Tutorial: Start writing your beginner thesis

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#1 — Canvas and guiding star

#2 — Content mapping

Now that you have created your canvas, have read a lot of material and have made notes in the books, you are ready for the ‘content mapping.’

This technique is what I personally call a ‘Content Manual.’ This means that you go through all the books you have read and, in your canvas, write up a note of the relevant content under the most suitable heading.

For instance, if “Book A” and “Book B” both have information that is important for what you wish to write under “Heading 1” you write:

Heading 1

  • Book A, pp. 2–3
  • Book B, p. 145

Now replace each reference in your content manual with direct or indirect quotes, paraphrasing or comments. Move these around within the realms of their designated heading until you find a logical flow.

When you have gone through all your literature and notes in this way, you know that: 1) you have not omitted any information; 2) you have put all information in the right place and order; and 3), you can see the proportions of your text. That is, if some part of the text more content-heavy than other parts of the text (and it should not be) you are still able to move the references around, and maybe make adjustments to the canvas, if needed.

#3 — Start sowing

Now you have the structure ready and all content is where it should be in the right order. The only thing left is to sow it all together in your own words.

How you sow the text together is unique to every context and situation. Get support from your supervisor. However, here are some general tips and tricks:

  • Each paragraph should begin with some sort of statement. The first sentence of each paragraph should summarise the content of the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph should provide support for the beginning statement. Do this for each and every paragraph.
  • At the end of the chapter, or section, you can provide a short summary (if necessary) in which you use the beginning phrases of each paragraph to summarise the main points. In this way, you have not lost anything important to your argument. Use the summary to bridge the present chapter/section to the following.
  • Begin every chapter by contextualising what you will say in the chapter with what you have said in the previous chapter and why this chapter matters.
  • Build your authority. If you refer to other sources and then agrees with them, you give them the high ground and you lose authority. However, if you state your opinion first, and then use other sources to build your authority, you are better off (needless to say: without getting arrogant, of course!). Be sure to be the one driving the car!
  • Discuss your sources. Pros and cons, followers and critics.
  • Don’t leave any citations un-discussed or without comment. The reader must learn why the particular citation is important and what you deduce from it.
  • The citations from your content mapping can be used as quotes, paraphrases, indirect references, or be put into footnotes/endnotes as comments.

This stage of the process can be tricky, so get support from your supervisor

#4 — Preparing for the conclusion

#5 — Final work

  1. Review the research problem/hypothesis. Have you answered the question or proven/disproven the hypothesis? Can you alter any words, tweaking the hypothesis/problem in a way that you actually answer it through your writing?
  2. Language editing. Make sure that your language is consistent and idiomatic. Read the first seven words of each and every sentence; if you understand those first words, it is more likely that the reader will understand the rest of the sentence. Focus on idiomatic language usage. Is there a perceivable good flow in the text when you read? Is there a balance between long and short sentences? Remember: You can use a thesaurus to find simpler words, as well as for word-variation.
  3. Update references and styles. Make sure that the style you have chosen is used consistently throughout the writing. Are all commas, periods and information in the right place? Check through all your internet sources and see if they have changed since you last used them.
  4. Typesetting and layout. This is more important than one may think. A bad layout takes the focus away from what you are trying to say, making the reader miss out on how brilliant your argument is. A poor layout may also diminish your authority to the reader.
  5. Proof-read. Get someone to help you proof-read. It’s all about fresh eyes and fresh perspectives. Personally, I like reading the entire work backwards (yes, backwards!) because when you lose the syntax it is easier not to oversee mistakes.

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