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.
- 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’.
- Letting your mind fool you so you deviate from your goal because you think you’re getting good stuff. Discipline!
- Spending time trying to explain something that is already explained, for instance, the origins of the alphabet.
- 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?
- Believing that you have made a great discovery that is not such: check your progress with your teacher or mentor.
- Writing in deep academic style so that your thesis becomes distant and boring.
- Consulting and quoting second category sources because you should fill pages and deliver the thesis on time.
- Ignoring what is the state-of-the-art at this time.
- Thinking that you’re going to finish on time.
- Not knowing how to deal with indexes, appendices and bibliographies.
- Lack of language skills. There are wonderful books in italian, german, spanish and french (and I guess in urdu and swahili).
- Not consulting another thesis that could pave your way.
- 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!).