Thesis writing resources

Here are some gems I’ve come across recently which I hope will be as useful to others.

Past PhD theses

Oxford offers the option to make your thesis available online via the Oxford Research Archive. It is so helpful to see what others have done and to get a better idea of what is expected. (Plus, to get access to hard copies you have to play a magical and annoying Bodleian library game, so I thank every one of you who has offered digital access!).

Reminders that it doesn’t have to be perfect

A recent article by Atma Ivancevic in Nature Blogs offers an important reminder that learning how and when to stop is far more valuable than trying to achieve perfection.

Ask the expert

Tara Barbazon of Flinders University in Australia has created a series of videos which answer every imaginable question about doing a PhD, from writers block through to managing your supervisor. Esther Anaya raves about her so she must be good!

Explorations of style – blog

The wonderful Jennifer Gooden suggested this blog and a particular chapter on how to structure your introduction.

Stepping stones to achieve your doctorate – book

Sometimes these kinds of books just seem like overkill, but the chapter on ideas to help write the discussion section is gold. Thanks again to Jen for this tip off.

Access to a printer

This sounds wasteful but trying to read and edit long word documents on a screen is a nightmare. I rarely print anything now because you can annotate articles so easily on an ipad, but a red pen and paper still have their place.

Good pdf editing software

Compiling the final thesis beast will be a mission, but the ability to collate, manage and edit a large pdf is extremely helpful. Nuance offer a free trial of their Power PDF Advanced software.

A well managed reference library

A friend recently suggested she would manually manage her references. I screamed inside. There are lots of software designed to make your life more pleasant. Please, please use them!

Supportive supervision

It should be the case that everyone receives practical and realistic advice and support from their supervisor to help finish on time. Sadly it’s not, and I am very grateful that Rich sees it as essential.

Other important resources

  • sunshine… thank you London for turning it on this summer
  • exercise… thank you Alice for making me sign up to a half marathon right when my thesis is due…
  • a nice working environment… thank you Imperial College and my office mates at the Centre for Environmental Policy
  • lovely friends (best when combined with sunshine and conversation topics other than the thesis)
  • weekends, or at least days off here and there. I’ve decided my brain has a timer, after five or so days, it just simply stops functioning anyway.
  • things to look forward to when you are done… aka long awaited holidays!


Pic – light at the end of the tunnel…!


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