How to write a doctoral thesis

That moment in which our thesis director tells us to start writing. So, without anesthesia or anything. We have been two, three, four years working in the laboratory, with derisory scholarships (the lucky ones); Caring lovingly of cells, rats, mice, guinea pigs …; reproducing published experiments that are irreproducible; doing essays that do not go out for three months and one day they work the first time without knowing why; fighting with pipettes that do not pipette and centrifuges that do not centrifuge; We have read articles, but let’s be honest, not too many; we have wished a slow and painful death to the inventor of the SPSS, etc. All this we have done, and now we finally have fifty results files on three different computers that we must put in Christian. That moment…

It is clear from the beginning that I do not attribute to myself, much less the ability to establish how a doctoral work should be written, that depends entirely on the director of each thesis. What follows are simply some guidelines that I (and I would like to think also my PhD students) have worked for me.

A few tips before sitting down to write:

  1. To be able to use a desktop computer and not a laptop, our eyes and our cervicals will thank us.
  2. The backup copies: do not go crazy, you have to find a balance between only having the copy of the computer, and the absolute paranoia of having the thesis copied on the laptop, the home computer, the laboratory and six pen drives different So bad is one thing like the other. My advice is to have the file of the computer and a copy in a pendrive. If one day we work in another place we take the pendrive and when we get home we update the copy of the computer. With this is enough, although there is no other, especially at the time of the corrections, have a folder in Dropbox shared with your director.
  3. We will create a file for each section: Introduction, Methods, Objectives, Results and Conclusions. Do not put everything together because that file tends to become giant, it takes us half an hour to find something and also, because of everything we started to paste on it: graphics, photos, etc., it is much easier for it to fail.
  4. Limit as much as possible the custom of saving different versions with names like Tesis, Tesis_Ok, Tesis_Definitive, Tesis_Superdefinitive … Create a folder called Drafts and put all the old files there. Never have two different versions of the thesis in the same folder; You may open the one that is not and spend a morning working on the wrong version.