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It’s always been hard for me to stay focused and motivated when writing any kind of a longer text, e.g. an article, paper or gasp thesis, even if I’m interested in the topic and enjoy the work. The Stack Exchange and Wikia gamification systems with points and badges being awarded work well for me. I tried to reward myself for certain research and writing accomplishments, but realized early on that I’m not good at defining milestones and choosing bounties. Therefore, I hope someone else has done it.

Is gamificated thesis writing a thing? Are there integrated software solutions to support that?

(I don’t use MS Word, but I could easily see how a plugin would detect the first quotation or the 10000th word etc. there. It would be great if it worked with Pandoc/Markdown or LaTeX instead.)

Related questions that are missing the gamification aspect

  • My experience is just the opposite -- I love doing research and writing papers, but tracking my progress makes it feel more like a chore. I feel like it also reduces my creativity. – David Ketcheson Jul 8 '18 at 2:13
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I could not add a comment to the excellent answer of @ff524 since I lack the enough reputation.

I have been a heavy user of Beeminder for a lot of things for the past 3-4 years. OP said he/she does not use MS Word. But for folks using Word, here is a way I mentioned in Beeminder Forum to integrate automatic Word count from MS Word to Beeminder.

  • Are you associated with Beeminder ? – scaaahu Jul 8 '18 at 1:39
  • Nope, we're proud to say Haider's answer was wholly unsullied by any association or compensation or even solicitation! We're really grateful for the help in spreading the good word about Beeminder though. (I'm a cofounder and found this by stalking mentions of "Beeminder" anywhere on the internet, which is mildly embarrassing but I do have an academic background so hopefully I'm not too out of place here!) – dreeves Jul 8 '18 at 22:24
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Are there integrated software solutions to support that?

Beeminder integrates with Github or Bitbucket, so if you keep your Latex or Markdown in either of those, you can automatically gamify your writing without having to do any manual data entry.

Beeminder is a commitment tracking service that plots your progress towards your goals, like this:

(image source)

There's also negative reinforcement: if you consistently fail to meet your goal, you "fall off the yellow brick road" and you pay actual money. Beeminder is good at tracking your progress without punishing you for small temporal variations in productivity.

In this context, your goal would be to make a consistent habit of adding to or editing your thesis.

With git integration you can set goals like "N commits per week" and data points are added to your Beeminder graph automatically when you commit.

There's also integration with Draft, if you prefer to count words edited rather than commits. I haven't used Draft myself, but it looks like you can use it to write in Markdown.

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    Negative reinforcement seems like the opposite to gamification, though... gamification relies a lot on POSITIVE reinforcements for all the tiny steps. – Layna Apr 14 '16 at 6:37
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    @Layna Not really, gamification can involve both positive and negative reinforcement. Beeminder has positive reinforcement, too, in its "yellow brick road" graphs (see e.g. this comment). The problem with games that have only positive reinforcement is that when you get busy with other things, you forget about the game you're playing to win imaginary internet badges. That's harder to do when you have $$$ on the line :) – ff524 Apr 14 '16 at 6:58
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    @ff524, you have an absolutely awesome knack for finding references or tools that address even the most obscure questions. Take my +1. – xLeitix Apr 14 '16 at 8:12
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One of the most common suggestions to aspiring writers (and this advice applies to thesis writing as well), is to make it a habit to write every day, say for 20 or 30 minutes. This is sometimes called a "Seinfeld chain", and you can find many apps where you can keep track of your progress, by ticking off each day you in fact write. The goal is to not break the chain, i.e. write every day. A low tech solution would be to mark days on a calendar. Some of the software tools allow you to see statistics, give you awards for completing a chain of a certain length, etc.

Another way to keep track of progress is to use something like Github, where you can also see a graphical representation of activity (in that case, number of commits).

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    Just to add, the Pomodoro Technique is based on 25 minute blocks, and the famous/infamous Write Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day and of course the less helpful PhD comic which only requires 10 minutes a day. – StrongBad Apr 13 '16 at 19:58
  • Yes, the exact number doesn't really matter too much, as long as it is not too short (so you can actually get something done), or too long (gives a larger psychological barrier to even start the task, more difficult to plan). – Pieter Naaijkens Apr 13 '16 at 20:04
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    On a playful note, you can change your daily task to: see a kitten every day! writtenkitten.co – laika Jul 8 '18 at 7:04

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