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How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

8 straightforward steps to craft an a-grade dissertation.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Expert Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020

Writing a dissertation or thesis is not a simple task. It takes time, energy and a lot of will power to get you across the finish line. It’s not easy – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a painful process. If you understand the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis, your research journey will be a lot smoother.  

In this post, I’m going to outline the big-picture process of how to write a high-quality dissertation or thesis, without losing your mind along the way. If you’re just starting your research, this post is perfect for you. Alternatively, if you’ve already submitted your proposal, this article which covers how to structure a dissertation might be more helpful.

How To Write A Dissertation: 8 Steps

  • Clearly understand what a dissertation (or thesis) is
  • Find a unique and valuable research topic
  • Craft a convincing research proposal
  • Write up a strong introduction chapter
  • Review the existing literature and compile a literature review
  • Design a rigorous research strategy and undertake your own research
  • Present the findings of your research
  • Draw a conclusion and discuss the implications

Start writing your dissertation

Step 1: Understand exactly what a dissertation is

This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but all too often, students come to us for help with their research and the underlying issue is that they don’t fully understand what a dissertation (or thesis) actually is.

So, what is a dissertation?

At its simplest, a dissertation or thesis is a formal piece of research , reflecting the standard research process . But what is the standard research process, you ask? The research process involves 4 key steps:

  • Ask a very specific, well-articulated question (s) (your research topic)
  • See what other researchers have said about it (if they’ve already answered it)
  • If they haven’t answered it adequately, undertake your own data collection and analysis in a scientifically rigorous fashion
  • Answer your original question(s), based on your analysis findings

 A dissertation or thesis is a formal piece of research, reflecting the standard four step academic research process.

In short, the research process is simply about asking and answering questions in a systematic fashion . This probably sounds pretty obvious, but people often think they’ve done “research”, when in fact what they have done is:

  • Started with a vague, poorly articulated question
  • Not taken the time to see what research has already been done regarding the question
  • Collected data and opinions that support their gut and undertaken a flimsy analysis
  • Drawn a shaky conclusion, based on that analysis

If you want to see the perfect example of this in action, look out for the next Facebook post where someone claims they’ve done “research”… All too often, people consider reading a few blog posts to constitute research. Its no surprise then that what they end up with is an opinion piece, not research. Okay, okay – I’ll climb off my soapbox now.

The key takeaway here is that a dissertation (or thesis) is a formal piece of research, reflecting the research process. It’s not an opinion piece , nor a place to push your agenda or try to convince someone of your position. Writing a good dissertation involves asking a question and taking a systematic, rigorous approach to answering it.

If you understand this and are comfortable leaving your opinions or preconceived ideas at the door, you’re already off to a good start!

 A dissertation is not an opinion piece, nor a place to push your agenda or try to  convince someone of your position.

Step 2: Find a unique, valuable research topic

As we saw, the first step of the research process is to ask a specific, well-articulated question. In other words, you need to find a research topic that asks a specific question or set of questions (these are called research questions ). Sounds easy enough, right? All you’ve got to do is identify a question or two and you’ve got a winning research topic. Well, not quite…

A good dissertation or thesis topic has a few important attributes. Specifically, a solid research topic should be:

Let’s take a closer look at these:

Attribute #1: Clear

Your research topic needs to be crystal clear about what you’re planning to research, what you want to know, and within what context. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity or vagueness about what you’ll research.

Here’s an example of a clearly articulated research topic:

An analysis of consumer-based factors influencing organisational trust in British low-cost online equity brokerage firms.

As you can see in the example, its crystal clear what will be analysed (factors impacting organisational trust), amongst who (consumers) and in what context (British low-cost equity brokerage firms, based online).

Need a helping hand?

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Attribute #2:   Unique

Your research should be asking a question(s) that hasn’t been asked before, or that hasn’t been asked in a specific context (for example, in a specific country or industry).

For example, sticking organisational trust topic above, it’s quite likely that organisational trust factors in the UK have been investigated before, but the context (online low-cost equity brokerages) could make this research unique. Therefore, the context makes this research original.

One caveat when using context as the basis for originality – you need to have a good reason to suspect that your findings in this context might be different from the existing research – otherwise, there’s no reason to warrant researching it.

Attribute #3: Important

Simply asking a unique or original question is not enough – the question needs to create value. In other words, successfully answering your research questions should provide some value to the field of research or the industry. You can’t research something just to satisfy your curiosity. It needs to make some form of contribution either to research or industry.

For example, researching the factors influencing consumer trust would create value by enabling businesses to tailor their operations and marketing to leverage factors that promote trust. In other words, it would have a clear benefit to industry.

So, how do you go about finding a unique and valuable research topic? We explain that in detail in this video post – How To Find A Research Topic . Yeah, we’ve got you covered 😊

Step 3: Write a convincing research proposal

Once you’ve pinned down a high-quality research topic, the next step is to convince your university to let you research it. No matter how awesome you think your topic is, it still needs to get the rubber stamp before you can move forward with your research. The research proposal is the tool you’ll use for this job.

So, what’s in a research proposal?

The main “job” of a research proposal is to convince your university, advisor or committee that your research topic is worthy of approval. But convince them of what? Well, this varies from university to university, but generally, they want to see that:

  • You have a clearly articulated, unique and important topic (this might sound familiar…)
  • You’ve done some initial reading of the existing literature relevant to your topic (i.e. a literature review)
  • You have a provisional plan in terms of how you will collect data and analyse it (i.e. a methodology)

At the proposal stage, it’s (generally) not expected that you’ve extensively reviewed the existing literature , but you will need to show that you’ve done enough reading to identify a clear gap for original (unique) research. Similarly, they generally don’t expect that you have a rock-solid research methodology mapped out, but you should have an idea of whether you’ll be undertaking qualitative or quantitative analysis , and how you’ll collect your data (we’ll discuss this in more detail later).

Long story short – don’t stress about having every detail of your research meticulously thought out at the proposal stage – this will develop as you progress through your research. However, you do need to show that you’ve “done your homework” and that your research is worthy of approval .

So, how do you go about crafting a high-quality, convincing proposal? We cover that in detail in this video post – How To Write A Top-Class Research Proposal . We’ve also got a video walkthrough of two proposal examples here .

Step 4: Craft a strong introduction chapter

Once your proposal’s been approved, its time to get writing your actual dissertation or thesis! The good news is that if you put the time into crafting a high-quality proposal, you’ve already got a head start on your first three chapters – introduction, literature review and methodology – as you can use your proposal as the basis for these.

Handy sidenote – our free dissertation & thesis template is a great way to speed up your dissertation writing journey.

What’s the introduction chapter all about?

The purpose of the introduction chapter is to set the scene for your research (dare I say, to introduce it…) so that the reader understands what you’ll be researching and why it’s important. In other words, it covers the same ground as the research proposal in that it justifies your research topic.

What goes into the introduction chapter?

This can vary slightly between universities and degrees, but generally, the introduction chapter will include the following:

  • A brief background to the study, explaining the overall area of research
  • A problem statement , explaining what the problem is with the current state of research (in other words, where the knowledge gap exists)
  • Your research questions – in other words, the specific questions your study will seek to answer (based on the knowledge gap)
  • The significance of your study – in other words, why it’s important and how its findings will be useful in the world

As you can see, this all about explaining the “what” and the “why” of your research (as opposed to the “how”). So, your introduction chapter is basically the salesman of your study, “selling” your research to the first-time reader and (hopefully) getting them interested to read more.

How do I write the introduction chapter, you ask? We cover that in detail in this post .

The introduction chapter is where you set the scene for your research, detailing exactly what you’ll be researching and why it’s important.

Step 5: Undertake an in-depth literature review

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to do some initial review of the literature in Steps 2 and 3 to find your research gap and craft a convincing research proposal – but that’s just scratching the surface. Once you reach the literature review stage of your dissertation or thesis, you need to dig a lot deeper into the existing research and write up a comprehensive literature review chapter.

What’s the literature review all about?

