Writing a thesis is a challenge that every student will inevitably face. You can dread it, and you can try to run from it, but this feared academic requirement will one day come at you at full force and you best be prepared to face it when the time comes. This may seem intimidating at first – but that’s because it is. Now, I know that I should be more encouraging and say that it’s no big deal, you can cram it in a month or so, no need to panic. You know, like a liar.
But I need to be upfront about this. As it stands, your thesis defense is an academic cornerstone highlighting your skills in writing, research, statistics, and especially speech. Remember, you need to convince licensed professionals to believe the nonsense – I mean, “research findings” that you’ve gathered over time.
Now, ordinarily you would be assigned a partner or group that you can potentially blame if things go wrong. You can look forward to long nights of bickering, fights, and reconciliation when doing a thesis with a group. But what if you are one of those introverts who work better alone? How different will your experience be? Well, if you want to know what to expect, then you are in luck! I had no social skills to actually look for group members. So I did my thesis completely alone. But honestly, it was not as one sided as I expected. Here's what I found:
1. You will be intimately familiar with your paper.
Because you are working alone, you are bound to know your paper inside and out. By the end you will be able to recite all hundred or so pages by heart like it was the national anthem. After everything is done, you will find out that every period, comma, space and letter of this little project has been burned in the corners of your mind. Don’t worry, that’s actually good. Even if you wind up speaking scientific terms in your sleep I promise it’s going to be worth it.
2. You will be able to defend it consistently.
Your panelists will ask things that they know you have placed in the paper; they will at times reverse and loop the terms and ask them back to you. These are done to know just how well you know the paper. Since you know your paper inside and out, you’re more likely to know how to best answer the questions regarding the terms, properties, and content of the paper.
3. You are your own master.
The way the paper is written is entirely up to you. With a group, you are bound to your partners or group members. If they slack off, then you are entirely at their mercy and the paper will remain unfinished. But if you are alone, none of these problems exist, because you get what you write. You don’t need to wait for weeks on end on someone who might not even do what they are told.
4. There will be no one to contest your ideas.
When doing your thesis alone, it’s up to you if you want to change and switch things around. In a group changing even the slightest aspect can have huge effects on the paper. Remember, some parts are made by other people. There are occasions when what you have added may contradict the statements of your partner or group member. These clash of ideas can lead to disagreements that, in turn lead to fights, which in turn lead to grudges. Don’t be mistaken, many friendships were lost while writing these things. Sometimes it’s best to not risk it and hold only yourself accountable.
5. The expectations are lower.
Since you are alone the expectations of your respected panelists will not be that high since there are certain limitations that they are willing to acknowledge. If you are doing the entire thesis alone, you are physically bound to do far less work than those in groups. Because of this, those doing a thesis individually will have fewer objectives and outputs than those in groups. This means you can better focus on what you need to do than to worry on what comes next.
Now, I know that I’m making it look like doing a thesis alone is a good thing. But that could be further from the truth. Looking back at the things I did makes me wonder if it would have been better if I had been confident enough to get a partner. I’ve had as much negative experiences as I’ve had positive, here’s are the consequences I learned:
1. You will have to know everything!
Since no one else is going to do it, you will have to memorize at least a hundred pages’ worth of content; this leaves room for error where you might mix up or forget concepts if you don’t study the paper properly. With so much content to go through, you will have to review and practice a lot to defend it effectively.
2. Exhaustion will make you careless.
It will be very tiring to write the entire paper yourself, and this may cause you to make many grammatical errors due to sheer sleep deprivation. When you are tired, your mind can and will play tricks on you. You may think you wrote, “The findings reveal the patient is receptive to vaccine#234” but you’ve actually just written the lyrics to the “Campfire song” from Spongebob. When alone, you will have less time to rest since you are the only one writing on your paper. This will leave you very open to being tired, so best get used to working at 10% capacity.
3. You can blame only yourself.
As it stands everything will be your fault. Good or bad it – it all comes back to you. Being your own master means being solely responsible for failure. If you fall victim to procrastination, there will be no one to pick up the pace when you fall behind the deadlines. If things go bad, you’ll wind up trying punch the mirror, and nobody really wants that.
4. You can find yourself going in circles.
Since you have no one to bounce your ideas back to or give relevant insight or observations, your ideas can wind up stagnating since no one will be there to challenge it. This can lead you to becoming close minded towards the many solutions that could help improve your paper. You can wind up repeating mistakes since there’s no outside feedback telling you otherwise.
5. Complacency will become your greatest enemy.
Lower expectations can lead you to become complacent. You begin to work less and less since people don’t expect that much, this in turn leads you to not doing anything at all. You think as long as you pass “something”, everything will turn out fine, but you’re not really fine. This is a dangerous mindset since it may cause you to procrastinate or, worse, give mediocre outputs. Remember, a thesis will be a cornerstone of your academic career. Future students might look to your work for reference or insight. For this reason, you are obligated to try your best in this last hurdle towards wearing that very uncomfortable square hat that’s all the rage for graduating students.
But really completing a thesis is far from an impossible task whether you do it alone or with a group. A thesis is supposed to be time consuming and very, very tiring. But if you work hard enough, or just generally not be lazy, you can and will accomplish it.
For those with difficult partners you should try to work with them and not against them. At the end of the day, they are still students like you and have the same goals (hopefully).
If you are alone, then it’s best to ration your time wisely. Don’t leave work to your future self because I promise you that they will be as lazy as you are. Be productive now so that you can be even more productive tomorrow.
In the end it’s up to you whether to do the thesis alone or with a group. Be smart and choose the option that would best work to your advantage. Good luck and just remember to be persistent. You have a long way to go, but you’ll get there, eventually.
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