So I wrote a thesis..

Many of my friends have told me that I have been spectacularly bad at letting people know I have finished and handed in my thesis. It’s true, aside from some cryptic Welsh on Facebook I haven’t really made much noise. So here is my official announcement:

I have finished my thesis. I have even handed it in.


I actually handed in on April the second, the day before Easter bank holiday. This involved quite a lot of faff.

Firstly I spent the morning attempting to tidy up little things. Things like making sure the margins were right, that figures were in sort of logical places, that the table of contents was correct and that there were pretty pictures on the title page of each chapter.

Then I exported the word file to PDF. 202 pages and 44,613 words produce a PDF of 4.41 mb. This is what my three and a half years has produced.

theendDocument name courtesy of Matt Silk

I shrugged, copied the document to an external hard drive and headed to the printers.

Upon reaching the printers I was informed that there was a policy of not allowing external hard drives to be plugged into their computers. I am uncertain why this is the case, possibly something to do with the machines taking over. In any case, this was not particularly what I wanted to hear. It was extremely anti-climatic.

I was also convinced that fate would not allow me to hand in. The very idea of finishing was a mad mad dream, which surely could never come to pass. I would walk away from the printers now and they would be destroyed by a plague of sentient external hard drives, ripping the building to shreds to create an effigy of their machine gods.

The month of March was interesting. Back in February, I may have seemed somewhat mad. March was worse. I had a target of finishing the thesis by the end of March. To do this, I  chained myself to my desk (metaphorically I hasten to add) until words moved from brain to page. Every day (except one day off in the middle of the month). This is usual I am told and I knew it was the only way I was going to get the thesis written. I’d say I had a routine, except I most definitely did not. I worked when my mind would allow me to. Sometimes this involved something approaching 9 till 5, other times it involved staying in the office till around midnight on a Sunday.

As I said, I am told this is usual. It was certainly entirely my own doing.

The upshot of this long month was that, as I mentioned, I was unwilling to believe that I could actually finish. I would certainly try though.

A map will be useful for this next bit.


I decided the easiest thing to do was to go to the library IT suite, and e-mail the document from there as it was much closer than my office. However, upon reaching the IT suite and looking at my PDF one last time (did I mention I was paranoid about it? I’m still paranoid about it) I decided I wanted to have an extra blank page between the cover and the abstract, so that the abstract wouldn’t be printed on the back of the cover.

“Fine” I thought “I bought the word document too, I’ll just reexport the PDF”

I then realised that the computer I was using didn’t have the correct fonts on it for my equations. I knew this would happen! The thesis would never get handed in!

Back to my office (which is quite a distance away from the main buildings), re-export the PDF and send it to the printers. Then off to my supervisors office (in the main building) so he could sign off some forms. I vaguely waved the forms under his nose and he signed some of the dotted lines, while gently chiding me for having asked so many questions (“IS THIS RIGHT? IF I GET IT WRONG I WILL SURELY GO TO PRISON”) in the last few days.

I returned to my office to twiddle my thumbs while waiting for the printers. Then it struck me that it was around 4 in the afternoon, and I hadn’t had lunch yet. I walked to the shop, to find the shelved mostly bare. Not a pasty left in the place. The shop however was in close proximity to the printers. I could just go and check on things..

When I arrived, there were three copies of my thesis sitting on the counter. It existed! Physically!

I hadn’t thought this through at all. I needed to get money out to pay the printers (card machines are high-technology in Cornwall). I needed the forms that I’d left on my desk. Oh no!

I phoned my friend Jenni and asked if she could bring the forms over. I dashed up to the cash machine and returned to pay the printers. I picked up my thesis (and the pack of pitta breads I’d got from the shop). I was READY. Ready to hand in!

I met Jenni outside the printers and we walked down to the Academic Services Unit (ASU). I handed over two copies of my thesis, and the appropriate forms.

The lady at the desk looked at the forms. She pointed a dotted line my supervisor ALSO needed to sign. Horror! What if he had gone home!? I knew something like this would happen.

Leaving Jenni behind to guard the thesis (and the pitta breads, I was quite hungry by this stage) I dashed up to my supervisors office. The word “up” is extremely important here, I was going more or less from the bottom of campus to the top.

I jogged along the bioscience corridor and got one final signature from my bemused supervisor. Then back down to ASU. Finally it would happen! I would hand in!

The lady behind the desk checked the signature.

“Actually” she said “Would you like to hold on to this till Tuesday? It won’t get delivered until then”

“No. Please, please, please take it away.”

And so, after 2.2 miles of running around campus I finally handed in. I must confess I’m still confused as to how I feel about that.

Here is what a GPS track of my movements would look like:





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