Two More Weeks: A Study of the Final Stages of the Graduate Thesis-Writing Process

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

When Charlie Brown was sad or mad or stressed out, he was often
depicted with a little gray storm cloud over his head. It didn’t matter what
the weather was like everywhere else in Peanuts-land; for Charlie, it
was always raining.

If I look up at the space immediately above my head and squint, I
can kind of see the same little cloud. Two weeks, I chant under
my breath. Two weeks. Like a magic spell or a mantra, or the time left
until some creepy wet-haired chick comes out of the TV and kills me. Two weeks.

The majority of my classmates and I are in the last throes of our
thesis writing, but like John McCain, I could easily see us in the same
spot for 100 years. The time goes interminably slow unless you have a
deadline and then it disappears, speeding away in the wake of YouTube
mashups, Facebook status changes, and the vast unholy realms of the
Interwebs. It’s even worse for those of us who are writing our theses
on YouTube or Facebook or, God forbid, MySpace; where does the research
end and the procrastination begin?

It’s been four months. Our social lives have been reduced to instant messages and the
occasional meet-up in the lab or at the lounge. We exchange text messages
at the library, or smile wearily at one another over paper cups filled
with enough caffeine to kill a squirrel. I vaguely remember a
phenomenon called "happy hour," filled with pleasant conversation that
got more erudite the more we filled up our glasses with cheap beer. We
could barely hear each other over the thumping bass of crappy bar
music, but somehow we understood.

My computer screen fills up every waking moment. I had a dream I
was doing a rhetorical criticism of the NCAA tournament, but then
Georgetown and my alma mater lost and it didn’t matter anymore. Does my
thesis matter anymore? Tens of thousands of words, dozens of pages, but
am I really saying anything?

Maybe. I know that in two weeks, I’ll be proud of whatever it is
I’m writing. I know that somehow I’ll know enough about this topic to
talk about it for 20 minutes, and then, God willing, I’ll be able to
answer questions about it. Afterwards, though, I will be Done, and the
storm cloud will evaporate and the skies will open up. A light will
come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and someone somewhere will
miss a 3AM phone call because they’re sleeping the sleep of the

But for now, for these last two interminable, lightning-quick weeks, I’ll just quote my man Charlie Brown: "ARRRGHH!"