thesis writing: the Rimmer method

I’m spending a lot of my time at the moment reading thesis drafts. And reflecting on the theses and papers I’ve helped students with, and my own writing practice, I have formulated the Rimmer toilet paper methodology for thesis writing and reviewing to help other supervisors and their students.

The methodology is inspired by Rimmer’s frugal use of toilet paper: “one up, one down, one to polish”. Applying the same idea to thesis reviewing saves the time of the both the student and the supervisor.
The aim is that the supervisor only has to read the thesis three times, and the student doesn’t go mad revising draft after draft.
This how it works:

1. One up: the first draft has the ideas and the structure, the outline of the argument, and the chain of logic between method, results and conclusions with enough data to support the argument. And that’s all. So, on the reading of this draft, the sticky and lumpy problems get sorted, and direction for what else needs to go in is clarified. The result of this reading is that the page/word count goes up, because the student goes away with a clear understanding of what to do to put where.

2. One down: the second draft should be pretty much complete, and logically sequenced. A little bit of structural editing happens at this stage – paragraphs get moved, the argument gets tightened up. And this is where stuff that doesn’t need to be in there gets deleted. You can’t afford to be precious – if it doesn’t contribute clearly and directly, cut it out. The result of this reading is the page/word count goes down.

3. One to polish: the third draft should be the last if you did the first two well. This is the copyedit and proofread stage – just making it read nicely, fixing grammar and spelling errors: polishing.  This stage must be preceded by the previous two, because you can’t shine… a first draft.

As a supervisor, sometimes it feels like a whole roll of toilet paper has to be used to clean up a thesis between first mucky draft and final polished perfection. And after the tenth reading you start to want to insert the thesis sideways into even the best of students. But the thoughtful application of the “one up, one down, one to polish” methodology will save time and support better student-supervisor relationships.

Note that the “one up, one down, one to polish” methodology is most suitable for lengthy pieces of writing, where a theme or argument needs to be sustained. For very short pieces, such as blog posts, the urinal method is perfectly acceptable – just squirt it out, and walk away.


Filed under musings, prose

25 responses to “thesis writing: the Rimmer method

  1. I may apply this method to my novel… 😅

  2. BRILLIANT!! And for once I understand a reference to popular culture (I was early on inculcated with Red Dwarf by the esteemed Mr Worms) so I feel especially warm and fuzzy inside. Thanxs for your most enlightening post!

    • I often think of the vey first episode “Dave, everybody’s dead, everybody is dead, Dave” when teaching. 😀

      • Wait. Are you trying to tell me everybody’s dead? 🤣
        I could see how that would pop into your head while teaching
        I’ve been calling people smeghead for over twenty years. I even gave the Rimmer salute a few days again.
        Still waiting on new episodes.

        • Gordon Bennett…
          Was it a single or double Rimmer?
          Have you seen the episodes from a few years ago? They were still good.

        • I’ve seen every episode. Oh, it was the full Rimmer, by which I mean ace hole. The first 8 seasons I watched religiously in my teens. I wanted to be Lister so bad 🤣

        • I have them all on DVD. My kids can recite chunks of it. 😀
          A full Rimmer – impressive. With the falling-like-a-leaf hands afterwards?
          It’s not too late to live the dream – Lister is still Lister in the most recent episodes.

        • Same. Although my kids are a few years from watching an episode. I can’t wait to share it with them.
          That’s the one. Even get my hips into it. It’s a full body effort.
          I plan to retire and travel the universe for three million years searching for my lost Kochanski.
          Just have to convince my wife I’m having a Quixote style break down.

  3. Hilarious take on the process

  4. Good old Aussie ingenuity, brilliant piece Kate, thank you!

  5. I hope you don’t mind Kate, got me writing and following your Rimmer writing method. I quote you in my Prosery offering this week. Here’s a testimonial! It works. No dags left hanging, polish was superb. I did find on the down stroke I hadn’t wiped hard enough and was short of the gross requirement. So yes I verbosed and padded. For example the communist comrade party bit and overseas asian student stuff enabled a smooth to the upstroke polishing.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

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