Finishing Your PhD: 5 Tips For Turning Off Your Internal Editor

Girl studying for dissertationYou did it! You have successfully completed your PhD!

Congratulations! Now the trouble is that you are finding it difficult to submit. Your ‘internal editor’ is  hunting and searching for spelling errors, rearranging the sentences, re-thinking on some of the paragraphs and even changing a few punctuations, and you have been doing all of these for a while.

Do not worry, most of us who write and pursue PhDs do this. Here are five great tips to turn off the internal editor in you.

1)  Have Faith

Yes, this is a key word here. For most of us, pursuing a PhD is like a roller coaster ride. There are bad days and very bad days, sleepless days and unfruitful days. However, there are also very effective, fruitful, good days when we manage to write pages after pages. Trust yourself that you have done a good job, because you have spent years on these pages you have written. Tell yourself that everything is all right.

You have spent hours on books, with your guide, thinking and rethinking on the arguments. Now that the writing is done, it is time to let go. You must remind yourself that you have done all that you could do.

2)  Edit and Keep Track

Once you start editing the work, remember you have done this before! Yes, every time we write a chapter, we do look back at it, we do critique ourselves, re-evaluate the earlier chapters on the basis of the one at hand. In that process, a certain amount of editing gets done!

So the whole manuscript editing is in fact the second editing that is being conducted.

Once you edit a chapter, simply refuse to go back to it for a second look, unless the whole process of editing the manuscript is finished. By going back to earlier chapters, you are merely slowing down the process of submission.

3)  Keep Summarized Notes Of The Chapters

For each chapter you write, keep a small summarized note of it for future reference. A big mistake most of us do is to look for a certain paragraph or idea in a chapter and while doing it, re-reading the entire chapter in the process.

While we re-read a chapter, we involuntarily re-think it as well. Soon we find that instead of the problem at hand, we have ended up correcting a few other issues we found. Re-thinking is necessary in getting your PhD, however overdoing it can be problematic and have negative impacts.

Your first priority should be to complete and submit the PhD within the given time frame. Restructuring chapters, changing sentence formats, putting in a few extra lines might seem like the best thing to do, but it is not. In many cases, you might find that rethinking/over-thinking has changed the idea that you had started with.

So when you need to cross refer, reach out for the summarized notes instead of the chapters to know what you need, while keeping the final writing untouched.

4)  Remember Your Guide

During the process of PhD, the Guide and the student form a relationship of trust and intellectual understanding. You are presenting an idea, an argument and your guide will, well ‘guide’ you to find references to strengthen your work, find out where your work is not reaching that perfect space and help you harness your knowledge in the most beneficial way possible.

Understand that it is impossible for your guide to keep up, if you are constantly thinking of new things and making changes. When you have completed writing your PhD, your guide is aware of the work you have done. Constantly listening to your internal editor will tempt you to change the completed work.

Now, these changes may or may not work for your guide! Many professors will not like to see new points in the submitted work, and it may be with all these changes that you have done, the perspective of the the manuscript might have shifted.

By submitting a manuscript with major changes, it might hamper the relationship with your guide as well.

5)  Understand Yourself and See The Work Objectively

PhD is a long process and people spend years perfecting it. Of course, you must edit it thoroughly before submission, check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, structure, syntax and everything in between. Nevertheless, you must also understand that the ‘internal editor’ is well within your control. Too many tiny corrections over and over again, always feeling that something has been left out, something more should be added is just your brain attempting to make all the hard work worth it.

However, you should be wise enough to tell your brain to ‘shut up’. While you correct, do not try to read the paragraphs, but take one sentence at a time. Try to correct it, as you would correct a work by someone else. See it objectively and you will be able to be a better editor.

At the end, letting go of the work you have invested so much in, can be very tough. However, understand that PhD is a question of intellect, logic and knowledge and no one will think less of you or your work if you manage to have a few syntactical errors on the way.

What tips could you pass along to other students who are working on their dissertations?