Especially at the beginning, I remained active as a teaching assistant. Working with students was a nice distraction from my thesis, and it was motivating to see that my work was useful and appreciated by others, especially during unrewarding writing times.
I also worked on other research projects in parallel and went to several international conferences and a summer school on citizen science. These activities not only offered a welcome break from the thesis, but also reminded me of how important and interesting my research was. I also made sure to stay active to keep up my positive energy. Going to the gym always brought me back to writing with a clear mind and a healthier feeling.
Sometimes I would try to arrange coffee breaks with friends to reward myself with a piece of cake and good company. Other times, planning to visit a museum or try a new restaurant helped me keep going by giving me a nice event to look forward to. I stopped doing most of my fieldwork about a year and a half before my thesis was due, which was about the same time my son was born. After my maternity leave, I spent 6 to 8 hours a day writing from home, with my baby on my lap or sleeping next to me.
Once he was in day care at 7 months old, I went to coffee shops nearby so that I could pop over and nurse him at lunchtime. Several times a day, I practiced the Pomodoro Technique where I'd set the timer for 45 minutes and not do anything but write—no emails, no social media, no other tasks. If I thought of something I needed to do, I wrote it down for later.
In addition to combining writing with motherhood, other aspects of work-life balance were also extremely important to me. I didn't work most weekends, and I made sure I got outside and exercised or had some fun every day. Letting go of guilt about not working was key. Feeling bad doesn't get you anywhere, and it just makes the experience unenjoyable for you and the people you love or live with.
Early on, it really helped to take a few days away from the lab and just write. I took advantage of the fact that my parents were on holiday and spent a week in their house. I set realistic daily deadlines, and if I met those I treated myself with a little reward, like a short run through the forest or an evening picnic with an old friend.
That week proved very productive, and I came back motivated to get the rest of my writing and experiments done. After I returned, I made sure to continue doing some fun activities without necessarily having to achieve something first, as I realized that I should not be too hard on myself. Going for a run between writing spells, for example, allowed me to get some distance from my thesis and helped me to maintain perspective and generate new ideas.
It was really hard, but I did enjoy it. Writing can feel like a very long, lonely tunnel, but the more you practice, the easier it gets. Starting with the easy task of reformatting my published articles allowed me to make a large amount of progress quickly and feel in control of the writing process while reducing the stress of the approaching deadline. I had a harder time with my thesis introduction, though I really enjoyed digging through the history of my field.
I was even happy that I had to do it—this way, I could prioritize it over other tasks. But the extensive reading made writing much more challenging than I expected, and the tight deadline made it less enjoyable. Almost until the very end, I felt like the task was overly ambitious. To reduce stress at that stage, I kept reminding myself that it was a unique chance to focus on the history of research instead of the research itself.
Writing my thesis was for sure an experience that I enjoyed. This was the moment when I was finally putting together all my work of the last 5 years, and I was proud of it. I guess a good work-life balance would have been important; too bad I did not maintain it. All I could feel was panic. For 2 months, I basically did nothing besides writing my thesis and applying for jobs. When I needed a break from the thesis, I switched to my job applications.
This was one of the most miserable times of my academic career. Luckily, at the end I got the postdoc I wanted, which made me forget all the stress and frustration. My Ph. It wasn't always easy, but remembering that every little effort brings you closer to your final goal is crucial to just keep going and survive emotionally.
And while writing was daunting at times, I also found it motivating to see just how much research I had done. I'm only at the beginning stages of my writing, but it has been enjoyable so far. This is probably because I will finally have something tangible out of my Ph.
A thesis is not only about the science, but also about how to present it. Even though I had published papers containing a lot of material ready to be included in the thesis, I still had to put a lot of effort and time into reformatting the text, and I even had to improve or update some figures. If I could go back in time, I would start writing my thesis in my first year rather than leaving all the work for the last year.
The introductory chapters explaining your subject matter can be written before having any data, and in retrospect, I had all the scientific results to write two-thirds of my thesis before the beginning of my last year. When I was studying for orals in my second year, I was very organized about writing my notes and archiving relevant papers, which proved super helpful when writing my thesis.
It was also very helpful that in the first few years of my Ph. I had written dozens of grant proposals, which gave me an early opportunity to think about how to present the big picture, as well as some text that I could use as a starting point. I saw it as my best chance to sum up the nonscientific part of my Ph. I chose to leave it until after my defense, when I could write at a much more relaxed pace during the few weeks I had to edit my thesis.
Beware of perfectionism. A doctoral thesis concludes a major part of one's life and there is a tendency to want to make it flawless. In my case, a non-negotiable deadline provided an effective remedy. Other projects or life events may also impose deadlines.
