External Locus of Control

My name’s Mark and I’m a blogoholic.

Well, I’m not drinking any grog, have just decided to change the “go out once a week” rule to “don’t go anywhere except to Coles or the Uni library”, and progress is happening on finalising my PhD thesis for submission. But not enough, and time’s ticking on inexorably towards 31 March 2005, which is when the thing has to be in.

They’re insane things, theses. It’s like putting off writing an essay but the feeling persists for 3 or 4 or 5 years. You can never quite relax, even with the most assiduous efforts at procrastination. The other side of the tunnel feels like liberation and freedom, and at this point in time, walling myself off is the only way to get there. What a way to live!

So, if you see more than two short posts or one slightly longer one from me per day, or repeated commenting, please hassle me. Please. Thanks. You’re all in the acknowledgements page!

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Nic White
2022 years ago

Roger that.

How much do you have left to write anyway?

C.L.
2022 years ago

Not only is it the four and five years. The printing, the proof-reading, the examination phase and all the other administrative miscellanea make it quite a marathon in the end.

With mine, I got a house to myself, then wrote the substantive draft in 8 weeks. I set myself a word-limit per day, worked it like a regular job, exercised in the afternoon, had Saturdays off. It worked. Of course I became quite nuts but there you have it.

Rely on me to shoo you off these pages from now on Mark! Take it easy, do the best job you can and don’t take it too seriously. It’s important, it’s going to happen – so just chip sensibly away at the marble.

I’m sure you know all this.

Darlene
2022 years ago

Alas, unlike writing an undergraduate essay it can’t be put off until the night, or even the hour, before it’s due. Think it’s a great achievment to complete one of those things. CL can be assured that being nuts is pretty much the condition of most of us, and not just confined to people with big brains and the ability to make a commitment.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

I often try to talk people out of attempting PhDs, especially if they seem to have a vague idea that they’d like one, rather than a topic that can motivate them for years. I try to tell them that it will probably be the most lonely, frustrating thing they’ll ever do. That their mental health will probably suffer; thathey’ll join the masses of Australians on depression medication. That as Mark indicates they will feel oppressed by it – for years, there will always be that guilty feeling whenever you do something else, because there is always more that you could do. But to no avail. There is, it seems, only one way to learn these lessons, and that’s the hard way. When I finally dropped mine the relief was much stronger than the regret. And, funnily enough, I get things addressed to ‘Dr Andrew Norton’ anyway. (And I haven’t sent away to any of those send $50 get a doctorate places.) So all you need really do is adopt an intellectual persona and people will think you have a PhD. So Mark you will be ‘Dr Mark Bahnisch’ whether you finish it or not.

liam hogan
2022 years ago

Stand firm comrade, I’ll be joining you in struggle for completion towards March 2007.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

It was once suggested to me that I fast-track into the higher degree thing. I had just met a guy who had spent every spare minute for 6 years and then took 3 months off to write it up. After all that (he was working in English Lit) he got caught by an examiner who said that what he had written was sociology at best, but as literary criticism it was hopeless crap. Last I heard he was writing a book.

If that wasn’t a big turn-off, there was never a single question at that stage of my life that I wanted to spend that much time on.

Mark it has been suggested to me that Josef Conrad and his wife had a good system going. She locked him in his room and when he slid pages of typing under the door she opened it and fed him. Failing that it is possibly a pity that your supervisor was so slack himself and set up a bad model. Maybe if he had yelled at you instead of being understanding…

Still, the light should now be visible and a couple of years ago you were churning out 15,000-word chapters in a weekend. So it should be doable. I think your supervisor said that anything you write will be good enough, and from what I’ve seen I think he’s right. So pragmatism, courage and may the force be with you!

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks, one and all.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

The first step is admitting you’re a blogaholic.

The second step is posting about it…

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

Don’t panic Mark I’m sure you’ve done the research and the groundwork and have thought considerably about your thesis. I’m sure that it will be well received. If I recall very few theses get a straight fail – quite a significant percentage are however asked to either make minor or major alterations.

