The moment is there... Your thesis. Help?!
Writing your thesis? This is how.
For many students writing a thesis is the worst thing in the world. It’s difficult and stressful, especially if you are prone to procrastination. However, you’ll have to get it done if you ever want to graduate. The long days behind your laptop will be worth it once you’re there, on a stage, big smile on your face and THAT piece of paper in your hand. But before we get caught in that amazing daydream, let’s write that thesis! In this article we’ll give you an overview of how to get the job done.
Make sure to keep in touch with your thesis supervisor/mentor, not only when you are having a hard time, but always. I had a meeting with my supervisor every other week and we would talk through what I had done in 14 days and what my next step would be. That sounds like a lot (and it is) but it really helped keep me accountable and stress-free, because I knew what I was doing.
You’ll probably be able to choose your own topic. If you are going to graduate at a specific company, they will maybe supply you with a direction or question, but you’ll have to shape that into a researchable topic. Try to go with something that has your interest and you would like to know more about. This will make writing a lot easier. Are you having trouble coming up with a topic? Get in touch with your supervisor! They have a lot of experience with this and will be able to help you.
Make a first version of your schedule in this beginning stage. Plan deadlines for separate parts of your thesis and reserve timeslots for when you’ll be working on it. This will give you a good grasp of the work you need to do. Once you’ve completed your research proposal you can finish your schedule with specific tasks.
Keep your files in order! You’ll collect a lot of data and files while writing your thesis, so prevent chaos by carefully sorting and storing your files. This way you’ll be able to easily find every article, image and document. Also prepare for the dreaded mid-thesis-computer-crash by backing everything up to the cloud. You can do this weekly, or work directly from a service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
Tips for the starting phase:
Theoretical framework/literature research
After choosing the topic for your thesis you can get started with the literature review. To give direction to your research it’s important to look at relevant literature. A thesis should be an addition to existing studies, so get familiar with everything that has been written about your topic and try to fill a gap. Again: your thesis supervisor can help you get started with this and point you in the direction of some useful authors or journals to look into.
Main research question
Your research question is the central query of your thesis. You’ll build your piece around this question. By reading literature in the last part you should’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what your research question should be. Don’t worry about this too much, usually when you start thinking about shaping your research this main question will change or evolve, and that’s totally okay.
In your research proposal you describe what your research is going to look like and how you’re going to execute it. You’ll answer questions like ‘who or what am I going to study?’ and ‘which methods will I use’. This is the time to plan out your ideas and describe the steps you’re going to take to complete your research in more detail. Also take the time to write out secondary questions, the sub-parts you’ll need to answer your research question.
Planning pt. 2
You have your research proposal, great! Time to take a second look at your schedule. This is the time to plan any appointments for your research (do you need to conduct interviews? Plan them now. Do you need to reserve a space to conduct an experiment? Plan it now! Etc.). You can also fill out the rest of your schedule with more specific deadlines. When does what piece of research need to be done?
Besides your literature review, this is the part where you’ll do your ‘main’ research: the part of your thesis where you investigate to answer your research question. This part of your thesis can take many forms (qualitative vs quantitative, for example), too many forms to discuss in this article. For an overview of what kinds of research you could do, check out this Scribbr article.
Tips for the research phase:
Phase 2 and 3 will overlap: you’ll start writing things down while doing the research. You’ll collect all your literature and write a theoretical framework, you’ll report your research and jot down ideas for the conclusion, all while still knee-deep in various parts of research. Still, I’d like to discuss writing as a separate phase.
You’ll save so much time by making an outline before you start actually writing. Determine structure in advance, so you’ll have a clear overview of what needs to be done. You can fill your outline with results as you’ll go along. Scribbr also has a good article on structuring your thesis/dissertation. Please note that every school or faculty will have its own rules for what a thesis should look like, so it’s always smart to make your own template.
Writing is rewriting
Rewriting might be the most terrible part of your thesis, because… well, you’ve already written the entire thing, why change it now?! For me it helped to 1. Read my entire thesis out loud (yes really). You’ll find mistakes in spelling, grammar or sentence structure really easily. And 2. Try to think of the research question I was trying to answer in each part, and whether I’d succeeded.
Tips writing phase: