How to make the Master’s Thesis Project process a success

There is no universal solution to an optimal thesis process. It depends on e.g. how you work, your subject area and whether you work alone or as part of a group. However, there is a golden rule: serious considerations on how to proceed with the process.

Below you’ll find good advice and inspiration that, hopefully, will get you off to a good start:

The good subject area

A quick and precise identification of a subject area is vital to an effective thesis process. But how do you identify the right subject area?  You may get inspiration for your subject area in various places – find some of them in the list below:

  • Get inspiration from the literature you have read during your course of study – what did you find the most exciting or interesting? And what would you have liked to delve into, if you had had the chance?
  • Visit SDU jobbank (Choose ’Studieprojekter’) and find bulletins from businesses and organizations that are looking for students to help shed light on a certain area or problem. If you find a subject area, remember to take into consideration if it is relevant to your professional profile and whether it will be possible to work with in an academic context.
  • Get inspiration by looking at thesis projects from SDU and other universities – you may e.g. borrow thesis projects at SDU's library.
  • Consider what your interests might be after the thesis project. Perhaps it’ll be possible to write the thesis project in cooperation with a business or organization that matches your future career plans – both when it comes to sector, tasks or a certain discipline.
The good project description

Having identified your subject area, the next step is to draw up the project description. The project description is a short presentation with important information about your subject or the empirical research you are going to do. It must also list the theories and methods that you intend to apply. In other words, it forces you to find the focus of your thesis project and to make important choices about theory, methodology and perhaps empiricism.

What is my subject = what’s missing?
When you draw up your project description, it may be a good idea to ask yourself: what’s missing? You see, your project description must be addressing a shortcoming or an intellectual curiosity. It may be a description, categorization, assessment, qualification, interpretation or documentation that’s missing.

How to work with your project description
On the Studypedia you’ll find good advice on how to draw up a good project description. However, keep in mind that the early project description is only indicative – it may be adjusted up till the day you submit the thesis. As long as you bear in mind that your conclusion must answer your research question(s) – i.e. it must be meaningful to read the project description and the conclusion without having read the text in between.

5 good routines during the thesis process

Good habits and routines are essential for experiencing a good thesis process and thus avoiding developing a guilty conscience and stress. Because -rephrasing the old saying - bad habits die hard. So from the onset of the thesis project process, take time to think about how to avoid bad habits and routines.

Below we have listed 5 good routines that other students have found very useful during their thesis project process:

  1. Project timeline with objectives
    Plan the entire thesis project process by making a project timeline with objectives for your own personal use alongside the working plan which is part of your project description. Drawing up objectives requires that you clarify what overall parts you divide the thesis into: preliminary preparations, literature searching, reading, data collection, analysis, writing, feedback, proofreading and so on.
    Having done that, you need to think the process through backwards and ask yourself: If I must submit my thesis on June 1st, when do I need to have e.g. my proofreading, my analysis ready? And continue until you have worked out an overall timeline.
    Weekly objectives
    The process of dividing the timeline into objectives also requires dividing the main tasks into parts. Ask yourself e.g.: If I must begin my analysis in April, when do I need to have my interviews ready? Continue dividing the main tasks into objectives until you have a concrete objective for approximately each week.
    But why draw up a timeline with objectives? Well, because objectives and deadlines are actual and more motivating than a long-term objective that lies e.g. 4-6 months ahead. Drawing up a timeline is only helpful, if you actually use and follow the plan and continue to revise it throughout the process.
  2. A weekly timetable for thesis, work and leisure
    Another practical exercise could be to every Sunday evening draw up a timetable for the following week, dividing your time into time devoted to the thesis, leisure and e.g. work, if you have a student job. The advantage of having a timetable is motivation, because you know exactly when to work on your thesis and when you can do other things. It also ensures that when you spend time on other activities, you can do it with a good conscience.
  3. Thesis study area
    It may be a good idea to work on your thesis away from home. That way your time is divided into time working with the thesis and leisure time. Being away from your private sphere where you perhaps both eat, hang out and sleep, could make it easier for you to manage your time working on the thesis. The study area may be somewhere on SDU, e.g. a group study area or a silent study seat at the library or in a reading room. It may also be outside of SDU, e.g. your local library or at the business or organization that you cooperate with on your thesis.
  4. Procrastination and rewards
    Elimination of potential procrastination is important. One way is to e.g. put aside your mobile phone. Various research have shown that after a disturbance like e.g. an SMS or snapchat, it may take you up to 15 minutes to get back to where you left off.  If you’re doing a routine job, you get back on track much faster. Whereas, if you are working with complicated processes with a lot of things to keep track of, you may need as much as 15 minutes to get back to where you left off. So plan when to check news, messages and so on.
    Apart from that, having a system of rewarding yourself, may also be a good idea – during the thesis project process you’re the only one who’ll be able to do so! Take time to consider your rewards and then write them down. An example: This week I must finish writing my methodology, and when I have completed that, I can buy the gadget I’ve been wanting for so long’. Rewards enhance motivation and help you keep the momentum going.
  5. Face the challenges!
    If you find yourself faced with challenges during the thesis process, act on them straight away and talk to someone who may help you. Once you get trapped in a vicious cycle, it is very difficult to break it.

Get ideas on what to do, if you get stuck in the thesis project process.

And check the Counselling Centre's offer of individual thesis project coaching.

Help during the thesis process

There are many ways to get help during the thesis project process. Below are some examples:

  • Your thesis project supervisor
    Get academic supervision and guidance concerning your thesis project – be it identifying or defining the subject area, the research question, empiricism or theories and methods for your thesis project’s structure. Read more on how to use your supervisor (link til ’Specialets faser’)
  • The Counselling Centre
    Get individual counselling on how to get a good thesis project process. Or how to get back on track, if you suddenly get stuck in the process.
  • The Studypedia
    Get good advice on how to write an academic paper – such as defining a subject, literature search and how to organize the writing process.