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How to Finish Your PhD

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A talk that I gave to the PhD students in the UQ Business School

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How to Finish Your PhD

  1. 1. Finishing Your Thesis 2 October 2009 How to Finish the PhD Tim Kastelle
  2. 2. “ Oh, come on – it’s in my head. Must I go on? Are you really going to make me write it down?” David Mamet
  3. 3. The only good PhD…
  4. 4. … is a finished PhD
  5. 6. The greatest scientist ever… … had problems finishing
  6. 7. Data Collection 1831-1835
  7. 8. Key Insight - 1837
  8. 9. Master’s Thesis? - 1842
  9. 10. Main Work Published - 1859
  10. 11. Why then?
  11. 12. What took so long?
  12. 13. What is your problem?
  13. 14. Problem #1: <ul><li>I have to write a whole thesis </li></ul>
  14. 15. Solution: <ul><li>Break it into small parts </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t try to write perfect first drafts </li></ul>
  15. 16. Problem #2 <ul><li>I have to read more of the literature </li></ul>
  16. 17. Solution: <ul><li>Well, actually, you don’t! </li></ul>
  17. 18. Problem #3 <ul><li>But I have to teach </li></ul>
  18. 19. Solution: <ul><li>Schedule time to write – regularly </li></ul><ul><li>Treat this like teaching time - uninterruptible! </li></ul><ul><li>Set output goals </li></ul>
  19. 20. Problem #4 <ul><li>I can only write at night (in the morning, standing on my head, with my cat on my lap, etc.) </li></ul>
  20. 21. Solution: <ul><li>Schedule time to write – regularly </li></ul><ul><li>Schedule it for when you’re most effective </li></ul><ul><li>But realise that the more you write, the more you’re able to write </li></ul>
  21. 22. “ As late as 1806, I was waiting for genius to set upon me so that I might write... If I had spoken around 1795 of my plans to write, some sensible man would have told me to write every day for an hour or so. Genius or no genius. That advice would have made me use profitably ten years of my life that I wasted stupidly waiting for genius to descend.” -Stendahl
  22. 23. Tips <ul><li>Think of yourself as a writer – writers write! </li></ul>
  23. 24. Tips <ul><li>Think of yourself as a writer – writers write! </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is thinking </li></ul>
  24. 25. Tips <ul><li>Think of yourself as a writer – writers write! </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Write every day, right from the start of your PhD </li></ul>
  25. 26. Tips <ul><li>Think of yourself as a writer – writers write! </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Write every day, right from the start of your PhD </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge that reading is displacement activity – and stop using it as an excuse for not writing </li></ul>
  26. 27. Tips <ul><li>Think of yourself as a writer – writers write! </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Write every day, right from the start of your PhD </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge that reading is displacement activity – and stop using it as an excuse for not writing </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge that the other three problems are also excuses – and stop using them too </li></ul>
  27. 28. Thank you! http://timkastelle.org

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