The Quantum Angler
He never gets Bohred of fishing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thesis how we do it

So, I think a bit of a catch-up is in order. Well, where to begin? I suppose the first big thing that has happened in my life is that I have written a thesis on laser engineering. It took somewhere around 6-7 months to write, and clocked in at just under 200 pages, but I seem to have retained most of my sanity in the end. Actually, it wasn't that bad. I quite like writing papers and things so some of it was fun, but boy did it drag on in the end.

Writing about science can be frustrating. What you say has to be complete and unambiguous, so you end up saying things that must seem obvious to any expert, just for the sake of being thorough. You also have to repeat yourself, endlessly. Each chapter of a thesis finishes with a conclusion, and at the end of the whole thing there is a chapter devoted to re-stating these conclusions. Some people even give their conclusion a conclusion. But, to cap it all, you have to write the whole thing without saying it was you wot did it. For instance, "it was found that..." is preferred to "we found that..." Of course, this is all part of scientific objectivity, but trust me, some things can be very hard to say without using "I" or "we".

Then there is the endless proofing. Each chapter went through a process of an initial draft, a proof read, an alpha draft, a proof read by the supervisor, and a beta draft. Then the whole thesis was put together and proof read and corrected (which took about 2 weeks), before finally a release candidate draft was produced, which had to be proof read and corrected again to produce the submission copy, which will itself probably receive considerable corrections by my examiners. And these corrections were not just typos; even by the first full draft there were major errors in how concepts were explained or which conclusions were drawn. Writing a PhD thesis is not, in short, a linear process.

But anyway, the process is mostly over now. In a month's time I'll have my viva examination, where I'll find out if my efforts were worth it, so stay tuned!

Next week on the QA: my new job.