How Not to Write a Doctoral Thesis: in Memoriam of Umberto Eco

Just a month ago, I defended my doctoral thesis and became Doctor in Philosophy.

When I heard tribunal’s veredict I almost fainted. It was the end of many years of efforts… and errors.

For those who are preparing a doctoral thesis, I recommend to read Umberto Eco’s ‘How To Write a Doctoral Thesis’.

But let me write down just the opposite: How Not to Write a Doctoral Thesis. These remarks will make your travel shorter.

These are some of the most common mistakes.

  1. Not taking notes of page, publisher and year of the book you’re viewing by chance. Otherwise you will lose a lot of time confirming data months later, since you do not remember the book you read ‘by chance’.
  2. Letting your mind fool you so you deviate from your goal because you think you’re getting good stuff. Discipline!
  3. Spending time trying to explain something that is already explained, for instance, the origins of the alphabet.
  4. Not being clear about the purpose of your thesis so half way you will try to change the headline and even your thesis. Please, before starting, ask yourself this question: What do you want to prove?
  5. Believing that you have made a great discovery that is not such: check your progress with your teacher or mentor.
  6. Writing in deep academic style so that your thesis becomes distant and boring.
  7. Consulting and quoting second category sources because you should fill pages and deliver the thesis on time.
  8. Ignoring what is the state-of-the-art at this time.
  9. Thinking that you’re going to finish on time.
  10. Not knowing how to deal with indexes, appendices and bibliographies.
  11. Lack of language skills. There are wonderful books in italian, german, spanish and french (and I guess in urdu and swahili).
  12. Not consulting another thesis that could pave your way.
  13. Not letting a friend read your thesis before final defense to find errors in advance.

(I suffered a lot because it was my first thesis… and I guess the last. The topic was “The visual language in Plato and the logical-formal language in Wittgenstein: a comparison”. Believe me, it is more funny than it appears. I got cum laude, the highest score in spaniard universities. You can do it, as well. Good luck!).

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