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How To Get Started With Your Master Thesis - A Psychological Checklist II

Much of the difficulty arising from the thesis-writing exercise is psychological rather than technical. To finish your master thesis, you shouldn't only have the right topic, adviser, method, equipment, reading materials, etc. It is much more important to have the right attitude. Think about it; solutions to technical problems can be found in many books, but if you don't have the will, the inclination or the patience to look for them, they won't do you much good. Here are some tips that can help you put yourself in the right frame of mind for dissertation writing.

Get Organized

You probably know the old saying, "It's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees." This applies in thesis writing. You can become so caught up in individual tasks (e.g. reading all the materials you can find on your topic, interviewing subjects for your case studies, drafting and redrafting your proposal, etc) that you might lose sight of the fact that you do have a deadline, and that it's the complete output - not the individual steps or efforts (however superb or impressive) - that will be evaluated and graded. You should really get yourself organized.

First, write down your ultimate goal: to finish your master thesis on time. Write down your target defense date so you'll have a definite date to work towards. After that, list down all the things you need to do to achieve your goal (e.g. design research, gather data, look for applicable theories, choose an adviser, meet with adviser, pass the first draft, etc).

Next, arrange the tasks chronologically. The first tasks should be those things that you need to accomplish before you can move on to other tasks; for example, theoretical framework and research design typically come before data gathering. Subsequently, break down the tasks into specific steps. To find an applicable framework, you will have to do some research in the library.

Once you have reduced all the tasks into a series of small steps, get your planner then list down all the individual steps according to their proper order.

The result of this exercise is a blueprint of your goal. Since your thesis work has been resolved into very specific and manageable tasks, you will not find the overall task - that of finishing your thesis - particularly overwhelming.

Make it a Daily Habit

The clearest and the most detailed master thesis plan will not help you if you don't have the discipline to stick to it.

One good way to develop discipline is to set a definite "thesis schedule". If you have nothing but your master thesis on your plate right now, treat it like you would a full-time job. Set the hours between 8-12 and 1-5 as thesis-writing periods, for example. Then, force yourself to start working on your thesis every 8 am without fail. Likewise, stop working by 5 pm. Stopping work on time will prevent exhaustion, deprivation, burn out and other negative attitudes and feelings from taking root; these can make you more unwilling to continue working on your thesis.

If, on the other hand, you have other things to do apart from your thesis, you should still set "thesis working days" or "thesis working hours" that will remain inviolate and be devoted entirely to your thesis.

By sticking to a strict schedule, you'll soon acquire the "thesis habit" and treat your thesis as a fundamental part of your day. Once you reach this stage, you won't start out each day by wrestling with the question "Do I or do I not work on my thesis today?" which is almost always followed by the decision, "Not now; I'll start tomorrow." Through organization and discipline, therefore, you're assured of unwavering focus; you'll be able to make a gradual but steady progress towards completing your Master thesis and getting your master's degree.

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