Thesis writing season

I am entering thesis writing season now and am really looking forward to the stress and excitement that it will bring. I am not sure how long this season will last, and I’m not sure how my well-being will survive it, but I am really looking forward to it. Not because I’m looking forward to experiencing the stress, but because getting through this season is a massive part of getting to the Doctor Ryan bit of these PhD Dreams of mine.

How long is thesis writing season?

To be honest, I am not exactly sure. Yet. However, I will be doing a week-long house-sitting gig in Glasgow and will use that week as my big kick-off event for the writing season. By the end of the week, I hope to have a clearer view of how long it will take me to complete the writing process which will also mean I will have a clearer view of my submission date.

I do admit that my submission date has been a bit overly fluid though. Initially, I wanted to submit in early November, as that would have been spot-on three years from the start of my PhD. However, I don’t feel too bad about missing that date as it’s a bit uncommon for people to actually submit within three years. (In fact, a lot of supported PhD studentships are now funded for three and a half years just because it does take that extra bit of time.)

So I began to aim for February. But that date was pushed back in part because I lost time after breaking my ankle at the start of my “thesis summer” plans. So I pushed it back a month. Then I got a bit distracted over the Christmas holidays and after that, I wrestled with a bit of my thesis structure which meant that I would have to kill myself to submit by the end of March. And so, I am now working on a new plan: The three-and-a-half-year plan!

With that, the working goal is to submit before 1 May 2017. Doable? Yes. But only if I really crackdown over the next three months. Hence, thesis writing season.

What, exactly, am I submitting?

At the end of thesis writing season, I will be ready to submit my thesis for examination. That won’t be the end of my PhD journey, but it is a vital step towards making my dream a reality. The thesis will be based on the literature review and empirical work that I’ve been doing over the past three years and will be a document of no more than 80,000 words. (There are further rules and guidelines for what that document should look like if you are interested in the minutia.)

I have a traditional structure set out for the document. This includes the following chapters: introduction, literature review, methodology, findings (there will be four separate chapters for the findings), discussion, and conclusion and further work. There will also be other elements, including an abstract, acknowledgements, references, and lots of appendices. These things won’t count towards my 80,000 words, nor will any tables and figures included in the main thesis.

After I submit my thesis, I will have my viva. From there, I will be given a list of corrections or amendments to make to the document before submitting my final PhD thesis and graduating. Thesis writing season is about preparing the initial pre-viva document.

What will thesis writing season involve?

Thesis writing season will include, as you may have guessed, a lot of thesis writing. There will also be a lot of re-reading and researching the literature to make sure that I’ve not missed anything out and also to account for any new themes that I may (or may not) find in my data. Really, the whole season will be dedicated to completing my thesis—from the big and important writing bits to the tedious and equally important editing, reviewing, and formatting bits.

The season will also include a healthy amount of planned running and social activities. This way, I am not neglecting my physical, mental, or emotional health. I am especially worried about this because I have experienced a bit more stress and health hiccups than expected since I began my PhD. However, I am also feeling more confident as things have been looking rather positive over the past few months. (Fingers crossed that that continues!)

In addition to taking advantage of a week of housesitting in Glasgow, I will be reviewing my finances over the next wee while to determine when and if I will be able to take myself away to a smaller, hotel-based writing retreat or two. I will also be reviewing my working conditions at home and at the office to ensure that I am creating the most comfortable and distraction-free environments I can manage.

And, much like my dedicated “dissertation month” whilst I was working on my master’s degree, I will be including thesis updates on each of my Just Frances posts moving forward. That way, I am holding myself responsible for my writing deadlines.

Feel free to help keep me motivated along the way!

Current word count: 0 of 80,000 (Only 80,000 to go!)

This week’s task list:

  • Set up workspace at Glasgow housesitting gig
  • Flesh out outlines of each of four findings chapters
  • Write a minimum of 8,000 words for findings chapters

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