Writing Your Thesis

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The graduation thesis is a thorn in the side for many students. That isn't surprising, because during your thesis you're suddenly more dependent on yourself than during the rest of your study. Moreover, it's the conclusion of your studies, which you naturally want to round off nicely.

In order to minimize the burden on your shoulders, we will protect you from a few of the main pitfalls that you're likely to encounter while writing your thesis. Based on our own experience, among other things!

1. Procrastination

Every student has probably done it at one time or another: hand in an essay at 11:59 pm because you started too late anyway. In 2016 there was even a TED Talk about why we procrastinate so much. Your thesis is the perfect time to postpone considerably, because the deadline is only a few weeks or even months away.

The problem is that with your thesis you'll not be able to finish it in those last two days before the deadline. That's why it's important that you don't postpone your work and start working regularly from the start.

Subject choice

It goes without saying, but it still often goes wrong. During the phase in which you've to write a research proposal or plan of action, you're often still busy with other things, so you quickly choose a topic. Then you're stuck with this for a few months and it was still less fun and / or interesting than you thought.

So, make sure you think carefully about your topic and choose something that you think will keep you interested for a few months. This makes it easier to limit your procrastination.

Planning and regularity

Planning is number one in every list of tips. And that isn't unjustified. What is often the most difficult is actually sticking to the (often ambitious) schedule. Try to be realistic in your planning and take into account breaks, free time and other activities, because not meeting your own schedule is frustrating.

It's important to apply some regularity. For example, choose to plan at least two days every week and block them in your agenda, then plan the rest more flexibly. So you've at least a basis every week. If you do nothing for a whole week, it will cost you extra time to get into your flow.

Don't be too hard on yourself

While you may have to pull out all the stops in the last few weeks before you're done, that isn't the case in the beginning. There is no need to sit in the library for at least eight hours a day. Shorter (but productive) days are just as valuable.

If you find yourself unproductive early in the morning, start a little later. And if you run out of energy at the end of the afternoon, go home. That way you probably spend less time on memes.

2. Citation of sources and (unintentional) plagiarism

Many students make mistakes in the citation. Not every study program is equally strict on this subject, but it's the most trivial subject on which your work can be rejected.

Citing sources is a tedious job, but it's extremely important when writing academic texts. It's also not that difficult at all, if you spend some time on it. Via Google you can find various comprehensive guides for the different reference styles.

Moreover, you run a great risk of plagiarism if your source reference isn't in order. Plagiarism is copying someone else's work without giving them credit for it. If you're caught plagiarizing you even run the risk of being expelled from your study program.

Prevent plagiarism

Step one isn't to copy pieces of text. Even if you don't intend to leave this text in your thesis, it's still wiser to use your own words immediately. If you want to quote a piece, put it right away in quotation marks. Step two is to keep track of your sources immediately. Make sure you know where you got the source from or make a correct reference immediately.

Check for plagiarism

To be completely sure that you've not committed (unintentionally) plagiarism, you can use a plagiarism checker. This is a program that compares your text with a database of billions of documents using an algorithm. The matches are then highlighted so that you can see where you may have been plagiarized.

3. Read a lot, write little

In the early stages of your research, you'll probably mainly need to read a lot of literature. While these are usually not the easiest texts, it's an easy trick to keep reading and not write anything. Your day may also feel productive, because you've read 3 articles.

Start writing right away

Ultimately, you just need to have something on paper. And that becomes easier if you start writing immediately. It does not have to become a whole immediately, but write down the relevant things in your own words for each article. This way you can easily use them at a later time and you don't run the risk of forgetting something important.

Make use of (small) goals

I myself set the goal to write 500 words a day, about one A4 sheet. In this way I forced myself to immediately write down important things that I had read clearly. Of course it didn't always work out, but it did ensure that I made quick progress and had less stress. Moreover, I could go home satisfied almost every day, because I had achieved my goal. That works well for your motivation!

4. (A lack of) demarcation

Especially in the beginning, if you don't know exactly how you'll approach your thesis, it's easy to work very broadly. You read all kinds of articles that you probably won't use in the end. So try to define as quickly as possible what you'll and will not discuss in your thesis.

Make your main and sub questions very concrete

It's easy to write a broad question, but not easy to answer. So make sure that you immediately delineate your research questions. For example:

Wrong: How do people react to an attack?

Good: How do people between the ages of 18 and 35 react to a terrorist attack in their own country?

Always keep your main and partial questions in mind

If you've formulated clear research questions, always ask yourself if what you're doing contributes to the answer to your questions. Whether it's reading literature or drafting an interview question. This way you ensure that you don't end up on useless sidings and you save a lot of time.

5. Spoken language and language errors in your thesis

One of the hardest things in writing is sticking to the right style. For theses it's important that you've an academic (or business) style, but many students are inclined to use colloquialisms. This is unpleasant to read and makes your thesis difficult to understand.

In addition, many spelling and grammar errors are also made, specially among students who have to write in English.

Read each paragraph

It's overwhelming to have to read your entire thesis again in one sitting. Therefore, make sure that you reread each paragraph after it's finished. If you use reference words such as “he” or “this”, make sure it's clear to the reader what they are referring to.

Have your thesis checked for language

Make sure that someone else checks your thesis again, because there is a good chance that you'll no longer see your mistakes. For example, you can ask a family member or friend who is good at language. There are also professional offices where you can have your thesis checked, for example, they also pay attention to the use of the academic style.

Certainly if you engage a professional editor, you'll be surprised how many mistakes are still made from your thesis, even if you're good at language.

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