Weekly Shocks' Blog



A Moment of Dissertation Panic

I tend to underwrite when it comes to academic work, because I usually can’t be bothered to bullshit more than I have to when making a point. This wasn’t a problem when I was an undergrad back in the States, and page limits were enforced rather than word counts. A little hint to any college students who read this blog and are having difficulty padding their papers to the required page-length minimum: Courier New, 12 point font. It’s your last hope and the Holy Grail. It looks (barely) professional and it’ll add about 25% more space to your papers than Times New Roman. Most professors are probably aware of  this cheap little padding trick but are probably too embittered to care. I got away with it more than I’d like to admit. It saved my ass on many, many occasions.

Sadly, I’m in grad school now, and I’m supposed to be too mature for these kinds of games. Yeah, right. Worse, though, my dissertation length is measured in words, not pages (damn those sneaky Oxford dons for screwing me out of my safety net!) , so Courier New, 12 point (God bless him) is no longer an option. Worst of all, my dissertation is supposed to be 30,000 words in length. Or so I thought.

I’ve got about 24,000 words right now. And I really, really don’t want to write anymore, partly because I’m lazy and sick of the whole damn topic, but mostly because I’m already starting to repeat myself, and when that happens, I panic. The last dissertation I had was a comparatively easy-peasy 15,000 word-er, but I freaked right the freak out the night before it was due and, literally, rewrote the entire thing in one caffeine-crazed, barking-at-the-moon sitting. I panicked because I made the colossal mistake of talking to my course mates about their work and listened to them bitch about how difficult it had been to get their dissertations completed under the word count. (15,000 is actually the worst length to write for, I think: it’s just enough space to say nothing at all.) My piece of crap, on the other hand, was already completed and pathetically repetitious and, even worse, it only clocked in at about 13,500 words. I quickly forgot all of my previous academic training and immediately decided,  the night before it was due, that it was way too short. THE NIGHT BEFORE IT WAS DUE. So I added crap. And erased it. And added more crap. And erased that, too. Finally, at about 9am, when I could no longer see straight and I was sweating like a pig and my bloodstream was flushed with 75% caffeine and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, I gave up. The bitch was done. I must have managed to pad another 1500 words into the thing by then, and, hell, I didn’t even care anymore if it was legible, let alone good. So I finished up the bibliography, mopped the sweat and Diet Coke stains off my keyboard, and ran the word count.

13,475.

What. the. f*ck.

So to hell with adding more to my current dissertation. I won’t go through that crap again, especially when I know I’ll probably end up cutting anyway and making the final product even shittier than it was before I took my hacksaw to it.

But is 24,000 really justifiable when your limit is 30,000? Cue the panic. I know it’s just a word count and substance is far more important, but damn it, I’m the same person who obsessively checks her blog stats everyday for no other reason than to see the numbers. Numbers matter. Or they do to me, anyway. But what do I do? I’ll be damned if I talk to any of my course mates about their dissertation lengths, though, because I already know what their answers are going to be and what it will do to my fragile sense of sanity and self-control. So I emailed the most calm and easy-going person in the whole damn world who also happens to have passed this course last year with flying colors. He thinks I’m insane and is probably right, but when people think you’re insane, you can email them – without fear of punitive measures –  the following inanity:

“Word count: 24,598. Too short? Please don’t say it’s too short.”

His response:

“Read your student handbook: 30,000 is the LIMIT not the TARGET. It’s fine. Stop worrying and go have a beer.

Well, son of a bitch.

I’m not a beer person, but I may very well take that suggestion. Not ’til Friday, though. That’s when this bitch is due. Sheer morbid curiosity demands that I pluck away at the thing until then. I bet I can hit the 25,000 mark, easy. Damn it.

I really am insane.

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Comments

  1. * mom says:

    “Numbers matter. Or they do to me, anyway.”
    They didn’t use to go back to that time, put the paper and you to bed after you have the beer!

    Posted 8 years, 1 month ago
  2. * WeeklyShocks says:

    My mother, ladies and gentlemen: advising me to skive off work and drink. Did I mention I’m Irish?

    HI MUMMY!!!!!!!

    Posted 8 years, 1 month ago
  3. * College Kid says:

    Your Courier New theory is a good one. Couldnt you have written this post two weeks ago when I needed it, though?

    Good luck finishing your thesis. 30,000 is a a rediculous amount of words.

    Posted 8 years, 1 month ago
  4. * mrsliwang says:

    Three years after the fact but still great story and good advice. I am handing my thesis in today, 18000 words and I will likely only make 15000 as I also like to make my point in a succinct fashion.

    Another trick I love is left hand margins (make it 4cm) and double line spacing. The markers usually love this (readability and room for comments) and hey, it makes up the page count also

    Posted 4 years, 6 months ago


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