Finishers’ Wisdom: Tip #1 – Progress Not Perfection

Recent doctoral thesis finishers Emma Kelly and Wendy Moore got together at the latest AUT Postgraduate Writers’ Retreat to collate their 10 top tips for working on a PhD thesis. ThesisLink is publishing their insights over two weeks in our latest blogging event: Finishers’ Wisdom! Enjoy.

Tip 1: Progress not perfection

One of the scariest things is the blank page and the blinking cursor, awaiting that magical sentence to arrive. A wave of panic would then ensue – did I know enough, had I read enough, who am I to be writing about this, what if it is all wrong? The more consideration given to such questions, the more writer’s block would set in. This would often cause me to have long periods of self-doubt and this would then lead to thinking that if I couldn’t write what others would perceive as ‘right’ or ‘good’, then I had better not write at all.blank

After sharing this state of panic with my supervisor, she made me write a ‘mantra’ and have it visible next to my writing space – progress not perfection. I actually stuck it above my computer screen so that every time I stopped and began to panic about what I was meant to be constructing, it would be in my line of sight. During very tough times, I even started saying it out loud in order to convince myself!

The tip: our writing should not be ‘perfect’ on first construction; as the thesis evolves, the writing will be reworked a number of times. The aim of the game is to write – not to write perfectly in the first draft.

– Wendy Moore

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink. She has a research background in science and narrative. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. She has previously researched fictional representations of evolution and quantum mechanics. She has taught such diverse texts as Blade Runner and Bridget Jones’s Diary, and her most obscure skill is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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