Before reading thispost please note: it took three and a half years of full-time research to gather the data for my PhD thesis; the three months refers only to the writing, which I did quickly at the end. I do not claim that everybody can write that fast, and if you have not done the research it will be impossible.You might not write as fast as I did, but you might gain some useful insightsfrom the way I approached it.

In the summer of 2006,almost 3years after starting my PhD, I was ready to quit.I had nowhere nearenough results, the equipment I was using didn't work most of the time, and I could barely summon the motivation to get up in the morning.



Cut to just over a year later and I'd managed toturn things around and get the data for a few publications,write my entire PhD thesis from scratch in just 3 months andpass my viva defence with zero corrections.And, on top of all that, I actually started to enjoy the process.How did I do all this?


Dealing withstress


After a near-breakdown, I started taking walks around the campus when I faced a problem in my research or found myself getting stressed.I took the time tothink about what I needed to do and get myself in the right frame of mind to come back and deal with the problem.Previously I would have found myself killing time on the internet just to get through to the end of the day. This one change in habit probably saved my PhD.


Slowing down

This may seemcounter intuitive, but slowing down helped me to go faster. By taking more time over my experiments and doing things as carefully as I could, I eliminated a lot of time-consuming mistakes.


Limiting thetime available


Though my productivity increased once I figured out how to deal with stress, I was still doing experiments well into my fourth year.I had a final submission date (at the end of my 4th year), but my research was still a bitchaotic. It wasn'tfocused on finishing.My supervisor (the brilliantProfessor Moriarty) then told me thatI would no longer be allowed into the lab after the end of March 2007, and that Iwould have to write whatever I had.


Adapting and acting decisively

Because of thelimited time, I had to make some tough decisions. Anything I did, I wouldeither have to finish or let go.There would be some loose ends, but that wasOK as long as I tied up others.I had to decidenot to docertain things, and focus with energy and determination on others.Still, though, thethesis would be a little thin. So I took on a side project based on another student's research, which could produce some results quickly.This side project produced themost interesting result of my scientific career.


Finishing research before writing


By the time Istopped doing experiments, I knew I had enough for a PhD. Not the best PhDever, and not world-changing, but with two publications and enough data foranother, I felt it was good enough. Because I wasn't allowed back in the lab, I just had to focus on writing. The hard part was behind me. The results weren't going to change, so it was just a matter of making sure I was productive when writing.It is much, mucheasier to write when you know the raw material isn't going to change.Tip: If there'sresearch or analysis still to do, prioritize this over writing




I decided to workat home, not at the office, because there would be fewer distractions.I got rid of theTV, and had no internet connection on my computer. The lack of internet meant Ihad to gather all the papers I would need beforehand, forcing me to think aboutwhat I would need.I also set up a dedicatedspace (2 large desks joined together and a very comfortable chair, next to alarge window for plenty of natural light), just for thesis writing.


Targets and consistency

我给自己设定了3个月的目标,分解到每一章的目标。这将使我在最后的绝对截止日期前有3个月的储备时间。我每天的目标是500字,我知道即使在效率最低的日子里我也能达到这个目标。这意味着,由于我在大多数日子里都突破了目标,所以我每天完成后都会对自己的进展感到满意,这反过来又意味着我在第二天开始时感到自信。提示: 把你的目标设定为你知道你每天都能完成的事情,然后完成它。不要把它设得你能想象的那么高。

I set myself atarget of 3 months, broken down into targets for each chapter. This would giveme about 3 months in reserve before the final absolute deadline.I had adaily minimum target of 500 words, which I knew I could meet even on the least productive days.This meant that because I smashed the target most days, I finished every day feeling good about my progress, which in turn meant I started the next day feeling confident.Tip: Set your target as something you know you can achieve daily, then beat it. Don't set itas high as you can possibly imagine.




The two most important parts of the day are the beginning and end. It's important to build momentum early, and have a routine for ending the day too.At the end of eachday I always left myself something easy to do to get started with the next day,so I woke up knowing what I was going to do.I also tidied thedesk at the end of every day, which also helped close the day mentally and stopped my brain going over and over the thesis at night.