There are two main stages in the literature review process:

Literature Review Step 1: Reading up

The first stage is for you to deep dive into the existing literature (journal articles, textbook chapters, industry reports, etc) to gain an in-depth understanding of the current state of research regarding your topic. While you don’t need to read every single article, you do need to ensure that you cover all literature that is related to your core research questions, and create a comprehensive catalogue of that literature , which you’ll use in the next step.

Reading and digesting all the relevant literature is a time consuming and intellectually demanding process. Many students underestimate just how much work goes into this step, so make sure that you allocate a good amount of time for this when planning out your research. Thankfully, there are ways to fast track the process – be sure to check out this article covering how to read journal articles quickly .

Dissertation Coaching

Literature Review Step 2: Writing up

Once you’ve worked through the literature and digested it all, you’ll need to write up your literature review chapter. Many students make the mistake of thinking that the literature review chapter is simply a summary of what other researchers have said. While this is partly true, a literature review is much more than just a summary. To pull off a good literature review chapter, you’ll need to achieve at least 3 things:

  • You need to synthesise the existing research , not just summarise it. In other words, you need to show how different pieces of theory fit together, what’s agreed on by researchers, what’s not.
  • You need to highlight a research gap that your research is going to fill. In other words, you’ve got to outline the problem so that your research topic can provide a solution.
  • You need to use the existing research to inform your methodology and approach to your own research design. For example, you might use questions or Likert scales from previous studies in your your own survey design .

As you can see, a good literature review is more than just a summary of the published research. It’s the foundation on which your own research is built, so it deserves a lot of love and attention. Take the time to craft a comprehensive literature review with a suitable structure .

But, how do I actually write the literature review chapter, you ask? We cover that in detail in this video post .

Step 6: Carry out your own research

Once you’ve completed your literature review and have a sound understanding of the existing research, its time to develop your own research (finally!). You’ll design this research specifically so that you can find the answers to your unique research question.

There are two steps here – designing your research strategy and executing on it:

1 – Design your research strategy

The first step is to design your research strategy and craft a methodology chapter . I won’t get into the technicalities of the methodology chapter here, but in simple terms, this chapter is about explaining the “how” of your research. If you recall, the introduction and literature review chapters discussed the “what” and the “why”, so it makes sense that the next point to cover is the “how” –that’s what the methodology chapter is all about.

In this section, you’ll need to make firm decisions about your research design. This includes things like:

  • Your research philosophy (e.g. positivism or interpretivism )
  • Your overall methodology (e.g. qualitative , quantitative or mixed methods)
  • Your data collection strategy (e.g. interviews , focus groups, surveys)
  • Your data analysis strategy (e.g. content analysis , correlation analysis, regression)

If these words have got your head spinning, don’t worry! We’ll explain these in plain language in other posts. It’s not essential that you understand the intricacies of research design (yet!). The key takeaway here is that you’ll need to make decisions about how you’ll design your own research, and you’ll need to describe (and justify) your decisions in your methodology chapter.

2 – Execute: Collect and analyse your data

Once you’ve worked out your research design, you’ll put it into action and start collecting your data. This might mean undertaking interviews, hosting an online survey or any other data collection method. Data collection can take quite a bit of time (especially if you host in-person interviews), so be sure to factor sufficient time into your project plan for this. Oftentimes, things don’t go 100% to plan (for example, you don’t get as many survey responses as you hoped for), so bake a little extra time into your budget here.

Once you’ve collected your data, you’ll need to do some data preparation before you can sink your teeth into the analysis. For example:

  • If you carry out interviews or focus groups, you’ll need to transcribe your audio data to text (i.e. a Word document).
  • If you collect quantitative survey data, you’ll need to clean up your data and get it into the right format for whichever analysis software you use (for example, SPSS, R or STATA).

Once you’ve completed your data prep, you’ll undertake your analysis, using the techniques that you described in your methodology. Depending on what you find in your analysis, you might also do some additional forms of analysis that you hadn’t planned for. For example, you might see something in the data that raises new questions or that requires clarification with further analysis.

The type(s) of analysis that you’ll use depend entirely on the nature of your research and your research questions. For example:

  • If your research if exploratory in nature, you’ll often use qualitative analysis techniques .
  • If your research is confirmatory in nature, you’ll often use quantitative analysis techniques
  • If your research involves a mix of both, you might use a mixed methods approach

Again, if these words have got your head spinning, don’t worry! We’ll explain these concepts and techniques in other posts. The key takeaway is simply that there’s no “one size fits all” for research design and methodology – it all depends on your topic, your research questions and your data. So, don’t be surprised if your study colleagues take a completely different approach to yours.

The research philosophy is at the core of the methodology chapter

Step 7: Present your findings

Once you’ve completed your analysis, it’s time to present your findings (finally!). In a dissertation or thesis, you’ll typically present your findings in two chapters – the results chapter and the discussion chapter .

What’s the difference between the results chapter and the discussion chapter?

While these two chapters are similar, the results chapter generally just presents the processed data neatly and clearly without interpretation, while the discussion chapter explains the story the data are telling  – in other words, it provides your interpretation of the results.

For example, if you were researching the factors that influence consumer trust, you might have used a quantitative approach to identify the relationship between potential factors (e.g. perceived integrity and competence of the organisation) and consumer trust. In this case:

  • Your results chapter would just present the results of the statistical tests. For example, correlation results or differences between groups. In other words, the processed numbers.
  • Your discussion chapter would explain what the numbers mean in relation to your research question(s). For example, Factor 1 has a weak relationship with consumer trust, while Factor 2 has a strong relationship.

Depending on the university and degree, these two chapters (results and discussion) are sometimes merged into one , so be sure to check with your institution what their preference is. Regardless of the chapter structure, this section is about presenting the findings of your research in a clear, easy to understand fashion.

Importantly, your discussion here needs to link back to your research questions (which you outlined in the introduction or literature review chapter). In other words, it needs to answer the key questions you asked (or at least attempt to answer them).

For example, if we look at the sample research topic:

In this case, the discussion section would clearly outline which factors seem to have a noteworthy influence on organisational trust. By doing so, they are answering the overarching question and fulfilling the purpose of the research .

Your discussion here needs to link back to your research questions. It needs to answer the key questions you asked in your introduction.

For more information about the results chapter , check out this post for qualitative studies and this post for quantitative studies .

Step 8: The Final Step Draw a conclusion and discuss the implications

Last but not least, you’ll need to wrap up your research with the conclusion chapter . In this chapter, you’ll bring your research full circle by highlighting the key findings of your study and explaining what the implications of these findings are.

What exactly are key findings? The key findings are those findings which directly relate to your original research questions and overall research objectives (which you discussed in your introduction chapter). The implications, on the other hand, explain what your findings mean for industry, or for research in your area.

Sticking with the consumer trust topic example, the conclusion might look something like this:

Key findings

This study set out to identify which factors influence consumer-based trust in British low-cost online equity brokerage firms. The results suggest that the following factors have a large impact on consumer trust:

While the following factors have a very limited impact on consumer trust:

Notably, within the 25-30 age groups, Factors E had a noticeably larger impact, which may be explained by…

Implications

The findings having noteworthy implications for British low-cost online equity brokers. Specifically:

The large impact of Factors X and Y implies that brokers need to consider….

The limited impact of Factor E implies that brokers need to…

As you can see, the conclusion chapter is basically explaining the “what” (what your study found) and the “so what?” (what the findings mean for the industry or research). This brings the study full circle and closes off the document.

In the final chapter, you’ll bring your research full circle by highlighting the key findings of your study and the implications thereof.

Let’s recap – how to write a dissertation or thesis

You’re still with me? Impressive! I know that this post was a long one, but hopefully you’ve learnt a thing or two about how to write a dissertation or thesis, and are now better equipped to start your own research.

To recap, the 8 steps to writing a quality dissertation (or thesis) are as follows:

  • Understand what a dissertation (or thesis) is – a research project that follows the research process.
  • Find a unique (original) and important research topic
  • Craft a convincing dissertation or thesis research proposal
  • Write a clear, compelling introduction chapter
  • Undertake a thorough review of the existing research and write up a literature review
  • Undertake your own research
  • Present and interpret your findings

Once you’ve wrapped up the core chapters, all that’s typically left is the abstract , reference list and appendices. As always, be sure to check with your university if they have any additional requirements in terms of structure or content.  

