The Importance of Friends, Who Are Readers (of Your Thesis)

md(Not working on the thesis, but blogging about the thesis. Typical.)

I’m finishing up my master’s thesis. Less than two months now, and I will be handing this massive chunk of pages, which represents a massive chunk of time and energy and passion, in to my thesis director. I’ve had a final draft for a few months now, and recently sent it out to some of my friends to read, with the offer of dinner/drinks/name your price because it’s Moby-Dick and Calvinism. One of my good friends, a PhD herself, read it, and after her praise of how well it was written (well thank you!), she looked to me and said, “It’s too easy. The way you have it laid out? It’s too easy. You don’t have to work for it.”

She went on to explain that my sections were in the wrong order. I start out with my intro, of course, and then launch into a short systematic layout of the theology I’m going to use as the lens for my close reading of Moby-Dick, which, as she said, fits the narrative of the novel very nicely – as in nearly a one-for-one match-up with doctrine and plot point. Her suggestion was to integrate the theology into the close reading, and have the theology react to the novel, rather than have the novel react to the theology. After my long close reading of Moby-Dick, I add a section critiquing the main scholarly work on Moby-Dick and Calvinism. That was also easy, she said, as I’ve already convinced the reader of my arguments, have already gotten them on my side. Of course they’re going to see the flaws in this other work of scholarship! Could I put it at the front? That way it shows what’s gone before, and will allow me to move forward with my additions and improvements upon the scholarship.

She was the first friend to read it, and my second friend had similar suggestions. Confirmation!

But the coolest thing in this process? My friends were willing to read my 70+ page thesis – one even read it without having read Moby-Dick first. They took the time to add thoughtful comments, and give me suggestions on how to make my arguments and writing stronger and deeper. Don’t be afraid to have the buddies read your stuff. I know whenever one of my friends has asked me to read something of theirs, I always will!


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