Students learning to write a master's thesis will discover that a core research question must first be presented and then answered. A master's thesis will be your most prominent postgraduate work to date, and a relevant research question that forms its backbone will take it from prosaic to meaningful.
Part 1 of 5: Choose a topic
Step 1. Think about what interests you
you will pass much time in this project, so it is essential that you choose a topic that really interests you. The common goals are as follows (ordered from most common and important to least relevant).
- To get a title: the subject must be complex enough, but also manageable.
- To enjoy the work: the subject must be one that you are really interested in, something that will not bore you after a short time.
- To get a job in the future: if you know what you want to do specifically after your studies or for what company, it might be useful to choose a topic that will help you in this goal.
- To be of use: The thesis could be useful to help you make the world a little better place.
Step 2. Generate thesis ideas
Start thinking about the field as a whole. Where are the gaps in the literature? What new analysis can you offer? Then think about what you enjoy about the field and what you have learned in school. Try to link the two to create a thesis that you like to write and is relevant.
- Think of your favorite study topic. It can be a particular author, a theory, a period of time, etc. Imagine how you could delve into the study of said topic.
- You might consider reviewing the documents you wrote in your undergraduate courses and determine if there are any apparent topics that you tend to lean towards.
- Consult with faculty members and your favorite professors. They might have good suggestions on what you should write. Generally, you will need to meet with your thesis advisor at least once before starting the work.
- Consider consulting with industry peers. Your favorite company might have some work to do, which you could complete as a master's thesis. This could also help you get a job with the company in the future and even earn some money from the job.
- If you want to help the world be a better place, you could check with a local charity or search the internet for possible dissertation topics that you can write about.
Step 3. Choose the right topic
Of the possible topics generated in the previous step, find the one that best suits the objectives established in the first step, especially those that are most important to you. Make sure you have a clear, specific, and organized plan for writing a thesis that you can defend.
Step 4. Choose your thesis question
Carefully consider different research questions for your master's thesis that generate important studies and questions for members of the academic community and their clients. In your master's thesis, you must answer the research question with conviction and clarity within the written presentation that you submit to complete the degree.
- You must be sure that the question and the answers you propose provide original content to the body of research that already exists. A sensible question will also keep your investigation focused, organized, and interesting.
- After formulating the topic and direction of the question, ask 5-10 different questions about the research you want. This will force you to think flexibly about the topic and to visualize how small changes in the wording can change the trajectory of the investigation.
Step 5. Conduct your research
In order to answer the central research question of your master's thesis, you will have to carry out the necessary study. Read texts, do experiments, and do whatever it takes to answer the question. This will allow you to see if your project is worth moving forward or if there are any inherent problems that you may need to resolve. It will also help you gather the information you need to move on to the next steps.
Step 6. Choose the members of your thesis committee
Generally, it is made up of three professors: a director (the "head" of the committee) and two readers. It is important to choose members that you get along with, who have enough time in their schedule to dedicate to your project, and whose area of expertise is relevant to the work you propose to carry out.
- Usually the membership committee will be set up before you formally start your thesis. They will be able to guide you and provide input on the project, so the sooner you get their attention, the better.
- There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to advance your thesis because of a professor who has so many obligations that he cannot set aside time to meet with you.
Part 2 of 5: Select your texts
Step 1. Do a literature review
Review the currently available literature and research that is relevant to your master's thesis. This review has to be comprehensive to ensure that your study is relevant and not redundant. It is important that your idea is original and relevant. In order to ensure that this is the case, you need to be aware of the context of your research, what others have said about the matter, and the general opinion on the matter. Take notes on the background information relating to your topic and the people involved in the available material.
Step 2. Choose your primary sources
They are the ones that were written by the person who created the idea, the story, the theory, the experiment, etc. These constitute the important factual basis that you will use in your master's thesis, especially if it will be analytical.