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Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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20 Comments

Romia

thankfull >>>this is very useful

Madhu

Thank you, it was really helpful

Elhadi Abdelrahim

unquestionably, this amazing simplified way of teaching. Really , I couldn’t find in the literature words that fully explicit my great thanks to you. However, I could only say thanks a-lot.

Derek Jansen

Great to hear that – thanks for the feedback. Good luck writing your dissertation/thesis.

Writer

This is the most comprehensive explanation of how to write a dissertation. Many thanks for sharing it free of charge.

Sam

Very rich presentation. Thank you

Hailu

Thanks Derek Jansen|GRADCOACH, I find it very useful guide to arrange my activities and proceed to research!

Nunurayi Tambala

Thank you so much for such a marvelous teaching .I am so convinced that am going to write a comprehensive and a distinct masters dissertation

Hussein Huwail

It is an amazing comprehensive explanation

Eva

This was straightforward. Thank you!

Ken

I can say that your explanations are simple and enlightening – understanding what you have done here is easy for me. Could you write more about the different types of research methods specific to the three methodologies: quan, qual and MM. I look forward to interacting with this website more in the future.

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions 🙂

Osasuyi Blessing

Hello, your write ups is quite educative. However, l have challenges in going about my research questions which is below; *Building the enablers of organisational growth through effective governance and purposeful leadership.*

Dung Doh

Very educating.

Ezra Daniel

Just listening to the name of the dissertation makes the student nervous. As writing a top-quality dissertation is a difficult task as it is a lengthy topic, requires a lot of research and understanding and is usually around 10,000 to 15000 words. Sometimes due to studies, unbalanced workload or lack of research and writing skill students look for dissertation submission from professional writers.

Nice Edinam Hoyah

Thank you 💕😊 very much. I was confused but your comprehensive explanation has cleared my doubts of ever presenting a good thesis. Thank you.

Sehauli

thank you so much, that was so useful

Daniel Madsen

Hi. Where is the excel spread sheet ark?

Emmanuel kKoko

could you please help me look at your thesis paper to enable me to do the portion that has to do with the specification

my topic is “the impact of domestic revenue mobilization.

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How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis, Pursuing It, and Avoiding Pitfalls

#scribendiinc

Part 1: Initial Considerations

Who needs to write a master’s thesis.

Thesis writing is one of the more daunting challenges of higher education. That being said, not all master's students have to write a thesis. For example, fields that place a stronger emphasis on applied knowledge, such as nursing, business, and education, tend to have projects and exams to test students on the skills and abilities associated with those fields. Conversely, in disciplines that require in-depth research or highly polished creative abilities, students are usually expected to prove their understanding and independence with a thesis.

What's Your Goal?

Do you want to write a thesis? The process is a long one, often spanning years. It's best to know exactly what you want before you begin. Many people are motivated by career goals. For example, hiring managers may see a master's degree as proof that the candidate is an expert within their field and can lead, motivate, and demonstrate initiative for themselves and others. Others dream of earning their doctorate, and they see a master's degree as a stepping stone toward their Ph.D .

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No matter what your desired goal is, you should have one before you start your thesis. With your goal in mind, your work will have a purpose, which will allow you to measure your progress more easily.

Major Types of Theses

Once you've carefully researched or even enrolled in a master's program—a feat that involves its own planning and resources —you should know if you are expected to produce a quantitative (which occurs in many math and science programs), qualitative (which occurs in many humanities programs), or creative (which occurs in many creative writing, music, or fine arts programs) thesis.

Time and Energy Considerations

Advanced degrees are notoriously time and energy consuming. If you have a job, thesis writing will become your second job. If you have a family, they will need to know that your thesis will take a great deal of your attention, energy, and focus.

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Your studies should not consume you, but they also should not take a back seat to everything else. You will be expected to attend classes, conduct research, source relevant literature, and schedule meetings with various people as you pursue your master's, so it's important to let those you care about know what's going on.

As a general note, most master's programs expect students to finish within a two-year period but are willing to grant extra time if requested, especially if that time is needed to deal with unexpected life events (more on those later).

Part 2: Form an Initial Thesis Question, and Find a Supervisor

When to begin forming your initial thesis question.

Some fields, such as history, may require you to have already formed your thesis question and to have used it to create a statement of intent (outlining the nature of your research) prior to applying to a master’s program. Others may require this information only after you've been accepted. Most of the time, you will be expected to come up with your topic yourself. However, in some disciplines, your supervisor may assign a general research topic to you.

Overall, requirements vary immensely from program to program, so it's best to confirm the exact requirements of your specific program.

What to Say to Your Supervisor

You will have a supervisor during your master's studies. Have you identified who that person will be? If yes, have you introduced yourself via email or phone and obtained information on the processes and procedures that are in place for your master's program? Once you've established contact, request an in-person meeting with him or her, and take a page of questions along with you. Your questions might include:

  • Is there a research subject you can recommend in my field?
  • I would like to pursue [target research subject] for my thesis. Can you help me narrow my focus?
  • Can you give me an example of a properly formatted thesis proposal for my program?

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help (to a Degree)

Procedures and expectations vary from program to program, and your supervisor is there to help remove doubt and provide encouragement so you can follow the right path when you embark on writing your thesis. Since your supervisor has almost certainly worked with other graduate students (and was one at some point), take advantage of their experience, and ask questions to put your mind at ease about how to write a master’s thesis.

That being said, do not rely too heavily on your supervisor. As a graduate student, you are also expected to be able to work independently. Proving your independent initiative and capacity is part of what will earn you your master's degree.

Part 3: Revise Your Thesis

Read everything you can get your hands on.

Whether you have a question or need to create one, your next step is simple and applies to all kinds of theses: read.

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Seek Out Knowledge or Research Gaps

Read everything you can that relates to the question or the field you are studying. The only way you will be able to determine where you can go is to see where everyone else has been. After you have read some published material, you will start to spot gaps in current research or notice things that could be developed further with an alternative approach. Things that are known but not understood or understood but not explained clearly or consistently are great potential thesis subjects. Addressing something already known from a new perspective or with a different style could also be a potentially valuable project. Whichever way you choose to do it, keep in mind that your project should make a valuable contribution to your field.

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Talk with Experts in Your Field (and Don't Be Afraid to Revise Your Thesis)

To help narrow down your thesis topic, talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor will have an idea of what is current in your field and what can be left alone because others are already working on it. Additionally, the school you are attending will have programs and faculty with particular areas of interest within your chosen field.

On a similar note, don't be surprised if your thesis question changes as you study. Other students and researchers are out there, and as they publish, what you are working on can change. You might also discover that your question is too vague, not substantial enough, or even no longer relevant. Do not lose heart! Take what you know and adjust the question to address these concerns as they arise. The freedom to adapt is part of the power you hold as a graduate student.

Part 4: Select a Proposal Committee

What proposal committees are and why they're useful.

When you have a solid question or set of questions, draft a proposal.

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You'll need an original stance and a clear justification for asking, and answering, your thesis question. To ensure this, a committee will review your thesis proposal. Thankfully, that committee will consist of people assigned by your supervisor or department head or handpicked by you. These people will be experts who understand your field of study and will do everything in their power to ensure that you are pursuing something worthwhile. And yes, it is okay to put your supervisor on your committee. Some programs even require that your supervisor be on your committee.

Just remember that the committee will expect you to schedule meetings with them, present your proposal, respond to any questions they might have for you, and ultimately present your findings and thesis when all the work is done. Choose those who are willing to support you, give constructive feedback, and help address issues with your proposal. And don't forget to give your proposal a good, thorough edit and proofread before you present it.

How to Prepare for Committee Meetings

Be ready for committee meetings with synopses of your material for committee members, answers for expected questions, and a calm attitude. To prepare for those meetings, sit in on proposal and thesis defenses so you can watch how other graduate students handle them and see what your committee might ask of you. You can even hold rehearsals with friends and fellow students acting as your committee to help you build confidence for your presentation.

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Part 5: Write Your Thesis

What to do once your proposal is approved.

