Wednesday, April 23, 2008

7 memes for (successful) PhD / thesis writing

Borrowing heavily on the writing of Irene Goodman (author of 7 steps for highly successful authors) as well as ideas from thesis authors I have known and have read...rather than from any personal experience of completion :)
and therefore with very limited credibility but with a lot of interest in completion and therefore reading about such things...

1. Dont give up.
Bruno Latour in Aramis also identifies this critical factor in the making of a project, to hold it together, one must not stop holding it together.
2. Write.
Got nothing to write about?...Put readings (which you write about in the notes section) into the endnote library, blog about writing it, rearrange the data collected- might be construed as data analysis if the words aren't too scary... make writing enjoyable, an hour of journal reading and entering same into endnote while at a cafe is one of my strategies for making writing pleasurable,
I also practice the writing style of authors I enjoy or who have the profound ideas... seems to help new understandings flow. However, this is the opposite to Irene Goodman's advice, hers is to find your authentic voice and stick with it. I'm not there, yet.
3. Schedule the thesis into your life. Mine takes up a lot of my life. Apparently highly effective authors are disciplined writers and will treat the writing as their work. Enjoyable or not, they will write. They will also have a life.
For some it works same time every day.
For others its the reading when the kids are awake (as its easier to pick up and put down) and writing when they are asleep.
I settle for what feels like all the time outside of the day job and sometimes inside of the day job. It actually isnt this. But its an omnipresence that I am happy with. If I didnt like it, this would be a serious problem.
4. Plan.
I have a few.
There is what I tell myself is pure fabrication that I write for the annual review.
Then there's the one that I am comfortable with, based in what Sherry Turkle calls a triumph of tinkering. Citing Claude Levi-Strauss on bricolage, she describes an arranging and rearranging "Bricoleurs approach problem solving by entering into a relationship with their work materials that has far more the flavor of a conversation than a monologue".
Where the writing of a composition comes first and then the plan; a softer style of bottom up rather than top down.
I do plan to finish, i have semi inflexible dates in my head, this years for data collecting, but its also got some writing, and some rewriting. Next year is for writing also, but its an analysis focus, in the absence of funding the year after is the end point as it will be the writing and the rewiriting. Tinkering and polishing. There is still an end insight I have heard stories of those who might polish and edit down to the blank page. I do not intend to be one of the,m. I am aware that I can get lost in wordsmithing and I take heart from Latour, "a good thesis is a finished one".
5. Want it.
Other factors in your life may have to move around this one, which comes first? The thesis or the job? The personal fitness or the thesis? The social life or the thesis? What do you still want at the end of the thesis? My family. I know my bottom line.
6. Stay with, and work, what works for you.
Supervisor, methodology, friends, subject and even the technology. Having the advantage of actor network theory is a convoluted double take, I can look out there with it, and i can also look in here with it; this is a retake on the first suggested strategy; it takes work to make it coalesce.
7. Here to there
Write to your audience. Terry Evans (co-author with Carey Denholm of Doctorates Downunder : keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and New Zealand. Camberwell, Victoria, ACER Press, 2006.) told me its an incredibly selfish undertaking writing for oneself, one's supervisor and one's markers. 3 readers guaranteed. They want to know that you can take it (and them) from here to there. New knowledge. coherently.

If you are/were writing a thesis what would be your 7 memes?

memes (a virus for the www?)
Memes; the word rhymes with dreams and is short for mimemes, from the word mimetic. Infectious ideas; a micropersuasion, spread from person to person.


  1. Anonymous12:42 AM

    Good notes on Thesis Writing , What about thesis proposal writing?

  2. mmmm, I should be able to handle this one...was going to flick a response here, but it deserves a blog entry. What would you put up?

  3. Anonymous8:18 PM

    You know how to write a good thesis paper??

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