What do students fear the most before graduation? Is it the lack of experience, a critical feedback or challenging assignments? My experience as a SAE teacher tells me, that it is the thesis – a dissertation on a chosen subject in which one has done research and which is presented by a candidate for a diploma or degree. Writing a thesis can become a nightmare, unless you follow a bunch of practical tips that can help you to structure the process of putting it together. After all, the thesis is a really good thing! It will teach you how to plan, execute and present your projects to a wider audience.
Text and image by Joanna Wroblewska
As a student, I was an excellent writer. Realistic thinking and reasonable planning helped me to accomplish on time not only my Master’s, but also the PhD thesis. Later on, I had an opportunity to support a number of students in their creative journey with writing. Being a candidate for a diploma might be very stressful and there is always a bit of pressure created by deadlines. For some students, it is an overwhelming feeling that blocks them and does not allow them to graduate on time. Following a couple of extremely simple tips can help you to deal with stress and write your dissertation calmly and mindfully. Just take a deep breath in and read carefully!
Make a choice
Making choices is not an easy thing. Many times, I saw students struggling with picking a theme for their thesis. Most likely, you are interested in many different aspects of the subject that you study and have a thousand ideas on which you could write. If you feel like you could cover all those topics, you will probably end up struggling with this first basic step. Making a decision always means saying “no” to many things, while you say “yes” to a minority.
Never concentrate on things that are boring to you, try to make writing exciting and fun. Treat it as an adventure and learn from it! My suggestion would be to make a list of general areas of expertise that excite you. Then pick one of them and write down three themes that you could cover: Do you find these topics interesting enough? Do these ideas have the right potential for a thesis? Is there a relevant information available both offline and online about the chosen themes? Make notes and ask your SAE advisors for feedback. They will be happy to help you with picking the right theme.
As you probably realize, writing your thesis will take time. It won’t be possible to finish it within one day, one week or even one month. Take a moment to sit down calmly and make a plan. Ask yourself a bunch of questions, like: What resources do I need to access to write my thesis? Am I going to interview people or make surveys? How much time do I need to analyze the research results? You can write a general plan using the Inverse Engineering Method* – it will give you a bigger picture regarding how much time it will take you to write the thesis. Remember, that you always set the plan for yourself and that it is flexible. Do not hesitate to modify it according to your needs.
While planning, it is good to set the milestones – the main steps in your project. A milestone could be, for instance, interviewing five professionals or closing a chapter. This kind of framework will help you to create a structure for your research project and make you feel both confident and safe. Moreover, achieving each milestone will make you feel very, very well.
Planning activities around your project and setting milestones should be realistic. We often tend to be to optimistic about how it will all go. Leave yourself some space to do other things and rest. By all means, do not plan important activities for the last moment. What we want here is not getting into negative thinking like “I will never finish on time”, but rather a pragmatic analysis of what can happen on the way and what kind of difficulties could slow down the process of writing.
Have a plan B
Having a good plan B will help you to deal with diverse problems on the way. You might think that it is a bit exaggerated, but imagine that you have a date set for interviewing somebody, who unfortunately gets sick. You will need to plan a new meeting, but of course it takes time. Do you have enough time to make a new appointment? Will you have another week to run a survey, if the first one will not turn out to be good? Predict what could happen and search for simple, realistic solutions to problems that you can potentially face while doing research and writing your thesis.
Finally, always remember that SAE supports you in accomplishing all sorts of projects, including the complex process of writing a thesis. If you feel lost, ask for advice! Managers, advisors and teachers will help you with avoiding common mistakes and dealing with difficulties, so do not give up, keep calm and write!
* You start out the planning with the finished product and go backwards, retracing the method to find out how to accomplish it.