After you have written your thesis proposal and received feedback from your committee, the fun part starts: doing the work. This is where you will take your proposal and carry it out. If you drafted a qualitative or quantitative proposal, your experimentation or will begin here. If you wrote a creative proposal, you will now start working on your material. Your proposal should be strong enough to give you direction when you perform your experiments, conduct interviews, or craft your work. Take note that you will have to check in with your supervisor from time to time to give progress updates.

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Thesis Writing: It's Important to Pace Yourself and Take Breaks

Do not expect the work to go quickly. You will need to pace yourself and make sure you record your progress meticulously. You can always discard information you don't need, but you cannot go back and grab a crucial fact that you can't quite remember. When in doubt, write it down. When drawing from a source, always create a citation for the information to save your future self time and stress. In the same sense, you may also find journaling to be a helpful process.

Additionally, take breaks and allow yourself to step away from your thesis, even if you're having fun (and especially if you're not). Ideally, your proposal should have milestones in it— points where you can stop and assess what you've already completed and what's left to do. When you reach a milestone, celebrate. Take a day off and relax. Better yet, give yourself a week's vacation! The rest will help you regain your focus and ensure that you function at your best.

How to Become More Comfortable with Presenting Your Work

Once you start reaching your milestones, you should be able to start sharing what you have. Just about everyone in a graduate program has experience giving a presentation at the front of the class, attending a seminar, or watching an interview. If you haven't (or even if you have), look for conferences and clubs that will give you the opportunity to learn about presenting your work and become comfortable with the idea of public speaking. The more you practice talking about what you are studying, the more comfortable you'll be with the information, which will make your committee defenses and other official meetings easier.

Published authors can be called upon to present at conferences, and if your thesis is strong, you may receive an email or a phone call asking if you would share your findings onstage.

Presenting at conferences is also a great way to boost your CV and network within your field. Make presenting part of your education, and it will become something you look forward to instead of fear.

What to Do If Your Relationship with Your Supervisor Sours

A small aside: If it isn't already obvious, you will be communicating extensively with others as you pursue your thesis. That also means that others will need to communicate with you, and if you've been noticing things getting quiet, you will need to be the one to speak up. Your supervisor should speak to you at least once a term and preferably once a week in the more active parts of your research and writing. If you give written work to your supervisor, you should have feedback within three weeks.

If your supervisor does not provide feedback, frequently misses appointments, or is consistently discouraging of your work, contact your graduate program advisor and ask for a new supervisor. The relationship with your supervisor is crucial to your success, especially if she or he is on your committee, and while your supervisor does not have to be friendly, there should at least be professional respect between you.

What to Do If a Crisis Strikes

If something happens in your life that disrupts everything (e.g., emotional strain, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member), ask for help. You are a human being, and personal lives can and do change without warning. Do not wait until you are falling apart before asking for help, either. Learn what resources exist for crises before you have one, so you can head off trauma before it hits. That being said, if you get blindsided, don't refuse help. Seek it out, and take the time you need to recover. Your degree is supposed to help you become a stronger and smarter person, not break you.

Part 6: Polish and Defend Your Master's Thesis

How to write a master’s thesis: the final stages.

After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to help meet your word-count limit. This is also where your final editing and proofreading passes will occur, after which you will face your final hurdle: presenting your thesis defense to your committee. If they approve your thesis, then congratulations! You are now a master of your chosen field.

Conclusion and Parting Thoughts

Remember that you do not (and should not) have to learn how to write a master’s thesis on your own. Thesis writing is collaborative, as is practically any kind of research.

write masters thesis fast

While you will be expected to develop your thesis using your own initiative, pursue it with your own ambition, and complete it with your own abilities, you will also be expected to use all available resources to do so. The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names. If you already have the skills necessary to motivate yourself, lead others, and drive change, you may only need your master's as an acknowledgement of your abilities. If you do not, but you apply yourself carefully and thoroughly to the pursuit of your thesis, you should come away from your studies with those skills in place.

A final thought regarding collaboration: all theses have a section for acknowledgements. Be sure to say thank you to those who helped you become a master. One day, someone might be doing the same for you.

Image source: Falkenpost/Pixabay.com 

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How to Write a Master's Thesis

Last Updated: June 1, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 608,540 times.

Students learning how to write a Master's Thesis will first learn that a central thesis question must be presented and subsequently answered. A Master's Thesis will be the most prominent piece of your graduate work up to this point, and a pertinent thesis question that forms the spine of this work elevates it from the prosaic to the significant.

Choosing a Topic

Step 1 Think about the objectives of writing a thesis.

  • To get a degree - topic should be difficult enough, but manageable too.
  • To enjoy the work - topic that you are truly interested in, something that you will not grow bored of after a short period of time.
  • To get a job afterward - if you know what specifically you want to do after your studies and/or for which company, it might be useful to choose a topic, that will help with this goal.
  • To be useful - thesis might actually be useful to help to make the world a little better place.
  • Try thinking about your favorite subject of study - it may be a particular author, theory, time period, etc. Imagine how you might further the study of that subject.
  • You might consider skimming through papers you wrote for your graduate courses and see if there is any apparent topic that you tend to gravitate towards.
  • Consult with faculty members, favorite professors. They might have some good suggestions to write about. Generally, you'll be required to meet with your thesis advisor at least once before you start working.
  • Consider consulting with industry partners. Your favorite company might have some work to do which might be done as a master's thesis. This might also help you get a job within the company afterward and maybe even some money for the thesis.
  • If you want to help the world to be a better place, you might want to consult with your local non-profits and charities or check the Internet for possible thesis topics to write about.
  • 3 Choose the right topic. From the possible topics generated in the previous step, find the one which best fits the objectives from the first step, especially the objectives most important to you. Make sure that you have a clear, specific, and organized plan on how to write a master's thesis which you will be able to then defend.

Step 4 Choose your thesis question.

  • Make sure that your question and the answers provided will provide original content to the body of research in existence. A judicious question will also keep research focused, organized, and interesting.
  • Once you've formulated your topic and direction of inquiry, try formulating 5-10 different questions around your intended research. This forces you to think flexibly about your topic and visualize how small changes in wording can change the trajectory of your research.

Step 5 Conduct your research.

  • Usually, your committee chair will be in place before you formally start your thesis. They can help guide you and provide input into your project, so the earlier you can get their commitment, the better.
  • Nothing is more frustrating than your thesis progress being held up by a professor who has too many obligations to make time to meet with you.

Selecting Your Texts

Step 1 Complete a literature review.

  • For example, a novel written by Ernest Hemingway or a scientific journal article in which new results are documented for the first time would both be considered primary sources.

Step 3 Choose your secondary sources.

  • For example, a book written about Ernest Hemingway's novel or a scientific journal article examining the findings of someone else's experiment would both be considered secondary sources.

Step 4 Manage your citations.

  • Use the in-text citation format appropriate to your discipline. [3] X Research source The most common formats are MLA, APA, and Chicago.
  • Create a coordinating works cited or reference entry for each source you cite in the text of your document or in a footnote.
  • Consider using a citation management software such as EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero. These will enable you to insert and move citations within your word processor program and will automatically populate a works cited or reference page for you.

Planning an Outline

Step 1 Know the requirements for your field/department.

  • Qualitative. This type of thesis involves completing a project that is exploratory, analytical, or creative in some way. Usually, students in the humanities will complete this kind of thesis.
  • Quantitative. This type of thesis involves conducting experiments, measuring data, and recording results. Students in the sciences usually complete this kind of thesis.

Step 2 Nail down your thesis idea.

  • Signature page (with the completed signatures of your advising committee - usually attained at the defense, or after the project is deemed complete )
  • Abstract - this is a short (one paragraph or so) description/summary of the work completed in your thesis
  • Table of Contents (with page numbers)
  • Introduction
  • Body of paper
  • Works Cited or Bibliography
  • Any necessary appendices or endnotes

Moving through the Writing Process

Step 1 Make a schedule.

  • If you do not already have a review of literature written, it’s time to do your research! The review of literature is essentially a summary of all of the existing scholarship about your topic with plenty of direct quotations from the primary and secondary sources that you’re referencing.

