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Struggling and procrastinating with my dissertation

  1. May 1, 2012 #1
    Writing a dissertation is indeed a difficult task. As a PhD student, I was expecting my adviser to help but alas ... Should I go ahead and learn by example by reading published PhD dissertations ?
    I need some advice from you guys who have some ideas or experience.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 1, 2012 #2


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    What exactly were you expecting in terms of help? Usually by the time you're ready to write up your thesis, you should be working independently enough that you can do all of the work yourself. At that stage, your supervisor moves into more of a peer-reviewer role. He or she should review the work before it goes out to your committee and provide critical and constructive feedback. He or she can also serve as a sounding board for ideas on organization, presentation, timelines and completeness.

    Absolutely. Many schools have a thesis template. Look for one of these and a couple of dissertations that were well-done to get you started. You should discuss the process with your supervisor and make some decisions - such as whether or not you're going to write a paper-based thesis or start one from scratch.
  4. May 2, 2012 #3
    Writing the dissertation usually implies reusing the results you have already published or tried to publish. In this respect, you have a solid basis for writing and your supervisor becomes, as Choppy stated, your peer-reviewer. However, the supervisor should say what is OK and what should be changed, his role is rather to help than to criticize.

    Regarding reading other dissertations - you are almost surely supposed to do that. You should inspire how to write, how to structure, what should the dissertation contain, how to begin and how to conclude.

    Your tone, however, resembles me the situation in our department. There are many procrastinating people, many almost-active ones do not learn new things and rather forget what they have learnt. A few very active and smart people are either very busy or so single-approach oriented, that it is even hard to consult with them. This severely demotivates new students. My office-mate works on his research 2 years longer than me and he still does not have graduated. What helped me was to look at the "stars" of the science, read book from Halmos, papers like "A mathematician's survival guide" (here: http://www.math.missouri.edu/~pete/pdf/teach/140.MAA.pdf) etc., and just try to do my best just for myself, to improve my status, rather than look at others and compare to them. This way of thinking keeps me in motion, in learning new things.
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