Generic Advice For Writing A Thesis

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General Advice for Writing a Thesis
- 2018/05/07

I have some generic thesis-writing advice to supplement that given by your supervisor, but only if it's welcome.

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That's not really accurate
but there isn't yet a more
obviously correct option.


Writing a thesis is a skill all of its own, additional to doing the actual work, and additional to presenting the work. It's important that you learn this skill as early as you possibly can.

And it's very definitely a skill, and skills can only ever be acquired by practising them. This is no different. You need to write, write, write, and write some more. You need to write thesis-type presentations of trivial results, and be prepared to throw it away. What you've written is not valuable, the fact that you've written it is what matters.

This is where we need to point out that the advice here is not on how to write a thesis aimed at future readers. No, this is advice on how to write a thesis to get your degree. It's different.

Writing is about communication, but that means knowing your audience. Regrettably, for a thesis the audience is not future readers. No, it is the examiners.

So clarity and focus are not always valued when writing a thesis.

Know your audience, and know your purpose.

The style of writing required for a thesis is unlike any other, and it differs from subject to subject, degree to degree. A Masters degree is different from a PhD, but broadly speaking we can say this: the writing needs to be clear, complete, and methodical, but it also needs to shout


Writing up results that don't matter and getting into the style means that later, when you're desperately panicking about getting everything finished, you can concentrate on the content.

Because you will already have the skill to write it well.

This is hard to do!

Dedicating time now to something that feels like it won't be needed for a long time is really tough - I find it nearly impossible. But it will save so much time and stress later.

Be persistent! Dedicate 15 to 30 minutes to this, three times a week.

Make it a habit.

Other advice ...

In addition to the advice about the writing, there are a few other things. You need to take control of all the mechanical aspects. Make friends with whoever's going to print it for you, and make sure you know what file set up they will need. Check deadlines, turnaround times, busy periods, can they deliver, etc., etc. Doing all that in advice will save you huge amounts of stress.

But the big thing is to start writing.

And above all, good luck!

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