Step 8 Contextualize your work.

Finalizing Your Thesis

Step 1 Compare your draft with your university's requirements.

  • Many departments or programs provide a document template for theses and dissertations. If you have one of these, it may be easiest to use such a template from the beginning of your work (rather than copying and pasting your writing into it).

Step 2 Re-read the entire thesis for correctness.

  • Alternatively, ask a trusted colleague or friend to read over your thesis to help you catch any minor grammar/spelling/punctuation errors and typos.

Step 3 Follow all printing guidelines according to your department's policies.

  • Some institutions require you to submit your thesis for a formatting check prior to uploading the document to ProQuest. Be sure to check with your department’s Director of Graduate Studies for specific instructions.
  • Be aware of thesis submission deadlines, which are often well in advance of your graduation date. Late submission of your thesis may force you to push back your graduation date, which may affect your employment or continuing graduate studies.

Masters Thesis Outline

write masters thesis fast

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • Remember why you are writing a Master's thesis and who will want to read and use the material. You write a Master's thesis for members of your community, so keep in mind that they will have extensive knowledge and experience before reading your work. Don't bore them with unnecessary material. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Choosing the perfect question before starting research will prevent frustration and save time. Rigorous effort on finding the perfect question is probably the most important task when learning how to write a Master's thesis. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Consult other people who have completed a Master's thesis and obtained a Master's degree. It can be a long, grueling process, and having the support and advice of someone who has already done it can be very valuable. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://umb.libguides.com/PrimarySources/secondary
  • ↑ https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/in-text-citation-styles/
  • ↑ https://www.unk.edu/academics/gradstudies/admissions/grad-files/Grad%20Files/ThesisGdlnsFinal08.pdf
  • ↑ https://u.osu.edu/hackingthethesis/managing-stuff/your-content/outline/
  • ↑ http://www.imm.dtu.dk/~janba/MastersThesisAdvice.pdf

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a master's thesis, make it a goal to write 500 words every day, which will help you meet your deadline without having to rush at the last minute. It's also helpful if you work in 25-minute increments and take a 5-minute break in between, which will make your work sessions less overwhelming. Also, figure out a writing time that works best for you, whether it's in the morning or at night, and stick with it so you're more productive. For more help writing your master's thesis, like how to make an outline, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="write masters thesis fast"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Guide to writing your thesis/dissertation, definition of dissertation and thesis.

The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master’s degrees. The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree.

Formatting Requirement and Standards

The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style.

“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis

A “papers option” is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page , or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option, your dissertation or thesis is organized as a series of relatively independent chapters or papers that you have submitted or will be submitting to journals in the field. You must be the only author or the first author of the papers to be used in the dissertation. The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout.

ProQuest Electronic Submissions

The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication of the dissertation and abstract in its original form. All Cornell master’s theses and doctoral dissertations require an electronic submission through ProQuest, which fills orders for paper or digital copies of the thesis and dissertation and makes a digital version available online via their subscription database, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . For master’s theses, only the abstract is available. ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy. You retain control over your dissertation and are free to grant publishing rights as you see fit. The formatting requirements contained in this guide meet all ProQuest specifications.

Copies of Dissertation and Thesis

Copies of Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses are also uploaded in PDF format to the Cornell Library Repository, eCommons . A print copy of each master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation is submitted to Cornell University Library by ProQuest.

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How to Write a Master's Thesis

How to Write a Master's Thesis

  • Yvonne N. Bui - San Francisco State University, USA
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See what’s new to this edition by selecting the Features tab on this page. Should you need additional information or have questions regarding the HEOA information provided for this title, including what is new to this edition, please email [email protected] . Please include your name, contact information, and the name of the title for which you would like more information. For information on the HEOA, please go to http://ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html .

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“Yvonne Bui’s How to Write a Master’s Thesis should be mandatory for all thesis track master’s students.  It steers students away from the shortcuts students may be tempted to use that would be costly in the long run. The step by step intentional approach is what I like best about this book.”

“This is the best textbook about writing an M.A. thesis available in the market.” 

“This is the type of textbook that students keep and refer to after the class.”

Excellent book. Thorough, yet concise, information for students writing their Master's Thesis who may not have had a strong background in research.

Clear, Concise, easy for students to access and understand. Contains all the elements for a successful thesis.

I loved the ease of this book. It was clear without extra nonsense that would just confuse the students.

Clear, concise, easily accessible. Students find it of great value.

NEW TO THIS EDITION:             

  • Concrete instruction and guides for conceptualizing the literature review help students navigate through the most challenging topics.        
  • Step-by-step instructions and more screenshots give students the guidance they need to write the foundational chapter, along with the latest online resources and general library information.          
  • Additional coverage of single case designs and mixed methods help students gain a more comprehensive understanding of research methods.           
  • Expanded explanation of unintentional plagiarism within the ethics chapter shows students the path to successful and professional writing.       
  • Detailed information on conference presentation as a way to disseminate research , in addition to getting published, help students understand all of the tools needed to write a master’s thesis.    

KEY FEATURES:  

  • An advanced chapter organizer provides an up-front checklist of what to expect in the chapter and serves as a project planner, so that students can immediately prepare and work alongside the chapter as they begin to develop their thesis.
  • Full guidance on conducting successful literature reviews includes up-to-date information on electronic databases and Internet tools complete with numerous figures and captured screen shots from relevant web sites, electronic databases, and SPSS software, all integrated with the text.
  • Excerpts from research articles and samples from exemplary students' master's theses relate specifically to the content of each chapter and provide the reader with a real-world context.
  • Detailed explanations of the various components of the master's thesis and concrete strategies on how to conduct a literature review help students write each chapter of the master's thesis, and apply the American Psychological Association (APA) editorial style.
  • A comprehensive Resources section features "Try It!" boxes which lead students through a sample problem or writing exercise based on a piece of the thesis to reinforce prior course learning and the writing objectives at hand. Reflection/discussion questions in the same section are designed to help students work through the thesis process.

Sample Materials & Chapters

1: Overview of the Master's Degree and Thesis

3: Using the Literature to Research Your Problem

For instructors

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How to write a masters dissertation or thesis: top tips.

How to write a masters dissertation

It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at undergraduate level. Though, don’t feel put off by the idea. You’ll have plenty of time to complete it, and plenty of support from your supervisor and peers.

One of the main challenges that students face is putting their ideas and findings into words. Writing is a skill in itself, but with the right advice, you’ll find it much easier to get into the flow of writing your masters thesis or dissertation.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation or thesis for your masters degree, with top tips to consider at each stage in the process.

1. Understand your dissertation (or thesis) topic

There are slight differences between theses and dissertations , although both require a high standard of writing skill and knowledge in your topic. They are also formatted very similarly.

At first, writing a masters thesis can feel like running a 100m race – the course feels very quick and like there is not as much time for thinking! However, you’ll usually have a summer semester dedicated to completing your dissertation – giving plenty of time and space to write a strong academic piece.

By comparison, writing a PhD thesis can feel like running a marathon, working on the same topic for 3-4 years can be laborious. But in many ways, the approach to both of these tasks is quite similar.

Before writing your masters dissertation, get to know your research topic inside out. Not only will understanding your topic help you conduct better research, it will also help you write better dissertation content.

Also consider the main purpose of your dissertation. You are writing to put forward a theory or unique research angle – so make your purpose clear in your writing.

Top writing tip: when researching your topic, look out for specific terms and writing patterns used by other academics. It is likely that there will be a lot of jargon and important themes across research papers in your chosen dissertation topic. 

2. Structure your dissertation or thesis

Writing a thesis is a unique experience and there is no general consensus on what the best way to structure it is. 

As a postgraduate student , you’ll probably decide what kind of structure suits your research project best after consultation with your supervisor. You’ll also have a chance to look at previous masters students’ theses in your university library.

To some extent, all postgraduate dissertations are unique. Though they almost always consist of chapters. The number of chapters you cover will vary depending on the research. 

A masters dissertation or thesis organised into chapters would typically look like this: 

Write down your structure and use these as headings that you’ll write for later on.

