Creating a Minimum Viable Thesis

Photo of diamond-encrusted iPhoneWhen Apple create a new iPhone, they don’t spent years perfecting it. They’re not busily anticipating the needs of all their customers, hoping everyone will love it immediately. Instead, they create a Mininum Viable Product (MVP) and get it to market as soon as possible. They know there are thousands of people who’ll queue overnight outside the Apple Store and spend a month’s salary on a slightly flawed product. Those early adopters will give them almost immediate feedback on what the developers need to do to bring it up to scratch. Apple make those improvements, then release an updated version.

Although nobody is going to pay you for your thesis, you can adopt Apple’s approach to project management. Rather than spending extra months or years guessing what your examiners are seeking, focus on creating a Mininum Viable Thesis (MVT). This is a thesis that isn’t perfect, but is good enough for the examination process. Your examiners then tell you exactly what you need to do to bring it up to the required standard. Instead of speculating, you get a to-do list. Much easier.

It’s tempting to think that we can get the thesis right first time. However …

  • Your (or your supervisor’s) idea of perfection will be different from your examiners’ idea. And it’s the examiners’ idea of perfection that counts now. They are your market.
  • Around 90% of doctoral candidates have to make corrections. It’s best to assume this will happen to you.
  • There’s no huge incentive to getting it right first time. A PhD is only graded a pass or a fail – you don’t get a tiara for a “perfect” thesis.

When you’re tempted to add more “features” to your thesis, consider whether this is really necessary. Is it just going to slow you down? And is going to make a difference between a pass and a fail? Ensure you have the essential features, such as literature review, methodology, and an original contribution – but forget the bling. You just need a Minimum Viable Thesis.

Image created by DALL-E

Leave a comment