Today’s post is by Anne Pawsey, who recently completed her Ph D at the University of Edinburgh working on the behaviour of colloids dispersed in liquid crystals.She is currently a post-doc at the Rowett Institute of the University of Aberdeen, but based in Edinburgh.
There were three distinct types of software I found useful: La Te X and associated packages, referencing software, and “productivity software”. These plugins for your web browser (I used leechblock) block your access to the distracting parts of the internet (facebook, twitter et al) during the working day and crucially do not allow you to alter the settings during this time. For referencing I used a combination of Mendeley and Jabref.
I found that whilst Mendeley was great for searching papers and adding notes, its bibtex output left something to be desired, so I exported these to Jabref before inserting.
I have Mendeley set up to watch and sort my random papers folder, I save all papers here and Mendeley sorts them and makes them searchable.
Finally, I wrote my thesis using La Te X, which I recommend.
With the exception of the first chapter I wrote, I only made one set of major revisions to each chapter prior to submission as this was all there was time for.
This resulted in quite a lot of pressure to make the work as complete as possible before my supervisor saw it and required me to spend a time editing and tidying my own work, something which I intensly dislike doing. I think I would, although, maybe I’d allow myself slightly longer to write or have written more during the Ph D.I wish I’d built more regular excercise and socialising into my days as there were times when I was extremely lonely.I worked am to ~5pm on my thesis during week days with coffee and lunch breaks.Once I had all the chapters and comments back I made the suggested corrections and sent the revised chapters to a small army of proof readers, one per chapter.Finally, I gave a final copy to my supervisor to check over before printing.I took over a small corner of my living room with a desk, desktop computer and a good chair. I typically worked there from am to about 5pm every week day whilst writing up.One of the most important things for me was to treat writing as a job, as such I did not work on my thesis in my pyjamas.I’ll group the things I learnt loosely into practicalities and the writing process and software tricks.I wrote most of my thesis at home to avoid the distractions of colleagues and to have access to a ready supply of coffee.I then agreed a timetable with my supervisor about when he could expect each chapter and when he would give me feedback.This was really important for keeping me on track as I work best with fixed deadlines.