Camp, please contact