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I am submitting my PhD thesis in less than two days. I have checked all the tables, figures, appendices, references, and also checked spelling and any potential typos (which I believe there might be more!). I would like to ask, in addition to all of this, for those of you who have submitted PhD theses before, what would you recommend doing the day before submission? Anything that I should check again? I am planning the read through the thesis again to spot more spelling issues, I would like to hear your thoughts.


Update two days later. I successfully submitted my thesis this morning, WOHOOO! Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, all the submissions in my university are online now (no pic of holding the printed thesis in front of the library unfortunately etc :/)

I ended up spending the last day checking the format (my ToC crashed for no reason when I was formatting yesterday!), making sure no page numbers are missing (it turned out that the page numbers are missing in some horizontal layout pages, glad that I checked!), and finally reading through the lit review chapter (which I had first drafted three years ago, though I had revised it since then) and making sure citations are correct. Thank you everyone for your great suggestions

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  • 127
    Relax. You've earned it. Obsessing over details at this point will only induce panic.
    – Buffy
    Mar 9 at 21:20
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    – cag51
    Mar 11 at 17:22
  • Are you using typesetting software that doesn't take care of the page numbering for you? Mar 12 at 19:22
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10 Answers 10

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I would suggest reading through it one more time for pleasure. Savor the writing you labored so hard on, marvel at just how much work has gone into this, and reflect on where you are now compared to where you were when you started this labor.

To abuse the poetry of Genesis:

And the student saw every thing that they had made, and, behold, it was very good. Thus the thesis was finished, and all the host of its data. And on the seventh day the student ended their work which they had made.

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    Nice, if a bit blasphemous.
    – Buffy
    Mar 9 at 21:39
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    You should see the psalm I wrote for our Digital Systems Laboratory class back in undergrad.
    – jakebeal
    Mar 9 at 21:44
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    Thank you for your suggestion! It's indeed a long and tough journey!
    – Josee Luis
    Mar 9 at 21:49
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    This is a great idea. For mine, I took great care in the formatting, readability, and overall look. Looking at it again is always a source of satisfaction.
    – Davidmh
    Mar 10 at 8:02
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    But please don't do that after you sent it for printing, because that is the best way to find typos you no longer can correct.
    – mlk
    Mar 10 at 10:04
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Congratulations! It's very likely that you have a sort of tunnel vision right now and are probably not in a good position to proofread it effectively.

The most useful thing you can do is double check all your submission criteria: when, where, what other documents do you need, how many copies, do you need to print it etc.

Also, I would make sure it has the required structure that your department requires: title page, abstract, any declarations etc.

You will have a chance to correct any typos and some style issues in your corrections.

Well done, relax and maybe do a little dance.

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    Yes, dancing is good too.
    – Buffy
    Mar 9 at 21:41
  • Thank you! I have finished all the paperwork and the thesis will be submitted electronically. I will make sure to double-check the department requirements!
    – Josee Luis
    Mar 9 at 21:47
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    A big picture check, yes, of the thesis and the process. By this point proof-reading won't find typos because you know the text too well, but it will get you worrying about text that's perfectly good and that you don't have the time (or need) to rewrite.
    – Chris H
    Mar 10 at 9:22
  • If you do your little dance well, this contest to keep in mind.
    – mlk
    Mar 15 at 10:48
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I would just make sure you have the copying and the like lined up. I got Kinkos to do it.

Don't sweat it any more with the typos. It actually sounds like you have overdone it already. Remember this is a pass-fail (in general, in the US, blabla, caveat, blabla) situation.

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  • Yes, I think maybe it's worth reading it again "for pleasure" :)
    – Josee Luis
    Mar 9 at 21:52
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    @astronat I believe Kinko's is a print shop chain in the US, so not applicable for those of us who aren't there, or if you're submitting electronically
    – Chris H
    Mar 10 at 9:19
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    @ChrisH A defunct one at that. Though the name Kinkos is still synonymous with a particular type of print shop, FedEx bought them several years back and rebranded the stores as FedEx Office. I don't believe any Kinkos still exist.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 10 at 14:29
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    @BryanKrause they must have made some impact if I've heard of them from the other side of the Atlantic!
    – Chris H
    Mar 10 at 14:33
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    Genericised Trademark? (@BryanKrause). I know them all, but only use "Google" generically from that list. Kleenex and Xerox are used in this generic way only rarely in British English, along with FedEx.
    – Chris H
    Mar 10 at 14:39
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In case you really want to re-check your thesis (this also holds for papers, etc.), you should probably first take some time off. Occupying your mind with something completely different will help you take a fresh look without the blind spots one develops during the process of constantly editing. (I generally recommend a few days, but that's not going to work here.)

