One frequent comment I hear from students is: “I need to start writing my thesis, but I have no clue how to begin”.
As Hans Rosling would say (If you don’t know who he is, make sure to read about the wonderful GapMinder project he developed):
Let me take you step-by-step through what you should do to succeed, write an amazing thesis, “blow your supervisors mind away”, impress your friends, make your neighbor jealous, make all girls fall for you (or whoever you fancy), have an incredible career and become a millionaire!
OK, maybe I over exaggerated. Still, I’ll help you develop a fantastic thesis.
Here We Go!
STEP ONE: Define Your Research Aim and Objectives!
My friend, how will you drive, if you don’t know exactly where you want to go? Defining WHAT you wish to research is the initial step, and perhaps the most important! Many of the decisions you will make in terms of literature, methodology, type of analysis, and much more, is all defined not by you, but rather, by your research aim!
So take time here, discuss it with your supervisor and others.
But how do you define your research aim? Still don’t have a clue how to write it?
NO WORRIES! I have written an entire article to help you define it. Just go step-by-step, OK?
LINK: How To Develop a Great Thesis Idea
STEP TWO: Start Writing Your Introduction Chapter
Alright, now I’ll get controversial. Not controversial like “Did Apollo 11 really land on the moon?”, “Beatles or Stones?”, “Can a lasagna without cheese still be called lasagna?”.
I mean some academics would suggest you write your introduction chapter, once all other chapters are finished. I have a slightly different view.
Why? (“warum” auf Deutsch) Personally, I believe that it is a chapter you can start writing early. And considering it is a small one, you will have the initial feeling of accomplishment you need to keep on going!
Will it be the final version? Certainly not. As you write the other chapters you might need to make adaptations, but that is OK. The main core will have been written already and you will be feeling good about it!
But how do you write your introduction chapter? What did Hans Rosling used to say? (If you haven’t read about him yet, take 5 minutes and go!)
I’ve written an entire article to help you write your introduction chapter. Just follow step-by-step.
LINK: How to Write a Great Introduction Chapter
STEP THREE: Start Writing Your Literature Review (Theoretical Background)
Now that you know what you wish to research, you have written your introduction chapter and you are feeling good and positive (while your classmates that have not read this article are panicking). Your confidence is pumping, blood is flowing and you feel great!
What do you do next? DON’T START THINKING OF DATA COLLECTION JUST YET.
Start writing your literature review (wow, that was a bucket of cold water, wasn’t it?). As I’ve mentioned before, it will not be the most exciting chapter and you will not be thrilled with excitement. But it must be done and it is super important.
Only after you have written a great chunk of it and have seen how other studies have measured factors that are relevant for you, can you move forward OK?
But how do you write your literature review?
I’ve written an entire article to help you write your literature review.
LINK: How To Write a a Great Literature Review
STEP FOUR: Write Your Methodology Chapter and Collect Your Data
Now that you’ve finished (or almost) your literature review, it is time to write your methodology chapter. This is also really important as it defines the “rules of your game”.
Once you are done with it, you will feel really positive as you have finished three chapters! (Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology). Although for some, the energy level is starting to drop. But this is not your case! You are still feeling VERY motivated, right? Yeah, that’s the attitude!
It is time to move to the most fun stage!
Yes, data collection! You will leave the house and interact with humans! (Unless you are collecting data online. If this is the case, get out of the house anyway. People are worried about you.)
This stage is as interesting as the first bite of a 4 cheese pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni, better than first sip of coffee with brown sugar on a cold morning, more exciting than the opening song of a concert you were waiting for, more thrilling than the first goal for your team at a final or when the red lights go out at the start of a Formula 1 race.
OK, maybe I over exaggerated again.
Anyway, the literature review should have prepared you to define and inform the reader what and how you will measure what you intend to measure (and thus, fulfill your research aim).
So discuss with your supervisor in detail how to define your measurements and your data collection process.
It is impossible for me to write an article for you on this, as every study is different. Nonetheless, I wrote one article with some hacks (people love this word nowadays) for your research plan.
LINK: Here you will find some tips on writing your methodology.
LINK: Here are some tips on using the Marketing Scales Handbook.
STEP FIVE: Data Analysis and Write Your Results
This may sound a bit weird to you (I can be strange at times, but who can’t? Right?), but I truly love the moment when I have a full data set after data collection but I still haven’t analyzed it. In other words, I do not know what I have in my hands.
