Burning the thesis

Less than three weeks out from thesis submission and I nearly burned the whole thing. One press of the ‘delete’ key and move on. Crazy, I know. But why?

As I’ve touched on before, writing a thesis is absolutely nothing like any essay or paper I’ve done so far. True, those prepared me well for this project, but it has taken research and writing to a whole new level. One that is in many ways good. But it isn’t all roses. The ‘dark side’ is a sense of self doubt that comes and goes. Most intriguingly, it seems

My trouble today started with a glance at the calendar, and it spiralled out of control from there. Looking at the time remaining reminded me of everything I want to do. In truth, I’m right about on target for where I’d like to be. But I am already over my word limit and haven’t even finished all my chapters. And I haven’t looked at all the sources I wanted to. And that thought led me to start doubting my use of the sources I do have. Which then led to doubting the whole project.

It probably sounds far fetched and ridiculous to someone reading from the outside. And I probably freaked a few of my friends out today as I spat out a verbal tirade against my thesis. And yes, the thought of deletion really did cross my mind, though there was no real threat of execution.

Burning it would be extreme, but I do think for thesis writers like myself keeping perspective is important. While deleting the file would be a bad idea, it is a way to remind myself that it is just one document and it doesn’t define life. Even if some of my insecurities are grounded—maybe I haven’t used as many primary sources as I could have—it is unlikely to doom my project. And even then, really, what would happen? My pride would be wounded, I wouldn’t get my masters, and (hopefully) I’d still have learned something out of the process.

I joked on facebook that in times like this I often look to job postings for non-academic careers as a way to console myself. Even though I think I’ll be continuing on with academics after this degree (presuming, of course, this MA doesn’t burn in flames!), it is helpful to remember it isn’t the only option.

More realistically, reading back over my notes for my research and thesis, I saw all the turning points that have led me to the point I am now. I found that incredibly helpful because I realised I wasn’t just at some random point. The project I have in front of me is the result of many discussions, hours of research, feedback, and choices along the way. No, I haven’t covered everything I could/should have, and that is ok. No, it isn’t as clear as it could/should be, and that is ok.

So to any fellow academic writers who feel like throwing in the towel: keep it up. Take a break (maybe an extended one!), get some perspective, get a beverage of choice, and clear the mind. And to the friends who listened to my wallowing today, thanks.

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2 thoughts on “Burning the thesis

  1. Truer words have never been said. In the process of finishing my applications for PT school, I have wallowed in the self doubt of every classification that I have. Every word in my personal statement has been scrutinized, every entry in their database meticulously calculated. Exhausting? Yes. Rewarding? We will see, but hindsight is always 20/20. Perhaps it’s time for that beverage of choice.

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