HOKAY, SO: You've been a slave for untold years. You want to enter the glamorous world where you can be pretentious and have people call you doctor. You want to have a silly hat and a cape. But to reach these goals, you need to produce a doctoral thesis.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'doctoral thesis' as: A completely worthless document that will not be read, but which is apparently important to someone, because it requires nearly impossible tasks to complete. This definition is spot on. Not a single person, aside from possibly (but not likely) your committee will read this pile of tripe that you create. But many, many things will happen to it. And you.
Step Zero: Pain. The design, construction, and implementation of such a worthless document requires time. Less time than you think, but more time than you have. Unfortunately, this means you will have to give up some of the finer things in life. Food, sleep, bathing, websurfing, and civility towards other humans are nice, but simply are not within the scope of a thesis writer. You must give them up. It will hurt, but you must. Loved ones will forgive you, since they will be deluded into believing that after the process is complete, you will have a sense of achievement, and more earning potential. They are wrong, but their misguided justifications for still loving you will last just long enough to get it done.
Step One: Do Stuff. In all likelihood, you have been a student for a long time. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, you actually did research. Think back. Nestled in the years spent terrorizing your office-mate(s), drinking coffee, eating horrible food, playing video games, and surfing the internet, you must have done something which constituted research. Find that stuff. A good place to look is all the papers that were written, apparently by you (et al.). Pilfer them for all that it's worth. Make a note that if you change just a few things from those papers (try commas and semi-colons first, they're easy), you dont have to fill out nasty copyright forms. Don't be tempted to do new stuff. You simply do not have the time for that.
Step Two: Do More Stuff. Now that you have used the wonders of 'cut-n-paste', you may be forced to make them coherent. Don't worry, this is simple. Use chapters liberally. Also throw in words like, 'a full treatment of $ISSUE was given by $AUTHOR et al.' Take some of the tables you had, and split them into more tables. See? Now you have LOTS more pages than before. Make sure to add lots of papers to your bibliography, since that looks like you have read stuff, even though you haven't. If you are plotting data, make sure to 'visualize' the same data in at least 5 ways, since it's one plot per page. After you take all these steps, you should have at least 100 pages worth, and you are ready to proceed.
Step Three: Look Professional. Nothing says quality like a table of contents, a table of figures, and a table of tables. Even better, these things add bloat, and bloat is good. Throw in a signature page, a copyright page, a vita, and some acknowledgements, and you are really hitting your stride. The acknowledgements page is important, since this is the last time you will have to suck up to your advisor, unless of course you plan on ever going anywhere after the thesis is written.
Step Four: Act Cool. In the thesis, you can have a quote for the thesis, and oftentimes, quotes for each chapter. Quotes give you a chance to look witty. You aren't, but hey, delusions of grandeur are fun. Believe for just one second that noone else ever thought that one quote by Einstein was really good, or that putting something in by Homer Simpson shows flair. And remember, quotes take up real estate on the page, which is always good. Moreover, you can use funky things like italics and indentation, which makes you look like a pro.
Step Five: Add it Up. You should now have everything in place. Don't bother spell-checking, since it wont be read anyway. Print out every page. All told, the output should be about an inch thick. If this is the case, you are well on your way to success in this quest. If not, split up a few more tables, and add some more graphs. Consider an appendix of worthless tables, as it adds girth. Go ahead and print it out a second time. There is no reason to do this, but it will make you feel better.
Step Six: Send it out. Find each member of your thesis committee (you did remember to get one of those, didn't you?), and go by their office with a copy of the draft. Consider having it bound, since this makes it look better, and they will believe it must be good, and thus not worth even skimming (and requiring change). In most cases, they will not be in their office, because the stench down the hall from your cubicle has informed them that you are writing the thesis, and will be finding them soon. Remember, they had to do this too, and old wounds run deep. Be like the ninja. You will need your strength for the next step.
Step Seven: Do the Impossible. Once you have cornered your prey (committee member), float out the ideas you have had for a defense date. Note: whatever day you choose will be too early, since they will claim, falsely, that they have to read the thesis through. Be strong. Make up something about wanting to be at commencement. Claim that your parents are visiting for the defense. Lie through your teeth. You will have to repeat this process for each of the committee members. It is a well known fact that the three body problem of celestial mechanics has no solution. For you, it is worse: you must get five professors to be in the same room, at the same time, and with as little animosity towards you as possible. Hint that free booze will be offered post-defense.
Step Eight: Fear the Ruler. It should come as no suprise that institutions like universities actually pay someone good money to sit down with a ruler and make sure that the strict and completely stupid rules of margins be obeyed with your document. These people exist because univerisities take a copy of your thesis and stick it in the library, where it will rot, unread, until the heat death of the universe. Nevertheless, you must obey the rules. You will delude yourself into believing that silly things like margins can be fixed after everything else is done, but you are wrong, since when that time comes, you have no time left. All that bloat you added in the form of tables and figures will make havoc with margins. All those witty quotes will make things run just a few points too wide. And they will find all of it. On every page. Budget at least 4 days for cursing, and a few more days to fix these problems. Budget at least one more for sacrifice to the gods of 'maybe the librarian will just flick through it and not notice.' Budget 5 more to realize that all the prayer in the world is meaningless in the face of hundreds of years of anal-retentive bureaucracy.
Step Nine: Wait. Arguably, this is the hardest part. If you have done your job properly and deceived everyone involved, you will wait through the time until your defense firmly ensconced in the belief that no changes will be needed. You are wrong, but it's a nice thought to have. Make the changes without question. It makes the committee feel important, and it breaks that last bit of will you have. Suck it up, it's almost over.
Step Ten: I have to do what? You might think that the culmination of many years of pain, and many weeks of thesis writing would be a sense of accomplishment, and euphoria. You are dead wrong. What you have neglected is the paperwork. Universities, by design, thrive on endless piles of paperwork to prove that you were, in fact, there. They thrive even more on paperwork to let you leave. Find the forms you will need. Fill them out, and turn them in. Think you are done. Be wrong, and get the other forms they forgot to tell you about. Fill them out too. Entertain thoughts of killing the chancellor of the university when you find out that you need a few more forms. Don't act on these thoughts, just fill out the forms. Pay the university whatever it is it costs to process your PhD. Then pay them the fees for the library. The people taking your money will laugh and say 'sure it costs a lot, but hey, you'll have a PhD, you can afford it soon!'. Don't strangle them with the phone cord, it's the only joke they have.
If you follow these steps, you are sure to succeed. Whether or not you succeed in writing a thesis is up to debate, but I'm sure you'll succeed at something.
Oh, and by the way, don't forget to write your dissertation defense presentation.....