7 Thesis Writing Tips I Wish My Sleep-Deprived College Self Knew

A quick guide to acing your thesis.
by Leika Golez   |  Nov 17, 2022
Image: Pexels Art: Faye Umali
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It goes without saying that completing your final thesis paper is a tough challenge. The whole process involves combing through countless research papers, organizing complex arguments, and proofreading nearly a hundred pages. Having experienced that firsthand in my senior year, I can confirm that thesis season does feel like a little slice of hell. But no matter how impossible your thesis may seem, don't fret—it's totally manageable with a positive mindset, a consistent work ethic, and a few pro tips from a proud thesis survivor (aka me).

Ahead, I've listed seven thesis writing tips I wish my sleep-deprived college self knew:

1. Start planning early.

If my memory serves me right, I had the whole first semester to complete my thesis project with two groupmates. Four months may seem like a long time for one research paper, but time and time again, I found myself wishing that I started thinking about my thesis earlier. Everything would have been a lot easier had I planned out a calendar and some topic outline proposals even before the semester began. 

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2. Organization is key.

It's necessary to organize all the files you'll need to accomplish your thesis, from your first-ever draft to that online research journal you're planning to use for your RRL. It's not enough to simply compile all your documents—you'll need to sort out each one in a system that you'll *actually* remember. For my thesis, my groupmates and I made a Google Drive that contained all our drafts and research, but we still found it difficult to navigate the folders because we didn't talk about how to categorize everything beforehand. It was only halfway through our project when we realized that we should have probably made a masterfile of important links that we can reference when necessary.

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3. Time block and break down tasks. 

When that to-do list seems daunting, break down assignments into smaller tasks that you can accomplish little by little every day. It also helps to assign specific days or time slots for certain parts so you build a work routine that works for you. For example, your goal for this month is to finish the first half of your thesis paper draft. List down all the particular parts and subheadings you'll have to write, then allot a reasonable number of words per day. Outline the intro on Monday, look for research papers on Tuesday—you know the rest!

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4. Don't underestimate the RRL. 

I'm not sure if others can relate, but I personally found the RRL the most challenging part of my thesis paper. I initially thought it would be easy because it's basically just paraphrasing research articles you found online, right? Nope. I could only write a single sentence after flipping through pages of research, and it doesn't help that everything is so heavy on theory. My advice: Don't expect to finish your whole RRL in one go, and don't even attempt to cram it the night before your submission. Write a few paragraphs per day, give your brain cells some time to recover, then write a bit more after a good night's sleep.

5. Brush up on your citation knowledge.

Don't forget to cite your sources properly! After asking your thesis adviser what citation style to use, look for it on Purdue Owl and study the full guide. Remember: Different sources call for different citation formats!

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6. Ask others to read your work.

I'm not just talking about your thesis adviser. You can ask anyone to read your work, whether that's your mom, your BFF, and even your other professors. They don't need to be experts in your chosen topic to give good feedback that can help polish your work. Any fresh pair of eyes will do!

7. Rest.

Last but definitely not the least, please rest. Treat yourself to something special after a long day of writing—take a long bath, re-watch your favorite rom-com, and get a full eight hours of sleep. Your draft will still be there tomorrow, and you'll be thanking yourself for that well-deserved recharge the following morning.

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Leika Golez
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