How to submit interim versions of your thesis for review by your supervisor.

This topic is for you and your supervisor! It discusses a problem for your supervisor to allocate enough quality time to give you constructive feedback while you are writing your thesis. Most master theses become quickly 100+ pages. It takes a loooong time to read through them, and this might result in not only long evenings for your supervisor, but also inferior feedback to you from your supervisor (because he/she might fall asleep while reading your interim versions over and over again). The bottom line is that if you want good feedback from your supervisor you have to help him/her provide you with quality review time! Some tips on how you can structure your interim deliveries:

  • Use change tracking! All word processors have a feature called change tracking that will allow you to mark lately edited text. This makes it easy for a reader to see what text was changed since last time he/she read the document. In MS Word you simply press Ctrl+Shift+E to activate/deactivate change tracking. See also this page. LaTeX uses a number of different methods, the one called changebar is a good one (Yngvar recommended LyX). Alternatively if change tracking becomes tedious you can mark the change/added text using colors. (Remember to remove older changes from change tracking when you send a new version. Show only changes from last reading!)
  • Version your report and set up a change log. Add a table to the beginning of your document, where you insert one row for each version of your document together with a version number, date, and main changes you have done to different chapters/sections.
  • Keep track of the feedback you get. In many cases important feedback from your supervisor gets ignored (which makes your supervisor furious). Even if you don’t understand the feedback or you don’t think you should take any actions, keep the comments in your document. In MS Word you can add comments to different parts of your text. In LaTeX I don’t know how you can do this (maybe use footnotes or keep them in a separate table as an appendix). You can delete these before you deliver your thesis.
  • Keep track of older versions. Sometimes you might delete or edit text that you end up regretting. Use version control packages such as TortoiseSVN for not only backing up your documents but also keeping track of different versions of your documents. Remember to submit detailed change logs when you add new versions to your version control database!
  • Be targeted when asking for feedback. Ask your supervisor which chapters/parts of your report need feedback every time you submit an interim version. This will help your supervisor prioritize his/her reading.
  • Don’t expect your supervisor to write your thesis! Respect the fact that your supervisor most probably has a lot of other things to do. He/she has not the luxury of focusing all his/her time on a thesis or a paper. Don’t expect many reads. Don’t send documents on Friday evenings, expecting feedback on Monday morning. Rely on your own judgment (remember you are the researcher!) and use these blogs. If you think new blogs should be added or existing ones should be improved, contact Babak. To see how your research will be judged I recommend you to read this article.

1 comment for “How to submit interim versions of your thesis for review by your supervisor.

  1. Yngvar Kristiansen
    March 11, 2010 at 16:55

    For change tracking in Latex, Lyx (www.lyx.org) can be a simple alternative.

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