What You Need To Know If You’re About To Start A Thesis

Never too early to start thinking about the biggest assignment you'll ever do.

A law thesis? No way. Heck, I even changed to an “integrated Law Honours degree” so I wouldn’t ‘have’ to write one. However, after capping off my arts degree last year with Honours in French, here I am now about to tackle thesis #2, this time for law.

Call me crazy but I learned a lot through last year’s experience. Here are some things to keep in mind for anyone thinking on embarking on the thesis adventure.

Pick A Topic That Interests You

This may seem obvious but I can’t stress its importance enough. This thesis is gonna be your baby for the semester/year. While there will be times when you wish it’d just go away but your unconditional love for it will draw you back with open arms (or agile fingers).

Your Supervisor Is Your Best Friend

You finally have the supervisor of your dreams. Indeed, they will be the most important person to accompany you on your thesis journey. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions or send them work even if you don’t think it’s top quality. Accept their criticism, they’ve written many a paper themselves and they are there to guide you through your first. They are the key to your success so take heed of everything they have to say.

Keep Seeing Your Other Friends Too

Writing a thesis can become a very isolating process. There are no lectures or tutes to attend and you’re in absolute control of how you use your time. “Eat, sleep, thesis, repeat” may work for the odd few, but for the rest of us, we need to proactively set time aside to have fun with friends. Their support and temporary distraction is crucial.

Force yourself to talk about something other than that pesky section of the Constitution (s44 I’m looking at you) that has consumed your life for the past week. While you may think it’s the most interesting thing ever, chances are that others aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about it. Go for a walk, brunch it up – whatever works to get you outta your thesis cave.

Track Your Sources

Right from the beginning of your research take note of all the journal articles, book chapters and internet sites that you come across. Resources like Endnote and Zotero are absolute gems in keeping sources in order. Also, take a moment to summarise the main points in each reading. You may think it’s a waste of time, but it’ll actually save you time when it comes to the writing stage. By then you’ll have so many sources and won’t remember what each of them was about! Indeed, instead of re-reading the whole source, you’ll have your short summary which will help you decide whether it might contain the key evidence that you need.

Set Small Goals

Your thesis is perhaps the biggest piece of work you’ve ever had to complete during your undergrad studies and I’m not gonna deny that its immensity did instil fear in me for a good while.

To stop yourself from getting overwhelmed, set yourself small achievable goals. Whether it’s finding a handful of sources, reading some articles or writing a few hundred words, achieving these little goals will give you that satisfaction of completing something, however small it may be. Once you compile all those little pieces of work, you’ll suddenly have a whole thesis. Now that’s really something to be proud of.

Submission Day

Relax, proofread, make those final edits, then submit. And breathe. Reflect a little about the year/semester you just had. Breathe again. Then grab a beer, you deserve it.

(Lead image: The Simpsons/FOX)