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The Margin Lady July 16, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life, university.

I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet. I’m used to stress in my job: getting my Ph.D., going up for tenure, trying to get a Assistant Professor job (the last one of which so got to me that I spent half of one evening curled up around a toilet!). But the stress right now having to do only with waiting. Sheesh!

But, on a lighter subject. My wife and I were out for dinner and we got to talking about a friend writing up her thesis. She defended weeks ago. Both Paula and I had fairly complete drafts of our thesis done before we defended. In fact, I think both of us spent more time fighting with the Margin Lady than making corrections after our defense.

The Margin Lady occupies a special place in the physics-thesis-writing ethos. You are finished with your thesis. You’ve already dealt with the river-of-red of corrections from your advisor. You knew the Margin Lady was on the horizon so you used a document template that was sure to satisfy her: figures just so, page number is the right spot, margins just perfect. It just doesn’t matter. No matter how perfect you will have to make corrections. And it is so frustrating: by that point you are sick of your thesis document, all 200 pages. “Why did I make it this long!” or “Why on earth did I include that one figure that violates the guidelines.” Argh.

Paula’s story was the best. The typesetting program she used for her thesis wouldn’t position the page numbers in the right place. Apparently, the office-of-the-Margin-Lady was prepared for this, and loaned her a stamp. Yes. A stamp. She had to stamp each page with the correct page number. Ink pad separate. Can you imagine!?



1. dlkvuzyc - July 17, 2006


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2. Dave Bacon - July 17, 2006

Oh I agree! There is nothing quite as scary as watching the person at the graduate office flip through EVERY SINGLE PAGE of your thesis, checking the margins, the figures, and even the weight and watermark of the paper. My experience was particularly bad because my thesis ended up being over 400 pages.

3. Matt - July 17, 2006

I’ve heard stories of using the margin lady to get an extension to the thesis deadline. Turning lemons into lemonade, one can intentionally turn in a thesis with incorrect margins on the date of the thesis deadline. While working hard the next week or 2 trying to make the margin lady happy, one can also work on other minor tasks like, oh say, finishing chapters, making committee members’ corrections, and adding references. This is far from a fail-safe strategy, of course. Caveat emptor.

4. rzjiohq - July 22, 2006


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5. I AM the Margin Lady « Life as a Physicist - April 17, 2008

[…] April 17, 2008 Posted by gordonwatts in physics life. trackback I have complained about the Margin Lady before: The Margin Lady occupies a special place in the physics-thesis-writing ethos. … You […]

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