Thesis Notes & Motivation





One of the best defenses against failing to notice is to surround ourselves with people who think differently than we do, know different things than we do, and therefore notice different things as they travel through life — and to listen to them.  And when they don’t speak-up, we need to stop and ask them what they are noticing that is wonderful, beautiful, strange, seems out of place, or is wrong.  Unfortunately, too many of us seek to be around people who are just like us in as many ways as possible”  (from Bob Sutton’s excellent webite).

I’m steaming along on the thesis again, feeling much better after the last few days spent with the agony of what I thought was a middle-ear infection. It turned out to be a gum/jaw infection related to a tooth on which I’d had root canal therapy a few years ago.

Needless to say, both myself and the dentist finally agree that the tooth has to come out. If I’d had my way, I would’ve had the tooth pulled out rather than undergo costly (and time-intensive) root canal therapy. I would rather pay $3000 for an implant and not have any bother for the rest of my life.

Thus, the real reason behind my prolific spurt of blog posts has been illness. I’ve been home, and not feeling much like doing anything (if you’ve ever had a proper middle-ear infection, you’ll understand what I’m talking about). Certainly, not like writing my PhD thesis.

I should say now that I’m heading out bush to work for a few days this week, so I won’t be around to write very much, so I spose I should procreate blog posts whilst I can! 

The Thesis

*NB. My thesis is about the joint management of national parks and reserves in the Northern Territory of Australia. Joint management means the management of a national park by both Aboriginal people and a governement-run conservation agency. Joint management is often called ‘co-management’ or ‘co-operative management’ elsewhere. The central question of my thesis is: what does joint management mean to conservation agencies in Australia?

I am deep into the last data analysis chapter, Chapter 7, called ‘Doing Joint Management’. It’s where, after discussing what joint management means to the NT’s Parks and Wildlife Service, I look at how they actually do joint management, that is, the body of practices they engage in and label as joint management in constrast with other park management activities.

My style of writing my data chapters is part narrative and part traditional enthographic analysis. If you’re unfamiliar with the conventions of anthropology theses, then I give you this information: there are very few conventions!

An Unconventional Structure

Unlike a PhD in the hard sciences, behavioural sciences or even in sociology, an anthropology PhD doesn’t need to fit usual thesis framework:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Methodology
  4. Data Presentation/Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion   

 My thesis outline looks like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. History/Literature Review on Conservation Agencies
  3. History/Literature Review on Joint Management
  4. Methodology
  5. Data Chapter 1: Park Agency Culture
  6. Data Chapter 2: Defining Joint Management
  7. Data Chapter 3:Doing Joint Management
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. Brain failure (joking! actually the brain failure is the Abstract. You try condensing 120 000 words into half a page!).

Data Chapters

The content of my data chapters intertwines the story of the new joint management agenda in the NT (which meant the simultaneuous mass joint management of many parks and reserves), comprising one form of data (narrative), with more traditional forms of data (interviews, case studies, participant observation, primary sources). I am a primary character in my PhD thesis, as are my Parks and Wildlife Service colleagues.

*Until March this year, I worked at the NT Parks and Wildlife Service. I had worked there for 4 1/2 years.

Motivation to Keep Going

Now to keep motivated – and because I have to keep motivated as time is ticking away- I have a rewards system set up for myself. I break each chapter up into sections and allocate a reward upon completion:

Chapter 7:   Section Finished Reward
FEP Data/narrative  Paul Grilley DVD
Analysis of data about JM activities 

Planning data/narrative


Analysis of  JM activities Aboriginal perspectives


Douglas Harding book 



Viniyoga Book


Cultural heritage  Elastic Steel book?
Conclusion Massage

This might seem dumb, but it works a treat for me, and makes the writing fly by.

I’ve tried bullying myself, pressuring myself, etc etc, but the best techniques for motivation I’ve found are:

-planning chapters and sections well (plan your writing before you write so you just don’t sit there, waiting for something to happen)

-break it down into small parts with a reward for each small completion (and then ANGER when Dymocks sells out of the reward!!)

-give up on perfection and trying to create a masterpiece. Just finish the bloody thing!!!

And most of all (depressing or not, it’s the reality):

Remember that, apart from your supervisor and examiners, only TWO OTHER PEOPLE on average will ever read your PhD thesis!


3 thoughts on “Thesis Notes & Motivation

  1. This sounds like an interesting thesis, Amanda, and not unlike the one a friend of mine has been doing [she’s having her interview today]. She’s not in anthropology though; I think she’s in natural resource management.

    The best tip I ever discovered for myself for getting through a lot of work was to break it in to smaller bits. It’s much easier to persuade myself to write a little piece of some thing than wade my way through a giant project.

    I like your rewards system too!

  2. Dear Amanda, you write:

    And most of all (depressing or not, it’s the reality):

    Remember that, apart from your supervisor and examiners, only TWO OTHER PEOPLE on average will ever read your PhD thesis!

    Could you please, give me the source link for this statistics?

  3. Hey,
    I find your formula of breaking thesis into lil portions very interesting. Actually I myself am an Anthro student rt in the middle of thesis writing phase. The motivation factor is good too. I’ll try that out.

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