18 Bits of Advice for Writing Your Thesis

computerAs I just handed in the penultimate draft of my master’s thesis, I believe I now have some advice to give to those embarking upon the journey:

  • Pick a subject to write about that you geek out on so hard. When you’re in your 20th month of working on the thesis, you still want to be as excited about it as Day One.
  • You’ll be reading your sources over and over and over again, so just be prepared (and for each time you read through them, you’ll find a different way to take notes, hoping THAT system will be the one that finally cracks the code! Nope, you’ll be back to read them again).
  • Find Post-It note colors that you can live with and that bring you joy.
  • Create a fun hashtag and document your writing process. Some people post photos of their children or their pets or their food. I post photos of my stack of books and my computer screen. #dashforthemasters
  • Your friends will deem you the expert (to them) in your field, and will ask you all the questions and admire you (this is a good thing!). They will also ask you all the time how your progress is going (this is a good thing…?)
  • You will not get to everything. Just knowing that you miiiiiiiight be missing out on one essay published somewhere that maaaaaaaay have either the key to your research or has actually done your research already will keep you up at night.
  • Post-Its, when left in old books for over a year, will pull part of the pages out.
  • Formatting is the WORST.
  • Figure out something to do with all of this research after the thesis (a few journal articles? a book? a conference presentation?) so that you won’t be working towards an ends that will be in vain (you don’t want two years of work sitting in obscurity, do you?).
  • It’s not daunting, it’s time-consuming. The whole process was rather easy and fun! It just took a lot of work.
  • Your research books will be like a roommate to you for a year – as in, they’ll take up as much space as a roommate in your apartment. Just be prepared (at least they won’t eat your food).
  • By the end of it, you’ll think that everything you’ve wrote is either complete crap or doesn’t make any sense in the order you put it in. IGNORE THAT VOICE AND GO DO SOMETHING ELSE – DO NOT TOUCH YOUR COMPUTER.
  • Get friends to read it. Sometimes they will unlock the mysteries of the universe for you.
  • Don’t stress too much at the beginning. Sometimes you need to write a terrible proposal to get to what you actually want to write about. You can’t edit a blank page.
  • Yes, you are trying to prove yourself to others and impress them. This isn’t just about a master’s degree, but about your worth as a scholar and a thinker!!
  • Superpower: Research and reading.
  • For humanities majors: Relish in the fact that you don’t have to do any research with actual people, right? Leave the interviews and case studies and data tracking to those other guys.
  • Have fun, really, and enjoy the process of discovery. It’ll show up in your writing, and make it a better thesis!

Any others?


One comment

  1. These are great tips! I found it SUPER helpful to organize a group of friends/classmates who are also writing theses. Try to meet or check in every week or so to report on progress, hold one another accountable and offer feedback and encouragement. My friends and I all graduated in a timely manner because we did this. We also became life-long friends.


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