Thesis writing tips – A guide to writing a good thesis project

To ease your lot, we have asked eight former students to share their wisdom regarding thesis writing. In this article, you will find nine tips that are worth considering before starting the thesis.

Alisa Pleska

It can be quite daunting starting you final thesis. Therefore, we asked former students to give their best tips on writing the final thesis project. Hopefully these tips will help you tackle your thesis with confidence!

9 good tips on thesis writing

Excelerate Balance your topic interest with practicalities

It is highly important that you choose a topic that really interests you. You will have to immerse yourself in this project from three to six months (maybe even longer) so losing interest quickly will be a sure way to make the writing process unbearable.

Pick an interesting and contemporary topic – it’s easier to write about something you personally enjoy. Plus, it is easier to get extra data from the media when the topic is contemporary.

Former student

However, your chosen thesis topic should also be realistic to overcome. You need to consider the data availability, the possibilities for interviews, and your access to information. Otherwise you will struggle backing up your arguments and structuring your thesis.

Here you can check out good thesis topic examples from students.

Make sure you choose a thesis topic you are personally keen to write about. Determine if there are enough resources to write about your subject. This will take time and you might dump a lot of good ideas in the beginning but it is a lot better than being halfway into your project without any new good material.

Former student
Graphic by Fausto Bottini

Excelerate Team-working with your peers

A lot of students write their thesis together with one or two peers. This is a great way to write a diverse thesis and it’s always nice to have someone to work with when things get tough. However, I recommend that you take time to think about who to work with. Experience with working together is a good indicator that the teamworking process will be successful.   

If you decided to work in groups, make sure you choose the right people and discuss all nuances/expectations before the actual project so there will be no misunderstanding between each other. Most resemble friendly and adequate before the actual work starts.

Former student

Beyond that, communication is key. Especially before finding a thesis collaboration with a company. Thus, make sure to align your expectations with each other, to begin with. And do not be afraid of the elephant in the room. Here you can read more about which role you play in a group setting.

Do not write a thesis with a person if you were not together in groups before. You might have the same thesis idea, but the strategy and methodology could be completely opposite.

Former student

Choose your supervisor wisely! Use your semester projects to get to know professors and fitting support for your thesis.

Former student

Excelerate Find a supervisor you communicate well with

Let us delve deeper into the topic of being on the same page with your supervisor. The majority of the interviewed former students have mentioned this ticklish matter in one way or another. A good supervisor can give you the right recommendations, constructive criticism and push you to write the best thesis. On the contrary, a supervisor you’re not on the same page with can cause conflict and hamper your progress.  

Here, communication can be a lifesaver – speak out, discuss, talk over, thrash the matter out prior to and through the thesis writing to come to a common denominator.

Find a compromise between your and a supervisor’s expectations! Setting up expectations, in the beginning, might be a key step for a frictionless thesis writing process.

Former student

Remember that a supervisor is there to help and lead you, so use this possibility in full to boost your thesis writing.

Do not be shy, better to be this “annoying” person, who always asks questions to your university advisor.

Former student
Thesis Writing
Thesis writing. Photo by Fausto Bottini

Often, procrastination is not about laziness, it is about uncertainty – “what to write” and “how to write”? Write down key questions and assumptions you have and schedule meetings with your supervisor. Do it consistently. While it is your job to write a thesis, supervision helps you to get through the uncertainty and become confident in your work.

Former student

Excelerate Time management and setting priorities

The most frequent advice to facilitate thesis writing is to establish a writing routine. Importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all method, so just pick what suits you best.

For me, it helped to meet others or to go to the library at specific times during the day.

Former student

You have probably submitted several semester projects, maybe even written a bachelor project, before starting your thesis. Now is the time to make use of the acquired writing experience! In hindsight, what would you do differently to make the writing process smoother?

Instead of pushing yourself to a whole-day writing mode, assign your own ‘writing hour’ – a recurrent 2-3 hour time slot every workday would bring more gain than pain.

Former student

Do not discard your existing routine because your peers do something different. The suggestions from ‘The Miracle Morning’ book bestseller might be efficient, but if you are a natural-born night owl it might be easier to build the writing routine around the existing patterns. Whatever your routine choice will be, keep in mind that everything boils down to being consistent.

