Nick: 5 things you need to know about thesis writing
Nick is a dreadlocked, Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) graduate and Bob Marley enthusiast. He completed his thesis on the effects of mindfulness meditation on emotion regulation, but is also interested in Liverpool Football Club, long walks on the beach and having a few drinks with friends.
Thesis. It’s always seemed ridiculous to me that one little word like that could be used to summarise something that requires so much hard work and persistence. Completing my thesis was a massive milestone in my time at uni and I learned a lot through the writing process. As a psychology graduate, some of my experiences might be a bit different to yours, or what you might have ahead of you in your future years of study, but from one honours student to another, here’s my advice for getting through your thesis.
1. Stay in regular contact with your supervisor
Staying in contact with your supervisor is absolutely critical. I’ve heard some pretty scary stories from supervisors who have completely lost contact with their students and have been unaware of their research and report writing progression. While your supervisor cares about you, they’re also very busy people. I was told that unless students ask questions or make the effort to stay in touch, the supervisor is happy to go weeks or months without touching base, and presume you’re on your merry way towards the HD you want.
2. Stay up-to-date with your completion milestones
Staying up-to-date is probably one of the most difficult parts of the thesis project, and links with my first piece of advice. Your supervisor has done this before, while this may be your first time attempting a thesis. You need to keep the lines of communication open to understand whether you’re progressing at the rate that you need to be, are getting too far ahead or too far behind. Your supervisor is the best person to let you know if you’re on track.
3. Get some drafts done
Drafts are the holy grail of thesis writing. A draft can let you know if you’re on the right track, if you’ve missed any key research or papers, and how well you’ve actually written your paper. My supervisor was an expert in the field I was researching, so it was a pretty good guess that she was a reliable person to let me know if the work I was doing wasn’t what was expected.
4. Juggle it with your course work and other commitments
Of course, my thesis was not the only paper I needed to write during my fourth year of study. I was a full-time student, so I also had multiple other courses to manage during my final semesters. Therefore, it’s important to try and keep up with these other subjects too. Don’t get bogged down doing one or the other. You need to be flexible enough to juggle quite a number of things. Simple tools work well for this, such as using your USQ wall calendar or post-it notes to keep all of your due dates and thesis milestones in easy view.
Here’s a photo of my due date reminder system during my final year. Simple yet effective.
5. Use your peers as support and guidance to help you stay on track together
Fellow fourth year students are one of your greatest resources, whether by contrasting your individual assignments, helping you find research papers or just a shoulder to rest on for a few seconds. During my fourth year I soon built rapport with a variety of students, and knew who I could go to for help or clarification. This was helpful, as they usually knew the answer, or had a general idea about it. If not, the lecturer was the next point of call.
All in all, thesis writing isn’t something to be scared about, especially if you stay on top of it and keep yourself motivated. It’s similar to any other assignment or class. If you take those baby steps towards success, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy it. I certainly did!
To help you stay on track and be productive during your thesis writing sessions, check out Nick's tips for getting into a positive study flow.