This post by Anaise Irvine first appeared on Thesislink in July 2015.
I noticed something recently. A lot of academic wisdom can have multiple meanings. Things that we are told to do in our research can apply to surviving our research as well.
Here are some mantras that have one meaning when you apply them to your thesis, and another meaning when you apply them to surviving your thesis.
The mantra: I will define my area of work
The in-thesis meaning: Create a thesis topic and a set of research questions that is well-defined, tight, and narrower than you think it should be. Carve out your research space so that your thesis can fill a gap in current knowledge, without spilling out in all directions.
The research survival meaning: Have a space to work, set it up exactly how you like it, and then don’t let anyone else near it. Ever. Some members of your household might try to use it: stop them. Some well-intentioned soul might even try to clean it: shoo them away. It’s your domain. Defend your desk!
The mantra: I will be selective with my sources
The in-thesis meaning: Cite quality research. Evaluate the reputations of those you wish to cite. Choose which scholars you wish to align with, and think twice about incorporating the work of those who may be questionable or tangential to your field.
The research survival meaning: Think carefully about whose input you will listen to. Your spouse tells you that you seem inspired about your latest chapter? Great, thanks, that’s definitely true! Your parents tell you to pick another career? Sorry mum & dad, I reject your input.
The mantra: I will check my work before submitting
The in-thesis meaning: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Catch errors before your examiners do. Run your work past other readers and have them report anything that might be fishy.
The research survival meaning: Check your workload. Before submitting to a schedule of research, writing, paid work, family commitments, hobbies, and so on, check that you can manage your planned workload. Don’t leap into any commitments without evaluating how they will impact on your research time and your sanity!