Thursday, February 14, 2013

On dissertating, tongue-in-cheek

Axiom 1 There is such a thing as revised ad nauseam.

Axiom 2 That threshold has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, meaning theoretically it is possible to revise ad nauseam only to make your draft worse or reaching the threshold does not mean that your draft is now good to go. The initial conditions of the system play a crucial role in this respect.

Axiom 3 The more time you spend on the draft the more likely it is that you reach the threshold.

Axiom 4 The more time you spend on the draft the less likely it is that you will catch any errors (grammatical, logical, etc.) or to put it in mathematical terms, that is, if my math knowledge from college does not fail me, as t increases, x approaches zero. (Ah, how i miss the sterile world of limits, and equations and such.)

Axiom 5 Relativity principle The theoretical model proposed here in order to explain dissertating is a probabilistic one not a linear model. Thus despite the seemingly simple model explained so far, things are more complex than it seems (mind you not complicated). The time you spend on a draft cannot be measured in absolute terms, I mean in hours and minutes you spend in front of the computer or even actually writing and revising excluding facebooking and idle internet surfing. The duration of time referred to in the earlier axioms is a function of how interesting and significant you think your research is. The more interesting you find your work the shorter is the perceived time. You must hold on to the self-delusion that your research is actually going to change the world at all costs.

Axiom 6 The litmus test for determining if you are experiencing an episode of paralyzing self-doubts is to imagine your committee members asking you the significance of your research during your defense. Alternatively try imagining yourself giving job talks based on your dissertation research again and again and again. If this thought experiment makes you throw up, scream, cry, call Mom, and/or simply freeze, initiate emergency measures immediately. 

Axiom 7 It is inevitable to think that what you're doing for your dissertation is pointless and worthless and trivial... at several stages of your dissertating. If you want to get this dissertation done as quickly as possible find a way to skip through these episodes as quickly as possible. I propose the following treatment. My suggestion is to write to a dissertating graduate student a long and detailed email about different ways in which your dissertation sucks (no absolutely not to your committee members). This email is going to initiate a chain reaction. That graduate student is going to write back to you an even longer and more detailed email about how their dissertation sucks (include as many graduate students as the addressee for the email depending on your personal needs). This chain reaction does NOT in any way convince you that your dissertation does not suck. However, the email exchanges often prove to be cathartic. Some of the side effects of this extreme treatment are dizziness, uncontrollable laughter, and losing friends if you overdose.
 

I think this is all for today. This was fun for me I hope you enjoyed the exercise. Looking forward to your comments.

PS. The inspiration for this blog entry came from an email change with friends. I would like to thank my two dissertating friends who initiated and participated in a chain reaction similar to the one mentioned above with me. They know themselves.
It's much more fun with you guys. Thanks.


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