15 things to make thesis-writing easier.

We don’t live in an ideal world – but one has the right to dream nonetheless. It used to be that you had to go to the library and sort through thousands of journals until you came across the right page of the right journal, with the right reference for your paper. Now, with McGill VPN, you can access anything – anytime – anywhere. No questions asked. McGill VPN makes me feel omnipresent. I can access all of those journals and databases that are private and all of the premium articles that I don’t want to pay $70 to read once and realize it isn’t what I’m looking for.

So, thank you for that McGill. I love you, VPN. If it wasn’t for you, Google would have nothing to offer!

There are still 15 things that would make it much easier on me to finalize my thesis. Here they are:

15.  Starbucks delivery. Yes it would be easier if Starbucks delivered.  Because from the privacy of your home, it is hard to just “step out” and find Starbucks.  Plus, even if you do step out, this eliminates any problems with lines – endless lines.

Image source: http://fxb.worthonethousand.com/entries/567446/starbucks-delivery-service

14.  Space. The thing is, we need much more space for thesis-writing.  More space to put all of our books, papers, pens, and little knick-knacks like post-its and bookmarks.  I’m not talking about that coveted office space that is supposedly available to all graduate students (a little cramped corner of a room shared with a ton of other stressed individuals).  What I’m talking about is a large room designated to each thesis-writing person.  Each thesis-writer shall be granted 100 square feet of space!  We’re not low on space in Canada, with about 35 million inhabitants and 9 093 507 square kilometres of space on land, there is enough space to go around.

13.  Magical printing. You know when you’re not around a printer and you need to print something…or when your printer runs out of paper or ink.  Well in the ideal thesis-writer’s universe, paper and ink are endless.  Printers always work.  They’re always available.  They also magically appear when you need them.  Print away!

12. A P.A.  No, not to be read “A.P.A.” – because in all reality – I’m not sure how much good the APA is doing us.  Other than making our life difficult when it comes to referencing our stuff.  What I mean is a PA as in personal assistant. You know, just to keep us in check.  We can’t do everything.  I mean when you’re writing your thesis, you need someone to do everything else.  For example, run your business for you.  If a PA would be provided for us for the thesis-writing period, we’d all be much more healthy and happy.

Image source: http://www.nypost.com/r/nypost/blogs/popwrap/200805/Images/200805_Sex_and_the_city_pictures3.jpg

11.   A coach. Not the kind of coach who is pushing you to finish and putting you down.  The kind of coach who is cheering you on as you write your thesis.  Telling you you’re brilliant.  Telling you that you can do it.  Holding a flag indicating your finish line.  Promising you that this small contribution you’re making to the world has a purpose, and an end.

10. A Facebook freeze. See, the problem with Facebook is not that it’s distracting, nor that it’s addictive.  It’s the sense you get – right after you delete your account – that you’ve become that graduate hermit you’ve been so afraid of becoming, and that everyone else’s life is cool and fun and happening on Facebook, while you’re missing out.  So if Facebook didn’t exist, everyone’s life would probably seem as bland as it was back in the 80s.

9. An inspirational wand. What this wand would do – in your time of “writer’s block” – would be to all of a sudden give you inspiration which would help you to continue writing your thesis with many great ideas in mind.  God knows how much we need that!

8.  A research validity radar. What this radar would do – when installed into your toolbar (on your computer) – is it would give ratings to all of the research that you’re reading.  Those research studies that are unfounded or extremely biased would get lower ratings, while the good stuff would get the high ratings.  I find that much of my time is allocated to reading research that is wasting my precious time.  The reasons why I am directed to it are beyond me – and the reasons such research was funded or the agendas that it has are also beyond me.  Yet, instead of figuring it out the hard way, I’d like to get a radar redirecting me so that I’d know not to look at certain articles and books.

7. People quoting others properly.  Now, in your literature review, you’re doing a lot of referencing and this is where you can see that those who you are referencing are often referencing others and that’s where the problem lies:  many of the references are misrepresentative, they take the research out of context and make it sound different, they exaggerate and they misreference…it’s so frustrating to read.  The original sentence goes back about 5 references (it’s been referred to over and over) and then you find out in the end that the original study was done back in 1984 and the findings weren’t what you expected at all.  That is what seems to happen a lot in social scientific research and it becomes a time-wasting endeavour trying to find out what the original source says.

6. Paid holidays. It doesn’t make any sense, right?  Technically, as a grad student, you have to have applied for funding, and received it, or be topped-up by your supervisor to have any money or income (unless you’re working) – but even if you get funding – it does not cover vacation time.  Often what is most needed is a week off, to relax and to regain all of your energy.  Too much work and too much concentration and staring into a screen are not good for anyone’s health.  A paid holiday once every two months is definitely a plus when you’re writing a thesis.

5. Fairmount bagels delivery. And they’d have to be fresh out of the oven (not the ones that have been lying there for 5 minutes and are cold).

Image source: http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/TMImages/04100-04199/04108/fairmount-bagel-bakery_1.jpg

4.  A sense of what life will be like post-thesis. A PhD?  The job market?  Your career prospects?  Just a sense of what happens afterward, so that you keep going and aren’t afraid of some gaping black hole to face after you graduate.  School can sometimes become a buffer between the student and the real world, keeping them distracted.

3.  Organization and focus courses. A lot of people say do yoga, or do meditation.  In reality, neither yoga nor meditation have helped me to concentrate on writing my thesis.  If anything, they distract me.  They make me realize that sitting hunched over a computer staring into a screen for 12 hours a day is not healthy.  What I need are courses that teach me to be mindful, teach me how to concentrate (read: Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr), teach me how to focus on one thing (i.e. the section of the thesis that I’m working on) and not let my mind drift or wander and come up with answers to the world’s problems.  Just write the thesis.  Also, what is greatly needed are the time management and organizational skills it takes to really work hard on one thing without lapsing.  It takes great discipline, and without enough incentive or motivation, self-discipline does not prevail.

2. A publications, job search, and conference assistant. What this person would do is to find jobs for you that you can apply for, relevant to your field of study.  This person would also find all of the publications that you could send your papers to so that they’d be considered for journals, etc.  This person would also help you to find out where all the relevant conferences are being held, so that you could send in your presentation proposal on time, and still be able to go as a graduate student doing research in real-time.

1. Money. You know, the green stuff.  If someone were payin’ you to write it, wouldn’t it be…easier?

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