when to start writing phd thesis

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Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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In your academic career, few projects are more important than your PhD thesis. Unfortunately, many university professors and advisors assume that their students know how to structure a PhD. Books have literally been written on the subject, but there’s no need to read a book in order to know about PhD thesis paper format and structure. With that said, however, it’s important to understand that your PhD thesis format requirement may not be the same as another student’s. The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines.

But, let’s take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We’ll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We’ll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections. As you read through this toolkit, compare it to published PhD theses in your area of study to see how a real-life example looks.

Main Sections of a PhD Thesis

In almost every PhD thesis or dissertation, there are standard sections. Of course, some of these may differ, depending on your university or department requirements, as well as your topic of study, but this will give you a good idea of the basic components of a PhD thesis format.

  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary that quickly outlines your research, touches on each of the main sections of your thesis, and clearly outlines your contribution to the field by way of your PhD thesis. Even though the abstract is very short, similar to what you’ve seen in published research articles, its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The abstract is there to answer the most important question to the reviewer. “Why is this important?”
  • Introduction : In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it’s important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.
  • Literature Review : Within the literature review, you are making a case for your new research by telling the story of the work that’s already been done. You’ll cover a bit about the history of the topic at hand, and how your study fits into the present and future.
  • Theory Framework : Here, you explain assumptions related to your study. Here you’re explaining to the review what theoretical concepts you might have used in your research, how it relates to existing knowledge and ideas.
  • Methods : This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design. Here you’ll discuss the specific techniques you used to get the information you were looking for, in addition to how those methods are relevant and appropriate, as well as how you specifically used each method described.
  • Results : Here you present your empirical findings. This section is sometimes also called the “empiracles” chapter. This section is usually pretty straightforward and technical, and full of details. Don’t shortcut this chapter.
  • Discussion : This can be a tricky chapter, because it’s where you want to show the reviewer that you know what you’re talking about. You need to speak as a PhD versus a student. The discussion chapter is similar to the empirical/results chapter, but you’re building on those results to push the new information that you learned, prior to making your conclusion.
  • Conclusion : Here, you take a step back and reflect on what your original goals and intentions for the research were. You’ll outline them in context of your new findings and expertise.

Tips for your PhD Thesis Format

As you put together your PhD thesis, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips that might keep you on track.

  • Don’t try to write your PhD as a first-draft. Every great masterwork has typically been edited, and edited, and…edited.
  • Work with your thesis supervisor to plan the structure and format of your PhD thesis. Be prepared to rewrite each section, as you work out rough drafts. Don’t get discouraged by this process. It’s typical.
  • Make your writing interesting. Academic writing has a reputation of being very dry.
  • You don’t have to necessarily work on the chapters and sections outlined above in chronological order. Work on each section as things come up, and while your work on that section is relevant to what you’re doing.
  • Don’t rush things. Write a first draft, and leave it for a few days, so you can come back to it with a more critical take. Look at it objectively and carefully grammatical errors, clarity, logic and flow.
  • Know what style your references need to be in, and utilize tools out there to organize them in the required format.
  • It’s easier to accidentally plagiarize than you think. Make sure you’re referencing appropriately, and check your document for inadvertent plagiarism throughout your writing process.

PhD Thesis Editing Plus

Want some support during your PhD writing process? Our PhD Thesis Editing Plus service includes extensive and detailed editing of your thesis to improve the flow and quality of your writing. Unlimited editing support for guaranteed results. Learn more here , and get started today!

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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

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How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

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How to write a PhD thesis: 13 Tips for PhD thesis writing 

13 Tips for writing a PhD Thesis - Paperpal

Completing a successful PhD research thesis is extremely challenging, and how to write a PhD thesis is often a question in students’ minds. Fret not, there are many ways to make the process of PhD thesis writing less bumpy. This article will provide some PhD thesis writing tips to simplify the writing process and help you complete your thesis on time, while keeping your sanity mostly intact. 

