Getting a first draft/refining chapters


Hi all. Interested to learn ideas on how to get from first draft to finished Thesis. Do you
(a) Write a chapter, submit for feedback, move on and revise all when you have a full unrefined first draft.
(b) Write a chapter, submit for feedback and keep revising until Supervisor happy before moving on to next Chapter.
(c) Something else.

I'm asking as I'm more of an ideas person and I've been told my data and my analysis is original but writing style and the technical terms from the theory need work. I can write really quickly (I write as a means to form ideas) so I'm wondering I'f I'm better doing scenario (a) and get an unrefined first draft and then using my final year to refine, refine, refine?


Hey Wowzers
Interesting question. I followed method (a), but not by choice, my supervisor insisted on it. Turned out really well, because your understanding grows as you write the other chapters and in the end you only revise once, instead of redrafting maybe 5 times til you sup is happy and then again at the end to reflect your new insight. I also benefited from the lexicon I picked up when preparing my other chapters, to explain my ideas more clearly in earlier chapters. I think it is easy to lose momentum if you re-do chapters instead of moving on. Although, just a word of caution - it's no excuse to be sloppy early on - you won't have as much time or energy as you might think to fix it in the end, so good solid research, properly written up and edited will help you a lot in the final stages of finishing up. Also, I don't think you can expect your supervisor to spend time on sub-par work - he/she shouldn't have to read first rough drafts of your ideas. Other than that, if you know you won't get lazy at the end, and will be able to force yourself to work on something that is not your strong point, you sound like an ideal candidate for scenario (a). Let me know how you get on. :-)


Interesting to think about! I would certainly gravitate towards (a) given the choice, as I'd think it would be easier to be in the frame of mind for fixing the whole thing (and keeping terms etc consistent), rather than polishing individual chapters which then might need a lot of work just to make them fit together. Thanks for the tips, Ellebelle - especially the one about writing properly from the off!


I had a full first draft before starting to revise it.

If you polish Chapter 1, and it's perfect, but then 18 months later chapters 8 and 9 mean that chapter 1 is no longer perfect, you end up doing twice the work.

Best to have a full draft, which may be rough around the edges, and polish it as a whole thesis IMO.


My three data chapters don't overlap, so I polished as I went, and I didn't need to change anything later. I also didn't need to move information from main intro to chapter intros, but I think this is because I planned it effectively, so I knew what was going into each chapter.


Hi Wowzers,

I go for method (a) and I agree with Ellebelle's reasoning. Also, my supervisor will only read one draft of each chapter before a full draft is submitted. Yet, I like this method as it allows you to move on! I think I would have lost motivation many months ago had I been stuck repeatedly revising one chapter over and over.

Also MrDoctor's comments are useful- I have found that I often return to previously drafted chapters and add notes to remind me to incorporate new relevant material when I come to redraft the thesis as a whole.


Hi Wowzers,

C) (Something else) which is a combination of a) and b).

When I did my thesis, I had probably a couple of revisions of each chapter (so maybe gained anywhere from 1-4 sets of feedback) and then had about 2-3 revisions of the final draft thesis as a whole. However, while one chapter was undergoing feedback which could take a few weeks, I continued to work on other chapters and drafting journal articles. So I was never 'stuck' on one chapter and always had something going out for feedback and review.

Is this a lot of work? Absolutely. But my end results were fantastic because revision is one of the most important things you'll need to learn how to do effectively.


awsoci, yes that sounds like a lot of work but a lot of work well managed. I think I will go for (a), My research is qualitative and as I do my analysis I'm finding things need changing earlier on in the script as findings also have questions for methodology and which literatures are most pertinent. I'm glad others have done it this way because I was getting worried I'd be endlessly polishing Chapters only to have to change them each time I write. Now I know I can do revisions at the end, which makes the most sense for me.


Hi Wowzers,

I would finish a chapter and send it to my supervisor once, and whilst he was checking that chapter I would work on the others - similar to what awsoci described, but then after I had made any suggested changes from my supervisor (and obvs proof read it a few times) the chapter was finished and went in my thesis for submission. Then I read the whole thing as 1 document before submission.

I think it depends on the field, how you and your supervisor want to work and how much time you have - I did a PhD in chemistry and wrote everything in the last 5 months, which probably explains why I only sent it to my supervisor once!

Good luck anyway, and do it the way that works for you best - everyone works differently!