How to Write a Thesis and Survive
What’s in a thesis or dissertation? Only the culmination of what feels like your life's work that you now have to put in written format and defend in front of a panel of experts and your supervisor. No big deal, right? Let's be real, it's not a fun process. I really felt like I went through the 5 stages of grief writing my Master's thesis. But there are steps you can take to make the process a little bit smoother.
- Make an outline! Organization is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of writing such a labour-intensive document. Think about the themes you need to cover in your thesis and then make headings and sub-headings for the concepts you need to introduce in each chapter. This will probably change as you write, but it's good to have something to work off. If you have the time, share it with your advisor.
- It isn’t a fun process. You don’t get to be in the lab and you are likely isolated trying to analyze and re-analyze all the data you have produced over the years. You will question the validity of your work, and why you didn’t do this experiment or that experiment. You will wonder where the time went and how you didn’t accomplish more. These are completely normal thoughts. You know your research best, so be honest with yourself and ask your peers and your advisor for support when you need it. Once you get the results and discussion sections down on paper, the rest is much easier.
- It’s a longggg administrative process. Academics notoriously hate admin but don’t waste your time getting upset- do your best, write your thesis (you can control this) and your defence will happen. Keep on the admin in your department, your advisor and your committee. I promise the universe isn’t working against you (despite it feeling like it.)
- Cite the whole way. Whether you use a reference manager or cite manually, don’t wait until the end!!
- Write the lit review last. Your data chapter(s) are the most important so focus on making sure that is of the highest quality you can produce - afterall that is ultimately the work that you are defending.
- Take breaks. I think there are two types of breaks you take: ones where you endlessly rant about your thesis to get it off your chest and ones where you do a completely non-academic activity. Both are important for your mental health.
The best analogy I ever heard for thesis-writing was that it is a marathon, not a sprint. So pace yourself- you’re in the home stretch of your degree! ✊🏽