Only about 50% of students enrolled in a PhD program ever complete it 1 . They drop out at many different points during the process for many different reasons. Some leave because the course work is too difficult or time consuming. Some leave for personal or financial reasons. One common cause of non-completion, or late completion, is the daunting spectre of PhD thesis writing. 

PhD thesis writing tips: How to overcome the challenge of writing your PhD thesis

First, remember that although writing a PhD thesis is difficult, this can be accomplished. Here are some things to consider that will increase your confidence and make the task of PhD thesis writing a bit less scary. 

  • Create an outline before you start writing – The most effective way to keep your work organized is to first create an outline based on the PhD thesis structure required by your university. Using an outline for your PhD paper writing has tremendous benefits. It creates a handy space to keep and organize all the little snippets of information and questions you will have during your preparation. It allows you to effectively plan your work and manage your time and makes the actual writing much easier. A thesis is shaped more than written, and an outline provides it the required PhD thesis structure. 
  • Follow all university guides – Be careful to ensure that you are meeting all the requirements of your university. This includes everything from topic selection to structure to writing style. It is extremely frustrating to spend a lot of time and effort on a section only to have to do it over because you didn’t follow the proper guidelines. Read all relevant material from your university over and over until you have it memorized. Then, check it again. 
  • Section order – It is usually best not to do your PhD thesis writing in chronological order. For researchers, the easiest parts to write are usually the Method and Results. So, gain some confidence first and write the Introduction and Conclusion last to tie it all together. 
  • Work extensively with your supervisor – Don’t forget that in the process of PhD thesis writing, help is right there when you ask for it. Do not hesitate to ask for guidance from your supervisor, advisors, or other committee members when you get stuck. Clear and regular communication with these important resources can save you untold heartache during the PhD research and thesis writing processes. This should not be a solo exercise; they have all been where you are now. 
  • Plan carefully, create rough drafts, and refine 2 – This is so important and basic to all academic research that it bears repeating. You will not write the final PhD thesis on your first try. Do not become frustrated, trust the process. 
  • Produce quality writing – Make sure your ideas flow easily and are clear and easy to read. This is not a strong skill for most beginning researchers, but it’s a skill that can be learned with a lot of practice. Therefore, edit, edit, and edit some more. If you need it, there are many places to get PhD thesis writing help and assistance. 
  • Details matter – Pay attention to the small things, especially with the document formatting. If you start out using the proper format, you will be saving a tremendous amount of time and grief later. 
  • Avoid plagiarism – Quote accurately, otherwise paraphrase. There is no excuse for being a lazy writer. Consider using a smart tool or service to check for plagiarism during your PhD thesis editing process to make sure you did not unintentionally copy any material. 
  • Rein in the references – Use a database, such as EndNote or Mendeley, to keep them organized and under control; check and double check citations and references with the bibliography to ensure they all match. Don’t forget to use the PhD thesis style required by your university. 
  • Keep it simple – Remember, this is only the start of your career, not your ultimate work 3 ; perfectionism can be a disaster. 
  • Make consistent progress – Try to write at least a little every day; check quotations and references when writing seems too difficult. 3  
  • Keep your reader in mind – As with all writing, your PhD thesis is meant to be read, so be considerate of those who read it; be concise, include all necessary data/information to support your argument but nothing extra. Strive to be understood and avoid unnecessary words. 
  • Be persistent and eager – Writing a doctoral thesis becomes easier if you are consistent and dedicated. All other things being equal, your attitude will ultimately determine your success. Have patience and work hard. Create work you will be proud of for a lifetime. 
  • Cassuto, L. Ph.D. attrition: How much is too much? The Chronicle of Higher Education.    https://www.chronicle.com/article/ph-d-attrition-how-much-is-too-much/?cid=gen_sign_in [Accessed 20 July 2022]
  • Curl, I. 10 tips for writing a PhD thesis. Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/10-tips-writing-phd-thesis [Accessed 20 July 2022]
  • Thomas, K. Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/aug/27/finishing-phd-thesis-top-tips-experts-advice [Accessed 20 July 2022]

A PhD thesis includes several key components, that are essential for the work to be considered seriously. These may vary depending on the research field and specific requirements of the institution, but generally include: ·         an introduction that presents the research question and context, ·         a literature review that surveys existing knowledge and research, ·         a methodology section describing the research design and methods employed, ·         a presentation of findings or results, ·         a discussion section interpreting the results and their implications, and ·         a conclusion that summarizes the main findings and contributions. Additionally, appendices may contain supplementary materials such as data, charts, or technical details.  

