Don’t Write A Racist Dissertation #anotherthingIshouldnthavetosay

A group of Harvard students are pushing for an investigation into how a doctorate was granted to a student based on his 2009 dissertation, which asserted that Hispanics are less intelligent than whites.

Let me put that more clearly: A Harvard student got a doctorate for claiming Hispanics are not as smart as whites.

No, but seriously.

I don’t think I need to go into how messed up this is, but I would like to say bravo to the 1,200 Harvard students who signed a petition demanding the school investigate why the doctorate was awarded. You can read the entire article here.


Update: Check out the comments below the article if you really feel like getting worked up.

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Don’t Write Someone Else’s Thesis #ThingsIShouldntHaveToSay

I don’t even know what to say about this article.

Oh wait, yes I do.


Because of this guy, some wealthy kid is going to get a degree he didn’t earn. Then he’s going to go on to fool future employers into thinking he’s qualified for a job (after all, he has his master’s!), when he’s not. He gets an easy way out while thousands of other students are working hard to put themselves through school and earn their own degree.

I promise this is related: My family and I played this game once where we all had to go around and say, if we could only have one word to describe ourselves written on our tombstone (we’re a little morbid), what would it be?

I forget what I said at the time, but upon hearing my dad’s answer, I changed my word to his.


Just do the right thing. It’s really not that hard.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work.

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What a Waste

Want to be thoroughly discouraged slash annoyed? Read this article.

Granted, she got her Ph.D. in literature with the goal of landing a tenured position, which isn’t a degree SCAD offers, but she sort of slams graduate school in general.

Her message? Don’t go.

I put “Grad school is a waste of time and money” up there with the postmodernist view that “All art has already been created. There are no new ideas blah, blah, blah” as the top two things people say that make me want to do this.

I think your graduate school experience and your subsequent degree are what you make of them. If you decide, when you graduate, that you will only be happy with a tenured professor position, you’re limiting yourself and screwing yourself at the same time. As is true with most things in life, deciding there is only one thing that will make you happy is a really quick way to find yourself unhappy.

What’s that saying? Life is about the journey, not the destination? I get that it’s frustrating to dedicate a lot of time and hard work to a degree that ultimately doesn’t get you the job you want, but what about the experience itself? I quit a job and city that I loved because coming to graduate school would give me the time and opportunity to focus on what I loved even more – writing. Pursuing a graduate degree is the unique opportunity to learn more about a subject you love, surrounded by professors and other students who are passionate about the same thing. I get to immerse myself in reading and writing and learning for two full years – how lucky am I?

I understand her frustration, I really do. And maybe when I graduate and all I have is an M.F.A. and a pile of unpaid bills I’ll feel differently. But if that happens, I hope I’ll remember how lucky I felt today. I don’t think I’d throw this experience away for anything.

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I Know What You’re Doing This Summer

Anyone else have grand plans for completing big chunks of their thesis this summer? I will totally admit that the only thing keeping the procrastination-guilt at bay is the optimist in my head that says, “You’re just too busy right now! You’ll have sooo much more time to work on your thesis this summer. Now why don’t you go take a nap? You deserve it.”

I love that voice, but I’m afraid she might be deluding me. I’ve already told you what a procrastinator I am, and I’m afraid that without a solid plan, schedule, and list of goals in place before the summer begins, my summer might just slip away with very little thesis writing actually accomplished.

I searched for some summer writing tips online and found a couple of helpful articles I wanted to share:

Do you have a summer writing plan in place?

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Could you tweet your thesis topic in 140 characters? Could you explain the whole paper in 120 seconds?

I couldn’t. Mostly because I don’t have a topic to tweet or explain, but I digress.

I stumbled upon an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about how, for a while in 2012, thesis students were using #tweetyourthesis to share their topic ideas. Is it a good idea to break down a presumably complex topic into 140 characters? The article talks to people from both sides: one side argues that summarizing your thesis in such brief terms demonstrates a firm grasp on the subject and that students are better off when they can communicate their point quickly and concisely. The other argues that brief summaries may not be appropriate for certain science topics and that students who summarize so briefly may not be looking at or answering important questions.

I love to tweet, poke, like, check-in, and post, so I’m all for tweeting thesis ideas – especially when it encourages conversation. And I agree with one of the women quoted in the article – writing your thesis can be a lonely process, so having a space to share (like Twitter) is very welcome.

So that article led me to this one, which I also thought was pretty cool.

But all of this leads me to a bigger problem: WHAT IS MY THESIS TOPIC?

I’ll tackle that in my next post. I promise. For now, whenever anyone asks me about it I just answer a la Tom Cruise in Top Gun:

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For When You’d Rather Read Than Write

I’ve been researching how universities support their graduate students through the thesis-writing process for another project I’m working on (it’s okay if you’re impressed), and came across the names of many books written about writing your thesis. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a nice list on its website that includes short descriptions of each book, so you can pick the one that might be the most helpful for you.

Based on that list, and others I’ve found on the internet, here are the ones I’ve added to my “Thesis” list on Goodreads.

