The long writing – or why it took 2 months longer than expected to finish my thesis

It is done! I have submitted my PhD thesis! And only two months after my (self set) deadline…. and here it is:

IMG_20150710_142839

The attentive reader of my blog will have noticed that I haven’t written any new entry for quite a while now. My last entry was about 50 days before I had planned to hand in my thesis and lies now four months in the past. Back then I was slightly optimistic that I could make the deadline. Obviously I did not! I thought I might share my thoughts on why I didn’t manage to hand in in time. Just to make sure noone is foolish enough to make the same mistakes. Or the only mistake, which is to ignore that

everything takes longer than expected.

It really does. Here a list of things that took me longer than expected:

  • Figures. Making high quality, easy to read figures takes some while. But I think they are key to a good thesis. What worth is a well written text if you cant understand the figures? After all the figures of your thesis should tell the same story as your text.
  • Analysing (last minute) data. Ideally you should have not generate/get new data whilst writing up. But you probably will. And it will cost you time. A lot of time!
  • Writing your final chapter. You might think “Ah I have done all the hard work, now I just have to write some discussions/conclusions/further work. How long can that take right?”. You’d be wrong. The final chapter is quite crucial and will take some time (in my case about 1 month) to write. But if it is written well it will please the examiners (fingers crossed).
  • Getting feedback. This really depends on how well the drafts are you send to you supervisor. And how busy your supervisor is. And the number of supervisors you have and how many of them should read the chapters/parts of you PhD before you want to submit. But it will take a long time. Sometimes they will get back to you within days, sometimes it may take up to a month (!). And then you might end up with feedback from 4 people that can range from “this is fine” to “rewrite all of it”. But remember, in the end it is your thesis (but don’t submit without a “okayish” from at least one of your supervisors 😉 ).

Some things like formatting could take a lot of time, but if you write in LaTeX is should not take much time as it is automated. However, you can spend days working on a LaTeX template for your thesis! I will post an updated version of my template within the next few days. It has changed quite a bit from the one I posted over a year ago.

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