I am an MPhil student in my second year of part-time study at UCL. I am in the humanities field. My advisors keep making me rewrite the first chapter, I am on my 4th draft now. Ultimately when they deem it suitable, this is the chapter I will use for my upgrade from MPhil to PhD student. Should I be concerned? How many rewrites is too many?
I honestly think there is no definitive answer to this one. 'Until it's right' isn't very helpful, but it's true. Having seen some of the tales of horribly uncooperative supervisors on here, maybe it is good that your supervisors are actually reading and commenting (with any luck, positively). Maybe you could regard it as a sort of training exercise in writing up, so once you have upgraded the rest of the chapters will be less stressful :P
Hello...A LOT is the very unhelpful answer I can give you. My supervisors only want to see the final version, so they will not really give me 4 drafts back...but I have done a large number of drafts myself and kept improving on them, sent my work to friends/family members etc to comment on etc. At least it is the first draft. By the end of it you will know what level they are expecting and (hopefully) can get to a stage where you need a smaller number of drafts. Good LUCK! :)
Encouragement is not something we get often :)
And yes, on average I don't expect to get away with anything less than 15 drafts, so I submit paperFINAL file (we all suffer from premature naming) and then I end up with paperFINALFINALFINAL :)
There is only one advice: Just keep swimming...
I put through three drafts for Abstract, Introduction, Intro to Current Work, Methodlogy. Literature Reviw got to two drafts. Results was four drafts as I went through a couple of drafts myself. Discussion made four drafts and was the really hard bit to do (two big rewrites followed by two sweeps of minor amendments), basically as I learnt how to write a PhD quality Discussion. Conclusion was three drafts as was Further work (first effort scrapped, second allowed through with just a few sentences reworded).
However, this turned into a slog as I generated a document of 366 pages, about twice the size of either of my predecessors. However, with most of this being padded out with lots of figures and data (it was Science-based), the word count was around 94,000. The limit was 100,000 words so I was okay.
People's experiences seem to be different on this point and my supervisor was very clear (despte appauling hand writing) what he expected. This prevented further drafts.
Although sumbission took 4 years, two months (which would be frowned on now - the amount of data to process that I generated caused the slight overspill), it does seem after all I got away with fewer drafts when I now sit down and think about it thanks to my supervisor. The write-up stage still felt a nightmare though I thought I'd had to produce more drafts than I had.
Things don't seem so bad when I think back now,
You may well go through 15 drafts, but the first 2-3 will involve the most work (major rewriting and restructuring). After that, the changes will become more trivial, and you will start to reach a point of diminshing returns. If you are the type of writer who cafefully constructs their writing and edit as you go along, then you won't need as many drafts as someone who produces a rough-as-guts draft which needs major rework.
EDIT: Sorry about the necro, didn't notice the date.
It's refreshing to read blogs that refer to how long it actually takes to write a dissertation. I get so irritated when I read or hear that it usually takes 3 months to a year. I think 3 to 5 years is more the norm--AFTER coursework, taking comps and the bulk of the research is completed. My art history dissertation is 550 pages, plus 175 pages of notes and appendices and 180 photo plates. It took me 5 years to write, but I was teaching that whole time. If one had the luxury of not working, and really applied himself, he or she might be able to write a decent dissertation in 2 years. I think the general public thinks a Ph.D. is similar to a 2nd Masters. Wrong! It really irritates me when I see sit-coms or movies with people in their 20s who supposedly have Ph.Ds. Not realistic.
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