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Get started, keep motivated

Students ask

"I have so many ideas:
  • When should I start writing??
  • How can I ensure that my writing is good enough?"

Start writing as soon as you start thinking about the research.

Write notes about everything vaguely related to your thesis. Think about your research and make notes, wherever you are, whenever. As you read any relevant literature, make brief notes; as related ideas occur to you, make a note of them.


Writing a thesis is a process

Establish a pattern where you demand of yourself to write frequently. Write daily. Write notes, thoughts, reflections; write evaluations or comments about things you've read; ideas, the research, write entries in your journal.

Write about your thesis every day. Set yourself a goal of writing for a defined amount of time such as one hour a day. Even ten minutes a day can see good progress! Just write! Even if you're not sure what to write, just sit down and write. Keeping a research journal can help you write every day. Writing in the first instance as private writing for your purpose alone, can get you started without the intimidation of a critical audience.

Write - Rewrite!

Write with the anticipation of rewriting. Think about everything you write as a draft, as work in progress, where there is a continual opportunity for refining the writing style, improving your language as well as the concepts and argument as well as their presentation, connection and fluency. Get accustomed to writing often and spontaneously and not focusing on perfection.

Allow yourself time for reflection.It is a good idea to write, then leave your work for a while and return to it some time later, with greater objectivity, renewed enthusiasm and having engaged in further conscious and subconscious thinking in the interim. This is a valuable part of the writing process, where you return with an ability to critique your own work in terms of language, meaning and the presentation of the argument.

In the process of writing a thesis, the first draft of any paragraph is essential to the development of the project and your thinking, but will generally not be the final version. Reaching its ultimate form will probably require many drafts. You will develop writing skills and improve your writing ability by writing and refining - and you will improve the clarity of your argument and your thinking in so doing.

Gradually through this process of writing, reflecting, and rewriting, and with good feedback from your supervisor, you will develop your writing expertise and learn how to craft the work. Feedback from your peers can be very helpful, too, in refining your argument and perfecting your work.

Find out more about communicating with your supervisor and getting good feedback.

Learn how to be selective!

Writing requires considerable dedication and time, so each small piece of writing tends to become an extension of the writer. However, not everything you write may be necessary or complementary to the purpose of the thesis. Just because you have written a pleasing piece of work does not determine that is a necessary component of the thesis! The fact that you had a good, creative notion does not mean that it has to be used in that way in the dissertation. It can be difficult to detach yourself from your writing, and it takes practice, lots of practice, to learn how to exclude from your text not just passages that are poorly written, but also passages that are good, but unnecessary.

However, writing that does not fit in one place may work in another. Thesis writing is an ongoing process, and you may find that material you have cut out at one point can be used in a different way later on in your thinking and writing. It is important, therefore, to manage your information with care, and to save good drafts for possible access at a later stage.

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