What do I do? Put some nice music on (e.g. Beatles, Dylan, Tom Jobim, Oasis, Frank Sinatra, Metallica, Hendrix), get myself a nice cold beer, coffee or port wine (depends on the time of the day, level of hangover and other random factors), sit somewhere comfortable and start running some statistics! Oh Yeah, life is good.
Told you I could be weird.
Anyway, in case you struggle with statistics I have developed some statistical tips and book recommendations that hopefully are helpful for you.
LINK: Entire section with statistical support.
LINK: YouTube playlist with SPSS tutorials.
LINK: Melody of Statistics – SPSS Guide and Statistical Tips
After your analysis, make sure to write up the results properly!
STEP SIX: Write Your Discussion/Conclusion Chapter
Now that you have analyzed your entire data, it is time to reflect on what you have found. My main suggestion here is:
Do not write this chapter right after having finished your analysis.
Give yourself some time to reflect on what you have found. Sometimes an insight will come up while you are in the shower, going for a run, or simply talking to others. But the deal is: understanding what you have found and the outcomes of it is not as straightforward as it may seem. There is much to be interpreted and suggested from research results. And often this needs time!
Talk to colleagues, other students, share results with people you trust and that you know will be able to help you. This might be really useful!
And don’t forget to address a very important question regarding your study: “Given the results you have found, SO WHAT?”
Tell the reader exactly what your study can suggest, indicate and the relevance of it.
Here are some links with further suggestions:
LINK: Writing your Conclusion Chapter
STEP SEVEN: Managerial Recommendations and Limitations
Now that you have reflected on and discussed your findings, it is time to write the managerial recommendations. Here, you will write about specific actions that should be taken by the industry in the face of your findings.
If you are unsure how to do it, kein problem! (“sem problema”, em Portugues). I have also written an article to help you write this section of your thesis. Just follow it and you should be fine.
And of course, every study has limitations and yours is no different. Maybe you are a special person, I don’t know, I am not saying you aren’t. However, your study is just like every other! (sorry for the reality shock). So it has limitations.
Again, if you don’t know exactly how to do it, RELAX my friend! I have also written another article (Yes, I do write a lot. Yes, I do have a life. Yes, I can be weird at times. But I had warned you about it before, remember?) to help you write this section.
LINK: Don’t Worry! And Write the Limitations of Your Research
LINK: Writing your Managerial Recommendations.
STEP EIGHT: Write the Abstract
Alright, now you’ve climbed most of the mountain!
By now your energy level should be quite low, you may be broke up with your partner, had disagreements with your family, you haven’t seen the sun shining in a while, you’ve been switching from laughter to crying somewhat often and your dog is scared of you.
This is only because you are tired and stressed. You will go back to being a normal person very soon. You are almost there!
Before, make sure to write your abstract. It does not involve much thinking, as you have done most of the hard work already. Not sure how to write it? Oh my dear friend… Do you really think I would leave a desperate person without help?
Read here how to write a great abstract fast and not miss any relevant information!
Link: How To Write a Perfect Abstract
STEP NINE: Format Your Thesis
Alright, look who is here! You’ve made it.
Now it is the easy part. What you will do here is simple: again, make yourself some nice drink (Please, no vodka. Headache the next day is unbelievable.), put some music on and go through the thesis, checking font sizes, spelling mistakes, page numbers, table and figure sizes. This process can be really joyful!
However, please never in your lifetime panic if you see mistakes!
When you are formatting it, you will come across many issues, typos and other forms of minor mistakes. THIS IS NORMAL! (What is not normal is eating pizza while drinking water. That is wrong. In Brazil we say: “If you are in hell, hug the devil”. So don’t try to play healthy if you are having pizza. order a beer or a soft-drink.).
As you should know by now, I am your friend and wish you the best. SO… I have not made a list of formatting things, because the requirements vary from institution to institution. BUT… I have made a checklist with things you should go through, to make sure you don’t forget any minor mistake, OK?
LINK: Thesis Checklist – Don’t Forget Any Detail Before Submission
If you are reading this article until here, you are an absolute star! I am impressed… Not sure many people will do that, which only comes to show your commitment.
But… There is one final obligation for you: THESIS PRESENTATION (Sometimes called “colloquium”, or “defense”, or “viva”). And of course, I would not leave you alone for it! So I’ve written some suggestions on what you could do to simply have an incredible presentation!
Link: How To Succeed in a Thesis Colloquium
Hopefully these tips have been useful for you! All the absolute best in life and keep in touch!
PS: Now get out of your flat to see the sun, hug your dog, get back with your girlfriend and tell your parents you love them.