Top writing tip : ease each chapter together with a paragraph that links the end of a chapter to the start of a new chapter. For example, you could say something along the lines of “in the next section, these findings are evaluated in more detail”. This makes it easier for the reader to understand each chapter and helps your writing flow better.

3. Write up your literature review

One of the best places to start when writing your masters dissertation is with the literature review. This involves researching and evaluating existing academic literature in order to identify any gaps for your own research.

Many students prefer to write the literature review chapter first, as this is where several of the underpinning theories and concepts exist. This section helps set the stage for the rest of your dissertation, and will help inform the writing of your other dissertation chapters.

What to include in your literature review

The literature review chapter is more than just a summary of existing research, it is an evaluation of how this research has informed your own unique research.

Demonstrate how the different pieces of research fit together. Are there overlapping theories? Are there disagreements between researchers?

Highlight the gap in the research. This is key, as a dissertation is mostly about developing your own unique research. Is there an unexplored avenue of research? Has existing research failed to disprove a particular theory?

Back up your methodology. Demonstrate why your methodology is appropriate by discussing where it has been used successfully in other research.

4. Write up your research

Your research is the heart and soul of your dissertation. Conducting your actual research is a whole other topic in itself, but it’s important to consider that your research design will heavily influence the way you write your final dissertation.

For instance, a more theoretical-based research topic might encompass more writing from a philosophical perspective. Qualitative data might require a lot more evaluation and discussion than quantitative research. 

Methodology chapter

The methodology chapter is all about how you carried out your research and which specific techniques you used to gather data. You should write about broader methodological approaches (e.g. qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods), and then go into more detail about your chosen data collection strategy. 

Data collection strategies include things like interviews, questionnaires, surveys, content analyses, discourse analyses and many more.

Data analysis and findings chapters

The data analysis or findings chapter should cover what you actually discovered during your research project. It should be detailed, specific and objective (don’t worry, you’ll have time for evaluation later on in your dissertation)

Write up your findings in a way that is easy to understand. For example, if you have a lot of numerical data, this could be easier to digest in tables.

This will make it easier for you to dive into some deeper analysis in later chapters. Remember, the reader will refer back to your data analysis section to cross-reference your later evaluations against your actual findings – so presenting your data in a simple manner is beneficial.

Think about how you can segment your data into categories. For instance, it can be useful to segment interview transcripts by interviewee. 

Top writing tip : write up notes on how you might phrase a certain part of the research. This will help bring the best out of your writing. There is nothing worse than when you think of the perfect way to phrase something and then you completely forget it.

5. Discuss and evaluate

Once you’ve presented your findings, it’s time to evaluate and discuss them.

It might feel difficult to differentiate between your findings and discussion sections, because you are essentially talking about the same data. The easiest way to remember the difference is that your findings simply present the data, whereas your discussion tells the story of this data.

Your evaluation breaks the story down, explaining the key findings, what went well and what didn’t go so well.

In your discussion chapter, you’ll have chance to expand on the results from your findings section. For example, explain what certain numbers mean and draw relationships between different pieces of data.

Top writing tip: don’t be afraid to point out the shortcomings of your research. You will receive higher marks for writing objectively. For example, if you didn’t receive as many interview responses as expected, evaluate how this has impacted your research and findings. Don’t let your ego get in the way!

6. Write your introduction

Your introduction sets the scene for the rest of your masters dissertation. You might be wondering why writing an introduction isn't at the start of our step-by-step list, and that’s because many students write this chapter last.

Here’s what your introduction chapter should cover:

Problem statement

Research question

Significance of your research

This tells the reader what you’ll be researching as well as its importance. You’ll have a good idea of what to include here from your original dissertation proposal , though it’s fairly common for research to change once it gets started.

Writing or at least revisiting this section last can be really helpful, since you’ll have a more well-rounded view of what your research actually covers once it has been completed and written up.

How to write a masters dissertation

Masters dissertation writing tips

When to start writing your thesis or dissertation.

When you should start writing your masters thesis or dissertation depends on the scope of the research project and the duration of your course. In some cases, your research project may be relatively short and you may not be able to write much of your thesis before completing the project. 

But regardless of the nature of your research project and of the scope of your course, you should start writing your thesis or at least some of its sections as early as possible, and there are a number of good reasons for this:

Academic writing is about practice, not talent. The first steps of writing your dissertation will help you get into the swing of your project. Write early to help you prepare in good time.

Write things as you do them. This is a good way to keep your dissertation full of fresh ideas and ensure that you don’t forget valuable information.

The first draft is never perfect. Give yourself time to edit and improve your dissertation. It’s likely that you’ll need to make at least one or two more drafts before your final submission.

Writing early on will help you stay motivated when writing all subsequent drafts.

Thinking and writing are very connected. As you write, new ideas and concepts will come to mind. So writing early on is a great way to generate new ideas.

How to improve your writing skills

The best way of improving your dissertation or thesis writing skills is to:

 Finish the first draft of your masters thesis as early as possible and send it to your supervisor for revision. Your supervisor will correct your draft and point out any writing errors. This process will be repeated a few times which will help you recognise and correct writing mistakes yourself as time progresses.

If you are not a native English speaker, it may be useful to ask your English friends to read a part of your thesis and warn you about any recurring writing mistakes. Read our section on English language support for more advice. 

Most universities have writing centres that offer writing courses and other kinds of support for postgraduate students. Attending these courses may help you improve your writing and meet other postgraduate students with whom you will be able to discuss what constitutes a well-written thesis.

Read academic articles and search for writing resources on the internet. This will help you adopt an academic writing style, which will eventually become effortless with practice.

Keep track of your bibliography 

When studying for your masters dissertation, you will need to develop an efficient way of organising your bibliography – this will prevent you from getting lost in large piles of data that you’ll need to write your dissertation. 

The easiest way to keep the track of all the articles you have read for your research is to create a database where you can summarise each article/chapter into a few most important bullet points to help you remember their content. 

Another useful tool for doing this effectively is to learn how to use specific reference management software (RMS) such as EndNote. RMS is relatively simple to use and saves a lot of time when it comes to organising your bibliography. This may come in very handy, especially if your reference section is suspiciously missing two hours before you need to submit your dissertation! 

Avoid accidental plagiarism

Plagiarism may cost you your postgraduate degree and it is important that you consciously avoid it when writing your thesis or dissertation. 

Occasionally, postgraduate students commit plagiarism unintentionally. This can happen when sections are copy and pasted from journal articles they are citing instead of simply rephrasing them. Whenever you are presenting information from another academic source, make sure you reference the source and avoid writing the statement exactly as it is written in the original paper.

What kind of format should your thesis have?

How to write a masters dissertation

Read your university’s guidelines before you actually start writing your thesis so you don’t have to waste time changing the format further down the line. However in general, most universities will require you to use 1.5-2 line spacing, font size 12 for text, and to print your thesis on A4 paper. These formatting guidelines may not necessarily result in the most aesthetically appealing thesis, however beauty is not always practical, and a nice looking thesis can be a more tiring reading experience for your postgrad examiner .

When should I submit my thesis?

The length of time it takes to complete your MSc or MA thesis will vary from student to student. This is because people work at different speeds, projects vary in difficulty, and some projects encounter more problems than others. 

Obviously, you should submit your MSc thesis or MA thesis when it is finished! Every university will say in its regulations that it is the student who must decide when it is ready to submit. 

However, your supervisor will advise you whether your work is ready and you should take their advice on this. If your supervisor says that your work is not ready, then it is probably unwise to submit it. Usually your supervisor will read your final thesis or dissertation draft and will let you know what’s required before submitting your final draft.

Set yourself a target for completion. This will help you stay on track and avoid falling behind. You may also only have funding for the year, so it is important to ensure you submit your dissertation before the deadline – and also ensure you don’t miss out on your graduation ceremony ! 

To set your target date, work backwards from the final completion and submission date, and aim to have your final draft completed at least three months before that final date.

Don’t leave your submission until the last minute – submit your work in good time before the final deadline. Consider what else you’ll have going on around that time. Are you moving back home? Do you have a holiday? Do you have other plans?

