The Thesis Writing Process


12 March 2018

Writing a thesis entails a long process that may span over several years. This long process is not without risks! We can lose motivation, change direction, or even worse, start all over again. Fortunately, many tips can help us with this project.

The big picture and the work plan

One of the first things to do is to create the overview of our project. What is the plan? What are my key arguments? To create the project overview, some great applications such as MindMup can help map the ideas.

Once the overview is built, we should separate the thesis into different phases. By separating the project into key steps, or milestones, we can create a workplan that is shaped practically by itself. Having a workplan based on the project’s big picture ensures that this plan matches the goals and arguments of the project. Creating milestones also allows us to stay motivated and concentrated on the work at hand.

Many tools exist to plan the work. These include, the Gantt chart, which shows the steps, milestones and critical path over time and is very helpful.

Read and write a lot

Marathon runners, who sometimes have to run over 80 km a week, have no choice but to split these km into different training sessions over the week. This way, they prepare their body to run very long distances while avoiding injuries and fatigue. Using the same strategy while writing a thesis makes us develop the habit of writing every day and helps us get better faster. Using a few short writing periods instead of one long one helps us stay focused. Preferably, we could also use a longer writing period, once a week, and take advantage of it to review the document and make sure our progress will meet the deadlines.

Write a draft in a straightforward way

When we were young, we learned that drafts were essential, but as we age, this good habit tends to disappear. Back in the day, we were taught that writing required several steps, and not just one, to be perfect; however, this is often what we try to do. We strive to write a perfect text right off the bat when we do not even know what we want to write yet. Inevitably, we lose our train of thought and get discouraged by our last paragraph that is not perfect despite our efforts. Writing can and must be completed in several steps.

Start by writing, plainly, without caring about the turn of phrases, grammar, or text ordering. This way, ideas are jotted down as quickly as possible without losing our train of thought. The text can then be reworked. Anyways, the review step is essential. It is better to optimize the writing step by writing quicker and making the review step less boring. Some literary techniques suggest several writing phases. One phase is rarely enough!

Stay focused

Finding a work environment in which it is easy to concentrate is essential. Many studies show that computer devices and smart phones can harm concentration. Keeping them away while working guarantees better results. Just a few minutes of full concentration are more effective than longer periods of time if distracted by notifications.

Talk about your thesis

Talking about your thesis to other people, whether they know about your field of study or not, is usually very helpful. Having to explain your thesis to another person teaches you how to be straightforward, clarify your ideas, and highlight and emphasize the key concepts and arguments of your thesis.

When explaining your thesis, is very important to make sure your interlocutor understands you. What did he learn? Is he focusing on the details you were expecting him to focus on? Talking about your thesis as you are drafting it is a very good way to get feedback as the work progresses, which is much better than getting it once you are done!