Writing a good thesis statement can be extremely difficult, but it usually signals the end of a long road. Most theses are turned in at the end of undergraduate or graduate school.
It’s an accomplishment to celebrate, and for students who are just beginning to write theirs, this article could help make the thesis process a little less stressful.
Related: How to apply for student loans
Some undergraduate programs do not require students to do a thesis. Other programs may require an undergraduate thesis to be completed as part of an Honors program. Other schools may offer the thesis as a voluntary option for students.
Doing a thesis gives students the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic they’re interested in and gain research and writing skills that may assist them later in life.
Students who are considering doing a thesis during undergrad should be aware of the time commitment. An undergraduate thesis is usually 40 to 60 pages long and takes about a year to complete. Typically, this is done during a student’s senior year.
Another difference between an undergraduate and graduate thesis is that an undergraduate thesis isn’t expected to reach the same level of originality as a graduate thesis is.
An undergrad thesis is less about presenting new ideas and more about displaying critical thinking skills and an ability to conduct thorough research, bringing together ideas from many sources.
The requirements for completing an undergraduate thesis may vary depending on the school and program that a student is enrolled in. Completing a thesis during undergrad can potentially be helpful for students who are interested in going to graduate school.
Successfully completing a thesis can highlight a student’s ability to tackle a large research project and potentially even illustrate how committed the student is to attending graduate school.
The terminology of post-graduate work can be confusing, with both thesis and dissertations being used for different programs. Generally, in the U.S., we refer to a thesis for the project completed at the end of a Master’s program, and a dissertation is the completion of a Ph.D. program.
Not every Master’s program requires a thesis to graduate. Some students may not want to focus on research, and instead they may have the opportunity to do some real-world work during their Master’s program.
For students who choose to do a thesis, this will be an intensive research project that focuses on a specific topic. A Master’s thesis typically ranges from 60 to 100 pages in length, and requires the student to research both primary and secondary sources to support their argument.
All this work may seem like a heavy burden for a student to complete on their own, but they’ll usually have an advisor to assist them throughout the entire process.
Each school and individual program may have different thesis requirements, so students who are just getting started may consider reviewing requirements with a program administrator or their thesis advisor.
Whether the thesis is for undergrad or a Master’s program, there are some general tips that can be followed that might help make this monumental task a bit easier.
1. Understanding the Why
Writing a thesis, whether for undergrad or graduate school, is a big undertaking.
It can help students to cope better with the amount of work when they understand why they’re doing it, what the purpose of the thesis is. This is different from selecting the topic. It’s about how the thesis will benefit them in the long-run.
Writing a thesis can help show that the student has developed professional research and writing skills as well as a refined knowledge of their topic of study. These skills will stay with students for life and may be of use in their career.
Should the student choose to pursue a doctoral program, these skills will almost certainly come in handy as they work on their dissertation.
2. Researching How to Write a Thesis
Research both how to research and how to write before getting started on the thesis itself. Students may want to consider reading up on how to write a thesis even before they start the program. Some recommendations suggest exploring this topic about six to 12 months before starting the actual thesis research.
Getting your bearings on the process could help make it feel a little less overwhelming. Students may want to checkin in with their thesis advisor when looking for resources, as they may have helpful recommendations for sources or suggest reading that is specific to your field of study.
3. Choosing a Topic Carefully
This step can be stressful for students. A thesis topic has to be specific, but not so much so that students can’t find any research on it to support their argument. If their topic is too broad, it won’t be original enough.
Students can get help from their advisors and look into the most recent research that’s being done on their potential topic to help them narrow down exactly what they’d like to work on.
4. Reading Often
Another tip for writing a successful thesis is to read often. Reading often can help students cultivate ideas and develop more creative thinking. Even if the topics aren’t always within the students core area of research, they can still contribute to helping the student branch out and come up with a creative thesis topic.
5. Creating Citations Over Time
Writing a thesis means using primary and secondary sources to support an argument. Students will need to cite their sources and include a bibliography or works cited with their thesis.
It could save students a headache if they build their citations over time. This involves taking notes and organizing their sources as they go instead of doing this all at the end.
Also make note of the format required for your citations. Depending on the field of study, students may be required to use American Psychological Associate (APA), Modern Language Associate (MLA) or Chicago Manual Style (CMS).
There are digital services available to students that can help streamlining the citation process. Check in with your advisor to see if they have any insight to share. Some citation managers to consider might be EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero.
6. Building a Relationship with Your Advisor
Students can benefit from building a strong relationship with their thesis advisor. The advisor will generally be overseeing the process, answering questions and giving feedback and constructive criticism to the student.
It may be more comfortable receiving this feedback if students have developed a positive relationship with their advisor.
7. Writing and Rewriting
Writing a little bit every day can help turn this big project into more manageable pieces. Students should get in the habit of writing, rewriting and editing their work regularly. Making improvements constantly will be easier than having to make improvements to the whole thesis at the end.
It may also be helpful to create an outline for the thesis. Consider including the topics of interest and organizing them into sections. This could be a helpful tool to help you stay on task with writing and researching.
8. Staying Healthy, Mentally and Physically
Coping with the stress of writing a Master’s or undergraduate thesis can be difficult. However, if physical and mental health are neglected for the sake of getting work done, the work will suffer in the long run.
While students can be hyper-focused on their thesis work. It is helpful to also prioritize their physical and mental health by getting adequate sleep, staying active and eating well.
If the stress becomes unmanageable, students may consider seeing a counselor. Some universities offer health services and counseling on-site.
Refinancing Student Loans
Undergraduate and graduate studnts who are completiting a thesis have more in common than just thesis writing. Both students may have taken out student loans, and maybe they’ve already begun the process of trying to pay them off.
After college, students often turn their sights to be looking for work, hoping to make enough money to make their loan payments. But aside from trying to snag a well-paying job, students who are eligible may want to consider refinancing their student loans as a strategy to streamline their loan repayment.
Refinancing a student loan means paying it off with another loan. Ideally, the new loan has a lower interest rate or better repayment terms. The benefits of refinancing private student loans will depend on a variety of factors, like interest rates and income.
It’s usually not recommended to refinance federal student loans because these come with benefits like income-driven repayments and loan forgiveness that won’t be available if they’re refinanced by a private lender.
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