Of course, you can combine all the suggestions in the answers here: first wait and relax, then read for pleasure. It just might happen that the reading for pleasure turns into a correction suggestion as there are always issues waiting to be found, so be prepared.

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    I found a typo on the title page of my thesis, when I handed in the physical copy -> speaking of blind spots and tunnel vision.
    – Dohn Joe
    Mar 12 at 10:47
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Now would be a good time to make a physically separate backup (external HDD or offsite server for instance) of the finished, clean masterpiece !

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    Eh, just email it to yourself and it'll be on whatever email server/system you use. They'll make sure to back up your backup, too. Mar 11 at 21:32
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    You can never have too many backups. Mar 11 at 21:33
  • Add an open archive zenodo.org for good measure! The record can be kept restricted until the thesis is officially published, if necessary.
    – Nemo
    Mar 12 at 7:29
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    Now would be the „better late than never“ moment to make backups. I had mine under version control with pushing updates to an offsite server at least daily.
    – gerrit
    Mar 12 at 8:47
  • F-cking print it, for god's sake. Good paper lasts much longer than any electronic storage or company. Mar 12 at 12:47
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Embrace the work you have done and pour yourself a drink.

The work is already done. There is nothing you could do at this point to substantially improve anything.

Funny story: a colleague of mine discovered that \LaTeX had screwed up his references a night before the defense. He spent the last night freaking out and preparing an addendum with correct reference numbering.

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    This should be a SINGLE drink, not like some of my coleagues.
    – fraxinus
    Mar 11 at 8:09
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    Well, if it is going to be more than one drink, invite the committee as well. To level the playing field so to speak. True story! Mar 11 at 10:48
  • I must ask now what happened to that colleague and his screwed up references?
    – maksimov
    Mar 11 at 21:15
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    @maksimov Where I am from, students are supposed to send their work to the committee months before the actual defense. Thus, the defense itself is very much a formality. Yet, you do not want to look stupid in front of the audience anyway. My colleague is a successful academic now and lives to tell the story. Mar 12 at 8:14
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Ask someone else to read the most important parts (you yourself have probably done so already and can't fully see the words anymore because you already know the sentences). Remember that the most important part of the thesis is probably the acknowledgements section. That is the part that most people will actually end up reading.

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Congratulations!

Most PhD reviews start of the reference section because it's easy to make a mistake, it won't show up in any spell checking software, I don't care how good you are there will be at least one mistake.

I also check the printing requirements of your college, just in case it needs to spaced at 1.5 instead of 2 lines etc.

I would also check the binding services as well, with mine I had to get it bound, you had to give it to the library, they sent it off and would give back in 2 days. I groveled at the library, got the name of binding firm and drove to their office, they did it on the spot.

If there is a declaration of authorship in the document, sign it, they normally check that type of detail when you hand it in, but just check it yourself.

Good luck!

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I agree with others that you should probably just relax. But if you are going to read it again, I suggest reading it out loud. At this point it's very difficult to see any problems, because you've read through it all so many times already. But reading out loud will help you spot sentences that are unclear or too long, or could benefit from a comma.

Two days is not enough time to read the entire thesis out loud, because unless you're a trained speaker, your voice will get hoarse after an hour or two. So perhaps just read the Introduction and Literature review out loud.

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    Thank you! I did read one chapter out loud and spotted some mistakes!
    – Josee Luis
    Mar 11 at 19:05
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Good job, congratulations!

To be honest, there is close to 100% chance that some errors are left in your thesis, no matter how many times you would re-check it. Therefore, as many has been already mentioned, I would recommend you to relax, at least try to! :-) Do something you really like but is not related to your thesis/PhD; exercise, listen music, read (non PhD related) book, ... That is probably the best way to prepare your PhD defence. Good Luck!

Edit: Can't comment on mhwombat's answer (not enough reputation), but I think that is very good suggestion: if still reading it, better reading it out loud.

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  • Thank you! I will take a short break! :)
    – Josee Luis
    Mar 11 at 19:07

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