When to start writing thesis

posted
07-May-18, 01:51
by Jane92
Avatar for Jane92
posted about 5 months ago
Hi all,

I've hit that point where i'm feeling overwhelmed, out of my depth and don't know where to start with my thesis. I am 6 months into my PhD now and so far I have only done reading (a lot of it) and my ethics.

I'm getting the feeling that I should have started writing by now as my confirmation is in Oct. The aim is to start my literature review soon but I just wanted to see when everyone else started writing?

Should I have started by now?

The more I think about it the more I worry.

Thanks for your support!
posted
07-May-18, 10:29
edited about 20 seconds later
by Nad75
Avatar for Nad75
posted about 5 months ago
Don't worry, I don't think you are behind. You can start writing your literature review if you have taken enough notes and have an outline. It is a process of writing, editing, enriching with secondary sources, and the best ones that show a high level of synthesising, deep referencing and conceptual understanding should take several heavy edits and enriching before submitting, rather than writing furiously for two or three weeks before the draft is due. That means you can start writing 50% of the week (maybe 2- 3 days), and spend the other 50% continuing to read and note for later parts...increasing the writing percentage as you hit your daily word count targets and feel more confident in the structure and referencing.

Once you start writing with a modest word count target, your confidence will increase, as academic writing is a skill before an art. For me, that starting point was 300 words, and now I'm at 700 words. Give yourself 1-2 weeks to edit the full draft before submitting.

So, first step is to figure out how much writing/week is needed before the draft is due (usually the amount expected for the annual review submission). Decide on your outline and make a word-count for each section and subsection to give your writing some structure and give yourself some achievable goals. It also helps to have a reward/present to yourself in mind when you are 50% done with the draft, then 100%, as this is a lonely process and it adds a nice incentive to hit the goals. :)
posted
07-May-18, 10:48
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for bongmaster5000
posted about 5 months ago
As above, don't worry too much, sounds like you're fine. The main thing at this point is that you've done a lot of reading. Good advice about a modest word count target per day - I started at 500 and can now reasonably comfortably write 1500-2000 decent 'academic' words a day if I need to. Some of my peers haven't written much of anything yet either, and they're OK.

Start small and your confidence will grow quickly. Once you've hit your daily word count, my advice would be to do something else or even go home; don't set a target of 'write for 7 hours' unless you really have to, I find this really inefficient.

I'm also in my first year and have done a lot of writing, but none of it has really been in the format of 'chapters' for my thesis - instead, I've written shorter papers on different elements of my project before supervision every few weeks, which really took the pressure off (no expectation that any of this ends up in the final thesis) and also got me used to academic writing. That might be a helpful exercise perhaps. The upshot of this is that I sometimes feel like I've not done as much reading as I'd like (I think this is something everyone encounters, mind) - sounds like you don't have that problem, so you're good.

Sorry to bang on about my writing - it probably doesn't help. What I'm getting at is that everyone's different, everyone has a different process. As long as your supervisors are happy with where you are, you're fine. Once you get writing proper, you'll probably find it much easier than you thought and it'll be very rewarding.
posted
07-May-18, 14:08
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 5 months ago
Quote From Jane92:
Hi all,

I've hit that point where i'm feeling overwhelmed, out of my depth and don't know where to start with my thesis. I am 6 months into my PhD now and so far I have only done reading (a lot of it) and my ethics.

I'm getting the feeling that I should have started writing by now as my confirmation is in Oct. The aim is to start my literature review soon but I just wanted to see when everyone else started writing?

Should I have started by now?

The more I think about it the more I worry.

Thanks for your support!


It depends on your PhD.
I started writing my thesis in earnest with 6 months left of my funding although I had written 30 pages of theory the previous year. I also had several published papers which I knew I could easily re-write into seperate chapters.
Having said that, it seems odd to be writing a thesis within the first 6 months unless it is a literature review section.
posted
08-May-18, 05:43
edited about 15 seconds later
by Jane92
Avatar for Jane92
posted about 5 months ago
Thank you everyone for your advice and comments.
I've definitely taken on board what you have said and will try and set little targets of 300-500 words. I don't know why I didn't think of this before - I used to do it for my MSc but I think i've just become overwhelmed with the PhD and not known the best way to start writing.
My first step is the literature review - I think it's just daunting as you know you've got an upward climb of approx 60000-80000 words.

Thank you again!
Jane
posted
09-May-18, 11:23
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for kenziebob
posted about 5 months ago
Hi Jane,

I started around the same time as you, and I've just sent off the first draft of my probation/upgrade/transfer report. That's it - I haven't started on the actual thesis yet at all!

The way that we worked is similar to what others have described - during every supervision meeting my supervisors would suggest a topic for writing and I'd go away and write 1000-2000 words on the topic, and bring it to the next supervision and so on. I think it's a good idea to break writing up into chunks :)

And about being overwhelmed with a PhD - I am definitely feeling that too. I feel like with every jump forward there is a step back, and I need to keep remembering that I can't jump to the end - there's a lot of small steps in there before I finish!
posted
09-May-18, 12:30
edited about 2 minutes later
Avatar for starryeyed
posted about 5 months ago
What's the field? In life sciences generally there is no reason to do it unless your project is complete and you don't do experiments anymore. Completing figures on the current basis is advisable, especially that PI wants you to present the results (to other students ect.) as soon as you have it.
posted
11-May-18, 23:50
edited about 26 seconds later
by Jane92
Avatar for Jane92
posted about 5 months ago
I'm a social geographer, so a big chunk of my thesis will be the literature review. My confirmation is in 5 months, so i've aimed to start my report by the end of June as I wanted to get my literature review started - although now i'm wondering if i should re think that plan.
Thanks everyone for your advice!

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