When You Start Hating your Thesis…

Things have been a bit hectic lately. I was busy revising my thesis introduction. I had supervision today and it went well. My supervisors are happy with the direction the revision is going. I’m relieved as well because even though I felt I was doing all the right things, I wasn’t confident that they made sense.

Even though I’m making the same argument in my thesis, I’ve pretty much had to rewrite the introduction. This involved a painstakingly process of brainstorming, rewriting my abstract, asking myself what are research questions are, what is my methodology, what my critical intervention in the field is, and stripping down concepts that are related to my argument, but not directly relevant to my core project.

Through this rewriting process I realized that my argument wasn’t clear enough in my previous thesis version. Not that my examiners are right–they were mean and harsh in the viva report so I retain my right to be childish about this–but I can see that although my argument was clear in my head, it wasn’t articulated as crystal clear as it should be. I think this is why apart from having to overcome the emotional setback of major corrections, I had trouble rewriting the introduction.

Recently I re-read “Authoring a Ph.D.” (Patrick Dunleavy 2003). I found in horror that I’d ended up doing everything he suggested not to do in a thesis. This realization comes in retrospect, because when I was writing-up last year I thought I was ticking all the boxes. The worst realization came from this sentence:

Students often imagine that readers will closely scrutinize their small critical comments and discussions in early chapters and ascribe them a far more importance than they actually will (p.58). 

It was a horror to read this because I’d fallen into the trap of thinking that my examiners would notice the conceptual connections I was making… Of course they didn’t. Because examiners are busy people. They probably only have time to read your whole thesis once, and read your introduction and conclusion one to two more times. That’s it. If they can’t grasp the argument in the first few pages, they’ll probably start having doubts about what the thesis is trying to say. I’m learning this the hard way.

Throughout the rewriting process I felt like a dog chasing its own tail. Sadly I know there is more of this to come. There was a point where I couldn’t separate my Methodology section from my Thesis Structure, so I began to procrastinate a bit. I told myself that I needed more time to sort out these structural issues. I’d missed my first deadline of sending the revised Introduction to my supervisors. They gave me a push by asking me to send them what I’ve got. I give them credit for being on my case.

I’m psychologically preparing myself to do the same for my Chapter 1 as well. I have a deadline by mid-January to revise Chapter 1.

When I submitted my thesis earlier this year, I was tired of my thesis, but didn’t hate it.

Now I’m literally sick and tired of it. A friend told me it means I’m on the right path.

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