Tips for Starting Your Thesis

I shouldn’t have started my thesis, yet.  And I should have followed the advice of all those who have gone before me.  I am in way over my head. I’m finishing up my master’s degree– if an entire year remaining counts as finishing up– and it has been an extremely tumultuous journey.  Here is some advice that I didn’t follow, but should have:

Don’t start your thesis while taking a class. Everybody says this, but they don’t tell you why.  There are actually a few reasons.

The first being that your thesis may no longer feel like a priority.  You schedule some far off deadline (mine is 8 months away-Se[t 1st) to turn in 50 pages. Even if you have intermittent deadlines, as I do, they still seem relatively far away compared to that 30-minute presentation that is due in 2 weeks.

So what do I focus on? The presentation. Suddenly those two weeks have passed and I haven’t read the 2 novel length books on my thesis reading list. Would you really like to be 500 pages behind on your thesis reading? I don’t think so.

Secondly, no matter how easy you think that class will be, you are wrong. You still need to pass that final class with an A to graduate with honors. And working on the thesis whilst in the class could ruin all of that. Conclusion: Class + Thesis = Burned-out Grad Student

Watch out for surprise homework. Your thesis advisor will assign extra work to “help” you with your thesis. And, it may actually help you take your thesis to the next level.  But having to do an extra character interview on top of the homework for class and other thesis work you’ve already scheduled down to the hour, may be problematic.

Plan your thesis out BEFORE meeting with an advisor.  Your advisor, who has worked with gazillions of know-it-all grad students, will find every gap, crack or hairline fracture in your thesis.  If there is one tiny thing you thought you’d just figure out later, forget about it.  She wants it figured out now, before you start, before there are 36 hours until D-day.  She wants details on things you didn’t even think to think about. Get started NOW on that proposal.  If you are writing fantasy, make sure you have your fictional world airtight.

Getting a full-time job is a bad idea.  If you already have a class and thesis, when do you have time for a job?  My advisor informed me that I ought to be spending 12 hours on homework for every class for which I’m enrolled.  That, and an additional 12 hours a week on thesis crap.

If you’re getting a new job, especially, you won’t have any synaptic energy left to learn the ropes there, because all you’ll be thinking about is your thesis. Which brings me to my next point.

Your thesis is all-consuming; forget your life.  If you actually like your thesis topic by the time you are done working through the proposal, you won’t want to do anything else.  Your sweet, loving boyfriend will feel neglected.  He will wonder why it is that you stare at your computer when he comes over for a visit.  Your DVR will become full, and by the time you realize it, the season finale of True Blood won’t be recorded.  You will get fat, eating chips, popcorn, and if you’re a girl, chocolate.  The money you spend on your gym membership will go to waste. Say goodbye to your social life, your friends, and anything that interested you prior to your thesis.

And lastly, don’t neglect your newly adopted Chihuahua mix.  If you do, even if she is fully trained, she will poop on your floor, lick your laptop and shed hair all over your apartment.

I know you won’t listen to any of the advice I’m giving, as no one ever does.  But I’ll be the first to say “I told you so.”

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