For example, both a novel written by Ernest Hemingway and an article in a scientific journal in which new discoveries are presented for the first time are considered primary sources
Step 3. Choose your secondary sources
These are the ones that write "about" the primaries. It is important to include them in your master's thesis because you will have to show that you have a good understanding of the critical context of your topic and that you understand what the most important scholars in your field have to say about it.
For example, both a book about Ernest Hemimgway's novel and an article in a scientific journal examining the results of someone else's experiment will be considered secondary sources
Step 4. Organize your appointments
Depending on your field, you will have to concentrate a large part of your research in an initial chapter of your thesis or you can include sources throughout the entire document. Either way, you will have to keep track of many different appointments. You should record them as you write, rather than adding them all after you've finished writing.
- Use the in-text citation format appropriate for your discipline. The most common are the MLA, APA and Chicago.
- Create an entry of works cited or references that corresponds to each source that you cite in the text of your document or in a footnote.
- Consider using an appointment planning software like EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero. These will allow you to insert and move them within your word processor, and they will automatically fill a page with works cited or included references.
Part 3 of 5: Make the plan and outline
Step 1. Know the requirements of your field or department
A thesis in Language has different requirements and uses other formats than one in Chemistry. There are two types of master's thesis:
- Qualitative: this type of thesis implies carrying out an exploratory, analytical or, in some way, creative project. Generally, humanities students will do this type of research.
- Quantitative: this type of thesis involves conducting experiments, measuring data and recording results. Science students often do this kind of study.
Step 2. Specify your thesis idea
Prepare a clear statement of the central research question of the thesis that you plan to answer with your study. It is important to be able to state it explicitly and clearly. If you have trouble stating it, you will probably have to rethink the entire project.
Step 3. Prepare an outline
This tool will help you "see where you are going" as you move forward with your project, but it will also give your committee members an idea of what you want to achieve and how you plan to do it.
Step 4. You have to know what to include
You should check with your university for their exact requirements. However, most master's theses should include the following:
- Title page
- Signature page (containing all the signatures of your advisory committee members, usually at the end of it or after the project is deemed complete)
- Summary: it is a small description (of one paragraph approximately) of the work that was carried out in the thesis.
- Table of contents (with page numbers)
- Body of work
- Cited works or bibliography
- Any appendix or final note
Part 4 of 5: Moving through the writing process
Step 1. Make a schedule
One approach that works for many people is to use a backwards calendar, in which you plan your writing schedule from the due date and work backwards. If you know how long you have to finish the project and break it down into manageable chunks with individual deadlines (either just for you or also for your committee chair), you will be less likely to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the work.
Step 2. Write a little every day
Finishing 30 pages in two weeks is a daunting task, but if you write 500 words every day, you can easily meet the deadline. Try not to get frustrated and do not put off your work because later it will accumulate and you will not be able to handle it.
Step 3. Try the Pomodoro Technique
Many people who find it difficult to get motivated and productive in their theses find it useful to work with “tomatoes” using the Pomodoro technique. The main idea is that you stay fully focused on your work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. This technique divides your time into manageable chunks and reduces the overwhelming feeling that usually accompanies a large, long-term project.
Step 4. Take breaks
Especially when you're working on a large-scale project, it's important to give your brain a rest from time to time. You can't stay focused and focused on work all the time without losing quality content. Stepping away from your ideas for a few days will provide a fresh perspective when you return to work. You will notice errors that you did not see before and you will find new answers that did not occur to you before.
Step 5. Find a time to write that is good for you
Some people work best in the morning while others can focus more effectively in the evening. If you are not sure at what time of the day you are most productive, try different schedules and discover which one is ideal for you.
Step 6. Write your introduction
You may find that your thesis proposal is a useful starting point for writing your introduction. You may want to cut and copy sections of your proposal for the beginning of the introduction, but remember that it is not a bad thing to change your ideas as you go along. It would be good if you reread it and revise it several times during your writing process; maybe every time you finish a large section or chapter.
