Groundhog Day

Bill Murray had it easy. Should I ever be subjected to a Groundhog Day scenario, then I hope that I would end up going down the Bill Murray route (albeit being less of an idiot about it) and using the time to learn some new skills. Possibly not ice sculpture though. Maybe. I don’t know.

Writing your thesis can seem a lot like Groundhog Day though. You will end up writing multiple drafts of chapters, revising, honing. Finally you are happy with the draft. Either you are being chased for it by your supervisor, or you will be trying to get some time in their diary in order to get it looked at. Either way, whatever stage you are it, it will come back covered with red (or your supervisors’ favoured colour) ink.

You make the corrections. Rinse. Repeat. This will happen several times. You may even find your supervisor correcting things back to how they started. They will state either that on reflection they prefer it that way, or that in making other changes it now means that it needs to go back to the way it was before.
90% of all corrections will be relatively straightforward, by which I mean that they will take up a lot of time, but they will be obvious, and they will be done and you can tick them off. 10 % will be impossible to decipher, impossible to carry out or in some other way impossible and you will waste much time attempting them, getting an appointment to see your supervisor to ask for clarification/explain why they are impossible and sitting down with your supervisor for the aforementioned clarification/explanation.

Some corrections will seem to crop up time and time again, even though you will swear blind you corrected them – these will mainly be typographical errors. I’m not sure about the science behind this (and if any neuroscientists are reading this, please do comment), but essentially there is a form of word blindness that can develop, so that you read what you thought you wrote, not what is actually on the page. Experience suggests that if you have the luxury of leaving your work to mature/fester for a minimum of two weeks, then any problems like this should suddenly spring into focus – I know I have literally slapped my head and shouted out ‘Doh!’ at some mistakes I realise I’ve made. I’ve also been extremely puzzled: I know what I meant to write and this…is not it.

Two weeks? Seriously? That’s twice ‘a long time in politics’. Yes, seriously, and it means that you have to have a really good time-management plan. But if you can achieve that, you will save time in the long run. Your supervisor will be looking to focus on the subject and its nuances. If they are correcting your English and typographical mistakes as they go, a) the whole process will take longer, b) they will get irritated and c) you look like an idiot. If you’ve caught all the typos and things that don’t sound right then it goes a long way to looking competent, and your supervisor will be much more focussed – trust, me this is a good thing.  

Also, despite their best efforts, your supervisor will not catch every single typo. If you can eliminate these on your own, you are one step closer to having a thesis that an examiner wants to read.

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