How to Write a Master’s Thesis

Ginger Abbot

Feb 13, 2023

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After obtaining your undergraduate degree and continuing your education in a rigorous graduate program, the master’s thesis is the final step to completing your advanced study. 

The master’s thesis is perhaps the most prominent piece of academic research and writing you’ll complete throughout your entire higher education career — a vital contribution you’ll make to your specific field. 

Naturally, diving into your master’s thesis is daunting, even for the most experienced researcher and writer. Allow these six steps to guide you through the process of writing your master’s thesis. 

1. Select a Topic

If you’ve ever questioned how to write a master’s thesis, the first step is to pick a topic in your subject area. However, it’s essential to think carefully about a question — something in which your findings will help advance research within the discipline. 

Try the following suggestions if you run into roadblocks:

  • Choose something that you’re interested in and uncover the knowledge gaps.
  • Speak with professors, mentors, and other subject-matter experts for guidance.
  • Review previous assignments to explore topics you enjoyed and want to learn more about.

2. Conduct a Literature Review

To successfully present your thoughts and findings to the academic community, you must have evidence to support your claims. A literature review is an exhaustive research process that enables you to sift through prior studies. 

It’s best to take detailed notes regarding what other researchers have said, discovered, or opined about your topic, ensuring you avoid redundancy. Remember that your thesis should lean toward originality and offer a fresh perspective. 

Selecting primary and secondary sources for the actual thesis is also crucial since not every study in your literature review will apply to your thesis paper. 

Manage each source with a citation list. Whether you front-load your sources in the introduction or scatter them throughout the piece, a tracking system will help streamline your train of thought and writing process. 

3. Create a Comprehensive Outline

Every department has its own requirements and format for you to follow. For instance, the Psychology Department will differ from the Biology Department.

Additionally, your thesis might veer toward qualitative — typically reserved for humanities majors — or quantitative for STEM programs. Qualitative studies are more analytical or exploratory, often including surveys, readings, and interviews. Meanwhile, quantitative studies comprise technical and numerical research, experimentation, and data collection.

With the topic selection, literature review, and data collection completed, it’s time to prepare an outline. Start with a clear thesis statement depicting the question and how you intend to answer it. 

The outline of your master’s thesis will likely include the following sections:

  • Title page
  • Signature page — to be signed by the advising committee upon completion of the project
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Content of the thesis — methods, experiment, and results
  • Conclusion or summary
  • Work Cited 
  • Additional endnotes 

Again, every department will have specific requirements, so check with an advisor to determine what’s expected.

4. Strategize the Writing Process

Students can approach writing their master’s thesis in several different ways; however, creating a writing schedule is helpful. You might dread writing over 30 pages in just a couple of weeks, but planning to knock out 500 words daily will help you meet your deadline.

Start with your thesis proposal and introduction — particularly since incorporating the literature review will be the longest segment of your thesis. Following these sections, the reader should have a solid idea of what your thesis contributes to the field.

The conclusion is another critical component and should highlight the importance of your findings. It should also encourage future research on the subject. 

Finally, integrate graphs, charts and other figures that supplement and support your research and analysis.

Practice Self-Care to Avoid Burnout

Getting sucked into a long-form thesis is easy, so stepping away for your mental health is paramount to prevent burnout.

In general, college and professional transitions leave students struggling to cope. A recent study even found that 48% of college students feel moderate or severe stress while in school. 

Step away from your thesis to do something relaxing, such as baking, yoga, walking, or meditation. Deep breathing exercises trigger the parasympathetic nervous system for calmer thoughts.

Additionally, you may want to purchase a plant. About 78% of consumers agree that plants make you happier.

5. Review the Final Draft

Review your entire thesis, correcting grammatical and spelling errors — you might want to take a break before diving into this part to clear your head. You must also ensure the thesis follows the department’s formatting requirements.

Ask a colleague, mentor, professor, or friend to proofread the thesis for further evaluation and revision. Also, upload the document to a plagiarism checker to avoid stealing prior work.

When finished, your department will have printing guidelines for you to follow — usually for the department to review and copies to keep yourself. 

Celebrate the Completion of Your Thesis

Completing your master’s thesis is an achievement to celebrate. Once you’ve submitted your thesis, you can breathe a sigh of relief and wait for further instructions regarding the final examination and defense.

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