Excelerate Update your bibliography continuously

They say ”save the best for last”. But this sure doesn’t apply to bibliographies. References, sources and organizing them correctly is just as important as the rest of the thesis and thinking it doesn’t take time is setting yourself up for sleepless nights close to the deadline. Do not trick yourself with false hopes and take notes from this point from former students!

“Begin working on your sources from early on. Use reference management tools like Mendeley”.

Former student
Student writing thesis bibliography
Begin working on your sources and bibliography for your thesis early on. Photo by Fausto Bottini

Importantly, when sources are hastily sorted, there is a risk you miss some references. By turn, this results in severe consequences like plagiarism. On the other hand, do not try to fool anyone and prettify your bibliography, expanding it with non-related sources.

“It seems obvious, but be familiar with all the information you include in the thesis. You should be able to clarify and argue about all the material you have in your project. If needed, you should also be able to explain your project in a simplified way.”

Former student

Excelerate Organising and outlining your thesis

The thesis is a long process and losing track and your overview can happen easily. Thus, creating a plan, structure, framework – name it what you want – for your thesis-writing-process can save you a lot of distress and anguish. Having some guide in front of your eyes in the form of a possible table of contents can help keep your train of thought on track.

“Start with a ‘bigger picture’: create a structure for your thesis. You might follow a generic structure like IMRaD – introduction, methodology, results, and discussion to create a ‘skeleton’ of your thesis. Under each chapter, put a sentence or two indicating what you intend to write about. This helps create a ‘bird’s-eye’ view of your work, and you will be more ready to start filling the chapters in.”

Former student
Thesis collaboration interview between students and a company representative.
Thesis collaboration interview between students and a company representative. Photo by Fausto Bottini

Importantly, before coming to the backbone of the subject, you need to gain enough understanding of your thesis area. It means that you need to read, research, sift through a pile of articles, and read some more. 

“It might seem unproductive, but the first few weeks, or even months, you might not be able to write a few pages every day. Pages count, but what counts more is all the reading you do early in the process.”

Former student

It might take you some time to build a strong foundation for profound text. So, do not have any qualms about empty pages; it is coming.

Excelerate Stay confident and stay positive

A thesis is the highlight of your education. And I know that you want to knock this out of the park. But you can’t turn in a superb thesis is you’re not taking care of yourself. Tellingly, you need to develop some good habits. You can read more about 5 good habits for students to adapt.

“Exercise! Yoga practice, a run in the park, or a long walk, will all help to clear your head and prepare you for another day of writing. Stay sane by going for walks in nature – the green color calms us down.”

Former student
Student relaxing during thesis writing
Remember to relax – yoga practice is one of many activities that can help.

More haste, less speed! Do not push your body and state of mind to the breaking point. Try your best to avoid long-term sleep deprivation and stress by organizing your thesis writing process deliberately. You are your one and only asset.

“Treat yourself sometimes, it is very important!”

Former student

Excelerate Overcoming procrastination and dealing with writer’s block

As you probably already know, your thesis process will not be smooth-sailing. Despite doing everything to try and avoid hurdles, your need to prepare yourself for periods of  procrastination and times where getting a single sentence down on paper can take hours.

Remember that it’s totally normal and that you aren’t the only student experiencing doubt and struggles. If you want to prepare yourself you can read about our tips to overcoming writer’s block and how to stop procrastinating.

Excelerate Celebrate your progress

Lastly, this is not a tip but rather a soothing reminder that all students go through more or less the same experience. You are not the first to procrastinate; find relief in sweets and food; treat yourself for one written paragraph and hope that lighting up candles will set up the right mood. Inhale and exhale. Step-by-step, thought-by-thought, and word-by-word, you will get there!

“You are still probably going to stay the whole night in the library before handing it in (smile).”

Former student

“Bean me up, sugar! Yes, sugar and caffeine support you when you are tired. Still, try to remember that there is a life after where your body and teeth are still part of yours. Treat yourself with vitamins, some exercise, and sunlight.”

Former student

“It is like high school: when you are in the process, it is all-important and dramatic. Once it is finished, everything is forgotten.”

Former student

“Bear in mind that we are not saving lives; it is sad but true. So, save your energies and nerves!”

Former student

Good luck with your thesis writing!