If you need to have finished by the end of June to be able to go to a graduation ceremony in July, then you should leave a suitable amount of time for this. You can build this into your dissertation project planning at the start of your research.

It is important to remember that handing in your thesis or dissertation is not the end of your masters program . There will be a period of time of one to three months between the time you submit and your final day. Some courses may even require a viva to discuss your research project, though this is more common at PhD level . 

If you have passed, you will need to make arrangements for the thesis to be properly bound and resubmitted, which will take a week or two. You may also have minor corrections to make to the work, which could take up to a month or so. This means that you need to allow a period of at least three months between submitting your thesis and the time when your program will be completely finished. Of course, it is also possible you may be asked after the viva to do more work on your thesis and resubmit it before the examiners will agree to award the degree – so there may be an even longer time period before you have finished.

How do I submit the MA or MSc dissertation?

Most universities will have a clear procedure for submitting a masters dissertation. Some universities require your ‘intention to submit’. This notifies them that you are ready to submit and allows the university to appoint an external examiner.

This normally has to be completed at least three months before the date on which you think you will be ready to submit.

When your MA or MSc dissertation is ready, you will have to print several copies and have them bound. The number of copies varies between universities, but the university usually requires three – one for each of the examiners and one for your supervisor.

However, you will need one more copy – for yourself! These copies must be softbound, not hardbound. The theses you see on the library shelves will be bound in an impressive hardback cover, but you can only get your work bound like this once you have passed. 

You should submit your dissertation or thesis for examination in soft paper or card covers, and your university will give you detailed guidance on how it should be bound. They will also recommend places where you can get the work done.

The next stage is to hand in your work, in the way and to the place that is indicated in your university’s regulations. All you can do then is sit and wait for the examination – but submitting your thesis is often a time of great relief and celebration!

Some universities only require a digital submission, where you upload your dissertation as a file through their online submission system.

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write masters thesis fast

An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)

A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.

Steps in Constructing a Thesis

First, analyze your primary sources.  Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)

Once you have a working thesis, write it down.  There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have.

Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction.  A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.

Anticipate the counterarguments.  Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you'll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)

This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a "soft-on-crime" image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.

Some Caveats and Some Examples

A thesis is never a question.  Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.

A thesis is never a list.  "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.

A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational.  An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.

An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim.  "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."

A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible.  Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."

Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University

How to Write a Better Thesis Statement Using AI (2023 Updated)

How to Write a Better Thesis Statement Using AI (2023 Updated)

Table of contents

write masters thesis fast

Meredith Sell

With the exceptions of poetry and fiction, every piece of writing needs a thesis statement. 

- Opinion pieces for the local newspaper? Yes. 

- An essay for a college class? You betcha.

- A book about China’s Ming Dynasty? Absolutely.

All of these pieces of writing need a thesis statement that sums up what they’re about and tells the reader what to expect, whether you’re making an argument, describing something in detail, or exploring ideas.

But how do you write a thesis statement? How do you even come up with one?

write masters thesis fast

This step-by-step guide will show you exactly how — and help you make sure every thesis statement you write has all the parts needed to be clear, coherent, and complete.

Let’s start by making sure we understand what a thesis is (and what it’s not).

What Is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a one or two sentence long statement that concisely describes your paper’s subject, angle or position — and offers a preview of the evidence or argument your essay will present.

A thesis is not:

  • An exclamation
  • A simple fact

Think of your thesis as the road map for your essay. It briefly charts where you’ll start (subject), what you’ll cover (evidence/argument), and where you’ll land (position, angle). 

Writing a thesis early in your essay writing process can help you keep your writing focused, so you won’t get off-track describing something that has nothing to do with your central point. Your central point is your thesis, and the rest of your essay fleshes it out.

Get help writing your thesis statement with this FREE AI tool > Get help writing your thesis statement with this FREE AI tool >

writing a thesis statement with AI

Different Kinds of Papers Need Different Kinds of Theses

How you compose your thesis will depend on the type of essay you’re writing. For academic writing, there are three main kinds of essays:

  • Persuasive, aka argumentative
  • Expository, aka explanatory

A persuasive essay requires a thesis that clearly states the central stance of the paper , what the rest of the paper will argue in support of. 

Paper books are superior to ebooks when it comes to form, function, and overall reader experience.

An expository essay’s thesis sets up the paper’s focus and angle — the paper’s unique take, what in particular it will be describing and why . The why element gives the reader a reason to read; it tells the reader why the topic matters.

Understanding the functional design of physical books can help ebook designers create digital reading experiences that usher readers into literary worlds without technological difficulties.

A narrative essay is similar to that of an expository essay, but it may be less focused on tangible realities and more on intangibles of, for example, the human experience.

The books I’ve read over the years have shaped me, opening me up to worlds and ideas and ways of being that I would otherwise know nothing about.

As you prepare to craft your thesis, think through the goal of your paper. Are you making an argument? Describing the chemical properties of hydrogen? Exploring your relationship with the outdoors? What do you want the reader to take away from reading your piece?

Make note of your paper’s goal and then walk through our thesis-writing process.

Now that you practically have a PhD in theses, let’s learn how to write one:

How to Write (and Develop) a Strong Thesis

If developing a thesis is stressing you out, take heart — basically no one has a strong thesis right away. Developing a thesis is a multi-step process that takes time, thought, and perhaps most important of all: research . 

Tackle these steps one by one and you’ll soon have a thesis that’s rock-solid.

1. Identify your essay topic.

Are you writing about gardening? Sword etiquette? King Louis XIV?

With your assignment requirements in mind, pick out a topic (or two) and do some preliminary research . Read up on the basic facts of your topic. Identify a particular angle or focus that’s interesting to you. If you’re writing a persuasive essay, look for an aspect that people have contentious opinions on (and read our piece on persuasive essays to craft a compelling argument).

If your professor assigned a particular topic, you’ll still want to do some reading to make sure you know enough about the topic to pick your specific angle.

For those writing narrative essays involving personal experiences, you may need to do a combination of research and freewriting to explore the topic before honing in on what’s most compelling to you.

Once you have a clear idea of the topic and what interests you, go on to the next step.

2. Ask a research question.

You know what you’re going to write about, at least broadly. Now you just have to narrow in on an angle or focus appropriate to the length of your assignment. To do this, start by asking a question that probes deeper into your topic. 

This question may explore connections between causes and effects, the accuracy of an assumption you have, or a value judgment you’d like to investigate, among others.

For example, if you want to write about gardening for a persuasive essay and you’re interested in raised garden beds, your question could be:

What are the unique benefits of gardening in raised beds versus on the ground? Is one better than the other?

Or if you’re writing about sword etiquette for an expository essay , you could ask:

How did sword etiquette in Europe compare to samurai sword etiquette in Japan?

How does medieval sword etiquette influence modern fencing?

Kickstart your curiosity and come up with a handful of intriguing questions. Then pick the two most compelling to initially research (you’ll discard one later).

3. Answer the question tentatively.

You probably have an initial thought of what the answer to your research question is. Write that down in as specific terms as possible. This is your working thesis . 

Gardening in raised beds is preferable because you won’t accidentally awaken dormant weed seeds — and you can provide more fertile soil and protection from invasive species.

Medieval sword-fighting rituals are echoed in modern fencing etiquette.

Why is a working thesis helpful?

Both your research question and your working thesis will guide your research. It’s easy to start reading anything and everything related to your broad topic — but for a 4-, 10-, or even 20-page paper, you don’t need to know everything. You just need the relevant facts and enough context to accurately and clearly communicate to your reader.

Your working thesis will not be identical to your final thesis, because you don’t know that much just yet.

This brings us to our next step:

4. Research the question (and working thesis).

What do you need to find out in order to evaluate the strength of your thesis? What do you need to investigate to answer your research question more fully? 

Comb through authoritative, trustworthy sources to find that information. And keep detailed notes.

As you research, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your thesis — and see what other opposing or more nuanced theses exist. 

If you’re writing a persuasive essay, it may be helpful to organize information according to what does or does not support your thesis — or simply gather the information and see if it’s changing your mind. What new opinion do you have now that you’ve learned more about your topic and question? What discoveries have you made that discredit or support your initial thesis?

