10 Tips for Writing Your Thesis
Many students write a thesis each year. Starting with your thesis, structuring it, making sure it meets the requirements and is still a coherent work can be quite difficult. Here are 10 tips for writing your thesis!
1. How to Get Started
It is often said that the beginning is the hardest. So how should you get started on your thesis? The first step to your thesis is brainstorming about and choosing a topic. Write down any ideas you have and check whether or not these ideas meet the requirements (see 2. Topic).
After choosing a topic and doing some general research considering your topic, you decide on your thesis statement and the title of your thesis. The thesis statement is the single most important sentence in your entire thesis, so take your time developing one. Remember that you can always change or further develop your thesis statement while writing.
When you have developed a thesis statement, it is time to start your research. Read some works from experts in the field, theses regarding similar topics, and start writing your research proposal! In your research proposal, you should include your topic, research question, some relevant literature and data, and the methodology you plan to use.
After your supervisor approves of your research proposal, it’s time to start writing. Do not work in the chronological order; write while doing your research.
Choosing a thesis topic is one of the most important steps to writing a thesis. It is important to keep into account your own interests, strengths and weaknesses, as you will spend months conducting your research.
The topic should be in need of development or verification. In addition, your topic should solve a real current or future problem. This way, you can gain not only your and your supervisor’s interest, but the interest of others as well.
Other issues to take into account is whether your topic is manageable. Is it too broad, or too specific? Do your geographical and institutional environment offer the necessary resources to conduct your research and defend your final thesis? What would my thesis statement be? It is advisable to keep these questions in mind when choosing a topic. Discuss with your supervisor what data you would need and where you would be able to find this data, and make an appointment with the Datateam from Erasmus to obtain the needed data.
Lastly, if you have trouble choosing a topic, you should contact your supervisor. Your supervisor can help you determine whether your topic meets the requirements, what topic is more promising, and more. Additionally, a supervisor that is enthusiastic about your thesis topic will be more invested and supportive during your research.
Carefully read the instructions and requirements of your university regarding thesis writing. Instructions about what topics you can choose from, what resources there are available and other requirements are important to be aware of from the moment you start your writing.
Almost as important, if not just as important, are the layout requirements. What referencing style, font, font size, line and paragraph spacing you have to use can have major impacts on your research. For example, writing an essay with single line spacing or an essay with double line spacing with the same minimum page requirements can make a huge difference on how much you have to write in total.
4. Structure Your Thesis
Every thesis is unique. However, every thesis needs to be structured well, as a good structure will help support your thesis statement. In addition, a having structure in your research makes it easier to conduct and write your research.
The following structure is an example of how you can structure your thesis:
- Title page
- Abstract – a brief summary including the background, methodology and findings of your research
- Table of Content
- Chapter 1 Background – why have you decided to conduct this research?
- Chapter 2 Literature Review – provide a short summary of all sources used to conduct your research
- Chapter 3 Methodology – what methodology have you used in your thesis and why?
- Chapter 4, 5, 6, … Data Analysis Argument 1, 2, 3, … – describe the data analyses regarding your arguments
- Chapter N Discussion – conclusions based on your data analysis
- Appendices – additional materials used in your thesis
Make sure you know what referencing style you have to use, and make sure to be consistent while referencing. Check whether all the sources you have used in-text appear in your table of references, for example by cross checking your references before submitting your thesis. Helpful ways to make sure you reference all sources the right way include the “References” option in Word, EndNote and Paperpile.
Even more important than being consistent in your referencing, is referencing everything. Forgetting to give credit to your sources might result in accidentally committing plagiarism. Therefore, you should always quote accurately what sources you have used when quoting or paraphrasing from other’s works.
6. Develop Your Own Style
Develop your own style of writing. Figure out what writing style you prefer by reading articles, books and even other theses regarding your topic. Moreover, reading other’s works will make you aware of how you can be concise, effective and compelling.
While using your own writing style, make sure to be consistent. For example, only write in either British or American English, not in a combination of the two.
7. Anticipate Counterarguments
While developing and supporting your arguments, make sure to anticipate counterarguments. Every argument has counterarguments, so think about what these might be and refute them during your research. This will help you refine your thesis and might even make your arguments appear stronger.
Moreover, address unanswered questions. Do not try to ignore these questions; rather, identify them and address them in your conclusion as areas for further research.
8. Proofread and Look for Feedback
Proofread your work! Do not just proofread your thesis after you have finished writing it; proofread and, when needed, rephrase or rewrite every chapter after finishing it. This way, you can check whether you’ve quoted all sources, whether your work is concise and whether you are making progress.
Additionally, get feedback on both your individual chapters and your research as a whole. Your supervisor, fellow students and other people will have a fresh perspective about your work and can help you find what is good and what needs improvement in your research.
9. Time Management
Take note of all deadlines, and make deadlines for yourself. Thesis writing takes a long time, so it is easy to procrastinate. Avoid procrastinating too much by setting internal deadlines for chapters, and communicate these with your supervisor so you can receive feedback while writing.
Analyzing data will cost you a lot of time, so make a clear planning regarding your data analysis as well. Programs that are useful when working with data include SPSS, Eviews, Stata and more.
Relax! Thesis writing is hard work, so take care of yourself. Go outside to work, work out, and do things that you enjoy. This makes all the hard work just a little bit less hard.
Good luck with writing your thesis!