Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thesis thoughts

I'm at the point in my program where I should have at least a general idea of what my dissertation will look like. According to the official guidelines, I'm supposed to have written a thesis proposal, preferably accompanied by some data suggesting that I'm not a complete failure.

Ever since I started grad school, I've been simultaneously working on multiple projects, thinking that I would stick with the one that would work out best. The problem, however, is that none of the projects have *really* been working. For some projects, I was unable to replicate previous studies, which I had planned to be the baseline for subsequent experiments. For others, results were pretty much uninterpretable and sometimes even contradictory between experiments. I've been trying to find out where things got messy but generally without too much luck.

And so I still don't have a clear idea of where I'm going. I had all these grand plans, but ended up abandoning most of them. I have some vague thoughts about potential studies but they
a. are mainly ideas my supervisor has brought up;
b. still need to be refined;
c. don't connect in the most straightforward way.

There's lots of work to be done and time is slowly running out. Meanwhile, I find myself more and more unable to think analytically (those headaches that keep on coming back certainly don't help either). I suspect I may be hitting panic mode. It's so frustrating to know that I would have been able to handle this situation better two years ago than I am now.

I think that I can do this. I'm just not so sure though that I can do this now.


  1. You CAN do it. In my experience, 1. Your thesis won't be exactly what you propose on (and in some cases, will have nothing to do with it), and 2. They are more looking for logical scientific thought and the ability to defend a hypothesis than concrete A>B>C>D mechanism at the point of your proposal. Spend a weekend thinking about your adviser's ideas and reading related papers, then jot down whatever ideas come to you. But if you're hitting panic mode, don't delve into research until you've taken 2 full days off to think about anything BUT research. When you're stressed you think much better after a short break. Good luck, you'll get through it!

  2. Is it sad if I said that I'm unable NOT to think about research for even a day? I so need a life!