Step 7. Incorporate the literature review
If you were asked to write a literature review before starting your thesis, good news, you have almost a whole chapter written! It is worth mentioning again that you may have to rephrase, revise your work, and add more content to it as you progress with your research.
If you haven't yet written a literature review, it's time for you to do your research! In essence, it is a summary of existing academic work on your topic with several direct quotes from primary and secondary sources that you will include for reference
Step 8. Contextualize your work
After reviewing existing academic papers, you should explain how yours contributes to them; In other words, you will explain what it is that you are bringing to the field with your study.
Step 9. Write your thesis
The remainder of the job varies greatly depending on your field of study. A science thesis will incorporate few secondary sources as what remains will involve the description and presentation of a study. In contrast, a literature thesis will likely continue to cite secondary scholarly work as it builds an analysis or perspective on one or more particular texts.
Step 10. Write a powerful conclusion
Your conclusion should detail the importance of this master's thesis to the community and may suggest the direction that future research could take to continue with relevant information on the topic.
Step 11. Add additional information
Be sure to include relevant charts, graphs, and figures as you need them. You may have to add appendices at the end of the work that are related to your work but are tangential to the central question of the thesis. Make sure that all parts of your work follow the format established by the guidelines of your institution or discipline.
Part 5 of 5: Finish your thesis
Step 1. Compare your draft with the requirements of your university
The formatting requirements for theses and dissertations are known to be tedious and complicated. Make sure your documents adhere to everything that your department, in general, and your committee chairman, in particular, requires.
Many departments or programs provide a document template for theses and dissertations. If you have one for thesis, the easiest thing would be to use it from the beginning (instead of copying and pasting what you wrote)
Step 2. Reread the entire thesis to verify that it is correct
If you can, take a week or two off after you've finished writing and give your brain a break. Then come back with a fresh perspective to discover any typing or grammatical mistakes you might have made. When you're deep in the writing process, you often only read what you meant to say rather than what you actually wrote. So it's important to steer clear in order to be able to evaluate your work and your writing more effectively.
Alternatively, you can ask a trusted colleague or friend to read your thesis and help you find any grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or typing errors
Step 3. Follow all printing instructions according to your department's policies
You will probably have to pay (out of pocket) to print one or more copies of your master's thesis for your university, as well as any other personal copies you would like for yourself. Make sure to follow the instructions to avoid any possible setbacks during this final phase.
Step 4. Prepare to support your thesis
After completing the written part of your master's thesis, you will probably have to participate in a presentation that consists of presenting the ideas discussed in your research in front of your committee members. This is a great opportunity to show what you have learned during the process and give committee members a chance to voice any questions or concerns they might have. Sustainment is generally more like a conversation than a defense of your position, as it might be understood from the name.
Step 5. Present your thesis
Your institution likely has very specific instructions for submitting papers. Most universities ask you to upload your thesis to ProQuest to publish it electronically (or at least have it registered) through their dissertation and thesis archive. Be sure to follow the specific submission rules for your college.
- Some institutions ask you to submit your thesis for a format review before uploading the document to ProQuest. Don't forget to ask your department's graduate director for specific instructions.
- Keep in mind when the thesis deadlines are, which are generally well before your graduation date. Filing it late could force you to postpone it, which, in turn, could affect your employment or your ongoing graduate studies.
- A thorough review of the literature and available research on similar topics will prevent you from wasting time on reviews that take a long time before submitting your work.
- Remember why you are writing a master's thesis and who you want to read and use the material. A master's thesis is written for your community, so keep in mind that its members will have a lot of knowledge and experience before reading your work. Don't bore them with unnecessary materials.
- Choosing the perfect research question before you start your research will save you frustration and time. Making a rigorous effort to find the ideal research question is probably the most important task when learning to write a master's thesis.
- Consult with other people who have done a master's thesis and obtained the degree. It can be a long and tiring process, and the support and advice of someone who has already been through it could be invaluable.