The time required for writing a PhD thesis can vary significantly depending on factors such as the research topic, the individual’s research progress, the specific requirements of the institution, and the researcher’s writing process. On average, it can take several months to a few years to complete a PhD thesis. The research, data collection, and analysis stages can span several years, with the PhD thesis writing phase itself often lasting several months. Here, AI writing assistants like Paperpal, designed for academics, can help you write better. Explore Paperpal and see the difference for yourself!

To select a suitable topic for your PhD thesis, start by identifying your research interests and areas of expertise. Consider the gaps or unresolved questions in your field of study and explore potential research avenues and read extensively in your area of interest. Consult with your advisor or mentors, who can offer guidance and help narrow down your options. Once you have a tentative topic, conduct a literature review to ensure its novelty and feasibility. It’s important to choose a topic that aligns with your passion, has potential for meaningful contribution, and is feasible given available resources and time constraints.

Paperpal is an AI writing assistant that help academics write better, faster with real-time suggestions for in-depth language and grammar correction. Trained on millions of research manuscripts enhanced by professional academic editors, Paperpal delivers human precision at machine speed.

Try it for free or upgrade to  Paperpal Prime , which unlocks unlimited access to premium features like academic translation, paraphrasing, contextual synonyms, consistency checks and more. It’s like always having a professional academic editor by your side! Go beyond limitations and experience the future of academic writing.  Get Paperpal Prime now at just US$12 a month!

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when to start writing phd thesis

An Insider’s Guide On How To Write A Thesis When You’re Short On Time

when to start writing phd thesis

Written by Dora Farkas, PhD

I thought about quitting graduate school in the beginning of my 6th year.

I was almost certain that there was no way that I could graduate that year, or ever for that matter.

I started several dead-end projects, and most of my data was inconsistent and did not support any of my hypotheses.

I felt stuck and trapped in my own life.

The irony was that I actually created this life for myself because I thought that getting a PhD degree was the road to a better life and a career that I would be passionate about.

I finally summoned the courage to have “the talk” with my supervisor and clarify once and for all what I needed to do to graduate.

As I had expected, I could only use a very small portion of the data I had collected up to that point in my thesis.

My supervisor assigned me a new project, and I had to learn how to use three new instruments that I had no prior experience with.

If I wanted to graduate in a year, I had to make that project work.

In order to meet this ambitious deadline I decided to extend my 10-12 hour days to 15-hour days and learn the methods I needed for the new project.

After 5 months, I was finally able to generate some reproducible data with my new experimental setup.

I still had to run hundreds of samples through my system, but I finally had hope that I might be able to graduate that semester.

The problem was the thesis deadline was only 3 months away and I had no idea where to start.

Which section should I write first?

How should I organize my data?

When should I write?

when to start writing phd thesis

7 Helpful Guidelines To Writing A Proper Thesis

My 15-hour days turned into 18-hour days fueled by junk food and soda.

Still, I wasn’t getting anywhere.

No one had taught me how to write a thesis.

To make matters worse, I was a perfectionist.

I spent countless hours writing and rewriting paragraphs and jumping back and forth between different chapters because none of the sections ever felt “good enough.”

Eventually, just as I was burning out and spinning into a dark cycle of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, I finished my thesis.

As I turned the document into my thesis committee, I remember thinking…

There has to be a better way.

Over the next few years after finishing my thesis, I started studying the process and creating a more effective system for writing a thesis .

Since then, I’ve trained hundreds of PhD students on how to write their theses.

Here are 7 tips on how to write a strong thesis I’ve learned and continue to teach to other PhDs students…

1. Know What Questions You’re Asking

You always need to know what your hypothesis is or what questions your thesis is asking.

