Friday, December 16, 2005

Let the games begin...and thesis how-tos

At long last, I am done the semester. Yay^3.
In order to give back to the community of Masters students in the process of finishing, I write this entry so that you may learn from the administrative hurdles one is likely to face while thinking of the "big ideas." Hopefully this helps some of you!

The other day, an MSc student in another department asked me, based on my experience, how long he should allow for thesis writing if he wants to defend by August 2006. WELL, I answered... depending on how advanced you are in your research and allowing for NO fudge time or mental blocks (ha), get that portion done, then allow 2 additional semesters--one for compiling/finishing writing/associated crises/collaboration/blah blah blah, and another one for the administration. While other departments and schools may vary, the recommended timeline to be done by the end of Summer would likely be:

If he wants to defend by (shoot for the end of JULY latest, because the library deadline is around the 2nd week of August), it is important to submit a thesis draft to the committee by APRIL, allowing for 1 month reading time. By then, it would be MAY-ish when you receive approval to schedule a defense. The department needs a FORM which schedules your defense, and the deadline for that is mid-JUNE. Then... some voodoo is done, they find a chair and an external for the defense... while you work on the "big ideas" and become very neurotic (if all works out). Hopefully during that time you find out when your defense is, because you need to distribute a FINAL DEFENSE COPY of your thesis to your committee at least 2 weeks prior to your defense (even more for PhDs). That deadline is pretty bang on... because professors need time to read your stuff.

During the 2 weeks your committee has your thesis, they're reading it, annotating it, and working on questions to ask you at your defense. You are most likely working on your defense presentation, which is either completely oral, read off a paper for 15-20 mins, or powerpoint. What worked for me was composing a 15-20 minute speech, and using powerpoint for visual aids. Having the document there is helpful, and keeps one from blanking during the defense, which happens quite often.

The actual defense, if everything to date has gone pretty smoothly, should be viewed as a 'celebration'. They grill you, but the most important thing is to be honest about what you wrote about, what you know, and what you don't know (but hope to take up in the future). Then, they kick you and the audience out of the room and talk about all sorts of things, including your revisions if you have any. They bring you back in, discuss the terms, and get you to sign the paperwork saying you passed (hopefully).

Then, the revisions begin. You may be completely wiped, but try to get over it ASAP. Work with the thesis librarian early in the process, and make sure your template/copy edits are still good. DO your revisions, get them into whoever needs to OK them (usually Senior Supervisor), and then get at 4-6 copies made of it for binding (library copy and personal copy are 'free'). Get the file with all your forms and particulars from your department, and bring everything to the thesis librarian before that deadline in August....allow about a DAY more than you anticipated for this. Then you're done. Like I am.

Now for the holidays, which include working on some journal manuscripts, but mostly seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, hanging out with minimal guilt, and saving up enough gold for my EPIC MOUNT in World of Warcraft. :)


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