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With two jobs left, I am nearly done. I write the abstract – 300 words, half an hour’s easy work. Then… the acknowledgements. I promised myself I’d do this last.
360 words took me three hours. This was perhaps the most difficult and personal part of the thesis.
I spent a long time staring at a blank page, and then this came to me:
Then after a bunch of names of collaborators, the hard part:
Sometimes I think I owe them more than just my PhD.
… and with that, I am done. I need only print the damn thing and hand it in.
14 days to go…
I’m getting nervous now, but excited. Actually scratch those, I just want the damn thing done. I figure one more serious day of work and a proofread through has me covered – and in plenty of time remaining, too. But with two weeks until I’m supposed to hand in, my paperwork still hasn’t gone through. It’s been over a month since I actually handed it in & I’m getting nervous about it.
Suppose I’d better get ready to fork out for the binding, eh?
15 days to go…
Motivation is at an all-time low, as I commented yesterday. I am sincerely trying to make myself just finish the bloody thing, and failing. Chapter 7 is still the real bugbear, since I have a lot of data which contradicts itself. I just have to work with what I have, but that means an unsatisfying read. Still, the least I need to do is to make the chapter coherent – it is improving with agonizing slowness.
This post is delayed by an infuriating tendency of my internet to drop out suddenly and at the most inconvenient times. Nevertheless, I’ve not lost any of the work I’ve done – only time from trying to fix it.
16 days to go…
The internet problems continue, which has caused serious delays to my work – I lose most of the day. On the other hand, having slept for a meager 5 hours last night I suspect I’d not work very well anyway. It occurs to me that the longer this goes on the worse it will be. I need to just submit and be able to stop worrying about it…
After a nap (I’m a real adult honest), I get along much better. I’ve got to the point of including my appendices (4 of them in the end, some 20 pages of things I cut from the main document but weren’t quite disposable enough to not deserve a mention). My references finally pass the 100 mark, and are looking quite healthy.
Towards the end of the evening I am frustrated. Try as I might, I can’t find a template for the cover page for Surrey theses. This irks me, since every one I’ve seem appears identical, yet the few official words I can find on it (in the regulations) don’t specify most of the details. This baffles me.
16 days to go…
I’ve been working on a major rewrite of Chapter 7, which is my least favorite chapter of the thesis. It’s slow going and I’ve talked about it before, so I make sure to spend some of my time on the other bits of my todo list as well. I add to a few pictures in Chapter 2, put in a few more references (I forgot a few reference heavy paragraphs in Chapters 4 & 5 which still need finishing). Things go alright, but I wish I could get myself to concentrate better. I try not to beat myself up about it.
I speak to my parents and they ask me what’s going on “outside the thesis”. I barely understand the question – there is nothing but the thesis right now. There is so much I want to be doing, but it consumes me these days. I can’t wait to get it printed, really. At least then I can start having a life again.
17 days to go…
Today I do referencing. I don’t really dislike referencing, but it’s a grind. After a while, I realize that despite the grind I’m really rather enjoying it. I’ve discovered a few (not many) papers I wasn’t aware of in the process of getting/checking the things I was already aware of. In all, progress goes well.
I never thought I’d end up trying to get a reference to a 1975 paper about water in a salmon river in Idaho, yet here I am.
I make surprisingly good progress with the work, and actually finish most of the referencing for the entire thesis. Somehow, I thought there’d be more references. It’s not like there’s none – just under 90 – but it feels strange to only have to talk about such a narrow range of things that the same references keep coming up again and again. Then again, many of those papers are damn good science that I hope to live up to.
I heard someone say once that you should aim for an average of one reference per page, but I think that you shouldn’t add multiple references where one will do. This is especially true when adding more references doesn’t actually give the reader any more useful information. I could see that in very crowded fields, or in fields where the barriers between subfields are quite permeable (see: soft matter sciences) that one would need a high reference density due to the sheer number of relevant research that goes on in neighbouring groups. But in the field I work, the barriers between subfields are quite high and it can be hard to find appropriately similar work in your neighbouring fields. On top of that, papers in the field tend to have a long digestion time & so the relative size of the published work is also quite low. These things considered, it doesn’t seem so bad to have relatively few references.
Of course, I could extend my introduction to talk about vaguely relevant fields. The problem with that is the tendency for this sort of padding to dilute the message and distract from the things which are actually important. So, I elect not to do that either.
I will likely find a few more things to add over the next few days, too.
18 days to go…
I spent a day unable to work because it felt like someone was trying to remove my brains through my nose with a pipecleaner. I blame society. Nevertheless, the thesis is looking healthy and I have a few bits to polish on top of the referencing left to do. That’s it. Tomorrow, I hope I feel fully better so I can get down to it. If I’m lucky, the whole thing’ll be finished before next week.
There’s a scary thought.
My supervisor still hasn’t even tried to read it. I’m now convinced that he won’t ever.