My thesis writing experience so far…


Today I sent my supervisor the first complete draft of my thesis! Current count: 145 pages, and over 26,000 words. I’m sure there’s still more to go, but it’s nice for it to be out of my hands for now.

Top 10 things that helped me get through stage one of thesis writing:

  1. Friday food deals at the Deli
  2. A stash of chocolate in my desk drawer
  3. Listening through Broadway musical soundtracks while I analyze data
  4. Solitaire breaks
  5. Buy 10 get one free coffee cards
  6. Cookbook for R (
  7. StackOverflow (
  8. Shutting down at night to watch musicals and eat ice cream
  9. Small, manageable to-do lists that actually get crossed off
  10. Allowing my apartment to become a disaster.

Funny patterns of thesis writing behaviour I noticed…

  • When analyzing data, I can work straight for hours.
  • When writing, reading, or reviewing papers, I check Twitter and Facebook every other paragraph.
  • Work expands and contracts to fill the time allotted.
  • When a fire is lit under me, I can work at incredible speeds.

Things that have greatly improved since starting to write my thesis:

  • Ability to create attractive data representations
  • Efficiency of reading papers
  • Note taking when reading papers
  • Appreciation for consistency in citation and reference formats
  • Appreciation for the importance of publishing work from your thesis in journal articles – Reading master’s and PhD theses is exhausting
  • Differentiating my opinions from my data. I started writing a lot of statements that include, “we think” or “we believe” when interpreting data. When I reminded myself that this was *my* thesis and *my* work (and I probably shouldn’t be imposing beliefs or thoughts on my collaborators), and tried to change it to “I think” or “I believe,” it sounded less convincing, causing me to take it out and convince myself of what I know instead of what I think to be true.

2 thoughts on “My thesis writing experience so far…

  1. Stashes of chocolate in my desk do not seem to remain stashes for long, nor does beer. I really like your point about differentiating between *we* and *I*. For many theses it is *we* but you are certainly in an *I* situation. Love of ice cream = good, love of musicals = ?

  2. I really like, “Appreciation for consistency in citation and reference formats” – All the time I spent on Google Scholar while working on my TA paper was killing me! In this case, I pine for my days of string theory, where everything is on the arXiv and pretty much everything is published in one of two journals.

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