Writing a doctoral dissertation and running a marathon: personal reflections on similar experiences PART V


Though this dissertation is not over yet, I must admit that from the day I wrote the last word and got the overall feedback on the manuscript I feel relieved. Overall, I can say that after some initial difficulties I found my own pace in the writing. This was helped by setting clear deadlines and the number of pages for each chapter. One important lesson from this experience has been about the importance of being precise, a problem I have because I tend to be carried away by ideas and thoughts. The dissertation has taught me the necessary patience required to check, re-check, and check once more information, data, and text (and hope not be proved wrong here).
Some more general comments I would like to add here are the following:
• Beside Prof. Takala comments, feedback, and questions on the overall structure, content, and academic standards, I found also useful to remain in touch with colleagues and friends in Cambodia who provided feedback on the accuracy of specific sections of the thesis such as, for example, the correct reference to laws and sub-decrees regulating decentralisation in Cambodia or the recent history of the country. These comments have also helped to find new references and sources.
• David Ayres, who is one of the main reference in my thesis because of his research con education and state formation in Cambodia, has poof checked the whole manuscript. This means that one more person has red the whole thesis and has makes the correction in the English language.
• All the writing took place at the University, either in the library or in the PC labs. This created sometimes logistical problems with books and articles that were solved by occupying two or three lockers at a time. Nevertheless, coming to the University every day has provided the regular schedule and rhythm that I need when working.
I can certainly agree now with the description by Simon Down about the intensity of the process, particularly due to the deadline set by the birth of my daughter in November. After crossing the finish line of the Tampere marathon, I remember that my first thought was: “I did it”. Followed by: “never again!” But then the days and weeks passed, the legs recovered, and I started again to go for some evening runs. I know that next year I will look again for a half marathon to participate to. Similarly, once I wrote the last word of the dissertation I felt happy that most of it was over. However, I know that, without going back to the whole doctoral research process, at some point in the near future I will look again for materials and resources to learn more about development and to write a chapter in a book or an article in a journal. Therefore rather than a point of arrival, this dissertation represents a point of departure.

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