“Lol My Thesis” Showcases Painfully Hilarious Attempts to Sum up Years of Academic Work in One Sentence


Image from Ph.D. Comics

A true fact about the the­sis stage of an advanced degree: What­ev­er the aca­d­e­m­ic field, whether writ­ing a fifty page bachelor’s or master’s the­sis or 250 plus page doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion, at some point, you will need to win­now your argu­ment down to an abstract sum­ma­ry of a cou­ple suc­cinct para­graphs. Then, one inevitably finds—when rid­ing ele­va­tors with col­leagues and men­tors, talk­ing to rel­a­tives over hol­i­day din­ners, jus­ti­fy­ing one’s exis­tence to friends and acquaintances—that the whole damned thing needs to some­how reduce to one intel­li­gi­ble sen­tence or two. It’s all any­one has the patience for, hon­est­ly, and it saves you the trou­ble of try­ing to recon­struct com­plex argu­ments for peo­ple who won’t under­stand or care about them and who gen­er­al­ly only asked out of polite­ness any­way.

But how, how, to cram years of research, agony, tur­moil, crush­ing fail­ure and soar­ing epiphany into bite-sized con­ver­sa­tion­al nuggets with­out gross over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion to the point of tau­to­log­i­cal absur­di­ty? Can it even be done?! The blog “lol my the­sis,” start­ed last year by a Har­vard senior study­ing Human Devel­op­men­tal and Regen­er­a­tive Biol­o­gy, sug­gests that it can, but not with­out hilar­i­ous results. Part of an explod­ing genre of aca­d­e­m­ic par­o­dy (and pro­cras­ti­na­tion) sites, lol my the­sis proud­ly ven­tures forth in its mis­sion of “sum­ming up years of work in one sen­tence” with open sub­mis­sions from cur­rent stu­dents. Many of the sub­mis­sions are from the sci­ences, and many from under­grad­u­ate the­ses, but a fair num­ber also come from human­i­ties and post-grad­u­ate stud­ies. Take, for exam­ple, the fol­low­ing sub­mis­sion from an MFA Cre­ative Non­fic­tion stu­dent at Emer­son Col­lege, which direct­ly address­es the intend­ed audi­ence:

“A col­lec­tion of non­fic­tion essays, which means they’re writ­ten about real peo­ple and events, mom. Remem­ber all those times you accused me of not lis­ten­ing to the things you said?”

A pas­sive aggres­sive exam­ple that most of us who’ve been through the process can relate to at some lev­el. Anoth­er one that hits home is this, from a Vas­sar Polit­i­cal Sci­ence major, who dis­cov­ers too late that the argu­ment doesn’t work: “Oops: Turns out self-pub­lished poet­ry didn’t actu­al­ly affect Indi­an pol­i­tics but I’m 60 pages in, so.”

The sub­mis­sions from the sci­ences do not dis­ap­point. For exam­ple, from a Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land stu­dent of Bio­log­i­cal Sci­ences: “We spent thou­sands of gov­ern­ment dol­lars to cre­ate a mouse mod­el for a dis­ease only 32 peo­ple in the world have.” And a Sci­ence Writ­ing stu­dent at M.I.T. gives us this par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive exam­ple of brevi­ty: “Wolves + humans, the ulti­mate fren­e­mies.” Not to be out­done, a Stem Cell Biol­o­gy stu­dent at Har­vard offers a grim­ly terse con­fes­sion­al: “I have killed so many fish.”

The sub­mis­sions are anony­mous, but some good sports have cho­sen to include links to their the­ses, endear­ing­ly hop­ing that some­one besides their advi­sor will actu­al­ly want to read them. Most of the sub­mis­sions, how­ev­er, sim­ply com­bine two qual­i­ties every advanced stu­dent knows all too well: a well-earned feel­ing of futil­i­ty and the mor­dant wit required to keep going any­way.

More wit­ty sum­maries can be found at lol my the­sis.

Relat­ed Con­tents:

The Illus­trat­ed Guide to a Ph.D.

Grad­u­ate School Bar­bie: A New Gift Idea for The Demor­al­ized Grad Stu­dent in Your Life

The Ph.D. Grind: Philip J. Guo’s Free Mem­oir Offers An Insider’s Look at Doc­tor­al Study

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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