January 28, 2015

Tips For Writing A Thesis/ Dissertation

Tips for writing a thesis or dissertation, things that helped me survive the struggle of writing a dissertation while working a full time job

A University degree is something a lot of us aim for after finishing high school. For some it means leaving to another country, for others moving to another state, but for everyone it means growing up. During the course of your degree, you will face a whole lot of challenges which may be school or life related. From regular homework to essays, presentations, dealing with working in groups, and for some managing school plus work and still having a life. But your biggest challenge will probably be writing your dissertation or thesis; especially if you're working a full time job. It might seem scary at first but don't worry, you'll get through it and you'll be very proud of yourself.

A year has passed since I completed my double degree Master's program, and I though I'd share my experience as well as some tips with you. Hopefully, this post will help you have a smoother writing process that I did.

My experience:

I started working on the title of my thesis/dissertation and the theoretical section while working a full time job which meant the only time I had to write were evenings and weekends. In December, I was able to take a student leave from work and focus on my thesis. I was putting in all I had from 9am till 2am or till I felt like I couldn't anymore {I had breaks here and there}. In January, I returned to work and kept working on my thesis every night. It was hard, very hard. I went through a lot of stress and shed quite a few tears. Some nights, I felt like banging my head in the wall {literally}. Obviously my blog took the back seat in all of this because I just could not find the time nor the mood to sit down and work on posts, but my readers were very supportive and for that I was grateful. 
The saying from Bob Marley that "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice" is definitely right. Because at the time, it felt absolutely horrible and I didn't think I would pull through. But in the end I was able to push through it, and can now look back at it as one of my accomplishments. 

Tips for getting through the challenge of writing your thesis/ dissertation:

1. Pick a theme you find interesting and/or know something about.

This is the most important tip I have. If you are going to write a thesis, make sure to pick something you find interesting & want to know more about and/or something you already know something about. Picking a totally foreign topic might make it difficult for you to write, and you will find yourself giving excuses for why nothing has been done. 

2. Don't spend too long on picking a precise topic

Don't spend forever trying to decide what the exact topic of your thesis/dissertation is. This can most likely be changed afterwards. Start of with coming up with a rough idea of what you'd like to write about or what you'd like to show with your thesis. Then begin compiling theoretical information on this topic. The precise topic of your thesis will become clear while you are writing. 

3. Start early.

This is a pretty obvious tip, but I would just like to touch upon it as this is one thing we sometimes take for granted. "I'll start tomorrow", then tomorrow becomes next week, and before you realise it, you've lost a whole month of valuable time. Your thesis cannot be written in 1 week, and will very unlikely be ready in 1 month. You will need time to research, work on the theoretical aspect and work on the practical aspect {the practical section can end up taking a lot more time than you estimated}. Not to talk of check ups with your appointed supervisor and having your work or a summary translated if your thesis is written in a language other than the official language of the country you are studying in.

4. Buy/download books to your tablet

If you are working a full time job, you will probably work on your thesis/ dissertation at nights, so going to the library may not always be an option. One thing I found helped me a lot was to purchase the kindle versions of books for my tablet and read them through the amazon kindle app at night since I usually stayed up till about 2am. This for me meant I always had access to them. There will be books you may not be able to find, so you might have to make copies of the chapters you need at the library.

5. Write constantly and prioritize quality over quantity

Sometimes 1 good page is better that 5 horrible pages because you'll have to go back and rewrite it. Set time aside for yourself daily to work on your thesis. If you need to take a break, try not to take very long breaks which for example last 2 weeks. A good approach is to write at least 1 page everyday. Or, if you feel like you have nothing to write, work on something else: research for the next section, the formatting of your document etc.

6. If you feel a flow coming on, write until you get it all out of you

If you're writing about something you find interesting, you will sometimes feel like you have a lot to write, while on other days you might feel drained. On days when the thoughts keep coming, write until you get it all out. This might mean going to sleep at 3am, but you will be grateful for this on days when you're stuck.

7. Make it a priority & push as hard as you can

If you have gotten this far, then make it a priority to finish. You've studied for years to get to where you are now so don't let it all go to waste. Push everything else to priority B or C and focus all your strength on getting the thesis done. This may sometimes mean pulling all nighters while working a full time job, or saying no to that party at your friend's house, but it will be worth it when it is done. Be careful not to overdo it though because your body can only take that much. For me, 4 all nighters in a row while working a full time job was personally my limit before I began having blurred vision and falling asleep as I walked.

8. Make sure to eat, drink and have some time off

Even though tip 7 says you'll sometimes have to say no to social events, organise your time so you have some days off because you need it. Also, make sure you're eating and drinking enough water. This was one aspect I struggled with especially when I realized I'm running out of time, but my family was very supportive with the cooking and other household chores. 

9. Have someone to rant to and tell you everything will be fine

Having someone to just rant to when it gets tough is important because sometimes it gets so frustrating you just want to quit and extend your thesis submission till next year. Don't do it! Go talk to someone you know will increase your confidence and motivation. For me, it was talking to my mum in the evenings. I really don't know what I would have done without her.

10. Don't quit

Like I mentioned in point 9, there will be days when you will feel like giving up. I had loads of those days. The worst one being 2 weeks before my final submission and my work was only about 60-70% ready. I was sure I wasn't going to make it and was ready to just throw in the towel. But my program director gave me the kick in the butt I needed. She helped me understand that I've got all the research I need so all that's left to do is write, and that if I just put in a few extra nights everything will be fine. I did as she suggested and was ready to hand in my work {last minute, but I did it}.

Those are some tips I believe will help anyone working on their thesis, dissertation or any  other big project you have at University. If you have any more tips, please leave them in the comments below as they might help someone.

No comments

Post a Comment

Thank you for stopping by. I love reading your comments, so be sure to pop one over x

Blogger Template Created by pipdig