I know it is awful to think that your whole career is in the hands of the verdict of several examiner’s reports. But at least at postgraduate phase unlike Honours you have time to think it through. I always describe Honours as a mad sprint where I think the departments deliberately attempt to over-saturate the students with work, a sort of “Full Metal Jacket” marine camp of scholarship.

I think you’ll do fine, also if you are already published that provides some insurance – this also displays that you are obviously producing material of a high-enough standard that your thesis examiners are likely to be similarly impressed if your thesis nears this standard of quality.

One thing if you are really nervous about certain points in your work is to find an array of other sources (not just your supervisor) to view your material (not knowing your topic I don’t know how practical this is). But maybe receiving some positive feedback and a bit of reassurance would help at this stage and help focus on specific anxieties you have about the project at hand. For me the biggest dilemma was time, and now at postgrad it is finances. Remember, the human mind can do incredible things under pressure, I was always amazed at the amount of details I could remember the night before a test. Obviously, with a work of such enormity that doesn’t necessarily apply but still it is amazing what intense focus can achieve – I basically did my last chapter of my Honours in about a week (I got it to cohere two days before it was due). I don’t advise you do that, but still think the mind is capable of occassional incredible feats when under severe duress – I actually sometimes love the adrenolin rush this provides. As long as this isn’t a persistant bombardment where it will just be reactive thought this could be a positive. But we definitely all need gaps and time for contemplation (and sleep) or we’d all go ga-ga. I’m certain that I would not have been much fun to be around the fortnight before my thesis was due. Still the activity was quite stimulating, much better than having to consider the pretty brainless work you need to do to sustain yourself so you can afford to do postgrad work.

Also, if you find whoever it was who allowed the cut-off marks for scholarships to reach mid-to-high Firsts (92-3%) can you run them over in your car. You should then be able to claim that it was an accident, attaining that being a poverty-stricken student you were unable to afford the costs of car maintenance to keep the brakes in shape. If you don’t have a car, get a fellow postgrad student’s car (sure to also be in significant disrepair) to do the job. BTW, I’m joking about this last point. But I still can’t see how someone who can succeed in getting 85%+ in an Honours year shouldn’t be able to get a little bit of state assistance to help them through the long process of the postgraduate badlands.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Stephen, thanks! I’m not worried about failure, it’s more a battle I have to fight against myself to actually do the work. I know who the examiners will be and have met one of them, so I’m able to write with their perspective in mind. I’m sure, as C.L. says, though, I won’t enjoy revisiting the thing when it finally comes back from examination.

I think my attention span’s a bit short for work at this sort of length – once I’ve fully thought something through, I tend to think “fine, what’s next?” without actually finishing off the writing. Consequently, my task has really been to finish off a lot of three quarter finished chapters that I left undone because other things intervened over the last few years and to tie the whole thing together. I think I’m more suited to the 6000-8000 word essay or to blogging than writing at thesis or book length.

I did have a scholarship but the pesky thing couldn’t be extended beyond 3 and a half years. Basically since then, a combination of full time work and a period of severe illness last year has prevented me from bringing it to a close. If I had my time over, I wouldn’t work as much while on scholarship.

The threshold for getting one varies. Anyone with first class honours is ok at QUT – when I was on a Faculty of Business research sub-committee, it was interesting to see what worked and what didn’t for people with 2A honours or a different qualification. It seems that a DBA from Oxford Brookes University doesn’t cut the mustard, btw…

I was fortunate enough to do honours part time. From everything I can see, it’s a pretty crazy existence. I do think making it as demanding as possible is a deliberate strategy. The problem often becomes that people are too burnt out for a while when they start doing a higher degree. I’d recommend taking time off.

Brian, I think my supervisor’s got a realistic perception that I’m a contrary beast who if pushed would probably react negatively, so I’ve got nothing but praise for him.

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

What is happening with the thesis? I counted 4 posts today. C’mon Mark, you can do it.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I know Polly, I couldn’t sleep last night and felt like a rant or two (or four)…

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Bollocks, Mark. You’ve fairly leapt off the wagon and run into injun country. Get back on the horse, dude!