The Pacific Exchange - Road to my PhD

writing your thesis

At the beginning of your master thesis and scared witless? Yeah, it can be intimidating to write something that big. Chances are you’ve never written anything even half that long before. And now it has to be an academic text to boot! That will scare even the most stoic of people.

Fortunately, there is hope. After all, millions of students around the world manage to write these things every year so it is possible. You just need to know what to do. That’s why I’ve put together this short guide to give you some insights and offer you a path forward.

It’s all about the right articles

To write a good master thesis you need the right academic literature, because if you have those then you’ll be able to both back up your claims and get at least some idea of how you’re expected to write the text you’re about to sit down to. Your best bet is to find a review article in the direction of what you’re reading. Type the keywords associated with your research question and the word ‘review’ into something like Google Scholar and you should find something relevant.

Then, as you read through it, find the references in that text that seem particularly relevant to your topic and get those articles as well. Even better, when you find an article that’s particularly good for what you’re writing about, look it up in Google Scholar and see what other articles reference that article. Often, you’ll find some more recent articles that will also be useful to you.

In this way, you’ll have the references and background information you’ll need.

Remember actively

As you’re reading these articles, consider how what you’re reading relates to your research question. Find ways that it can fit into what you’re trying to say. Take notes in a central document and always be moving these little pieces around and seeing how they fit in with the other notes you’ve taken.

By actively putting these pieces together now, you’re more likely to remember them, which will mean they will be there for you when you need them. What’s more, these pieces and links that you’re creating can be plugged directly into your outline. This is how I write my dissertation.

Set manageable goals

The big reason why people hold off too long on their thesis is that they see it as an insurmountable cliff that they don’t know how to climb. The trick is to stop looking at the whole thing and only focus on the step ahead of you. Initially, that’s collecting the literature that will back up your claims. Then it’s writing your outline. After that, it’s formulating your introduction.

Focus on these little steps (and start writing on them early) and before you’ll know it you’ll have scaled the cliff. Also, remember, nothing is written in stone. So go ahead and try things. If it doesn’t work out, so be it. The greatest successes come forth from a litany of failures. So fail your way upwards. There is nothing wrong with that.