On Writing a Thesis (Satire)


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A friend just sent me the above image, courtesy of Ph.D. Comics (check them out, they’re awesome) outlining “the seven chapters of a thesis”. While this outline applies to education, engineering, theoretical physics, linguistics, and pretty much all natural and social science disciplines (and more than likely to other fields as well), and this is all well and good, it honestly seems to me that these chapters don’t really apply to the humanities, specially to literary studies. I had to read several theses back when I was young and cool and was writing my thesis on Blake, and it honestly seems to me that the template for philosophy and literature theses is closer to this:

Chapter 1: Unintelligible jargon that maybe states what you will do but it’s more likely a heavily thesaurus’d excuse for why literature is amazing and your books are important.

Chapter 2: Impenetrable paraphrasing of the works of insert chair’s favorite theorist here, most often one who was considered important 20 – 70 years ago, such as Lacan or De Saussure.

Chapter 3: An academic-sounding summary of your texts (but it’s not really a summary, I promise it’s not!) followed by a short rationale of how your chair’s theorist is relevant to “unlocking new knowledge” / “discovering new perspectives to think about” / “complicate the problems presented in” / “explore with sufficient depth” (or a combination of those) your text.

Chapter 4: A hodgepodge of quotations taken from your text, your main theorist, and 10 – 15 recent critics published in journals (although you read all 500 items on your bibliography, or so you tell yourself) mixed in an impenetrable structure that secretly you think makes no sense but makes your chair happy, sprinkled with a few original sentences such as “Such-and-such author also agrees with the statements previously made in this investigation”.

Chapter 5: What you hope is a conclusion, but really reads like an extension of Chapter 4.

So there you go – some advice on writing a thesis for literature or philosophy.

*NOTE: This post in no way reflects the reality of writing a thesis and is meant as nothing more than a bit of comedy.

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About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on July 19, 2013, in Literature Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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