Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ASK A GRAD STUDENT: Help, I hate my thesis

I am totally depressed and the reason is my master thesis. I have reached a place where I need help and every time I go to my mentor she brushes me off and suggests I go to some proffessor in some other department to ask for help. Nobody wants to help me and I cant achieve any progress. I think of quitting but then I cosider the time and money I spent and how my family will be dissappointed at me till the end of time . Arghhhh it is making my life a hell

Dear Anonymous,

Because you are a real person and not some fake letter I made up just to be funny, I will give you real advice. You have listed several problems, and as I proved in my previous blog entry, it is best to take little bites and chew very slowly.

First, it is important to understand that theses were invented for the express purpose of torturing people. It's the nerdy version of hazing. So, there is no way to solve thesis misery except by saying, "Thank you sir, may I have another."

Next we will address your desire to quit. Of all the problems this one is the most vital. It's normal to want to quit, and you must sit yourself down and think carefully about whether or not you really should. Depression is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong, and it may really be worth it to quit. Either way you must make a full and complete decision and stick to it. If you decide to quit, you are my hero and are free to quit reading at this point.

Assuming that since you are still reading you have made a firm decision to stay in the rat race, the problems you have with unhelpful professors will fall into place. At this point, it is a simple matter of jumping through hoops until they give you a diploma. Since you have made your decision to graduate at all costs, walking across campus to a different department should be quite easy.

Don't forget to communicate your thesis commitment to your professors. Perhaps they have been standoffish because they have sensed your past thesis-hatred. But as soon as they are sure you're in the game, they will be more likely to help you. Also, it's OK to be persistent. You know what they say: The annoying student gets the degree.

Even after you have followed my advice, graduating will still not be easy. But once you're done, you're done forever ... unless you choose to get a PhD.

Good Luck!
Miserable Grad Student


Meagan said...

If your thesis adviser is ignoring you, why not genuinely try the people he/she's pointing you to? My BFA thesis adviser was less than helpful, so I latched on to four other professors for advice. They didn't really give me guidance (they had their own students to deal with) but they provided me with valuable feedback.

Meagan said...

PS I know that the problem is not just whining because my current (MFA) thesis adviser is WONDERFUL. It sucks to get stuck with a lame adviser.

Miserable Grad Student said...

Thank you Meagan, that's exactly what I was trying to say. Once you've decided to go for it, you just have to do whatever your adviser says, including consulting other professors. And who knows? Those other people could be a big help.

Vladimir Chen said...

Grad Student, I so much resonate with what you say about your experience writing a thesis. Been there done that ;)

You need to understand one critical thing. When you do your research (gathering data, reading papers, talking with people), it is the stage where you need to be active consulting with people, books, Internet and other (re)sources.

There is another stage and that is when you start actually writing your thesis. At this stage having collected enough information you just need to write, write and write. If you feel that you can't write or it is very hard most likely you have not done your homework well enough. Editing is another type of job, so you should not worry about how good your first draft is.

If you want to stop being depressed you need to have a plan, a deadline and continuous baby-step action taking.

Only this way you can finish your thesis on time and stop procrastination, which is the source of your depression at the moment.

Unless you get a grip of how you work on your thesis you will keep feeling bad about the entire process.

One of my subcribers has had a similar experience and I've recently conducted an interview with him, where he shares his experience.

If you head to which is my blog you will find lots of tips and advice on thesis writing as well as mindset tips.


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Mattie Parra said...

I totally agree with you! Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Little steps can make a big different when comes to dissertation writing. It can also help you avoid mistake as you would slowly but surely progress with your paper. Anyway, there are really a lot of things grad student have trouble with when they are undergoing paper writing.

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