The Dos & Don’ts of Writing a Masters Thesis

Writing a Masters Thesis is one of the most challenging tasks that any student is likely to face. It seems like a huge, insurmountable challenge, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you approach it in the right way. Here are a few helpful dos and don’ts for writing your thesis.

  • Do get started as soon as possible. The sooner you start thinking about your topic and begin narrowing down your short list the better. Once you have nailed down the topic of your thesis you will have a solid foundation on which to start – not to mention more time to work on it!
  • Don’t expect to get it over with quickly. A thesis is not something that can be knocked out quickly in order to get it out of the way. In fact, it is likely to take more than one semester if you properly research it. Be prepared to spend a massive amount of time with your thesis topic!
  • Do ask questions and talk things through with your professors. This might seem like it is contradicting the previous point, but although your advisors and professors are not there to guide you step by step through the process that doesn’t mean that you cannot ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to talk through your thoughts. Your professors will offer guidance where it is appropriate to do so and sometimes just sharing your thoughts is helpful in getting things straight in your own mind.
  • Don’t expect your advisor to hold your hand through the process. They are not there to walk you through the whole process. While they can offer you advice and guidance, you cannot expect them to meet with you every day. You are going to have to do the bulk of the work on your own, so do not expect a large amount of help.
  • Do be prepared to rewrite everything several times. Your thesis is not something that you can complete in a single draft. You need to be prepared to rewrite everything several times. This includes everything from your proposal to your bibliography and all of your chapters. It is important to develop a good filing system and naming convention to identify your drafts from the outset. You will want to keep every version in case you need to revert to a previous version of one section.
  • Don’t choose the thesis option if you are not a strong writer. If you are not a strong writer, or if you do not particularly enjoy writing then it is very likely that a thesis option is not the best course of action for you to be taking. It is important to think about whether or not you have the skills to be able to cope with a writing task of this magnitude.
  • Do try to think of your thesis as a process rather than just a piece of work to complete. You will get more out of your thesis if you are fully invested in it. The research and writing process is something that can help with both your personal and professional development.
  • Don’t choose a thesis option to avoid sitting an exam. If you are considering the thesis option because you don’t like exams or believe that you do not test well then you are not choosing to do a thesis for the right reasons and you are likely to struggle. You may also find that faculty members will not agree to advise you if you cite this as a reason for taking the thesis route.
  • Do make sure that you are fully aware of how much work is going to be involved. Writing your masters thesis is probably going to be one of the hardest things that you will have to tackle during your academic career. It takes a great deal of time and effort and will add extra time on to the length of your degree program.
  • Don’t assume that finding a faculty member to advise you will be easy. Faculty members are not obligated to advise a thesis and if they think that your masters thesis is not an appropriate fit they will decline. You need an adviser to complete your thesis, so make sure you consider your topic carefully and that the thesis route is the most appropriate one for you.