Thesis Writing: Further Top Tips
A vital part of any postgraduate course is writing the thesis. Whether you’re undertaking a taught degree or a research one , you’ll be expected to write one at some point in the course. A masters thesis is similar to the dissertations done on undergraduate courses, but longer and more in depth.
There are plenty of horror stories out there, but here we’ve compiled a bunch of ways to make thesis writing that bit easier for you! It’s important to note that the terms thesis and dissertation are pretty much interchangeable, so don’t worry if your university refers to it as a dissertation – these thesis writing tips still apply! If you're out of practice on essay writing - read our blog on Essay Tips For Out Of Practice Postgrads .
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#1 Facing the Blank Page
The scariest part of thesis writing is that blank page. You know the one – you load up a word editor, and it sits there, the cursor blinking angrily at you. Well, fear not! There is a way to avoid this, and that’s by remembering that you’ve been taking notes. That’s right! You have already written material that’s ready – one day, with a bit of polish – to sit in your thesis. Once you realise this, that blank page is far less intimidating.
#2 Making a Plan
Everyone works differently, but generally, having a planned structure can really help. Whilst for some people, writing from beginning to end can be the most logical route, other people might prefer to discuss their methodology before going back and starting on an introduction. Working out a structure will allow you to work in the order you want.
Of course, if you’re going to jump around this much, you’ve got to get good at...
Now, usually this would be the last thing on our list. After all, surely you only edit something you’ve finished, right? Wrong! For some people, that might be the best method, but sit down and think about how is best for you. Do you want to finish it all and then go through and do it, or would editing each chapter as it comes help. Sometimes, editing chapter by chapter can remind you of points you want to make, and if you do this and a final edit, you’ll end up with something cohesive and hopefully lacking any mistakes!
#4 Talk to Your Supervisor
Don’t try and do it alone! Your supervisor is there to help, and keeping in touch with them about your thesis will save you the last minute panic when they see your final draft. Keep them updated on your ideas, and look into scheduling regular meetings with them. This should mean their suggestions and tips come about gradually, instead of piling on at the end in red ink when you show them it for the first time. Remember – they’re an expert, so make use of that knowledge!
Now, all of those thesis writing tips seem pretty general, so let’s look specifically at tips on writing a masters thesis.
Tips on Writing a Masters Thesis
Keep your proposal handy
Remember that proposal you wrote a while ago? You’re going to want that. It’s basically a pre-made plan, so keep an eye on it. The bibliography you made is going to be something you want to keep hold of, and you’ll need to try and stick to your goals. Whilst it’s okay for your topic and area of coverage to shift slightly, you don’t want your proposal to say you’ll be studying one thing and your finished work to be something entirely different!
Keep a Running Bibliography
Reading a book? Good – take note of useful pages and keep a list of the titles. This way, when you finish your thesis, you won’t be scrabbling around desperately trying to remember what you read – you’ll have a handy list already compiled.
No really. Keep back-ups . MANY backups. Use a USB, Google Drive and Dropbox if you have to, you can never have too many copies, but you can definitely have too few. There is nothing as terrible as losing your most recent changes, so make sure you keep them up to date and in many places.
Keep It Academic
Whilst blogs and newspapers can be a great source of information, you are writing a piece of academic work. That means your sources should be academic – journals, published books, and research papers. Whilst you can cite things beyond this, these should be most of your bibliography.
Do Your Research!
Make sure that any claims you make are firmly backed up. More importantly – do as much reading as you can in the area you’re writing in. You don’t want to get to your viva and a recent work in your area and have to admit it’s because you hadn’t heard of it. Of course, you won’t be able to cover the whole of your field, but try and be aware of anything recent or groundbreaking.
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