How to Write a Good Master or Doctoral Thesis

Writing a Masters or Doctoral thesis is a challenging academic exercise. It requires not only hard work but also deep knowledge of a particular subject. In this case, some students use special essay writer websites to get help with this kind of assignment. However, if you are eager to do this task on your own, this article outlines a few things that can assist in developing a good thesis.

Choose Your Topic Well

Choosing a research topic is a lot harder than many people realize. A good research topic is a synergy of:

  • Your interests. Will this thesis topic hold my interest for the duration of the research period?
  • Your expertise. Whilst my intended topic may seem extremely challenging, do I sense that I have a level of expertise that can be enhanced by the higher level of research into this topic, whilst also not placing me out of my depth?
  • The nature of the problem, concept, or issue under scrutiny. Is this topic relevant to the world in which I live? Will this thesis contribute something to making the world a better place, or if not the world, my country, my neighborhood, my discipline?
  • The range of studies and research already covers my intended topic. Am I discovering something new? Does my research hope to enhance and build upon several existing studies in the particular field I am reviewing? Is my research groundbreaking and new or has the topic I wish to research already been flogged to death?

Choose Your Heuristic Well

A “heuristic” (Collins) is defined as: “Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem: “The historian discovers the past by the judicious use of such a heuristic device as the ‘ideal type'” (Karl J. Weintraub). If you define your heuristic well at the outset of your thesis, and if you stick with that heuristic throughout your thesis, you should exhibit logical consistency in your argumentation.

Often researchers who work in the field of investigation that you are researching will have developed some form of a methodological framework that you can closely emulate when writing your thesis. For instance, in my last Ph.D. thesis, I used Osmer’s (2008: 4) heuristic which is specifically designed for the post-modern context. This heuristic was very helpful in enabling logical consistency in my thesis because it simply asks: “What is happening?” “Why is this happening?” “What should be happening?” “How might we respond?”

Choose Your Time Frame and Structure Well

Try at the beginning of your thesis statement to develop a work plan that outlines exactly when you are going to tackle each step of the research, reflection, and writing process. A good filing system is helpful especially if you build a good key to match the filing system. In my last Ph.D. I had the following files:

  • “Ph.D. Administration”
  • “Articles used”
  • “Web Articles”
  • “Complex Adaptive Systems”
  • “Thesis Proposal”
  • “Quoting Sources”
  • “Literature Review”
  • “Delphi Survey”

Once you have developed a good filing system, try to match that system to a clear chronology that moves you along through the process of researching, reflecting, and writing. You need to ensure that you set time apart for research, but also reflection. Reflection is a step that demands as much discipline as the research phase, but one that we do not often create space for.

Your research should be anchored in your topic and yet also wide and varied. Reflection enables you to think through the different things you are learning as you research. Make notes by recording thoughts on a dictaphone or a pad of paper. Draw diagrams on paper or on a whiteboard (my whiteboard in my office was incredibly helpful, as was the “Jot” app on my iPad).

Choose Your Interactions Well

After my first year of research, I found that I had developed some mental models concerning my topic and I had some ideas for formulating a hypothesis. From that point on I interacted with as many different people as possible concerning the various elements of my thesis. I would share my topic and my research plan, and then I would listen as these amazing people, many of them experts in their particular field, would reflect on my topic wherever it intersected with their particular area of study or work.

E-mail, skype, and Twitter create great opportunities for locating and interacting with many different people all over the world concerning your research topic and your findings. If you are researching and reflecting, these interactions will go a long way to honing your thoughts and bringing to light new ideas and approaches that you had not initially thought of.

Another key person to interact with regularly is your thesis supervisor. A thesis supervisor knows the requirements of the university, has a keen and critical eye, and will help you ensure that the required elements are present in your thesis as well as alert you to extraneous elements that may undermine the quality of your thesis.

Know Your Goal

Your goal is not to show how brilliant you are, but to show that you can effectively research the topic at hand. The goal of graduate research is to show that you have mastered the capacity to do research in such a way that you contribute to a deeper or fresh understanding of the topic you are researching. Simply put, your goal is to show that you can research, and through the ordered and careful expression of that research, you can contribute something to the existing body of knowledge on the topic you have chosen.

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