Monday, February 2, 2004

(Cambridge snow photo courtesy of Lisa.)

Tips for the novice writer of a master’s thesis

(1) Strongly consider reading your supervisor’s book, which is directly relevant a chunk of your topic, before drafting that part of your paper;

(2) when quoting a large, convoluted chunk of argument and re-typing it into your document, think about scanning the passage in at the library – this will stop double-negatives becoming single negatives, thus totally inverting the quote’s meaning;

(3) do not read the quote-with-inverted-meaning, think “that’s a bit funny, it reads like saying white is black” and instead of checking the quote, conclude “oh well, they are the International Court of Justice, they probably know that white really is black” and proceed to merrily write an extended analysis of the passage;

(4) if foolish enough to complete step (3), do not compose an e-mail to your supervisor, attach the draft and hit “send” before checking all the quotes;

(5) if attempting to avoid hyperventilation, do not chose this moment to read your supervisor’s book on the law of the use of force under the UN Charter, and do not then attempt to reassure your (misguided) self by checking her book against the textbooks written by the Old Gods of international law – discovering they all footnote to her book will only create a heightened sensation of tension, if not panic;

(6) complete hyperventilation – check e-mail, and discover she will not be able to read the white-is-black draft before the weekend;

(7) do at this point e-mail and ask if you can get a new draft with some corrections to her Friday morning – but do try and stifle your bleats of joy when you get an affirmative answer, conditional on delivering a hard copy before Friday lunch to the porter’s lodge at her college;

(8) do not, rather cryptically, when you accidentally bump into her in the law library mid-re-drafting-frenzy, confess that you wanted a chance to re-write it to “correct an overly creative interpretation of the Nicaragua Case and avoid looking like a complete lemming”;

(9) do spend a moment wondering why you thought “lemming” sounded like amusing British slang, and resolve to live a life less influenced by Richard Curtis films; and

(10) finally, do risk life and limb to cycle across snow and black ice, skid across a college forecourt and jam a draft (packaged in a crumpled, pre-loved brown paper envelope) into said supervisor’s pigeonhole, before allowing a porter to point out that the names on the pidgeon holes are positioned over, and not under, the relevant slot (allow friendly porter to reposition tatty envelope accordingly).

(Some accuracy may have been sacrificed for comic potential. Tomorrow – snow tales!)

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