Thursday, September 4, 2008

handing it in

Posts about writing have been circulating around the blogosphere recently. I have my own writing process (I try to put everything possibly useful in writing as I read it/produce it and then end up with a bunch of documents I manipulate into whatever form I need), but what I'm interested in here is the point at which folks hand out their work for comments.

I have a very "hands off" advisor. This normally works fine. When I started, I had industry experience to draw on and I have my own ideas about what I'd like to do. When I started planning, I wrote out a fairly detailed document explaining I wanted to do, citing literature for my reasons for choosing x and y methods. I tried to get feedback as much as possible prior to starting work, but if I hadn't done so, I'm not sure if my advisor would have pushed to make sure that I was doing something remotely feasible/scientifically defensible.

So here I am with a massive amount of data collected in various ways over a relatively short period. For a number of reasons, I cannot go back and get additional data to supplement what I did. I've been spending my time making a million graphs, testing various hypotheses, checking control samples, and generally trying to make sense of everything. My advisor is not interested in digging through data, and all he sees is the end result that I've produced. In order to explain what I see, I'm essentially writing my thesis as I go.

As a result of all this, I keep shooting "does this look ok to you" drafts to my professor. He comments on style and organization while he's at it (don't we all?) and that gives me something non-technical to work on when I'm tired of wrestling with numbers. My timeframe is to check in once a week and send a draft after I've made enough progress that I'd like reassurance I'm going in the right direction with the analyses. This works out to a draft every couple of weeks.

I'm getting the feeling that my way of producing and handing in this thesis is different, to say the least. Everybody else I've talked to has handed in finished (to them) sections or even the whole thing at once. Friends have offered to proofread it once I have the whole thing together, but by then, my advisor will have seen it several times. Am I annoying my professor with all these drafts? He hasn't shown any sign of irritation, and frankly, if he'd spent a little more effort on this earlier, I wouldn't need as much hand-holding at the end.


EcoGeoFemme said...

I think if he doesn't seem annoyed, keep doing whatever works.

My advisors are extremely slow at returning drafts (it can take many months!) so I like to give them the best possible work to make it as fast and easy as possible. Also, they seem to get distracted by style problems if I give them an early, unpolished draft to make sure I'm on the right track. That bums me out. They also seem to be almost unable to read isolated sections. They seem to really need the whole thing in order to determine if each part is adequate.

Short Geologist said...

Thanks - I'm sort of floundering around here (it's my first big manuscript, after all) and making dates to hand in stuff and get feedback at regular intervals is my way of taking control of the process.