My submission timeline just got a whole lot shorter.

Until a few weeks ago, I was planning to submit my PhD thesis at the end of my fourth year (September 2020). I figured I’d use all the time I have available to make the thesis the best it can be.

My new plan is to submit in Spring 2020. After looking through everything I’ve written so far and speaking to my supervisors, I decided I might be better off moving my deadline forward. Which means I now have approximately six months to go.

Scary! Exciting! Ahh!

It all came down to the question of what a thesis needs to be in order to pass. While I could easily carry on writing, rewriting, refining, tweaking my work until the end of time, at some point I need to stop. It’s never going to be perfect, and my examiners won’t be looking for perfection.

According to my university’s very official list of Research Degree Award Requirements, my thesis needs to demonstrate that I:

  • have an adequate knowledge of the discipline within which the research is grounded and of the literature relevant to the research
  • am proficient in relevant method(s) of research
  • can present information clearly
  • can put forward arguments in an appropriate and coherent form.

Most importantly, my thesis must represent an original contribution to knowledge, demonstrate that I can exercise independent judgement, and be worthy of publication in whole or in part in a learned journal or the equivalent.

Adequate knowledge. Clarity and coherence. Original contribution.

These things are much more achievable than perfection.

There’s a special mantra that often follows PhD students in the final stages of their studies: ‘A good thesis is a finished thesis. A great thesis is a published thesis. A perfect thesis is neither’. Getting past perfectionism is difficult, but this feels like sage advice. I just need to get the thing finished and examined – the sooner the better.

This is why I’ve brought my deadline forward. Six months is enough time to finish writing my final chapter, rewrite my introduction, and edit all five chapters. It won’t be perfect. But it should (hopefully) be enough.

To get to the elusive Full Thesis Draft, where everything exists and only editing remains, I’m taking part in my very first #AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month). This means committing to a series of self-set writing goals for the month of November. My plan is to increase my usual weekly word count and get to a full (rough) chapter draft by the end of the month. I’m starting with around 4,000 words of the chapter already written, so I should hopefully be able to crack out the remaining 6,000-7,000 in the next four weeks and make a start on editing.

If I hit my target, I’ll have my Full Thesis Draft by Christmas.

If I hit my target, I’ll treat myself to more delicious cheese over Christmas than I would otherwise eat.

That’s motivation right there.

Here’s the spreadsheet I’ve set up ready for the first day of #AcWriMo tomorrow. If you’re planning to take part and want to keep in touch through November, let me know!

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