Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thesis Insanity


Piled Higher and Deeper
A friend sent me a great webpage called The Five Stages of Grading, which rings so true that it is funny. That reminded me of a little stress-relieving thing I put together while writing my thesis. I call it "Thesis Insanity."

"Significant advances in the understanding and treatment of graduate students in the midst of thesis writing has brought greater recognition to the field of science over the past few decades. The writing of a thesis is a process that results in all different types of mental disorders, including disorders of thought, mood or behavior. These disorders cause distress and result in a reduced ability to function psychologically, socially, occupationally or interpersonally. People that are in this writing process might have trouble handling such things as daily activities, family responsibilities, relationships, or social responsibilities. They can have trouble with one area or all of them, to a greater or lesser degree. And they can have more than one type of these responses at the same time. The symptoms a person experiences and the clinical features that accompany this process are used to identify and classify this disorder. As time goes by and we gain a clearer understanding of how specific genes interact with writers block or other specific behaviors, a much more sophisticated classification system may be developed that is directly linked to a biologic cause, rather than just symptoms. Some disorders with similar symptoms and clinical features, such as the patterns and processes involved in doing research, are very different in terms of their underlying biology. To treat them similarly simply because they share the same symptoms may not be appropriate. Does writer’s block have a biological basis — a problem with the brain's chemistry? Not always. Many serious writer’s block situations do have a strong biological basis but that's not the entire story. Some people, for example, might have an inherited, biological tendency to completely skip over large chunks of pertinent information. They can experience serious revision anxiety even though no specific event triggers it. Others, however, have no known inherited tendency for these exclusions. But if something happens, such as a new publication in a top journal, it can trigger major reorganization. It is not yet known if the underlying neurochemical aspects of these reactions are the same. In other words, one person may have writer’s block because of their nature — their genetic vulnerabilities, their neurochemical functioning. And another person may have a writer’s block because of nurture — a research environment based cause that perhaps then alters their neurochemistry. Most of the time, however, it's probably a complex interaction of both nature and nurture. Manuscript submission might be all that some people need to restore their brain chemistry to a more normal state. But for others, manuscript submission, although effective, doesn't alter the way they cope with the stress that might have contributed to their illness. Graduation and employment can help change coping behaviors and offer strategies to help understand and modify risk factors associated with this disorder. Very often, a combination of graduation and employment is most effective."
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