Writing a Master’s Thesis: Basic Recipe | Top Universities

Writing a Master’s Thesis: Basic Recipe

By Valeria Burdea

Updated July 28, 2015 Updated July 28, 2015

My mother always says her food tastes better when she sings while cooking. Seems weird to remember this when trying to describe how to deal with a master’s thesis, but I guess this whole process is not much different than cooking. The lesson here would be that you have to keep the optimism and the creativity flowing one way or another (singing is proven to help) if you want to end up with a rewarding final product.

The recipe for a successful master's thesis would involve a mix of the following main ingredients...

1. The student

Usually confused, needs a good shake to get ready for the process of cooking up the master's thesis. Ideally, the shaking up stage should start right after the start of the master’s program. However, some good seasoning can solve the problem of starting up later. In other words, it’s always better to start thinking about what your research interests are from the very beginning of your studies.

I must admit though, that the pressure building up towards the end can work wonders sometimes. But since this is not a reliable strategy, the key towards a good start is to write down every issue you find intriguing as your course progresses.

Also, it would be better not to have a very strong opinion about a possible topic since that might lead to disappointment if you wouldn’t be able to find the information that supports your conviction. This might even make you reluctant to analyze the necessary data. In this case, it’s better to let yourself be surprised by the results of your research.

2. The supervisor

Keep in mind that the more experienced s/he is, the better. Hence, though you might be tempted to choose a younger professor, who seems more funny and easy going, you do want to have the most critical appraisal you can get in order not to let anything you could improve on slip by.

Now, after you’ve chosen your supervisor, try to consider his/her interests as well as your own when thinking of your topic. You probably picked this professor because you have similar interests. This means that his/her research projects could represent a good place to find a research question. Note that some supervisors also have ongoing projects that you could join, making it much easier to conduct your research with proper funding.

And finally…

3. The topic

This needs to be in high concentration, very flavorful and surprising. This is something that you probably can’t find around every corner, that’s why you always need to be on the lookout. There are two things you should keep in mind. First, a thesis topic needs to be quite narrow. If it is too broad you will waste a lot of time trying to put some structure into your work, and more often than not you will become confused about what you are actually looking to prove.

Second, it has to be original. Writing a master's thesis is all about researching, and finding answers to new questions, or even answering old questions but in a new way. If your topic is not original, you will easily get bored by working on it. Consequently, since writing a thesis is fairly time-consuming, do ensure that throughout this process you make the decisions that will enable you to enjoy the whole process of writing it.

In the end, I must point out that there is no universal recipe for guaranteed success. What each of us has to do is take the basic recipe above and personalize it with some salt and pepper to suit our own taste.

Bon appetite!

This article was originally published in April 2013 . It was last updated in July 2015

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