First thorough manuscript review

2020-04-29

in Daily updates, PhD thesis, Writing

I am deviating somewhat from the planned timeline here, moving forward the first soft edit of the whole manuscript for coherence and structure to before finishing the literature review and incorporation of material from interviews.

In part, that’s just an effort to break out of a low productivity pattern of toiling at the same very long tasks over and over. More substantively, it seemed unanswerable that somebody ought to have read the whole manuscript by now and that doing so will improve the flow and comprehensibility of the final product while letting me complete the incorporation of extant literature and empirical observations more intelligibly.

So far, I have been pretty happy with the draft. I think it does a reasonable job in justifying the research question and approach, which will be among the main requirements enforced by the examination committee.

Academic journals and conferences have given me the belief that to anybody well briefed on a subject beforehand almost all scholarly work comes across as a consolidation of the known and obvious rather than a set of blazing and unfamiliar new ideas. One of the books I read on thesis writing stressed repeatedly how a PhD thesis is a basic demonstration of competence in research at a professional level. It’s not meant to be a grand opus. Even Einstein’s doctoral thesis was about comparatively mundane matters of how things dissolve in fluids, rather than grand ideas about the ordering of the universe.

As I discussed with my brother Sasha the other day, I think writing long documents needs to be a process of successive approximation. It’s impossible to simultaneously work all elements into their final form, and it’s impossible to give an unlimited amount of uninterrupted time to any task. The writing process must be designed so that every part can be set aside and returned to, and each set of alterations should bring the whole closer to the final state. That’s how I have dealt with long documents before, and I am hopeful that the approach will take me to the end here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Oleh May 3, 2020 at 10:01 am

Your reasons to embark on your soft edit on the dissertation seem very sound. I’m glad you are pleased with the draft.

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