Some think of it is the worst part, some are pretty much indifferent about the dawning of it, and rumour has it that some even enjoy it – writing your thesis. Like many others I was not spared from the about-50-pages-monstrosity. Yet, to be honest I count myself to the few crazy ones enjoying the process of writing (which is out of the ordinary at least within the comfort of my acquaintances) and so I faced this last challenge with just as much curiosity as respect. Even though I generally felt well prepared because of continuous practice manifested as blogposts like this one, there are still some tips and tricks I wished I knew sooner.
Studying software development, I of course searched for exactly that - a software development related topic, and there is no shortage of them. I saw myself in a mess. Although there were so many options none of them seemed to be the perfect one. Now I know, (almost) every topic can be the perfect one if you want it to be. In the end you are the one writing the thesis and the one defining the course it will take. So, my takeaway from this one – be open for topics that may not be perfect or spark your interest at first glance.
Yes, scrolling up to my intro, of course I knew that before I started. Yet I did not write. I was busy working on my battle plan, defining chapters, gathering almost too many sources and I got a little lost in preparations. Except the getting lost part, planning and preparation are important, of course it is something that is and thus feels very productive. Still, one must simply start writing at some point. I guess we mostly shy away from it as it seems like such an unbearable chunk of work, that comes with requirements no other written work has ever had.
The worst thing that cannot and should not happen while writing (including prep-work) your thesis is you getting stuck along the way. Be it the planning of chapters, one paragraph you cannot seem to finish or some practical part you additionally have to worry about. What I did to help me getting unstuck again in these situations is to simply stop. I let this unfinished paragraph hanging in my document and scrolled further down to the next big heading. Why was there a heading? Because as soon as a realized the planning got out of hand, I started out doing some first writing in parallel to planning with a document split up into the three sections Introduction, Main and Conclusion. This may seem like a doomed strategy, something that eventually gets out of hand. For sure a lot of discipline is needed to keep that document organized in the long run, but I (almost) always forced myself to write a short introduction before actually starting to write about the new knowledge that I had acquired. And thanks to those one to two sentences packed before every information it kept running like a common thread and did not become a collection of unrelated short stories.
As of the day of writing, I have roughly two weeks left to finish my work. Spanning over a little more than 50 pages, I have to say that I am proud to have pulled this off. I guess that the first time is always the hardest and everyone has to be patient with oneself. As the final assignment is not as ridiculously far away as it seemed only a few weeks ago, I started reflecting on the progress made and what actually managed to stop me in my tracks from time to time. For me it is still the hard to learn lesson that it does not have to be perfect the first time you write it. The more tries the better it usually gets as your own understanding of what you want to express expands. And the good part about paper (especially the digital one) is, that it is very forgiving.
In the end it boils down to just doing it. There may be some support structures you can put in place to improve and optimize the process, but you have to do it anyway, so you might as well enjoy it. Academic writing may sound boring to some, but it holds the potential of opening up new perspectives in your private as well as professional life. It is an opportunity to learn and to see the bigger picture a little bit clearer.
Photo by JessyVe 😄