Things you never knew about writing a PhD thesis

Writing a thesis at the PhD level is probably one of the most time consuming and challenging things a student could ever do. Because there is so much riding on the success of your thesis, you need to be as educated about what is involved in this process as you possibly can. Here are some essential points that no one may ever tell you but they are critical to know:

  • You may get a dismal supervisor who is ineffective and not at all helpful. In reality some supervisors have no idea what they’re doing and may never read your writing, never attend the supervisory meetings and in essence are career-obsessed and selfish. You can buffer this problem by making sure at least one person on your supervisory team has extensive experience as a thesis student supervisor.
  • You have more rights to selecting your supervisor than the educational institution may give you the impression of. If you can talk to the supervisor you want and get their approval before the administrators try to assign you to a supervisor, you can inform them of the supervisor’s commitment.
  • No matter what others may tell you, hold your supervisory meetings on a weekly basis. This helps both you and your supervisor to remain passionate and connected about your research and your writing.
  • There is no simple recipe for a successful PhD thesis research. There are too many different kinds of writers, variety of approaches and unclear standards.
  • You’ll have to basically give up your weekends for the next 10 years.
  • It’s important not to irritate your examiners.
  • Make sure you print out and read your thesis in the hard copy form before you submit it. Stick to the word limit and all the basic rules for margins, spacing font etc. The word limit is not just a general target – it’s an actual limit. Don’t go over by one word.
  • Mistakes will always slip through spellcheck. You need a professional editor.
  • First impressions mean everything. Make sure your abstract and first chapter are immaculate. If you start out with a bunch of mistakes, you won’t recover.
  • Some people only ever read the abstract, so it needs to be perfect.
  • State the research question before the literature review so the reader knows exactly what your purpose is.
  • Show that you can synthesize information, reach a conclusion and demonstrate critical thinking. Don’t just rehash other peoples’ ideas.