Tag Archives: theses

How to talk with your mentor about writing (and why)

All of us write, and all of us learn to write; but virtually none of us do so alone. Which is a good thing, both for the doing and the learning! For that latter part: there’s an early-career phase in which you work closely with a mentor. Most often, that mentor will be an honours or graduate supervisor, and you’ll be working together while you write a thesis, or perhaps a manuscript for publication derived from a thesis. This kind of close collaboration can be extremely helpful as you learn the craft of scientific writing; but it can also be frustrating for both parties.

Before going further, it’s worth acknowledging just how much can be involved – on both sides. For the developing writer: writing the thesis is an enormous project that consumes many months (if not years). For most, it’s also a time of rapid learning. And the stakes are high, because the entire graduate program culminates in the thesis, and the first few publications have outsize weight on an early career CV. For the mentor, it’s also a big deal and extremely time-consuming. A mentor might read and comment on three or four drafts, or maybe a dozen, of each of your thesis chapters – and they aren’t likely to have a single mentee, so you can multiply that by the population of a lab.

So if the collaboration can be either helpful or frustrating, it’s very much worth trying to push the needle towards the former and away from the latter. Here are some ways you can do that. Continue reading

Can a thesis chapter be coauthored?

Image credit: S. Heard.  Hand models: Ken Dearborn, Allyson Heustis (thanks!).


Of course.  Most are, and that’s perfectly appropriate.  But some interesting issues arise. Continue reading

The three functions of a thesis

Photo: rows of theses in UNB’s library (S. Heard)

PhD theses are weird things.  Now, it may seem weird that a person is expected to spend five years labouring to produce a single document that determines their career prospects* – but that’s not what I mean.  Instead, I mean that they’re a weird writing form.  They’re important, but nobody ever reads them.  They’re singled-authored, except that they’re not**.  They’re bulked up with trivia, but judged by their importance.  They’re considered publications, except that republishing their content later doesn’t count as double-publication.  What on earth is going on? Continue reading