What is Thesis Boot Camp?
Thesis Boot Camp is an intensive writing programme for late-stage doctoral researchers.
It transforms lives. I would love to share it with you.
Not every Thesis Boot Camp is created equal. There are many ‘boot camp’ style writing programmes at universities around the world, though the award-winning Thesis Boot Camp — that I designed at the University of Melbourne in 2012 and further developed in collaboration with Dr Katherine Firth and Dr Liam Connell — has proved a powerful formula PhD and research higher degree students around the world.
Since 2014, the original Thesis Boot Camp team have been working in partnership with other universities to introduce the programme to new cohorts. Thesis Boot Camps are now offered at several Australian universities and in New Zealand, while I coordinated the first Thesis Boot Camp in the UK at Queen Mary, University of London in April 2015 and took the programme to Ireland later that year.
Using a combination of charm, discipline, listening, advice, competition, reward, anecdote and humour, Peta created an energised collective event in which every individual made meaningful progress. Boot Camp cliché, I know, but it was tough love masterfully delivered!
Head of Learning Development, Queen Mary University of London
Following QMUL, I’ve introduced Thesis Boot Camp at other UK institutions, including Bristol, Manchester, Nottingham, St Andrews, Sussex and UCL, to name just a few, as well as further afield at the National University of Ireland.
Skilled facilitation is key to the success of Thesis Boot Camp. With years of experience delivering the programme internationally, I’ve continued to refine and enhance resources and approaches along the way.
I’ve therefore found the best way to spread the success of Thesis Boot Camp is for one of the original team members to work directly with the new institution on the first iteration. If desired, we will happily return to facilitate future events or part thereof.
Peta is an excellent presenter and course facilitator: open and engaging about her own experiences, she created a supportive and fun environment in which people felt galvanised to do their best. I can highly recommend Peta Freestone, and Thesis Boot Camp, to students and institutions alike.
Dr Naomi Wynter-Vincent
Thesis Boot Camp participant & recent University of Sussex graduate
Would you like to know more?
If you are a staff member at a university and are interested in bringing the programme to your institution, please get in touch.
If you are a PhD student, and Thesis Boot Camp isn’t yet available on your campus, please get in touch and I can provide you with information to help you make a case to your institution for introducing Thesis Boot Camp.
Thesis Boot Camp around the web:
“The experience was amazing for me as an educator and the students loved it. They told others how great it was. Several people who had been contemplating quitting altogether actually handed in their thesis.”
— Dr Inger Mewburn (The Thesis Whisperer)
I talk about Thesis Boot Camp with my co-conspirator, Dr Liam Connell, over at The Thesis Whisperer
Dr Katherine Firth has written several articles on Thesis Boot Camp over at her Research Voodoo blog
Gillian Jack blogs about her experience as a student at the first St Andrews University Thesis Boot Camp in early 2016
Dr Paul Spencer, former Research Development Manager at UWE (now at Bristol), blogged about his university’s first Thesis Boot Camp
Check out Thesis Boot Camp on Twitter at #ThesisBootCamp
Just a small sample of testimonials I’ve received:
Dr Peta Freestone runs a mean Boot Camp! Over a two and a half day weekend, 24 of QMUL’s completion-stage PhD students produced between them the equivalent of three 80,000 word theses. Writing a thesis is no walk in the park, and for many Boot Camp participants the fact of getting a substantial amount of text onto the page (screen) in such a short intensive period represented significant progress towards completion.
The success of the Boot Camp was down to the skilful design and leadership of Dr Peta Freestone. In the run-up to the weekend, she encouraged participants to do focussed preparation; then the clear goal for the Boot Camp itself was to produce first draft, generative writing – lots of it! Submitting to the rules of the camp allowed them to witness their own capacity to turn notes and skeleton plans into something that looks suspiciously like a chapter or two – which, however roughly hewn, now exists and can be worked on. Using a combination of charm, discipline, listening, advice, competition, reward, anecdote and humour, Peta created an energised collective event in which every individual made meaningful progress. Boot Camp cliché, I know, but it was tough love masterfully delivered!
The Thesis Boot Camp was extremely successful. Peta provided excellent leadership, blending motivation, and a little competition, with good humour and deep understanding. Feedback from our students is that the experience of generating high volumes of first draft writing over the boot camp weekend has had long lasting effects. They report that they feel much more confident about their ability to complete their thesis, and much less overwhelmed. Their supervisors also saw a clear benefit to the TBC. They reported positive impacts in the areas of: clearer focus in written work, better quality writing, improved progress in production of writing and increased enthusiasm for writing.
In a single Thesis Boot Camp I wrote what would become two and a half chapters of my PhD thesis. Those chapters helped me meet my milestones for my review meeting, and to finish my PhD on time. Not only did the TBC have an immediate positive effect for my dissertation, but it completely changed my approach to academic writing. It has made me more effective in my professional writing, and colleages are often amazed at how efficiently I can produce quality work. TBC took away the mystery of how to make words happen, and forced me to think about writing as a professional skill. Sharing the experience with a room full of other graduate students helped break down the isolation of PhD research. Peta provided the perfect ‘tough-love’ approach in an environment that is safe, energising and inspiring.
I attended a Thesis Bootcamp organised by Dr Peta Freestone in December 2015, at a point when I despaired of ever completing my thesis. I found the whole experience very worthwhile, very motivating, and only wish that I’d had the opportunity to do something like this at an earlier point in my (long!) PhD career. By the end of the weekend I had produced a first draft of one of my chapters, felt sufficiently encouraged to keep going, and finally submitted my thesis in March 2016. The ‘bootcamp’ model provides an enjoyable and effective way for PhD students to build their confidence to begin and continue writing, and it does important work to fill a significant pedagogical and researcher development gap in doctoral education. Peta herself is also an excellent presenter and course facilitator: open and engaging about her own experiences, she created a supportive and fun environment in which people felt galvanised to do their best. I can highly recommend Peta Freestone, and Thesis Boot Camp, to students and institutions alike.
Dr Naomi Wynter-Vincent, PhD Graduate, University of Sussex
Thesis Boot Camp was intensive, but exceptionally rewarding for all involved. As a facilitator, working with Peta was a great experience, helped by her great organisation and thoughtful event design. The participants’ collectively wrote multiple theses over the weekend, and their words speak for themselves about the efficacy of TBC: ‘Extremely helpful to get over writing paralysis, help set realistic goals and provide useful perspective and strategies for completing the thesis task’; ‘Peta was great – I really felt she understood the issues and wanted to help you’; ‘Really made a difference to me – makes writing up seem manageable again!’
Dr Eilidh Harris, Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development, University of St Andrews
Thesis Boot Camp is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Peta made a work environment in which she enabled everyone to productively write. She recollected her own PhD experience with honesty, passing on tips, techniques and advice. Before, writing my thesis was about whether I can write the number of words necessary to form a thesis. Now, it is about the words that I choose to tell my research story. Envisage the end, keep it in sight, but open your eyes and write your way to the finish line.Kelly, PhD Student, University of Bristol