Random Things About Post-Grad’edness

Well I may have gotten a little distracted from the blog, but the thesis due date is around the corner! I have absolutely loved this year, an entire year dedicated to what I want to write about. There’s always people warning students that post-grad is nothing like under-grad, and writing a great 1.5k essay is nothing like writing a sustained argument for 15-20k words. That is true, but I find it suits me.

I thought I’d just write a few things about what I have learned along the way, mostly as a reminder to myself, since I’m also putting in a PhD proposal next week…:

  • Start writing early – even if it’s crap. Well really, all early writing is. You read more along the way, things will change, just don’t even hesitate about writing. Doesn’t even need to be linear!
  • Keep up with referencing – this one almost got me, and something I definitely need to do for PhD. I left writing the bibliography to the end, accidentally skipped some references and took ages trying to find the right page (or even, book!)
  • Don’t be afraid to confront – some of my early drafts were more about picking and choosing who I agreed with, which is okay, but the whole point of a thesis is to be an argument. It’s not about being mean or offensive, though it sometimes felt that way (scholars that completely dismiss Buffy as ‘teenage romance fodder’ and say it’s just like Twilight. Uh NO!). On the other hand, don’t rant. Stay relevant!
  • Just because it’s interesting doesn’t mean it’s relevant – There were quite a few things I wanted to talk about that ultimately didn’t really add to my argument. It was interesting, certainly! And I thought it was well-expressed. But I needed to step back sometimes and see if it answers my research question, and alas, this beautiful giant chunk of awesome was cruelly cut down.
  • Too much writing is better than too little and don’t stress the word count – I tried to be all structured and set aside X amount of words per section, but that so didn’t happen. I just wrote EVERYTHING I could think of. It doesn’t need to be exactly 5k words for 3 chapters and 2.5k words for intro/concl. I’m
  • Ask your supervisor! – I was lucky in that my supervisor was awesome, and I’m hoping to have her again for PhD. When we started, I was sort of incoherent and ranty about what I wanted to do and why I thought it was important, and she was able to help me pick the good bits and form a structured idea. And when I start freaking out, she was there to tell me to stop 😛
  • Everybody hurts sometimes – We feel like imposters, we feel like everything is awful and it should just be chucked out. This too will pass! Thesis writing can get a bit lonely, especially if there are few or no people in your course with you doing the same thing. I found Twitter kept me sane – for whatever situation, there was always someone who messaged back about feeling the exact same!
  • Twitter is awesome – Okay, this one is more subjective. I love twitter. I’m twitter-buddies with people from within my field and without, academics and fans, and there was always someone to talk to (argue) with about any topic, to help develop your own ideas, offer a completely different point of view, or send you an article. Trust in the people!

Higher Degree Research Tips

It’s worth it to be prepared and know what you are getting yourself into. Here’s a collection of advice I’ve been given from friends (former or current PhDer’s) in various departments, and read on blogs written by experienced university staff:

  • It is likely you will change your thesis from the initial proposal. This is completely normal and it will be for the better!
  • You become the expert on your subject – after all, it is an original project. Yes, even above your own supervisor.
  • It’s okay to delete entire chapters – ask yourself, is it breaking new ground? Does it get off topic?
  • You will experience the most dizzying highs and desperate lows. Few careers have such extremes of emotions. You will hate your thesis, and may even be tempted to give up at some points. The next day will be all rainbows and flowers.
  • You need a supervisor you get on with – that is more important than getting one who specialises in a similar area. If you can get both, that’s great!
  • It is often debated, but generally it’s advised to start writing early and often. You will revise, as over the years your writing style changes and as you research more, but it gets you closer to the end goal and in the habit of writing regularly.
  • You can have supervisors from different subject areas, depending on the topic you are covering – I’m somewhere between media, cultural studies and English.
  • There are methods for anything you have issues with. Problems with keeping your notes together? Use the Cornell method. Need to focus on writing? Try AcBoWrimo or Shut Up and Write. Whatever you need, there’s a tonne of ideas about how to do it better.
  • You will feel ‘Who cares?’ about what you are researching, but that’s another point of why you are doing this. Of course you care, and all the literature that has come before you was done by researchers who care, and there are people buying books or reading journal articles who might do it too one day and build on what you’ve done who care too!
  • Keep socially active! Even if Facebook or Twitter,  engaging with people will mean you won’t fry your brain. As cool as Sheldon is, we are not Sheldon. We need people, and discussing issues with other post-grads can help you. Still, go outside away from the desk and books AND social media. Go ride a bike or pat the cat.
  • Perfection is an enemy.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be coming back to the post to soothe my damaged soul as the years go on. Two of Master of Research, three of PhD? I’ll be fine!… *silently freaks out*