Formatting: An unexpected challenge of thesis-writing!

Photo credit Help Desk, reed.edu

As spring approaches, so do some important deadlines for graduate students. For many of us, we’ll be submitting an initial draft of our thesis in April, which is (eep) less than a month away!

As I putter on, editing my manuscripts, polishing my introduction and conclusion, I can’t help but notice something I truly didn’t expect. Who would have thought formatting could take up so much time?

Maybe you Word-savvy readers would scoff at the reality I’m facing. What’s odd is that I always found myself to be pretty competent at copy editing and formatting. Maybe it’s the size of the thesis that is making things a little complicated. For one, my citation management software, EndNote, is acting a little funny; like it’s tuckered out and can’t handle more than 70 citations at once. Or, maybe it’s that my table of contents is three pages long and his having a little meltie.

My table of contents just can’t handle it right now
Photo credit: Nancy K. Sullivan

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Getting discouraged

Feeling discouraged? Me too! The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.  Image from wikigallery.org

Feeling discouraged? Me too! And this guy…
The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.
Image from wikigallery.org

I’m sure it’s bound to happen to most graduate students during their thesis-writing days. It’s a feeling of deep discouragement. One that gets you to your bones, and makes you feel tired in a way that sleep cannot suppress.  (more…)

Writing Wednesdays

Ask anyone what Graduate School is about and the first thing they will probably tell you is that you have to write a thesis. In reality, we all know that Grad School is about a looooot of different things (some of which we had no idea about before we started our Grad School journey), but I think we  would all agree that the main goal is to pop out that dissertation and leave a trace of ourselves and our contribution to the research community.

So, is it just me or are others also faced with the ironic situation that the one thing we should really be doing also happens to be the one thing we devote the least time to in our everyday PhD lives?

Of course, there are many steps to complete before even beginning to write the dissertation. First,  you argue, you need to get all those other pesky requirements out of the way (depending on how your Department works) – coursework, Comps, the research proposal, etc. Then, if you’re in an experimental field, the next phase is devoted to obtaining Ethics, recruiting participants (or finding animals, growing cultures, whatever you’re into!) and testing – oh, so much testing. (By the way, have you ever tried to use your lab keys to open your front door at home? Testing can be draining.) You can’t POSSIBLY write during this period, right? And, after all, you need to have something to write ABOUT, don’t you? It’d be atrociously silly to start writing papers when you might have to re-think, re-analyze, re-organize and re-write it. And, needless to say, there are all those urgent interruptions along the way – the kinds with deadlines (conference abstracts, conference presentations, paper reviews), the kinds with heavy expectations (attending meetings, being involved in other work in the lab, participating/organizing departmental events), and the kinds with neither, but that we simply cannot live without (Facebook and various other procrastinatory activities).

Excuses, excuses!

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Honey, no one is going to read your thesis! – ah bon…

‘Honey, no one is going to read your thesis!’ C’est la phrase que m’a lancé une sympathique chercheure australienne à la conférence à laquelle j’assistais dernièrement à Berkeley (voir ma chronique précédente). Elle devait avoir environ vingt ans d’expérience derrière elle.

 À ce moment-là, nous étions cinq à la table pour le dîner et nous parlions de nos doctorats respectifs, en cours ou complétés. J’ai mentionné que je rédigeais ma thèse en français à McGill, expliquant à leur étonnement que c’était possible, puisque McGill est une université bilingue. (more…)

Powerless

My research is frustrating. Power engineering is such an unfamiliar realm of study for me – still. My undergrad electrical engineering background did not really cover concepts of power very in-depth; very few undergrad electrical engineering programs do, unfortunately. The concepts of power converters and power system dynamics fascinate me. But, I really suck at implementing models of these systems. But, I really want to. I mean, the graphs look so pretty when everything works out well.
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