This may seem obvious, but so many graduate students fail to define their overall hypothesis before beginning their thesis.

You must be able to summarize your thesis in one sentence such as: “The purpose of this thesis is to….”

If you don’t know what your thesis question or hypothesis is, meet with your supervisor (See #3 below).

Over the years, I’ve encountered a few exceptions to this rule.

For example…

Some PhD students spent 8 or 9 years (full-time) in graduate school working on many small projects because no one project was viable enough for an entire thesis.

These students had what I call a “hodge-podge” thesis.

The only reason their thesis committees let these students graduate is because the students had been in school for so long.

While it is possible to pull a group of small projects together into one thesis, you don’t want to be at the mercy of your thesis committee.

It’s best to always know what question you are asking.

Your question will probably evolve over time, but the more clarity you have about the purpose of your thesis, the more efficient your research will be.

2. Break Your Thesis Into Defined Stages

Thesis writing is a process with well-defined stages

The details of each stage will vary slightly depending on your field, but for most thesis writers the stages are, first, idea collection, second, editing and data analysis, and third, polishing.

Perfectionists (like me) will particularly benefit from dividing their writing into discrete stages.

The purpose of the first stage of writing is to get as many ideas as possible on paper, without judging, editing or formatting your document.

By allowing yourself to collect your ideas without criticism, you can spark your creativity and overcome the fear of imperfection that may be holding you back from starting to write your thesis.

It is during the second stage, editing and data analysis phase, that you need to be rigorous with your writing and editing.

At the end of the second phase your goal is to produce a manuscript that has a clear structure and a logical flow of arguments so that you can submit it to your supervisor for review.

In the final polishing phase, you need address the feedback from your committee and fill in any gaps in the logic.

Polish, polish, polish, and polish some more until your document is ready to be handed in to your university’s library.

3. Don’t Rely On Your Academic Advisor

Your academic advisor will not give you all the answers.

Some advisors are either too busy to mentor you properly or are micro-managers who want daily updates on your progress.

Other academic advisors are simply bad mentors who don’t want you to graduate in the first place.

Either way, you shouldn’t rely on your mentor to give you all the answers.

You also shouldn’t rely on your advisor for a second reason…

Writing your thesis is your job and your job only.

The role of your advisor is to mentor you so you learn how to be an independent researcher, not to hold your hand for the rest of your life.

Your advisor may or may not be a good mentor, but you need to be in agreement regarding the direction of your research because you need their approval to graduate.

If you have disagreements with your advisor, or you have a dead-end project, it may take several meetings to determine the overall direction of your thesis.

The most effective way to meet with your advisor is to schedule meetings far in advance and come to every meeting with a clear agenda.

Students who plan proactively before talking with their supervisors have much more efficient meetings than those who don’t plan.

If your advisor is a difficult person, continue to be proactive about planning meetings and developing solutions to your problems.

Keep a record of every meeting you have or every meeting he or she refuses to have with you.

Finally, reframe your situation into a learning experience for your career.

4. Realize You Will Never Feel Like Writing

You will never feel like writing your thesis.

Even the most famous and prolific authors in history had daily battles with writer’s block.

You won’t be any different. There will be times when you sit down to write when you feel like you’re dying.

That’s okay—just start typing gibberish. Type sentence fragments. Type anything. Just get something down on paper.

Don’t wait to be inspired to write. Instead, go out and look for inspiration.

Listen to music that puts you in the mood to write. Watch a short video that motivates you to take action. Visualize all the things you will do once your thesis is done.

Warming up your “writing muscles” and seeking out inspiration are the only cures for writer’s block.

Once you’re warmed up and inspired, words will start to flow more naturally. They may even start to form cohesive sentences and paragraphs.

Overtime, your warm-up period will get shorter and shorter until clicking into writing gear becomes an automatic habit.

5. Don’t Write Your Thesis Chapters In Order

When I started writing my thesis, I thought I had to begin with the abstract, then the introduction, then an in-depth literature search, then chapter one, chapter two, on and on all the way to the conclusion.

