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Tips to help you write your Thesis

19. June 2020, COME HOME, GENERAL, TIPS

The dreaded thesis. You knew when you began your studies that somewhere along the way, you would be expected to hand in some form of final assignment. As a student, it’s pretty much a right of passage to spend months dreading the task, procrastinating it until the last possible minute and moaning about it to all your friends from start to finish. However, you gotta do what you gotta do!

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, we’ve gathered some tips on how to write your thesis.

What is a Thesis?

Depending on the level of degree and field of study, the final assignment will be called a thesis or a dissertation- the terms are often interchangeable. Generally, it will be a more extensive assignment whose grading will count for a significant (enough) part of your final grade.

In most cases, a Thesis could be:

  • Analytical, which means you are asking how or why something is the way it is. You break down the subject into smaller parts and come to a claim, which is supported by evidence.
  • Argumentative, where you present a stance on a topic that would be up for debate amongst reasonable individuals. Similarly to above, you will need evidence to support your claims.
  • Explanatory, meaning its contents are not based on your opinion but upon cold, hard, factual evidence. You investigate your subject and relay that to an audience.

If academics are your future, a well-written thesis could help back up your recommendation letters, which in turn could help you get into better programs or snatch a scholarship.

Why write a Thesis?

Before we get down to the details, it’s important to understand WHY students, in most cases, are required to write a thesis. While it’s obvious that a thesis can prove as a testament to how much you’ve learnt over the course of your studies, your advisor/professor(s) are looking to see if you are:

  • able to conduct research on a particular subject
  • state a position or argument (be that neutral or not)
  • present and discuss findings in a clear and concise manner.

This, however, does not mean you read a bunch of research papers and regurgitate the information to your audience. Rather, view your work as a missing jigsaw piece of a larger puzzle. Ask yourself what other academics have missed and how your research could be considered a contribution.

Where do I begin?

Perhaps one of the biggest decisions you will have to make: WHAT will you write about. The options are endless but there is an easy way to narrow it down.

Write about something that:

  • Interests you…
    because you will have to spend some significant time researching the subject so you might as well enjoy the ride. If you’re curious about the topic, a final thesis can become a very rewarding piece of work.
  • Has sufficient literature available…
    for review to provide support in your discussion. If not, you will find yourself struggling to fill the pages.
  • is not too small or large…
    in scale and will enable you to present your thesis within the prescribed limits.

If you can state in one sentence, why your chosen topic deserves attention then it’s a good sign! Once you have that behind you, check for approval with your advisor before beginning what could be considered, the most labour-intensive stage of writing a thesis: Research. To ensure that you master this phase effortlessly, take our advice and be structural and organized from the get go! You will save yourself a few breakdowns further along in the process.

Here are a few tips for when you begin your research:

  • Know what you’re looking for when conducting literary research so you don’t spend hours reading literature that you realise you won’t need after all. Write an excerpt for the relevant texts so that you can find your way back to them when you begin to formulate your thoughts.
  • Group your literature into themes, which will also help you organize the structure of you work more efficiently.
  • Reference from the beginning because nobody wants a sloppy, rushed, or worse, inaccurate bibliography. Check what referencing style your institution uses as that can vary. If the required style is in APA, Chicago or MLA, Google Scholar can assist with citations. Don’t forget to proofread your citations because technology isn’t always perfect either!

As a wise twitter (@SciBry) user once said:

Research is spending 6 hours reading 35 papers, so you can write one sentence containing two references” .

With that, we say make it count!

How do I structure a Thesis?

Once you’ve done a good portion of your research, you can begin structuring your paper. Depending on the type of thesis you are writing, the structure may vary but will generally consist of the following segments:

  1. A research proposal, which you may have completed and handed in for approval, before any extensive research was started
  2. A title, which is both informative yet to the point and sparks interest in the intended audience.
  3. Acknowledgements, which are not considered compulsory but customary.
  4. An abstract, which could be defined as a summary of all the major elements in your work, which will help the reader understand your purpose, before they have turned the first page.
  5. A table of contents, that details all chapters and subsections according to page number.
  6. A list of figures and tables, particularly if they take up a significant part of your paper.
  7. A glossary or abbreviations section, to help the reader become acquainted with any terms or definitions that will crop up. Do so alphabetically.
  8. An introduction, that’s short and sweet and answers what you are discussing, how and why.
  9. The literature review, which was covered in point #3.
  10. Results, which will aid in beginning your discussion.
  11. A conclusion, which will never include any new information but refresh the reader about what was presented.
  12. Any extra sections, such as the references, which does not make them any less important!

Additional tips

  • If you have the option to select an advisor, make sure they are the right fit for you. A competent advisor will be able to provide you with the assurance and support you need during this process. Clarify your needs and expectations from the beginning (such as how often you would like feedback or how many drafts you are intending on submitting) to ensure that both parties are on the same page.
  • Take advantage of feedback that your friends or colleagues are willing to offer you. More often than not, a fresh perspective will help you navigate any writing blocks, inconsistencies or other fallacies in your work.
  • Check your work for plagiarism before submission or the consequences will be serious. If your institution can do it, you can too. There are a range of free plagiarism checkers available online.
  • We know this advice will most likely land on deaf ears, as we can’t say we know any better but slow and steady wins the race! Begin your thesis early and ease your way through the stages so you don’t find yourself going mad with desperation. Some people do perform well under pressure, but save this kind of pressure for another day.

Armed with these tips, we hope you are feeling ready and motivated to begin your thesis-writing journey.

Josephine

Autor

Josephine is our Social Media and Community Coordinator. Internationally raised and fluent in sarcasm, she is a huge foodie who dreams of travelling the world in a van with an adopted puppy.

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