The Summer is Heating up

With temperatures as high as 32°C and humidity levels above 50%, Montreal sweltering summer heat has finally arrived. When your colleague, back from China, says the weather in Beijing was cool compared to Montreal, you know it’s hot.

What is also heating up is work on the Thesis. The August deadline is looming on the horizon like a heat shimmer. Is it hot outside or is this bead of sweat here for another reason? Let’s just say I haven’t been writing blog posts lately for good reasons.

What is hard about academia is determining where to draw the line in the proverbial hot sand of research. It is clear to me at this point that there is no endpoint. No finishing tape to cross. It is all about the next questions that can be asked and the new spaces that can be explored. The results obtained are never completely different from what has passed before. What is next will not be too far from the present either.

excavating-fossil
Brush away but hopefully not in bad lands
(Source: Jurassic Park – The Lost World)

The only tape is the one you (or more likely your supervisor) decide to unroll around the work you have done. Much like a paleontologist excavating a fossil, you delimit the area and that’s it. Let the next set of paleontologists come over and continue the excavation. They will resolve some of the issues, ask new questions and pass the sand brush to yet another cohort.

I believe the image is especially accurate for a master’s degree. You want to emerge the underlying subject by carefully and methodically brushing all of its contours. In the end, it maybe matters less if what is exposed is simply another member of a previously discovered species and not an incredibly large discovery. As long as the procedure is followed rigorously and some things were learned in the process, then it is fine.

This is also the period where you brush up what you have done. Make everything look nice and suddenly your research becomes far more legitimate. Seeing things come together is encouraging. It helps grind those remaining problems away.

Remember: it’s just sand, not quicksand.

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