This is the worst way to write your thesis.

Writing your thesis in order can lead to several months of agonizing writer’s block.

Don’t start writing your thesis by writing the abstract first.

Instead, the abstract of your thesis should be the last section you write

By definition, the abstract is a summary of the highlights of your thesis, and therefore you should only be able to write a quality abstract once you finish all of your chapters.

Don’t start writing your thesis by diving into the most difficult chapter either.

If you do, you will inevitably face writer’s block.

Starting your thesis by writing the most difficult chapter first is like trying to deadlift a 500-pound weight without any prior training.

You’ll keep trying to lift the heavy weight unsuccessfully until you’re completely exhausted. Eventually, you’ll give up entirely and label yourself as simply not good enough to do the exercise.

Instead, start writing your thesis by writing the easiest section first—the methods section.

The methods section is the easiest section to get started and the quickest to finish. Start here to get a few pages under your belt and boost your confidence before you try any heavy lifting.

6. Never Write “work on thesis” In Your Calendar

“Work on thesis” is too vague.

If you put this phrase in your calendar it will either lead to you taking a nap, surfing the web, or staring at a blank computer screen.

Even if you do manage to put some words on paper or analyze some data, you’ll do so randomly.

Instead, you need to turn your work hours into measurable progress.

You need to be very deliberate with how you allocate your time.

Once you decide on the order in which you will write your chapters, continue breaking them down into smaller chunks.

This will allow you to set up specific goals for every block of time you have.

Instead of inserting “work on thesis” into your calendar, insert measurable goals like “finish Figure 1” or “write two pages of Chapter 2.”

7. Write In Very Short Bursts

Writing in several short bursts is more efficient than writing in a few, long extended periods of time.

If you ever tried to write for several hours in a row, you may have noticed that your concentration becomes weaker after about 45-60 minutes.

Writing requires creativity, and it is difficult to sustain your focus for several hours in a row over the course of months (or even years) until you finish your thesis.

If you have a 3-4-hour block of time in your calendar, resist the temptation to glue yourself to the chair for the entire period.

You’re only fooling yourself if you think that more hours of writing leads to more progress.

Instead, break up your writing time into short blocks with rest periods in between.

I suggest alternating 45 minutes of writing with 15 minutes of rest.

These rest periods are crucial. Many students get sudden insights when they are away from their desks and they become more efficient when they return to work.

Turn off your email and phone alerts when you’re writing.

Don’t be tempted to check these updates during the rest periods. It’s far too easy for an update to distract you from your work and derail your next writing period.

Bad writing habits are tough to break. If you try to eliminate your bad habits overnight, your brain and body might rebel against you. A better strategy is to change your habits slowly and one at a time. Don’t take on all 7 of the above thesis writing guidelines at once . Instead, take on one, complete it or master it, and then move on to the next tip. The toughest part of writing is the beginning. The sooner you start writing your thesis, the easier writing it becomes . A good writer is not someone who never struggles, but someone who keeps writing even when they’re struggling.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists.  Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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when to start writing phd thesis


Dora Farkas received her Ph.D. from MIT in the Department of Biological Engineering and worked for several years in the pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Scientist. Dora is a thesis and career coach and the founder of the online Finish Your Thesis Program & Community, which has helped hundreds of graduate students finish their thesis.

Dora Farkas, PhD

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  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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What is a Thesis? Everything You Need to Know about a Graduate Thesis

A student typing their graduate thesis on a laptop with a phone on the desk

If you’re looking into graduate school, you may have read about graduate thesis requirements. In today’s blog, we’re giving you the rundown of what a graduate thesis is and whether you need to complete a thesis at Emerson . 

What is a graduate thesis?

A graduate thesis is a capstone project that demonstrates what a student has learned in graduate school. Some programs require students to conduct research for their thesis, while others may require a creative project. Regardless of what form it takes, a graduate thesis is a substantial project that showcases your ability to do independent, graduate-level work.

