Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Fiddly bits at the end that really matter

Whatever time of the morning it might be when you feel you have really finished your thesis, trust me - there are still a number of things that you need to do even when the text in your manuscript needs no more attention.  

Of course, you have been clever to utilise a couple of different proof readers (ideally whose mother tongue is English) already.  Why two ?  

  • One for a grammatical read - Do your sentences make sense ?, Have you repeated ideas and phrases ?, Have you used the right spelling of the word ? Is the punctuation in the right place to allow the reader to breath ? Best done using a red pen or track changes.

  • The other from someone who has a management background who can give you friendly, yet critical, feedback on where things need attention.  You do not expect this person to write the changes - just mark where a second look is needed.
Both tasks are best approached chapter-by-chapter as you go along - there is little then in the way of time pressure and you can focus on the next section whilst this is being done.  If you are lucky your content reviewer will join you on your journey and will develop an better understanding of the work you are covering, which will make their final read even more helpful.  

Asking for this help during the last week is unlikely to be realistic or effective, as you will not have the time and space to reflect and polish appropriately.  

What else do you need to do ?

Carefully inspect the dissertation guidelines - ours suggest a wider left hand margin (to allow for the binding), a particular font (& size 12 appears to be a standard), the contents of the acknowledgements, double line line spacing (often forgotten), an auto-updated table of contents and table of diagrams, page numbers in the footer and that the same font is used through out the document (triple click to highlight the whole document).  What is required to populate the cover sheet ?  All those little things.  

When you have grasped your final print out, check that each and every page is there.  I have seen manuscripts with missing pages (suggests a rush job and signals lower quality work) and binding that was so close to the edge that the pages fell out as you turned them !

Anticipate that your computer will crash:  Be prepared
Make sure that you keep working back ups of your work in several different places, I find that emailing myself is a good approach, but use a USB flash drive too.  We regularly have students cite crashed technology as a reason for late submission, unfortunately this is not admissible & our admin team always have a box of tissues handy for these kinds of situations.  Messy.  

That's it !  The end of my advice journey, but perhaps the beginning of your dissertation epic adventure ?   As you attack each section - remember to re-read the relevant guidance - it is ever-so-easy to go off track and forget what you need to be doing where.  

Good luck !