  1. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article by Howard S. Becker
  2. Proposals That Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals by Lawrence F. Locke
  3. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations & Books by Eviatar Zerubavel
  4. The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth
  5. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker
  6. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process by Kjell Erik Rudestam
  7. Writing the Qualitative Dissertation: Understanding by Doing by Judith M. Meloy
  8. Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation: A Step-By-Step Guide by Allan A. Glatthorn
  9. Theses and Dissertations: A Guide to Planning, Research, and Writing by R. Murray Thomas

Right now I’m on page 102 of around 200 in Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article by Howard S. Becker, and I like it well enough. The book is geared toward social science students, but it offers many helpful insights into the writing process itself. I’ll post a full review when I’ve finished it.

If you know of any books that should be added to my list, please let me know!

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My Pomodoro Experiment

I’m happy to report that the Pomodoro Technique, which I talked about in this blog post, works.

Well enough.

I guess.

I like the idea of breaking my work into 25 minute increments, and I love the little five minute reward I get at the end of each segment, but there are a few hurdles I didn’t anticipate.

First – the ticking of the mechanical timer. Apparently, it’s important to use a mechanical timer because the winding you do confirms your dedication to the task (or whatever). But the problem is the constant ticking after you wind it up. For the first five minutes of the first pomodoro I was reading and re-reading the same page repeatedly because the ticking was so distracting.

After a few minutes of adjustment, I tuned out the ticking, but the ringing of the alarm at the 25 minute mark is, well, alarming. I find I’m usually deep into my task when the alarm rings, which makes me jump. Every. Single. Time.

Finally, often when the alarm rings, I’m not ready to stop. You know when you get into a groove and you want to just keep on going? I’ve been forcing myself to stop, take a break, and reset the alarm, but I’m wondering if I should just go with the flow.

Nevertheless, it’s been an interesting experiment I will continue to try.

If my nerves can take it.

Every time my timer goes off.

Every time my timer goes off.

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An Excuse to Travel

Thesis retreats. Have you heard of these? Basically, you plan trip so that you can have some peace and quiet to work on your thesis. I love the idea of taking a vacation…but would I actually work on my thesis?

There’s research out there that says going somewhere far away (or even just thinking about far away places) can enhance creativity. I found this Scientific American article supporting the notion through a blog called Thesis Whisperer, out of Australia.

I get it – new places get the creative juices flowing, and being somewhere other than your home or university library prevents you from getting distracted by the daily tasks that pop up (I have to do laundry, I have to get gas, I have to return these phone calls). Still, I wonder about the other distractions – you’re in a new place, but rather than exploring, you’re in a hotel room with your laptop. That sounds miserable.

By reading through the comments on this blog post though, it would seem people have mostly positive experiences. It looks like the key is having a schedule and sticking to it (I will wake up, have breakfast, and work on my thesis from 8 am-1 pm every day), and then rewarding yourself (After 1 pm I’m free to explore, nap, go to the beach, whatever I want). If you do that seven days a week, you’re getting in 35 hours of quality thesis time – that’s not bad!

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I plan on dedicating most of my summer to thesis-writing. Where does one go on a budget of, say, $40?

Jen Library it is!

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Cupcakes, Tomatoes, and Time Management

I’ve been reading a lot about time management instead of actually managing my time (you know, by like, working on my thesis?), and I’ve found this thing called the Pomodoro Technique that I wanted to share. I came across it while reading up on thesis retreats, which is basically an excuse to go to an exotic location to “work on your thesis,” but that’s for another blog post.

Anyway, the Pomodoro Technique (named after Francesco Cirillo’s tomato-shaped kitchen timer) works like this:

1) You pick a task.
2) You set a timer for 25 minutes. (“They” like you to use a mechanical timer instead of a phone or a clock. Something about the physical act of winding the timer up.)
3) You work on the task until the timer goes off.
4) You take a five minute break. (Hello, Facebook.)
5) Repeat the process. For every four pomodori (or two hours), you get a 15-30 minute break.


My timer

Since I never cook, my kitchen will not miss my cupcake kitchen timer. I plan to experiment with the Pomodoro Technique this Friday morning during my scheduled THESIS TIME! I’m putting it in all caps with an explanation point to trick my brain into getting excited.

I’ll let you know how it goes (the Pomodoro Technique and the brain-tricking).

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For Scaddies

First of all, I hate that name. Scaddies. A cab driver used it last April when I was looking at SCAD, and I think I physically recoiled. First, my mind goes to scabs, which are gross enough. Then my mind jumps to scabies. You know, that skin infection where mites burrow into your skin? I know about it from this episode of the Real World circa 2004. You’re welcome.

ANYWAY, if you’re a Scaddie and you want some help with your thesis, there’s a non-credit online class you can register for for which you can register (hello, grammar). The add/drop period is over for this quarter, but the class is offered every quarter. It’s listed as GRAD-000 Thesis Support Program and is designed to help students at any stage in the thesis-completion process. Registering for the class gives you access to a number of planning, researching, and writing tools. AND you can chat with Writers’ Studio consultants online or in person.

Having such a handy class available makes me feel like this:

How about you?

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