The five stages of writing a thesis.

As I write my thesis, I am naturally searching for any way to distract myself from the actual writing process which strikes a great fear into my heart. In order to somewhat productively procrastinate from writing, I thought I would share my interpretation of the five stages of writing a thesis (based off of the Kübler-Ross model of the “five stages of grief”). This shouldn’t be taken too seriously, considering that I am only 15 pages into the 70 I need to write by January 22 – hence, I am not a beacon of wisdom on the subject of thesis writing. Read with a grain of salt and to my fellow writers – I salute you.

First, denial. You will think, “I feel fine”; “This isn’t happening to me”; “I wasn’t actually crazy enough to choose to write a thesis that likely will not help my career or prospects for graduate school”.

However, this is a temporary defense. The denial will be replaced with a heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind during the misery of the writing process. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.


Second, anger. “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame for making the decision to write an optional thesis that will likely destroy my social life, GPA, and will to live?”

Once in the anger stage, the thesis writer recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the writer is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. Thesis writers can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from writing a thesis.

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Third, bargaining. “I’ll do anything for a few more weeks to write.”; “I will give my life savings if I could undo my decision to write this life-sucking paper”
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the due date of the thesis. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will write this thesis, but if I could just do something to buy more time before it is due…” People facing less serious papers can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. However, bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of an A or a B on the university transcript.


Fourth, depression. “I’m so sad, why bother with trying to write today?”; “It is due so soon, so what’s the point?”; “I miss my social life, why go on?”
During the fourth stage, the thesis writer begins to understand the certainty of the due date. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving, and not writing. This process allows the writer to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage of thesis writing. It is an important time for writing that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the ‘aftermath’ of the thesis due date. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It is natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage of writing. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the looming due date.


And lastly, acceptance. “It’s going to be okay”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well write it.”

In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their decision to write a thesis and the due date. This stage varies according to the person’s situation and pending due date. Writers can enter this stage a long time before the people they have ignored for the last few months, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the thesis writer.


(5 stages of grief:

4 thoughts on “The five stages of writing a thesis.

  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be really something that I feel I would by no means understand. It seems too complex and very vast for me. I’m looking ahead in your next post, I will try to get the cling of it!

  2. Hey! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!

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