What is Thesis Boot Camp?
Thesis Boot Camp is an intensive writing event for late-stage doctoral researchers. The core idea is to provide the time and space for attendees to make significant progress on the first draft of their thesis manuscript. It’s not designed to provide specific advice on editing, restructuring, or polishing a thesis – the focus is on producing a large number of words.
Support is provided through short tutorials, motivational talks, and 1-2-1 consultations with the facilitator. Attendees are required to complete preparatory tasks to get the most out of the weekend.
Where did it come from?
Thesis Boot Camp was created in 2012 by Dr Peta Freestone at the University of Melbourne. It has been further developed over the last few years and hosted at many universities around the world. The programme for CHASE is based on the fundamental principles of the original Thesis Boot Camp, but I’ve refined it extensively based on my experience of running the event many times.
How do I prepare?
To get the most out of the weekend, you’ll need the following:
1. Laptop computer
Thesis Boot Camp is about writing as many words as possible. Although you may choose to write longhand for some of the weekend, using a laptop will boost your productivity and help measure your progress. If you don’t have your own laptop, you might be able to borrow one.
You probably won’t be able to leave your laptop plugged in permanently, so please ensure it’s charged before the start of each session.
2. Your Map
Thesis Boot Camp is an intensive writing environment and attendees often produce more than they ever imagined. 20,000 words is not an unusual achievement! Creating a map of your writing ensures that you can get going immediately and not have to waste time wondering what to do next.
The essential elements of your map will be your central research questions, your thesis outline, and an outline of the chapter you’re planning to work on during Thesis Boot Camp.
3. Central research questions
You should already know what they are. Write them down. Think about them. Tweak them if they’ve changed over the course of your research. Make sure they’re still relevant and that you have a thorough understanding of how you’re going to address them.
4. Thesis outline
Do you already have an outline of the chapters that comprise your thesis? Is it up-to-date? During the next few weeks, it’s essential that you map out your thesis. Even it’s just a single page with the title and subject of each chapter, this helps you consider your thesis as a coherent piece of work with an overarching argument. This is your map, showing you where you are, where you’ve been, and – most importantly – where you’re going.
5. Chapter outline
Now repeat the outlining process with your chosen chapter(s), so that you’ve mapped at least 20,000 words. Depending on your preferred approach, you may just note down a few bullet points, create subheadings, or write a synopsis. Questions you should ask yourself include (but are not limited to):
- What are the main points this chapter needs to cover?
- What resources/evidence do I need to draw on to demonstrate these points and make convincing arguments?
- How does this chapter relate to my overall argument?
Please bring your research questions and your outlines on the first day.
And a friendly reminder: preparation is the key to making the most of Thesis Boot Camp.
6. Key texts
What three texts are central to the chapter you’ll be working on at Thesis Boot Camp? You can’t bring everything, so spend some time considering what’s most important. Ideally, you’ll have notes or an annotated bibliography and won’t need to bring any books at all. After all, Thesis Boot Camp is about writing rather than reading.
You might find the Cornell Method helpful.
The same approach applies to journal articles. You’ll be encouraged to switch off internet access at Thesis Boot Camp to minimise distractions, so please ensure you’ve downloaded any research material in advance. Again, be selective, as you should be writing and not reading.
7. Things to make you comfy
We do our best to provide you with a comfortable environment over the weekend. Remember, though, that you’ll be sitting for long periods, so do have a think about ways to improve the experience. For instance, an external keyboard or mouse might be beneficial if you struggle with using a laptop for long periods. A cushion and / or a blanket can also help. It’s a British summer, which means it could be either roasting hot or freezing cold.
Thesis Boot Camp is definitely not a fashion parade, so do wear whatever helps you focus on writing. Trackpants, hoodies, even slippers!
So, over the next fortnight:
- Check you have a laptop
- Create your map
- Select your key texts or research material
- Consider what will make you comfortable over the weekend
- Get in touch if you have any queries or concerns about the format (firstname.lastname@example.org)