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How to Write a Better Thesis
by Brian Konradt
The idea of writing a thesis is terrifying for many people. Not only is it quite possibly the longest paper of your college career, its also the most important. A good thesis will essentially sum up the skills and knowledge youve acquired as a student and show readers that youre truly ready to enter your chosen field (or, perhaps, that you already have). Its an overwhelming task, to be sure, one that almost always needs a guiding light. The following tips will help you understand the process of thesis writing before you begin work on your masterpiece.
This is perhaps the most crucial element. Starting early (at least eight months to a year in advance of your presentation) enables you to try possible topic ideas and dig deep with your research. Come up with several research possibilities, and get your hands dirty immediately; sift through research related to these ideas, read as much as possible, see whats out there. In the course of this preliminary research, you may stumble upon an interesting fact or concept that youd like to make the focus of your entire thesis, even its a departure from your original plan. Starting early allows you to do that.
WRITE OUT OF ORDER
Though youll most certainly be expected to present your thesis in a pre-determined order, theres no law stating that you write in that same order. Start with what most interests you or with an area for which youve nailed down sufficient research. Write paragraph by paragraph; you can always go back and delete or change things if they dont fit later. But do make sure that youre always writing a little something. Even if it eventually gets trashed, you need to establish this sort of writing habit to stay productive and truly capture your voice.
UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
Unlike other student papers, the readership of your thesis is typically far greater than one professor. In addition to at least three professors, your thesis might also be scrutinized for possible publication, so you need to consider that audience as well. Most people reading your thesis will somehow be involved in your field, so write with the understanding that they know many of the things you do. That being said, dont expect them to know everything. If a piece of information isnt extremely common knowledge, make sure to include its back story. And even it is common knowledge, think for a minute about how its exclusion might affect your thesis. If your story is contingent on this piece of information, include it no matter what.
USE YOUR RESEARCH
Probably the most common problem with the early stages of thesis writing is the inability to support your claims. You need to back up every idea, result or claim in a thesis with data that logically supports it; it isnt enough to base a hypothesis on a simple hunch. If youre having difficulty finding data to support a point in your thesis, consider deleting it; not being able to support an idea might mean the idea isnt presently valid.
EDIT THE COPY AND CONTENT
Be prepared: youll probably spend almost as much time editing your thesis as you did writing it. Consider the content first: is your argument logical? Does each section make sense in relation to those before and after it? Is each bit of information relevant and backed up with supporting data? Are there repetitions? Does the style adhere with the audience? Then, move on to the copy: are there misspellings or punctuation and grammar mistakes? Run-on sentences? Are all your pronouns and antecedents crystal clear? Are the acronyms explained? Strive to make everything completely and perfectly understandable.