The details of each stage will vary slightly depending on your field, but for most thesis writers the stages are, first, idea collection, second, editing and data analysis, and third, polishing. Perfectionists like me will particularly benefit from dividing their writing into discrete stages. The purpose of the first stage of writing is to get as many ideas as possible on paper, without judging, editing or formatting your document.
By allowing yourself to collect your ideas without criticism, you can spark your creativity and overcome the fear of imperfection that may be holding you back from starting to write your thesis. It is during the second stage, editing and data analysis phase, that you need to be rigorous with your writing and editing.
At the end of the second phase your goal is to produce a manuscript that has a clear structure and a logical flow of arguments so that you can submit it to your supervisor for review. In the final polishing phase, you need address the feedback from your committee and fill in any gaps in the logic. Some advisors are either too busy to mentor you properly or are micro-managers who want daily updates on your progress.
The role of your advisor is to mentor you so you learn how to be an independent researcher, not to hold your hand for the rest of your life. Your advisor may or may not be a good mentor, but you need to be in agreement regarding the direction of your research because you need their approval to graduate.
If you have disagreements with your advisor, or you have a dead-end project, it may take several meetings to determine the overall direction of your thesis. The most effective way to meet with your advisor is to schedule meetings far in advance and come to every meeting with a clear agenda. If your advisor is a difficult person, continue to be proactive about planning meetings and developing solutions to your problems.
Just get something down on paper. Listen to music that puts you in the mood to write. Watch a short video that motivates you to take action. Visualize all the things you will do once your thesis is done. They may even start to form cohesive sentences and paragraphs. Overtime, your warm-up period will get shorter and shorter until clicking into writing gear becomes an automatic habit.
When I started writing my thesis, I thought I had to begin with the abstract, then the introduction, then an in-depth literature search, then chapter one, chapter two, on and on all the way to the conclusion.
By definition, the abstract is a summary of the highlights of your thesis, and therefore you should only be able to write a quality abstract once you finish all of your chapters. Starting your thesis by writing the most difficult chapter first is like trying to deadlift a pound weight without any prior training.
Instead, start writing your thesis by writing the easiest section first—the methods section. The methods section is the easiest section to get started and the quickest to finish. Start here to get a few pages under your belt and boost your confidence before you try any heavy lifting. If you put this phrase in your calendar it will either lead to you taking a nap, surfing the web, or staring at a blank computer screen. Once you decide on the order in which you will write your chapters, continue breaking them down into smaller chunks.
Writing in several short bursts is more efficient than writing in a few, long extended periods of time. If you ever tried to write for several hours in a row, you may have noticed that your concentration becomes weaker after about minutes.
Writing requires creativity, and it is difficult to sustain your focus for several hours in a row over the course of months or even years until you finish your thesis.
If you have a hour block of time in your calendar, resist the temptation to glue yourself to the chair for the entire period. These rest periods are crucial. Many students get sudden insights when they are away from their desks and they become more efficient when they return to work.
Bad writing habits are tough to break. If you try to eliminate your bad habits overnight, your brain and body might rebel against you. A better strategy is to change your habits slowly and one at a time. Instead, take on one, complete it or master it, and then move on to the next tip. The toughest part of writing is the beginning.
The sooner you start writing your thesis, the easier writing it becomes. The fifth point matches my methodology, I always start with easy section first and then go for a hard section in ascending order. It will increase your confidence and motivate you to write more and more. I read your each and every tip and will consider it while writing my final year thesis.
Hi Sofia, I agree that writing the easiest section first is the best way to dig into writing your thesis. I also found this process to be helpful when writing manuscripts. When you start with the easiest section you can get into the rhythm of writing more quickly and also fill in any gaps as you go along.
I just got all the ethics and tips jam packed into one place. It clearly seems that such tips can be only from an experienced person who went through all these hassles and know how to survive it. This will go to help me in my PhD, I am going to bookmark this article and this website for the future reference. Thanks Dora for such amazing tips! Hi Amanda, thank you for your kind words. I am so glad that you found this article helpful.
I really acknowledge you for being so proactive about writing your thesis. It is possible to write your thesis and still have a balanced schedule if you plan in advance — I have seen it happen!
For science grad students starting with materials and methods is the easiest place to start, it can often get your creative juices flowing. This made me feel I was at least writing and I often found real gems in the writing or ideas that lead to some real substance. Good luck to those writing, it is so possible to finish, just keep visualizing handing in your finished dissertation!
Hi Audrey, thanks for pointing out the importance of starting with the methods section. Free writing is also a great way to break through writers block. The first 15 minutes may be a little bit challenging but after that the writing becomes easier, and the ideas start to flow. I know the pain of creating a thesis. You need to make hundreds of edits to make it perfect and shorter. I used to go out for a walk in the early morning and then come back and start writing my thesis.
It gives me fresh mind and help me to get my rhythm, then there were a long session of hours with 15 minutes break between them. Great tips for pursuing PhDs out there. Thank you Kim for sharing. I used to walk as well, multiple times a day too, especially when I was working on a challenging part of my thesis. In order to become successful and worthy, it is not just important, but also necessary that the future and careers of our generation are strongly grounded and vigorously premised on the precisions of solid and efficient education.
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Finishing Your Thesis When You Believe You Can’t “How do I force myself to write, when I can’t stand looking at my thesis anymore?” “I feel so guilty dragging my whole family down with this thesis writing, and I don’t even know when I’ll be done.”. This is the worst way to write your thesis. Writing your thesis in order can lead to several months of agonizing writer’s block. Don’t start writing your thesis by writing the abstract first. Instead, the abstract of your thesis should be the last section you write.