How to Deal with Thesis Life

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Thesis forms an integral and inevitable part of your academic study. Even if you do not have to write a Thesis per se, you usually still have to conduct some kind of a special final project. And let’s face it, this phase is not easy. But fret not, our Editor Anissa will share some of her best tips for managing your thesis life. Happy researching and writing!

As a college student, at the end of the day, there is one thing that you most likely cannot escape: writing your thesis! It is a challenging process, but with some arrangements, you don’t have to stress too much! Here are some tips on how to manage your thesis life.

1.Take a mental note of your deadline and establish a working timeline
Establish in your mind from very early on that your thesis is a project with a limited time frame. It has to be submitted at a certain point. But to finish on time, it is not enough just to take a mental note of your final thesis submission date.

You should start setting manageable deadlines for each stage of your thesis. Breakdown your workload into smaller chunks and set a realistic deadline for each – do not forget to set aside good time for proofreading (you need fresh eyes to spot gaps or typos in your writing) and aim to submit at least a day prior to deadline (anticipating unwanted things, such as technical issues).

An example of working timeline for a thesis which must be finished in 3 months can look something like this:

FINAL DEADLINE: 20 September 2018

  • topic finalization and approval from supervisor (deadline: 15 May 2018);
  • literature review (deadline: 18 June 2018, 2 weeks after final exams);
  • data collection (deadline: 25 July 2018);
  • writing chapter 1 (deadline: 10 August 2018);
  • writing chapter 2 (deadline: 20 August 2018);
  • writing chapter 3 (deadline 1 September 2018);
  • finalizing introduction and conclusion (13 September 2018);
  • proofreading (18 September 2018);
  • final submission (19 September 2018).

This exercise will not only help ensure you stay on track, but allow your mind to be more organized. Oftentimes, we procrastinate or fail to meet our deadlines because our minds are too cluttered or because we think the task at hand is too large.

Mark these deadlines on your personal calendar – in your desk, in your laptop desktop background, your phone… anywhere that is visible to you daily!

2.Map your ideas, and then just begin writing!

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-25 at 11.58.18Sometimes, we find it difficult to write despite having ideas in our heads. Maybe we feel we don’t have the perfect sentences or have so much to say yet we do not know where to start!

One solution to this is a mind map. Find the few key words that represent your topic or research question in a certain order (it’s best to follow your plan for the thesis structure), then write everything you want to share about each keyword in several branches. You might also include some quotes or author names to represent the literature relevant to each key word. Update the mind map anytime you have an idea, find an important quote in literature, etc.

After you make your mind map, just begin scribbling down sentences to elaborate on your selected key words. You do not need to begin with perfect sentences, you just need to begin. If you get organized (refer to tip #1 above), you will have plenty of time to edit and perfect the sentences later.

3.Manage your energy and your time
Some people can constantly work on their thesis – disregarding the body’s cry for sleep or proper meals, while others procrastinate like crazy and only work when they ‘feel like doing it’.

I would say that we should find our balance. The former may burn out if not careful, while the latter may fail to submit their thesis on time. For the ‘random energy spikes type’, please note that working (only) when your energy is on the peak can be very tiring – it can drain you, as you might work hours and hours without stopping at the time when you feel like working. Not to mention the side effect: it will take time to start to work on a new target because you feel like you need as much time as you like to recover from finishing your previous target.

How then can we find our balance? First, know your working hours. Are you more a morning person or a midnight owl? Identify times where your energy for working is at its peak, and discipline yourself to write your thesis at that time. Second, set your working duration. It can be two hours a day, four hours a day, anything that suits your needs. Try to commit to a minimum time to work every day and try to not exceed your committed working duration, even when you feel like you are on fire. Give yourself enough rest, hearty meals, time to exercise, time to socialize or do your other hobbies. Third, try to always finish in the area that is interesting for you to explore or to continue writing the next day. This will make you feel like you cannot wait to continue to work on your thesis – and without you realizing, now you are committed to working on your thesis day by day!

4.Keep working partner(s) to motivate you and keep you in check
If you have friends who are also doing her/his thesis around the same time as you are, then do not hesitate to ask her/him to be your thesis partner. This partnership is a mutual symbiosis – you can keep each other on track and remind each other of looming deadlines. Not to mention he/she could also be your thought partner for issues in your thesis or a companion to have meals/coffee breaks with.

However, remember to choose your working partners wisely (those with a calming effect on you or who inspire you) and to hold your end of the bargain. The last thing you want is having working partner(s) who derail your progress, or vice versa you becoming a hindrance for theirs.

5.Find your favorite place(s) to work!

2460047B-F530-48D1-A830-37451760E0A5The good thing about thesis is that you usually don’t have to attend classes so you do not have to stick around your campus area. The right place can create the right mood to work, so now you can experiment a bit. If you usually stick to working at your library, you can try switching it up – your own desk at home, a co-working space, a library, a coffee shop or restaurant (especially those providing plug-in and wi-fi), a park, so many different options! When you get stuck, working in a new ambiance may help.

Photos are provided by the author.