The Thesis Writing Process Getting Started or Starting Over

The Thesis Writing Process Getting Started or Starting Over
Every person has developed their own ‘way of writing’ but sometimes it takes someone else to point out a different approach to writing that may work better for you. The ‘drip feed’ method of writing divides up the process into little bit size chunks which can make your research project more manageable and in no time you have written sections of your thesis, that just need editing.

Collecting Research Resources and the Annotated Bibliography

Your first step is to collect the resources together that you will be using for your research. This can include books, journal articles, newspapers articles or a list of web pages that are relevant to your topic. Is can also include a list of people you propose to interview or experiments you intend to complete. Once you have collated a list of resources, one of the most beneficial exercises you can do it to prepare an Annotated Bibliography.

This allows to both review your resources as well as create notes that you can refer back to rather than rereading the entire resource or a long abstract. The annotations should be short, no more than a few sentences to give you a quick idea of the resource. Through this process you will discover some resources that can be noted as possibly not relevant and others that can be deleted altogether.

Your Annotated Bibliography should not be viewed as an exhaustive list. It is a starting point that you will over time add more references. It is a good idea that whenever you find a new reference to write up a quick annotation and add it to your Annotated Bibliography. You can also note how useful the reference is as you write, especially if it is something you constantly refer to.

Your Annotated Bibliography will also become your best friend when writing your Literature Review.

See more on preparing a good Annotated Bibliography.

Preparing a Thesis Plan

Once the Annotated Bibliography has been completed you will have a good idea of where you want your research to start and what general ideas you want to cover. The next step is to prepare a Thesis Plan. Also known as a Thesis Outline. The Thesis Plan can be as detailed or as general as you feel is appropriate, however the more thought and detail you need to put into it the more beneficial it will be in ordering your thoughts. A basic Thesis Plan will list the chapters you intend to cover and provide a brief timeline of when you intend to have accomplished set goals.

Essentially the structure of a thesis should look something like this:

  • Summary
  • Introduction and/or Background
  • Literature Review and/or Background
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4 etc.
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix

Your Thesis Plan will set out what specifically you are thinking about covering in each section of your thesis and may also include a timeline of when you intend to complete each section. It will help you to determine some of the aims and objectives of your research.
See more on preparing a detailed Thesis Plan.

Beginning Thesis Research: The Three Step Method

Once you have collated your resources and prepared your plan. You can begin to gather notes from your collected resources and your thesis writing process can begin.
Every person has a different writing style or writing styles. Some begin at the start and simply work their way through, some do extensive preparation reading before beginning, some write about the most interesting parts of their thesis or the easiest parts of their research first and some use a combination.

One approach is the ‘Three Step’ Method. Essentially this method breaks down the process into three smaller steps:

  • Noting and/or Experiments

  • Adding

  • Correcting

The ‘noting’ step involves simply reading and taking notes from various resources under specific or general subheadings, as well as beginning experiments that will provide you with data to interpret. This provides you will a collated body of information that is specific to your research and will inform your ideas. Be sure you keep track of where the information is being gathered from and be specific. For example, writing ‘(From Brown)’ may become a problem if your than one ‘Brown’. Try using [Author, Date of Publication, Page Number’].

The ‘adding’ step is where you add your own ideas and draw the various notes and information you have gained from experimental data together. You will likely need to refer back to your resources to clarify ideas and gather further information.

The ‘correcting’ step is where you draw everything together and structure your chapter to ensure everything flows well. In this stage you will also check to determine if you have successfully answered the aims and objectives you set out for this chapter. Your chapter does not need to be sparklingly polished but at general first draft stage.

Once the three steps have been complete you can now look back and see that you have completed a chapter and can move on to repeat the process with the next chapter.

Finishing your thesis

Once you have written all your chapters to a first draft stage you can now begin reviewing your thesis to ensure you have covered all the material you set out to. The direction of your thesis may have changed and you may have added or dropped content and it is in this final proof reading that you can determine if anything else needs to be done.

You should leave a reasonable amount of time for your final editing and proofreading. It is a long process as you also need to check to ensure your references are complete, that any illustrations, figures or diagrams you refer to are still included and numbered correctly, in addition to checking the formatting is consistent.

In all writing proofreading is of the up most importance combined with correct referencing regardless of what referencing styles you are using. Correct and consistent referencing is one of the most important parts of your writing and show you have an understanding of your topic.

Once you are happy with your thesis try to get at least one other person to read through it to pick up anything you may have missed. Feel good about your achievement and once you have handed it in for assessment take a well-earned break. You deserve it!