Raised garden beds prevent full maturity in certain plants — and are more prone to cold, heat, and drought.

If you’re writing an expository essay, use this research process to see if your initial idea holds up to the facts. And be on the lookout for other angles that would be more appropriate or interesting for your assignment.

Modern fencing doesn’t share many rituals with medieval swordplay.

With all this research under your belt, you can answer your research question in-depth — and you’ll have a clearer idea of whether or not your working thesis is anywhere near being accurate or arguable. What’s next?

5. Refine your thesis.

If you found that your working thesis was totally off-base, you’ll probably have to write a new one from scratch. 

For a persuasive essay , maybe you found a different opinion far more compelling than your initial take. For an expository essay , maybe your initial assumption was completely wrong — could you flip your thesis around and inform your readers of what you learned?

Use what you’ve learned to rewrite or revise your thesis to be more accurate, specific, and compelling.

Raised garden beds appeal to many gardeners for the semblance of control they offer over what will and will not grow, but they are also more prone to changes in weather and air temperature and may prevent certain plants from reaching full maturity. All of this makes raised beds the worse option for ambitious gardeners. 

While swordplay can be traced back through millennia, modern fencing has little in common with medieval combat where swordsmen fought to the death.

If you’ve been researching two separate questions and theses, now’s the time to evaluate which one is most interesting, compelling, or appropriate for your assignment. Did one thesis completely fall apart when faced with the facts? Did one fail to turn up any legitimate sources or studies? Choose the stronger question or the more interesting (revised) thesis, and discard the other.

6. Get help from AI

To make the process even easier, you can take advantage of Wordtune's generative AI capabilities to craft an effective thesis statement. You can take your current thesis statement and try the paraphrase tool to get suggestions for better ways of articulating it. WordTune will generate a set of related phrases, which you can select to help you refine your statement. You can also use Wordtune's suggestions to craft the thesis statement. Write your initial introduction sentence, then click '+' and select the explain suggestion. Browse through the suggestions until you have a statement that captures your idea perfectly.

write masters thesis fast

Thesis Check: Look for These Three Elements

At this point, you should have a thesis that will set up an original, compelling essay, but before you set out to write that essay, make sure your thesis contains these three elements:

  • Topic: Your thesis should clearly state the topic of your essay, whether swashbuckling pirates, raised garden beds, or methods of snow removal.
  • Position or angle: Your thesis should zoom into the specific aspect of your topic that your essay will focus on, and briefly but boldly state your position or describe your angle.
  • Summary of evidence and/or argument: In a concise phrase or two, your thesis should summarize the evidence and/or argument your essay will present, setting up your readers for what’s coming without giving everything away.

The challenge for you is communicating each of these elements in a sentence or two. But remember: Your thesis will come at the end of your intro, which will already have done some work to establish your topic and focus. Those aspects don’t need to be over explained in your thesis — just clearly mentioned and tied to your position and evidence.

Let’s look at our examples from earlier to see how they accomplish this:

Notice how:

  • The topic is mentioned by name. 
  • The position or angle is clearly stated. 
  • The evidence or argument is set up, as well as the assumptions or opposing view that the essay will debunk.

Both theses prepare the reader for what’s coming in the rest of the essay: 

  • An argument to show that raised beds are actually a poor option for gardeners who want to grow thriving, healthy, resilient plants.
  • An exposition of modern fencing in comparison with medieval sword fighting that shows how different they are.

Examine your refined thesis. Are all three elements present? If any are missing, make any additions or clarifications needed to correct it.

It’s Essay-Writing Time!

Now that your thesis is ready to go, you have the rest of your essay to think about. With the work you’ve already done to develop your thesis, you should have an idea of what comes next — but if you need help forming your persuasive essay’s argument, we’ve got a blog for that.

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  1. How I Wrote My Masters' Thesis in One Week

    Here are two ways that I managed to do it. Write. Even when you have zero motivation. This applies especially to those who are in the situation I was in. Since the aim is to fill your content ...

  2. Insider's Guide: Writing A Thesis When You're Short On Time

    Instead of inserting "work on thesis" into your calendar, insert measurable goals like "finish Figure 1" or "write two pages of Chapter 2.". 7. Write In Very Short Bursts. Writing in several short bursts is more efficient than writing in a few, long extended periods of time. If you ever tried to write for several hours in a row, you ...

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    How to Write a Master's Thesis: The Final Stages. After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to help meet your word-count limit.

  5. How to Write a Master's Thesis (with Pictures)

    To write a master's thesis, make it a goal to write 500 words every day, which will help you meet your deadline without having to rush at the last minute. It's also helpful if you work in 25-minute increments and take a 5-minute break in between, which will make your work sessions less overwhelming. Also, figure out a writing time that works ...

  6. A complete guide to writing a master's thesis

    There are two ways that you can approach the editing of your master's thesis. Both have value and it depends on how you view the process of writing. These are: Individually edit sections as they are returned from the supervisor. Edit at the very end, so that the editing can be consistent across sections.

  7. Guide to Writing Your Thesis/Dissertation : Graduate School

    Formatting Requirement and Standards. The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should ...

  8. How to Write a Master's Thesis

    "This is the best textbook about writing an M.A. thesis available in the market." -Hsin-I Liu, University of the Incarnate Word The Third Edition of How to Write a Master's Thesis is a comprehensive manual on how to plan and write a five-chapter master's thesis, and a great resource for graduate students looking for concrete, applied guidance on how to successfully complete their ...

  9. How to Write a Dissertation or Masters Thesis

    Writing a masters dissertation or thesis is a sizable task. It takes a considerable amount of research, studying and writing. Usually, students need to write around 10,000 to 15,000 words. It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at ...

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    Actions. Week 1. Collect all of the data into one place and create a structure with all of the chapters and sections you want to write. Finish up any experiments quickly and make your data as presentable and "thesis ready" as possible. Start putting bullet points under each section so you understand what you want to write in each. Week 2.

  11. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

  12. Is it possible to write a masters thesis in 10 days?

    I suggest setting targets that allow you to finish writing in eight days, not 10. This gives you some padding in case life gets in the way. To be clear, there are 192 hours in eight days. Allowing for a 12-hour work day, then you need to write 15,000 words in 96 hours or about 156 words an hour. Set a target of 400 words an hour.

  13. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  14. How to Write a Thesis: A Guide for Master's Students

    Typically, these students must write a thesis statement that consists of at least one compelling sentence and at least 50 pages of content, then turn it in within 16 weeks. I have taught graduate students, primarily from the U.S. Intelligence Community, how to conduct research for over eight years.

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    minimum of ten days for all members of the thesis committee to review the thesis. Step 1: Prepare the content of your presentation. The content of your presentation is the mirror of your thesis ...

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    Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  18. How to Write a Better Thesis Statement Using AI (2023 Updated)

    Once you have a clear idea of the topic and what interests you, go on to the next step. 2. Ask a research question. You know what you're going to write about, at least broadly. Now you just have to narrow in on an angle or focus appropriate to the length of your assignment.

  19. PDF How to Write a Master's Thesis

    How to Write a Master's Thesis at the Chair of Innovation and Creativity 1. General Guidelines The main objective of a Master's thesis is to demonstrate that you can work on a topic independently and scientifically. In your Master's thesis, the context of your topic is of great importance.

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    A good thesis is a done thesis. Make multiple backups, and if you can, version control. Write. Make time to sit and write. Doing research for the intro topics is still part of the process. Make figures, doing biblirography things and structuring the topics is all part of it.

  21. How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

    A master's thesis proposal involves a copious amount of data collection, particular presentation ethics, and most importantly, it will become the roadmap to your full thesis. Remember, you must convince your committee that your idea is strong and unique, and that you have done enough legwork to begin with the first few drafts of your final thesis.

  22. How to write a masters thesis fast: Practical productivity tips for

    How to write a Master's Thesis fast: practical productivity tips for students is easily digestible and practical guide for students who want to write their Master's Thesis in an efficient way. The guide tackles the most common problems students have during the process, including: - How to come up with the topic for Master's Thesis?