Friday, November 18, 2011

Notes on the Recent Draper MA Thesis Writing Workshop

Our thanks to Scott Silsbe for providing the following notes!

On writing a thesis

It should be an original argument embedded within the current work on the subject.

When choosing a thesis topic think about the following: What have I done? Where am I going? Think broadly at first, then narrow the topic down. What are my 'key terms'? How will your thesis be formally organized, i.e. chapters, sections, etc.

Five hints for choosing a thesis-writing:

1: Pick something that motivates you, not something you think you ‘should’ do.
2: Pick something you can finish in the allotted time.
3: Write throughout the entire process. ('Writing' includes note-taking, graphing outlining, etc. in addition to drafting the essay itself.)
4: Be in communication with your adviser.
5: Throughout the process, think about your title as well as write and rewrite your abstract. Ask yourself, "What is my ‘elevator talk’?" How do you explain your thesis in 300 words or less? In 50 words or less? In ten words?

Three possible starting points are:

1: Methodology - how will you go about your research and analysis?
2: Data - what is the material you're working with (primary sources or literature on the subject you'll be analyzing)?
3: Theory - what ideas/system of ideas will you be using you make sense of your data?

Keep in mind: the time between when the thesis-approval document is due and when the thesis itself is due (about 3 months) is not enough time to write a thesis. Start working early.

Set early personal deadlines. Your personal ‘final draft’ deadline should be two weeks to one month before the actual final draft deadline. Work backwards to plan your schedule.

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