The final month with the thesis

I have neglected posting while I am in the final writing stages of the thesis. It is probably the phase where writing the posts would have been a healthy and helpful reflection, but alas I felt that I needed to focus solely on the thesis.

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Sainte-Anne-des-Monts in Gaspesie. It seems like there might be light at the end of the thesis storm!

I am less than one month away from the initial submission deadline for the PhD thesis. Over the past 4 weeks or so I went through 2 drafts of each one of the remaining chapters and sections, and at the moment everything is “out” for review from co-authors or friendly reviewers.

Last time I wrote I was planning on doing my second round of coding analysis. I has able to reduce the number of themes and make a couple of them much more hierarchical, which I think was very helpful in thinking about the data a little differently. Once I did that, I wrote a new draft where I reordered some sections, cut one figure, and changed the 3 remaining ones to be simpler, focusing a little more on the interview material results and on the link to my literature review chapter. Funnily enough, most of the material I rewrote or added in this draft got cut from the next draft. I liked the material, but ultimately it became clear that those paragraphs and one figure where not essential to explain and justify my main findings (this became clear with outside eyes, not just my own).

Most people I talked to about thesis writing say that creating the introduction, conclusion, and the connecting statement is the easiest part. Although obviously easier that the meaty chapters (because they don’t require new research questions, design, data, and data analysis and presentation), they are still tricky to get right. All of these pieces are quite short, but deciding what is “in” and what is “out” still seems hard. I had kept a of the material I had cut from main chapter intros, discussions, and conclusions, for possible reuse in the whole thesis intro and conclusion, in addition to the material from my thesis proposal, and my own thoughts throughout the process. In writing and rewriting however, many of my little “nuggets”got cut while trying to make the story focused and flowing logically. I still worry however that maybe with all my cutting I have not cast a wide enough net and assuming the reader knows to much about why what I study is important and how everything is linked together.

In addition, I thought I had a clear idea of the order of my chapters, but in writing and getting feedback it isn’t as straight forward as anticipated. I have been changing things around, and until I get that set while writing the introduction, I don’t want to rewrite the connecting statements and the conclusion without a clear direction. Its the same with really working on the thesis formatting. I have been using all the automated features in word but they don’t always work great when you really move large sections (especially figures!).

On the link front, I have come across a few interesting pieces that could be used to contextualize my work on UA in P cycling centring around the urban rural continuum (here, and here).

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It is simply crazy to think things are wrapping up here in Montreal. I know I still have a ways to go on editing, reviewing, and actually submitting and defending, but it does seem like the biggest parts of the work are indeed done. Seeing this video we worked on over the winter come out last week on the Montreal’s Ecosystems at your Service that summarizes the work I did last summer is a testament to that:

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