Elizabeth Stout, PhD Candidate
How to not write a thesis
Hi, I’m Beth – I’m in my final year of my PhD and it’s crunch time. I have the means, the motive (deadline) and the execution (probably) to make it happen. And so, I thought this is the perfect time to write a blog on how to write your thesis. Honours and Masters students could also learn from this… or then again perhaps they shouldn’t.
Step 1: Clear a space to work
You’ll work so much better with an empty workspace – it’s scientifically proven! If you’re writing from home this is the perfect time to clean up rooms, shelves or cupboards you haven’t cleaned / touched / used for the last few years. It looks like there’s a few marks on your desk, so wipe that down too. If you’re writing at work – Clean out your junk from your desk. Now that we’re thinking about it – when’s the last time you cleaned out your fridge? Do that now. It’s science.
Step 2: Find a time-management strategy that works for you.
Some people use microbreaks. I recommend researching the options for hours on end. Find the perfect calendar to schedule out your time. Print it out. Make it pretty. Reprint it when you’ve written on it in your ugly handwriting. Go back to work by staring at the blank page. Read a paper to get the juices flowing for your next sentence. Reward yourself with a 5-hour break.
Step 3: Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
Eat. You know what you need right now? Snakes. Chocolate. You need energy to write! Think of how hard those brain cells are working – you can totally justify the extra calories. Spend an hour at the shops thinking about what you want to get. You know what? No. You need to be healthy! Go home and reward yourself for your self-control by finding a new TV show to watch. Start that book you’ve been putting off reading since before you started your degree. You deserve it.
Step 4: Have a good support network.
Complain. Your cohort understand perfectly the struggles of writing. This is the time you can spend hours complaining about that damn empty page over coffee. “I just feel like that blinking line is LAUGHING at me!” Exclaim loudly (and often) how awful your life is. This will make you feel better – absolutely. Focusing on the negative just clears the way for you to be a positive, optimistic person. Besides, caffeine is totally going to be great for writing.
Step 5: Just. Do. It.
No copyright infringement intended. Sit down at your desk and JUST DO IT. Write! You’ve exercised will power, you’ve been able to complain, you’ve read some papers and now you’re super caffeinated from the 3 lattes at lunch. Wait. Is that an earthquake, or are my legs shaking so violently I’ve spilled my 4th cup of coffee? You know what? You’ll never get any work done like this. Go do some exercise instead. It’s not a waste of time – it’s perfect for brain activity!
Step 6: Send your drafts to your supervisor / mentors / detail-oriented member of your network
Or don’t. Just obsess about the sentences not being perfect and don’t look for help with your direction. Keep telling your supervisor it’s all under control so they never know you’re struggling! I’ve got this! I’ll just give it to them all in one big email attachment. Wait, what do you mean size limit is exceeded?
In case it wasn’t obvious, don’t do any of these things – but if you’re struggling and find yourself relating to any of the above, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Happy writing!