When Going It Alone Is Not the Answer when Writing your Thesis or Dissertation
Advanced students writing theses and dissertations rarely proceed in a vacuum without assistance from their supervisors and committee members. No matter how conscientious and encouraging such mentors are, however, there are times when a student feels as though he or she were all alone in bearing an enormous burden that tends to get a good deal heavier before the load is lightened. This is less likely to happen during the research stages than during the writing processes of a thesis or dissertation. Once the research has been conducted and the results obtained, analysis is necessary, but logical and meaningful assessments of complex research with complicated findings can prove to be very challenging intellectual work, and much of it must be done on your own. Presenting sophisticated research and its meaning in writing that is clear and correct can be equally daunting, and it also tends to be isolating, which some academic and scientific authors find productive, while many others do not.
If you decide that you are among those researchers who are not productive when left alone with the jobs of analysing and writing, you may want to consider joining a discussion or writing group for thesis and/or dissertation students. There are now many sites online where postgraduate students can post and discuss their worries, challenges, failures, successes, tips and warnings with other degree candidates engaged in similar work. These can be excellent venues for sharing concerns and discovering answers and suggestions for specific problems, and they tend to be informal and usually impersonal contexts that can be entered and exited at will so that taking part need not cut into your work time unless you wish it to do so. One caveat is that you cannot always be sure exactly who is providing the advice you find on such sites or why, so everything you read should be filtered carefully, ensuring that any suggestions will be appropriate for your university, your discipline, your department, your research, your writing and your lifestyle.
More personal are groups of thesis or dissertation students at your institution or within your department. Groups that meet in person tend to create a sense of fellow feeling among their members that can be very helpful when you are suffering from too much alone time with your work. If all the students in a group are studying at the same university or in the same department, the same or similar regulations and guidelines will apply to everyone, so shared experiences and the advice that comes with them may be more applicable to your work and situation. You may even find a colleague who is working on a topic very similar to your own and shares your expertise and even some of your ideas. Such a thesis or dissertation buddy can be the perfect person with whom to bash ideas about, and the two of you might read each other’s draft chapters and provide constructive criticism that will allow you to improve your work before sharing it with your supervisor and committee members. Do be careful, however, of investing too much time in helping others without receiving help in return. If you have a lot of spare time, you might choose such a policy, and reading the writing of others who are working in similar areas is usually productive, but the best writing buddies thrive on giving and taking in equal measures.
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