The Benefits of Writing for Your Thesis or Dissertation Supervisor as Soon as Possible
The impulse to postpone writing something to submit to your supervisor or primary mentor until you feel you have truly worthwhile research to report and valuable ideas to share is a natural one and completely understandable. You want to make a good first impression by demonstrating the excellence of your research and the sophistication of your analyses and interpretations. However, producing some text related to your project, no matter how insignificant or intermediate it may seem, initiates the process of progressive writing that is so necessary to successful completion of a thesis or dissertation. It also provides an excellent opportunity for you as well as your supervisor to identify, address and ideally resolve issues connected with your research, your writing and your working relationship.
One relatively simple benefit of writing for your supervisor early in the thesis or dissertation process is that it offers a perfect chance to establish important matters of style and formatting. Some supervisors will be more concerned with such matters than others, but you should definitely take the initiative and open a discussion on the topic over your first piece of writing so that you can determine exactly how you should proceed. If your university or department provides stylistic and structural guidelines for theses and dissertations, there may be little to discuss, but you should ensure that you know where to find the information and thoroughly understand all requirements. If no such guidelines are provided, you and your supervisor can decide which methods and styles would work best for your thesis or dissertation, and you will then be able to use them consistently in all writing you do from that point on, thereby saving yourself a great deal of time and trouble in the future.
Still more important is ensuring that you are on the right track when it comes to your research itself. Conducting the research and doing the writing to draft a single chapter before receiving feedback from your supervisor is reasonable, but drafting several chapters before receiving critical feedback is not. Commentary on and discussion of one chapter can help you not only revise and improve that chapter, but also draft other chapters, and pushing on without that feedback and the opportunity to discuss and refine your work can be disastrous. If you have started out on the wrong foot, for instance, or are using practices that are neither effective nor acceptable, all of the time and effort you have invested may produce very little that can actually be used in your thesis or dissertation. In addition, if it turns out that the problem is not so much a matter of faulty approaches and processes on your part, but instead due to the fact that you and your supervisor simply do not see eye to eye regarding your intentions for your thesis, your methods of research and your ways of writing, you need to know sooner rather than later so that you can work towards a compromise or (in extreme cases) look into the possibility of a different supervisor. It is never wise to leave issues that trouble you unexpressed and unresolved: confusion and uncertainty do not establish solid ground on which to move forward, and neither serious problems nor significant differences of opinion are simply going to go away on their own.
Finally, sharing your writing as soon as possible with your supervisor will bring to light any serious problems with your language skills and writing style. Although you will want to discuss such problems with your supervisor, you will probably have to seek any assistance you require elsewhere. You may need to visit your university’s writing clinic or engage the services of a professional academic or scientific proofreader to ensure that your thesis or dissertation achieves the high standard of formal communication required for scholarly writing. If so, it is best to begin benefitting from the help you need as soon as possible.
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