Super Charge Your DMin Project With These 4 Strategies
Writing a DMin project (Doctor of Ministry) can be one of the most frightening academic endeavors of a minister’s life. But if you follow these four strategies, then you will be well on the road to the finish line.
So why am I writing this post? My answer is two-fold. First, I have a genuine love for pastors who are seeking to better themselves by sharpening the intellectual saw. Second, after completing my doctoral project, I learned some short cuts that I wish another person had shared with me while in the midst of my work.
So my goal here is to offer some helpful advice that will serve as a guide to help you walk across the finish line.
Four DMin Strategies
1. Start writing every day
That might sound odd at first. But stop and consider the primary behavior you will be undertaking. You will be writing. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that fact. Like any professional skill, there is a behavior attached to the activity. Carpenters cut, sand, glue or nail wood pieces together. Surgeons cut people open. At the core of any trade is a sharply refined skill.
As a wordsmith, writing is the skill you must develop.
2. Choose your idea and flesh it out
The Pros’ call this step “pre-writing.” The faster you can write out your thoughts and get them on screen or paper, the faster your project will take shape. It’s just that simple.
Here is an example. The genesis of my doctoral project came from a research paper that received professor encouragement to develop it in a thesis or DMin project. That paper became the outline of my initial research proposal. But here is the catch. It was my second choice. My first choice was initially shot down.
Looking back on my interaction with my advisor, I realize I hadn’t developed the first idea enough to present a clearly thought out proposal. I missed an initial step that a later research paper had accomplished — an investment in pre-writing. I should have fleshed the idea through writing before approaching my advisor.
The important principle here is the following: pre-writing needs to be done to get to your idea.
3. Invest in writing tools
If you are going to build a house, then you need the right kind of tools. Writing is no different. You need the right instruments to get the job done promptly.
If you are like most novice writers, Microsoft Word was your go-to writing software program. My problem with Word, it is not very useful for large documents.
Scrivener: I recommend this program for your writing needs. It is a writers program.
Scrivener has the power to centralize the writing process by allowing you to incorporate all of your research, pre-writing, and any digital articles into one space. That is particularly handy when trying to keep all of your research digitally organized.
Take my word for it and at least explore the program. Take a look at the screenshot below to catch a glimpse of what I’m referring too.
Evernote: I used Evernote as a database to store online articles, pdf’s, email correspondence, and any short notes. What is so powerful about Evernote is the browser plugin that allows you to clip websites to a note. That ability creates a catalog of your research. Then you can easily import those notes into Scrivener.
Grammarly: I use Grammarly as a first pass for all of my writing. The free version is good for catching those annoying misspelled words. But the paid version has a powerful grammatical function called “advanced issues” and is worth the money.
Here is why I recommend it. You are going to make mistakes, and you can’t afford to double, triple or even quadruple check your work. The project is too big. By investing in a program that will catch those mistakes, you will have the peace of mind knowing your project went through a first-pass process.
4. Trust that clarity will come in time
Choosing a topic is hard work. If you follow step one and two above, then the scope of your project will begin to take shape.
The unusual aspect of writing is the fact that you are teaching yourself in the process. In my experience, I didn’t arrive at a clear picture of my topic until I was deep into the writing process. As I was writing, I encountered new data that gradually sharpened my arguments. Insights emerged from my screen, which then prompted further writing. In a strange way, a feedback look started to take effect that naturally advanced the project forward. That is the result of good research and writing working together.
You can jumpstart this process if you follow my strategy in step #2. But realize something, you will always encounter new information as you research your project.
At some level, you must do one of the following with the information: reject it, accept it, or file it for later. As you process new data, you might change your mind. That is simply part of your journey.
Just remember the following, you need to be flexible enough to allow your brain the time it needs to process new information. You will be surprised how far you can come.
My Final Advice – Start Writing
It took me two years to write my DMin Project. It didn’t have to take that long. When I evaluate the actual time investment to write the project, I wrote the bulk of the project in 3 months. The rest of the time was either wasted thinking about writing or spent researching. Don’t think about writing. Just write. It will happen.