Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Finishing the PhD

8. Continuity (Finishing the PhD)

(Part 8 of 10)

In television or film production people, such as a script supervisor, are responsible for making sure that there is a consistency seen about the persons, plot, objects, places and events as seen by the viewer, even though the episode or film is made up of small pieces and later edited together. When things aren’t consistent you get ‘continuity errors’ of one sort or another that annoy or jar the reader or viewer.

It’s the same in putting the thesis together. You need to check that you’re being consistent in how you’re bringing the final product together. So it’s important to check things like:

  • Are all the questions I raised in the early chapters, and said I was going to address, actually addressed? It pays to go through looking for those questions, noting them down, and then looking to see if you did actually answer them in some way.
  • If I pointed forward to a later section of the thesis or back to an earlier section, does that section actually exist as I refer to it? Sometimes you’ll edit out a section that you referred to elsewhere and you’re left with some loose ends for the examiner to pick up on.
  • Are all references to chapters and sub-sections in the thesis correct? I had a couple of chapters that got merged and split several times and I had to keep updating chapter references in other chapters around those changes. (Missed one in the submitted copy and had to fix it in the final, bound copy).
  • Is all the formatting – headings, quotes, citations, actually consistent? Sneaky things might be when you’ve referenced a magazine article in a journal format in one part of the thesis and as a magazine article in another part.
  • Is the thesis an integrated whole or just a series of smaller snapshots or vignettes? Do the beginnings and ends of each chapter work to generate a smooth, continuous flow through the thesis for the reader?

It’s time-consuming to do this sort of checking, but it’s worth it to present a thesis that takes the reader/examiner through a carefully plotted journey to the end that leaves them satisfied that you’re competent, have arranged your material well, and haven’t left any questions unanswered (unless you meant to).

Don’t give the examiner reason to be annoyed or disappointed with your thesis because of continuity errors.

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