Applyingruthless standards to what I included


Whether it was the lit review, or my own work, I cut anything sub-standard.I focused only onthe very best literature, saving myself a huge amount of time. It also had theresult of associating my work with the very best in the field.I only wrote about what I knew about, which made the thesis shorter, faster and easier to write,and of higher quality than if I had included everything whether I understood it or not.Tip:You choose the syllabus, not the examiner. Only include what you can comfortably defend.


Taking time over details that matter



这花了很长的时间来画图,并确保图的准确性。通过每次对一个细节的执着关注,我可以确保我不会再做一次。这让我想到了最后一点... ...

I took painstakingcare over the clarity of the writing, the diagrams and the overall look of thethesis.If a diagram took 2hours, so be it. If I couldn't find a high-quality image in a paper to pastein, I would re-draw it myself. Why? Because it adds so much to the feel ofquality running through the thesis."The unreconstructed Si(111) surface". This took a very long time to draw and make sure the diagram was accurate.By applying obsessive focus toone detail at a time, I could make sure that I wouldn't have to do it again. This brings me to the final point...


One draft

我总是边写边编辑,目的只有一个:确保我把脑子里的想法清楚地表达在纸上。直到我觉得句子有意义,没有含糊不清的意思,我才会继续写下去。思路清晰永远是第一目标。但是,如果你不趁着思想还在脑海里的时候澄清你的写作,就很难在几天或几周后再来整理出乱七八糟的思想。这意味着我在不断地重读和修改刚刚写好的东西,同时也意味着当我把东西提交给我的导师时,只需要很少的修改,这节省了几个月的时间,只是因为我在第一轮就尽可能地接近 "正确"。提示:如果你知道什么是好的写作,那就会有所帮助。请观视频以获得更多提示。(视频见本文末尾所列的第二篇参考文献提供的连接——译者注

I always edit as I write, with one goal only: to make sure I've expressed the idea in my headclearly on the page. I don't move on until I feel the sentence makes sense,with no ambiguity of meaning.Clarity of thoughtis always the number one aim. But it is very difficult to come back to a pieceof writing days or weeks later and sort out a mess of thought if you don't clarify your writing while the thought is still fresh in your head.This means I was constantly re-reading and revising what I've just written, but also means thatwhen I submitted something to my supervisor it needed very few revisions and saved months, simply by getting as close to "right" as I could the first time round.Tip: It helps ifyou know what makes good writing. Check outthis video for the most important tips

Another key factor。Throughout thecourse of my PhD, event though a lot went wrong, I built up a lot of experienceand skill in the techniques I'd been using and in the data analysis. This isone of the reasons why, when I slowed down and did experiments more carefully,I was able to analyse the results quickly. Too often, I meetstudents who have left analysis to the very final months, having done virtually none throughout the course of their PhD. This is a difficult situation to bein, as you have to learn analytical skills very fast under immense pressure. Practice analysis early and don't neglect your data!
请注意,我得到了对我这篇文章的一些评论,好像我在3个月内完成了整个博士学位。不是的,我是先做了三年半的研究,然后再写论文。我也没有说任何人都能写得那么快,因为这取决于很多不同的因素。这就是为什么标题是 "我是怎么写的......",而不是 "怎么写的......"

Please Note,I've had some comments on this post reacting as if I completed my entire PhD in 3 months. No,I did three and a half years of research first, then wrote the thesis. I also do not claim that anyone can write that fast, as it depends on a lot ofdifferent factors. This is why the title is "How I wrote...", not "How to write..."

James Hayton,How I wrote a PhD thesis in 3 months,February 28, 2012,https://jameshaytonphd.com/quick-tips/how-i-wrote-a-phd-thesis-in-3-months

James Hayton,How to write your PhD thesis (without going insane): Full lecture,April 20, 2020,https://jameshaytonphd.com/quick-tips/how-to-write-your-phd-thesis-without-going-insane-full-lecture



版权声明:Robin 发表于 2022年2月26日 上午7:03。
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