how not to write a thesis

I have started to write the thesis — going through my voluminous notes closely, slotting quotes into my hasty idea-scribbles. I used to be the sort of person who could not draft an essay. It had to be written, painstakingly, line by line. I would steep myself in the literature, piling it all into my head and into assiduously typed notes, holding it there in a huge and ponderous lattice. Then I would write, linearly. Introduction first, then section by section, then conclusion. Each sentence had to be perfectly crafted from the get-go, each argument had to be knitted from top to bottom, not woven haphazardly out of snippets and essay plans and drafts. Upon reflection I recognized that this idiosyncrasy derives from the same place as my total inability to make a mistake on a page of handwriting (I will start over again if I do). Upon further reflection I realized that this is the same impulse that paralyzes me.

but I am winning the battle against the neurosis! now I am writing terrible and incoherent sentences like the following

it is part of a larger impulse in Chinese society in which “a woman was nothing unless she was validated through kinship relations with a male” [citation??] – as daughter, wife, mother, etc., this seems to be the same in the Nazim sense, but there is more agency in that being a wife is not sufficient for dignity & elevation of status: only motherhood is & woman can increase status by proclaiming herself Mother of so-and-so

shifting paragraphs here and there, and (good lord) wholly inattentive to grammar. and I am totally proud! even if I am still compelled to put all this in a separate file from the perilous Thesis.doc, very clearly labelled DRAFT.

feel free to share any writing idiosyncrasies, if you have any 🙂


2 responses to “how not to write a thesis

  • Kyle

    My favorite personal idiosyncrasy is the following: I tend to fall in love with a sentence or phrase that I find particularly insightful. I want to include these phrases so much that I carefully craft entire paragraphs or sections of papers around them. Without fail, upon reviewing and proofreading, I realize that either a) the sentence or phrase was not so insightful after all, or b) it doesn’t really fit in with the surrounding paragraphs or sections (usually the former). It almost always ends up getting excised or so heavily modified that it is entirely unrecognizable.

  • blair

    my idiosyncracy: I usually always know exactly what my last sentence is going to be-it usually will hit me about halfway through the research period and most of the process deemed ‘writing the thesis’ is, for me, working out how I’m going to get to it.

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