At Emerson, a graduate thesis can take multiple forms and might be optional, depending on your program. You may have the option to complete research, write a creative manuscript, or complete a film or other creative project as a graduate student at Emerson. 

Regardless of what format your thesis takes, students are expected to submit some form of academic or creative writing as part of their thesis. 

For a research thesis, this written submission will take the form of an academic research paper that presents your research question and findings. Programs at Emerson offering a research thesis track are:

  • Communication Disorders
  • Publishing and Writing
  • Theatre Education & Applied Theatre 

If your thesis is a piece of creative writing, such as a novel or collection of poems, your manuscript will count as the written portion of your thesis. You would complete this type of thesis in the following programs:

  • Creative Writing
  • Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing

For a film or creative project as a thesis, the written portion of your thesis would include an explanation of your work and what purpose it serves within your field of study. These are the programs in which you might complete this type of thesis:

  • Media Design
  • Film and Media Art
  • Writing for Film and Television
  • Publishing and Writing 
  • Theatre Education & Applied Theatre

A student working a film camera that is focused on a woman talking

Do I have to complete a thesis as part of graduate school?

It depends! Some of Emerson’s graduate programs don’t even offer thesis options, and many offer optional thesis opportunities. Only a handful of our programs require a thesis. 

A Commuication Disorders student completing research work in one of the faculty's research labs. The student sits at a desktop computer and holds a drawing of a face with different points of the face highlighted

The following programs at Emerson require students to complete a graduate thesis:

  • Students complete a design book that includes a literature review, creative portfolio, media design for a specific organization’s need, and plan for continued work with the partner organization.
  • Students complete a film or multimedia installation project as their thesis. They must also write an academic paper about their project.
  • Students in this program complete at least 100 pages of a near-publishable novel. The novel can fall within any genre, from mystery to science fiction to romance. Along with the manuscript, students also write a 3-4 page synopsis of their thesis.
  • Students submit a near-publishable manuscript in one of three categories: fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. Page requirements vary based upon the genre in which students are writing. 
  • Students in this program complete a screenwriting thesis project. Generally, students can choose between writing a feature length screenplay, two pilot screenplays, or one pilot screenplay for a mini-series plus Treatment for Series that includes a summary for the other episodes in the series. 
  • In the MA track of the Theatre Education & Applied Theatre program, students write a research paper about a topic that interests them. The research must be about a topic within the theatre education or applied theatre fields.
  • Students in the MFA track of this program complete a two-part thesis, consisting of a thesis project and thesis paper. The thesis project is an opportunity to gain experience in the field of theatre education and/or applied theatre. For example, students could direct a play or design and implement their own curriculum as a thesis project. Students can either complete the thesis project independently or collaborate with 1-2 other MFA students for the project. Each student also completes a thesis paper, which is a critical reflection on the thesis project. 

An empty theater stage set with chairs and tables

For other programs, completing a thesis is optional.

The following Emerson graduate programs offer optional thesis tracks:

  • Theatre Education & Applied Theatre, MA

Where do I start with a thesis?

A student working on her thesis on her laptop at the kitchen table

The prospect of completing an entire research study or creative project yourself can be daunting, but Emerson faculty support students throughout the thesis process. While graduate theses are largely self-directed, each thesis student receives support and guidance from a thesis advisor. 

Usually, the thesis advisor is a faculty member within the student’s graduate program who has interest in or experience with the student’s thesis topic. The process of finding a thesis advisor varies slightly from program to program, but the advisor will schedule periodic check-ins with their thesis students, offering advice and support as needed. A graduate thesis is the student’s responsibility, but students are not alone in the process!

What are the benefits of completing a graduate thesis?

Having a graduate thesis under your belt can help set you apart as someone who is capable of self-directing large projects or research. This is helpful when you’re looking for work after graduation, or if you’re applying to PhD programs or want to work in research. 

