Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rules for interacting with a thesis writer

Since I posted DON'T ASK about MY THESIS signs all over the place, particularly Facebook, and subsequently added You Can Ask Me About My Health or the Weather, again all over Facebook, I love that people have been pointedly asking me how I am or mentioning the weather rather than ask me about my thesis. It's particularly amusing because the slump which really drove the first poster passed soon after it, so I don't mind too much if people ask. So I thought it was worth offering some more pointed information. Here are some rules I have just made up; the brief version is to stick to number one, but if you feel prepared, you can continue on to the others.


1. Don't ask about the thesis between:
six months before it's "due" until twelve months after it was due. An alternative question is to ask "How are you going?" or "How's it going?"; if they want to mention the thesis, they will, but they will be grateful not to be specifically asked for the hundredth time

2. Don't ask about the thesis if:
You're uncomfortable with displays of emotion, particularly weeping, stress and the kermit-the-frog-like waving of hands.

3. Don't ask about the thesis if:
You don't have time for a lengthy conversation. If you're passing in the hallway, or just ran into each other in the street, don't ask. It forces us to say "good" and then feel guilty.

4. If you have asked about the thesis:
And received a lengthy expression of stress, doubt and despair, please listen to our concerns and don't offer sweepingly generalised assurances of "she'll be right" based solely on your good opinion of us. It's possibly true but is easy to dismiss that you don't really know how little we have achieved or how much we have to do.

5. Ask about the thesis if:
You are doing or have done a thesis. The sympathetic listener is much preferred. However as one of the community, you are more likely to receive the long version, so return to rule number 3.

If you do not ask me about my thesis, if you don't judge me for it taking longer than it seems like it should, if you give me space to talk about or not talk about my thesis as I wish, in return I promise to broadcast to you and the world when I do submit.

And, as always, PhD Comics has come up with a better way to represent it:

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