Thesis Boot Camp: The view from ‘the other side’

This past week I had the privilege to help facilitate the first ‘solo’ Thesis Boot Camp (TBC) event on campus. For those of you who don’t know, it’s essentially 2 ½ days of no-holds-barred, intensive writing event intended for final-stage PhD students to get as many words down on paper as possible. Last year we had the brilliant Dr Peta Freestone, award winning writer and creator of TBC, lead the very first event.  From that experience we decided to try our hand to run it again this year.

tbc-bricksFrom a ‘former-PhD-student-now-facilitator’ perspective it was fascinating to observe this group of students rise to the challenge of writing their thesis. As I spoke to the participants I found I could really empathise with their struggles. The anxiety and self-doubt seem to grow during the final-stages of the PhD and I remember, quite vividly, the effort it took to ‘just write’. These memories made me all the more determined to find ways to keep the group positive and motivated.

Everyone needs cheerleaders, and during this event it’s a fine balance between what I call ‘pat and push’. Yes, it’s also known as ‘carrot and stick’ but I prefer my version. Less ‘you’re a horse being lead’ kind of visual and more sports orientated (?). Anyhow, knowing when to be reassuring and knowing when to issue an challenge wasn’t easy, especially towards final few hours when we’re all losing steam. Being ‘on the other side’gave me some insight into the process they were currently undergoing. This made it a little easier to know when to lend a hand and when to lend a listening ear!

It’s sometimes hard to know what to say, and I wondered if my words sounded ’empty’ because they seem so cliché (e.g. You can do it! Keep going! etc.). Then I remembered being on the receiving end of this kind of encouragement, and feeling quite relieved to hear these sorts of messages. So I hoped, in some way, what I said was useful to this group!

We’ve got another TBC coming up later this year so, fingers crossed, it’ll be just as productive as this one!

Image my own, taken before boot camp (duh)!

The anti-climax of submitting “thesis_FINAL.pdf”

And so, the last leg of my PhD experiences came down to this:

Thesis correction list received from external examiners- read.
Thesis edited as per corrections listed – done.
Corrections sent to external examiners for approval – yes. 
Corrections approved by external examiners – yes.
Final check of thesis for other typos etc. – done.
Final version of thesis – submitted (online). 
Thesis received by university administration – approved

And that was that!

Throughout my PhD I thought the final thesis submission would be this big deal. Like some fireworks or trumpets or, I don’t know, some kind of “TA DA!” sort of moment.

phd032307s
My thesis submission was definitely NOT this eventful!

In reality, it felt more like a quiet sense of relief. I think the run up to the viva and the aftermath that followed was certainly the most memorable point of my (UK-based) PhD experience. Everything that came afterwards had this sort of bureaucratic feel to it. I suppose emotionally I was less involved, so when I pressed “submit” for the last time, I felt very calm, almost detached. It wasn’t a negative feeling or an overly positive one either. Maybe once I print out the hard copy of my thesis this will all feel more “real” but for now, I’m glad this part of my PhD experience is over.

(Comic by Jorge Cham via http://www.phdcomics.com)

 

Thesis corrections submitted (whew)

I had my viva several weeks ago but since then it’s been full steam ahead! I was so focussed on preparing for my viva that I put off preparing for my lectures until the weekend before teaching started. Basically, I’ve been on catch up mode ever since!

This post is a short one on my experiences completing thesis corrections. In the UK PhDs have different categories based on the number/type of corrections requested by the examiners. The time allocated to carry out the corrections is calculated by the examiners according to how much they think you can do in a certain amount of time. It’s not an exact science so there’s a range of interpretations.

I was given four weeks to complete my corrections. What I found out was that four weeks did NOT mean that I had a full four weeks to work on my corrections. In actual fact I had three weeks, with one week for the external examiners to read and approve my corrections, then send it back so that I can submit the final version of my thesis.

You’d think this would be a huge motivator to get my corrections done asap, but the fact was that I left the bulk of the work to do during the third week. I can’t really pin point why. I could say I was busy with other responsibilities, but I think after my viva I was feeling tired. Like deep-down tired. So I took a week off. Did nothing thesis related. Week two I started on the more straightforward corrections: fix these typos, check this reference, change this word etc.

My third and final week was when the panic settled in, and I went in hard, completing the main bulk of my corrections. I finally submitted the revised version of my thesis to my examiners by 5pm on the day they were due. I know it wasn’t the best use of my time, but strangely don’t feel guilty about putting off doing the work. Anyhow, I should hear the outcome from my examiners sometime next week so, fingers crossed, it’ll be enough.

Image my own. Supervisors notes from viva.