Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Word; and Supervisors Say the Darndest Things

I'm going through the comments my supervisors made on the first full draft of my thesis: that's around 400 pages of marginalia.

I've read through them once and corrected all the typos and made small formatting changes, and now I'm reading through again to identify what major changes need to be made. I'm not making those changes yet, but am just cataloguing them so I can go through them reasonably systematically.

Normally I would write down each major thing on a sheet of paper, then cross things off as I went. I decided to write this post because I just figured out how I can make the cataloguing of these changes easier in Word, and thought it might be useful to other thesis-wranglers in particular.

First, designate a Style specifically for Notes (in the 'Home' section). You can use a pre-existing one or make your own: just ensure you use it only for notes, and that it stands out from your usual text. My Notes-style is green in a slightly larger font than the main text, so as I'm scanning through I can spot my notes easily.

As you go through the document, write your little notes to yourself in the text and mark them in your special style.

Then add a contents page (in the 'References' section). The automatic contents page identifies different styles used in the document, and will show you the text written in a particular style and the page it is on. Insert it manually, and click the 'options' button to make sure your notes-style is marked. I also listed my 'Title' style, so now my content page tells me what notes I have written, and on which page, under each chapter title. As I go and make the necessary changes the contents page will change to reflect only the notes that still remain. Neat, innit?


To rather ironically celebrate the fact that the luverly Hila mentioned Siberian Ginseng as one of her favourite 'wordy and writerly' blogs I thought I'd embellish the post with some images about my editing process, and specifically comments from supervisors that make me sigh, smile or shake my head in despair.

Ending on a positive note...

Have a good weekend. :-)


  1. "Marginalia" :-P Wow what an achievement to have your thesis fully written out! Well done to you! Reading those positive comments from the markers makes me want to read your thesis, just to know what this quote that makes them "smile" is all about :-)

  2. can I offer my support by saying that going through supervisors comments actually takes far less time (in my experience, anyway) than it initially seems - I found all the comments overwhelming at first, but then when I started going through them one by one, they weren't that bad. Got it all done in about 2-3 weeks :) I have faith in you Sanna, you're nearly there!

  3. Hi Heather and Hila, and thanks for the support!

    The quote that makes Kati smile is from Amos Funkenstein, on the topic of using terms like 'memory' when talking about groups of people:

    "This is confusing, as consciousness and memory can only be realized by an individual who acts, is aware, and remembers. Just as a nation cannot sing or dance, neither can it speak or remember."


  4. That indeed made me smile! So logical yet comical at the same time. I remember Kati (if its the same one you are talking about) when she was my lecturer for the first European studies unit I did. See seemed so intelligent and passionate about what she does. Actually, you were all such a lovely bunch in Euro studies! I am so happy I did it as I got so much out of it. Best of luck with the final submission of your thesis! But really, as if you need it :-)

  5. Aww, thanks! (Now look who's smiling!)