Regarding technical aspects, my department provides a LaTeX template, which was very helpful. It enforces structured writing and deals with all the formatting so that you can focus on content. For example, it handles numbering, so you don't have to update figure numbers every time you insert or delete a figure. And because LaTeX is based on plain text format, I don't have to worry about not being able to open my thesis file a decade from now.
LaTeX requires a certain amount of technical expertise, but this can be overcome with a little effort and Googling. I am also a big fan of cloud services. I used an online LaTeX editor called Overleaf that allowed me to easily share drafts with my supervisor. I was also happy to discover that Mendeley , the cloud-based literature management software I have been using for the last decade, integrated easily with Overleaf—although Mendeley did break the night before submission, extending my workday to 6 a.
Try to figure out when your most productive times of the day are. Write yourself a note about thoughts and ideas or the findings and questions that you were pondering in your last work session so that you can immediately pick up where you left off. As for the writing itself, I attended some writing boot camps that helped me get started. I also read some books on writing. Printing out substantial parts of my writing and leaving a bit of time before reading them allowed me to efficiently proofread and adjust things.
And when the writing was not going as well as expected, I switched to the figures or formatting. That way, I could still feel that I was moving forward. Even though you may often feel as though progress is very, very slow, focus on just trying to add a little bit of improvement to your thesis every hour and every day. By Karin Bodewits Apr. By Suhas Eswarappa Prameela Apr. By Meredith Wadman Mar. By Elisabeth Pain Mar. All rights Reserved. How to budget your grant proposal.
How to get the most out of attending conferences. How to keep up with the scientific literature. Read the full list of How-Tos. Length and structure also depend on the field of study. Science majors write less because they conduct more hands-on experiments; students in humanities and liberal arts programs write longer papers with more in-depth analysis.
Dissertations take several years to complete and may require hundreds of external sources. The secondary focus is to see how well students can defend their own work. Both of these research projects typically conclude with an oral defense in which faculty members ask questions about the research and final paper. A dissertation defense can last several hours whereas a thesis defense may last only an hour. You should also note a major cultural difference when it comes to final research projects.
A dissertation is part of a broader post graduate research project. Extensive research projects such as these force students to develop better analytical thinking skills and to put those skills into action by creating a tangible work. In addition, theses and dissertations are published in a limited academic capacity as part of the final requirement for most schools. When something is wrong, and there is an issue, we rely upon the police to help us.
They are often the first to respond to a crisis, arriving on the Which's master's degree type is best for you? It depends on your career goals, your field of study, and even your learning preferences.
But what are we all really talking about when we refer to a dissertation or a thesis? And does the term you usue actually impact on what you actually end up writing? As many of you will already know there are plenty of differences between different forms of English, such as British English and American English. Around the world different countries, that speak English as their first language, use the words dissertation and thesis differently.
Generally, nations whose academic system are based on the British systems of university education use dissertation to refer to the body of work at the end of a undergraduate or masters level degree , and use the word thesis to refer to the body of work produced at the end of a PhD. In countries and institutions that are based on the American system of education, the words tend to be used in reverse.
However, institutions and even different departments in the same university can use the words differently. If you're in doubt, then stick with the way the university and department you're currently attending use the words. Generally speaking in the UK if you are completing a thesis then you're producing an original body of work based on research you have conducted and ideas that you have had.
If you are writing a dissertation , then you are producing a review of the broad reading you have done in one particular field and showing your understanding of what you have learned. Of course, in the US this is the other way around. In the UK the terms are generally applied equally across institutions and subjects. However, in the US different subject areas can also use the terms differently. The term thesis can have the same meaning as in the UK as it is the result of original research and ideas, but at masters level in the US in science subjects.
Whereas you may complete a thesis in the US at masters level in another subject area that involves wide-ranging reading and understanding rather than original research and still call it a thesis. In the United States, the definition of a thesis is almost the opposite of that in Europe. Because a thesis is shorter than a dissertation it gradually came to mean a preliminary degree on the way to a doctorate.
Both a thesis and a dissertation require a lot of work and should be treated seriously. I attended a thesis defense recently in which the student was not well prepared. The visuals were poor and disorganized and the student did not handle questions well. I knew that he had achieved a good level of technical ability, but you would never know it from his presentation.
An effort that takes years of your life surely deserves better treatment than this. Subscribe for free to get unrestricted access to all our resources on research writing and academic publishing including:. We hate spam too. We promise to protect your privacy and never spam you. Thesis vs. Last updated Jun 14, Show Comments 1.
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