Tome Reader ©
Level 1: Training Area
(Equipment: ideas, hope and possibly knowledge of the institution)
- There are many secrets in Level 1. Whatever you do, you will not discover them all, but by all means try. Read the regulations. It helps. It is very boring, but will give you lots of clues (like maybe pointers as to how long your thesis should be, who is responsible for organising which bits, what the roles of supervisors and Graduate Schools are, what forms you need to fill in when and for whom and what you need to do to get cracking. There will be people to talk all this over with too, but even if they appear initially incomprehensible, have a go at understanding the regs).
- Yes, it is a lot of words. Do not be daunted, for in four or five years you will think that you can't express any ideas in less than 100, 0001.
- Read all you can to get a feel for the field, but also start writing things now. You may not use what you write later and it may not be brilliant, but that doesn't matter. Little and often will get your mind working along the right lines. You will go back to this work and re-use parts of it and use it to reflect on how your writing is changing and the thesis is growing. Do not wait until nearer the end to start writing, do it now while you are still comparatively relaxed and you will probably avoid writer's block.
- Find out what kind of referencing you are expected to use now and stick to it. It will shortly become a habit (and so one less thing to think about).
- Don't panic regarding forms and boards. They are a recurring theme throughout Tome ReaderTM (kind of like monsters, snipers, giant rolling balls and mutant ninja rhinos are in other games.) You will learn to work with them, get through them, and maybe even enjoy getting to the next 'boss level' where you will encounter another, even more 'interesting' one.
- Anything you wrote during your MA (if related, of course, although you may be able to link it in even if it isn't by Level 3) is fair game for incorporation and revision.
- Someone other than you thinks that your writing this thesis is a good idea. They believe in it as well. (They will also want to make some money or gain some other kind of benefit for their department, but that should not be a major consideration from your point of view).
- You need to love your subject. It is going to take up a lot of your hard drive (both on the computer and in your head), for some time.
- You will go mad in some way; just try to ensure it is a madness that you can come back from. Knowing that this will happen now will help later when you start doubting your sanity. Playing Tome ReaderTM is a stressful, exciting and overwhelming experience, often all at once.
- There seems to be plenty of time to get this done. There isn't. Get going now. Are you still here? Why? Get to it!
- There should be a supportive research culture in place to give you the best chance of surviving Tome ReaderTM. Find out more about how the institution and the research culture works. Is the term 'research culture' truly descriptive of what goes on there? Is it actually yoghurt that has been poked at a bit? Are you it, or is there someone else around as well, or are there thousands of you? All of these circumstances impact upon the Tome ReaderTM experience. Plus, it depends how you prefer to work. Some people enjoy the solitary aspects of the experience, whilst others prefer discussion. If you fall into the latter camp you will feel lonely sometimes, as the actual writing bit of playing Tome ReaderTM, is, of necessity, a solo activity. Build good support networks, see people and talk through, but if you find you are socialising to avoid writing there may be a problem with how you are playing the game.
- If they said you would have access to 'research facilities and funding', find out whether they mean a desk and your bus fare home (if that) or rather more (access to the secrets of the universe perhaps). Get as much support out of them as you can for materials of any kind whatsoever. You never know when that battle-axe may be useful, so get it if you can. All they will do, at worst, in response to your requests, is refuse (or ask for forms in triplicate with an extensive justification. Still worth a go).
- Life will get in the way of your playing Tome ReaderTM from time to time. There will be personal support networks you can tap into. However, there are also university ones regarding health, employment or any other issue. Find out where they are and use them. Don't sit on a problem and hope it will go away. Act fast. No one is going to think badly of you. Everyone knows about life and study not fitting together, especially when you are playing Tome ReaderTM, (or should) and they are there to help.
- Back to the reading. Read widely. You will need to do this to get a handle on where your work will fit into the field. You might end up feeling a bit confused, but things will come into focus. You will work out who writes stuff that interests you and is relevant, and slowly a clear picture will develop as to where your work fits in. Well, that is the theory.
- You can't get a piercing, or have something cut off, instead. You have to write it.
1Not including footnotes, bibliographies and Appendices.