Doctoral Thesis: Working Your Way Out

What attitude should you adopt in writing a doctoral thesis? Is it all too difficult? Here are five tips to get you going.

Writing a doctoral thesis is one of the most challenging tasks a graduate student would have to face in the course of completing a graduate degree. What are the challenges associated with doctoral thesis writing? I narrate my experience as I worked my way through the hurdles of the graduate school.

Give Up or Go On?

One of the professors I hold in awe and respect highly told everyone in class that pursuing a degree in the graduate school is not an easy path to take. There will be times you would want to give up and be free of the many demands of graduate study. He advised us to just “Go on and don’t be discouraged because depression is a normal part of a graduate student’s life.”

His words rung in my mind each time I feel like giving up. Much more so when I plunged deep into the water and looked up and around the blue waters surrounding me. I was assessing the status of coral reefs in selected spots in two bays. I was looking into the congruence of community perception on adjacent coral reefs with the “true” situation of their reefs verified by actual physical assessment of its condition.

Deep down in seawater at about 30 to 60 feet, I reflected upon myself: “What the hell am I doing here, swimming like a fish when I am a human being who should naturally be walking on land!” I am engaging in something unnatural. Humans are not meant to be in the depths of the sea. All of these I do for the sake of science, of trying to support the argument of my doctoral thesis. I felt like giving up.

But a doctoral thesis requires a more intelligent and rigorous inquiry into the unknown (see the difference between a master’s degree and a doctoral degree’s approach to the phenomenon). There should be a difference between a doctoral thesis and a master’s thesis. And I have to do something groundbreaking. At least that’s what I thought it should be.

doctoral thesis
Thesis defense, or offense?

Writing the Doctoral Thesis: Five Tips

So how can a Ph.D. candidate cope up with the challenges associated with the writing of a doctoral thesis? How can one cope up with the many and never ending manuscript editing woes?

Remember that writing a doctoral thesis is not your most amazing work. It is a prelude for you to appreciate and critically inquire into the theories that are never perfect. You can blaze a path of your own and be known in a niche you can best excel in.

How can you best cope with the task of finishing your doctoral thesis? Here are five suggestions to help you out of your predicament:

  1. Make sure you select an adviser who has a good reputation in your field. A good mentor produces good mentees.
  2. Be very clear about your intention in writing the doctoral thesis. An excellent review of the literature will help you clarify the issue that bogs your mind.
  3. Be brave to change your topic if the path you take gets too messy. Writing the doctoral thesis is done in partial, not full, fulfillment of the course requirements. Don’t aim towards perfection as that means more time and effort that may not be needed.
  4. Don’t force yourself too hard when you are not in the mood to write. Take a break. I did by playing a computer game all day long.
  5. Schedule your work and do a little at a time when your mind is not functioning at its peak. But compensate when you are in the mood. Do things gradually and you will accomplish a great deal. Just be consistent.

The point of the whole matter is that once you decide to go for a doctoral degree, there are some sacrifices to be made. No pain, no gain.

6 thoughts on “Doctoral Thesis: Working Your Way Out”

  1. Hi Sir Patrick. I really love this site. i have learned many things here. Can you possibly post about mathematics performance? Thanks and more power!

  2. Its about using enhancement program to improve the mathematics performance of the students. I could hardly find the right statement of the problems or specific questions. Thanks really Sir Patrick for the prompt reply.

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