Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thesis update: Almost finished

I can't believe it. I am almost done with my thesis. Or at least substantially done. I finished the second draft two nights ago, and managed to incorporate practically every suggestion that my thesis director had made after reading the first draft. They included:

  • Working on the transitions between chapters, which often meant summarizing what I was doing overall or intended to do in the next chapter

  • Being more forceful about the advantages of quantitative techniques

  • Greatly reducing the data dump which plagued my first draft. I basically combined chapters three (results) and four (analysis), and eliminated a lot of the descriptions of the results -- now there are only 12 figures, compared to nearly 30 in the first draft.

  • Adding seven appendices to the end of the document

  • Creating a TOC, biography, acknowledgements, and other front matter

I also completed a lot of the formatting requirements dictated by the ALM Thesis Guide. These rules are very specific ("The left-hand margin should be 1 1/2 inches, to accomodate the binding. The top, bottom, and right-hand margins shold be one inch (except on pages with new chapter headings or other major headings, requiring a 1 1/2 inch top margin"). The formatting rules are sometimes quite frustrating, as they entail using advanced functions of Microsoft Word that are neither intuitive nor precise. An example is the table of contents; you can try to do it on your own and then be stymied by changing the layout and watching all of your chapters shift over a few pages, requiring going through every item on the TOC and updating the numbers. Or you can do it Microsoft's way, and apply heading styles (heading 1, heading 2, etc.). Adjusting styles in Word is a nightmare, but at least the TOC can be automagically generated.

The second draft of the thesis took about three weeks to rewrite and reformat, working 2-3 hours nearly every night, and a few more hours every weekend afternoon. I haven't been keeping track, but surely I've spent more than 1,000 hours on the research and writing phases of the thesis. The second draft I sent my thesis director is 22,301 words long, and comes in at 105 pages. It's not a done deal, because he still may ask for more changes, and it has to go back to the Extension School for final proofreading, but I am almost there -- I can feel it!

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