Additionally, completing a creative project for your graduate thesis is a means for students to get their work recognized. For students in our writing MFAs, the thesis requirement gives them a polished, near-publishable manuscript that they can use to query agents after graduation. Students completing a film or media art project for their thesis will leave graduate school with a professional-level piece of work to showcase. Whether it’s a manuscript, film, or other creative project, completing a creative thesis in graduate school gives students material they can use to establish themselves in their field after graduation. 

Lastly, a graduate thesis is an excellent way to grow and challenge yourself. Whether you’re writing a novel, completing a research study, or creating a marketing design for a company, a graduate thesis will challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone. You’ll try new things and learn through your mistakes, all of which will help you grow both personally and academically.

We hope today’s blog has made the thesis process at Emerson a bit clearer. If you still have questions about graduate theses at Emerson, be sure to schedule a call with someone from our admissions team. To get an idea of what kinds of theses Emerson students complete, check out our Project Spotlight blog page. 

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Olivia is a second-year student in Emerson's Communication Disorders MS program. Originally from Ohio, she is loving Emerson and city life. When she's not writing for the Grad Life blog, she loves to read, bake, and crochet.

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A PhD is many things : exciting, tedious, stimulating, tiring… the list goes on. All the hard work and stress culminates in a thesis or dissertation, the goal of which is to demonstrate that you furthered your field by presenting your findings in an original, behemoth piece of work. As with any large piece of work, you’ll likely benefit from taking your time with it, and from working slowly but steadily across the years. At the end, you will come out the other end a bona fide expert in your field!

Before that, it is important, at all stages of the PhD, to ensure that you have done the necessary preparatory work before you even sit down to write . This article shares the three most important things you need to do in preparation for writing your thesis. 

Manage your data

During the course of a PhD, you will generate findings and produce data of some description. For researchers in STEM disciplines, much of that data will probably need to be presented visually in some way. So, a great way to stay on top of things is to create these figures, graphs, tables , etc. as you progress and ensure they are up to publication standard.

With very easily accessible software at our fingertips, it has never been easier to produce high-quality figures in a matter of a few minutes. By making sure you create these figures as you go and produce data, you’ll be doing yourself a favour, as you’ll have them ready to slot into papers or your thesis when it comes time to write and finalise it. Bonus points for writing the caption while you’re at it!

Create and use file systems

So, you’ve created fantastic, high-quality figures and illustrations – but that’s only half the battle. They are of no use to you if you can’t easily find them. 

However tempting it is to save ‘figure 1 FINAL’ [for example] on your desktop and forget about it until you need it again, you’re likely to regret this later. Create a well-organised naming and filing system on your hard drive, so that when it comes time to compile your thesis, you’re ready to proceed. All you’ll need to do at that stage is to drag and drop the graphics you need, knowing exactly where everything is. 

On top of that, don’t forget to back up all of your work to either a cloud service or a physical, external drive, just to be extra sure you always have access to your data should anything happen. 

Write as you go

As with creating figures as you progress, you are most likely going to be able to get certain parts of the thesis written quickly and easily as you go. These could include, for example, your Methods section, Introduction or parts of your Discussion , if and when you’re ready to get into it. 

However, remember that your thesis is a live document up until the moment of submission , so don’t worry about it being in its absolutely final state and know that it is perfectly acceptable and normal to rewrite and edit sections as you go along. Getting things written and editing it down later is far easier than trying to get it right from the start!

It may feel daunting, but your thesis can be an entirely manageable document to produce. The key is to do little, but often and consistently. Remember to polish figures as you produce them, and to file them in a sensible, organised system. Finally, write what you can as you go – when it is time to focus all your energy on writing up and preparing your thesis for submission, having all these elements already in place and ready to go will save you much valuable time and effort.

Read next in series: PhD Writing 2: How to improve your writing skills in preparation for writing your thesis

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Academia Insider

How to write a masters thesis in 2 months [Easy steps to start writing]

Writing a master’s thesis is completely possible to write a thesis within two months as long as you stay completely focused on your writing and you do a little bit every single day. I was able to write my thesis (master’s and PhD) in approximately two months – but I did have some of the sections already prepared.

To complete your master’s thesis in two months you should start by creating an outline of the sections and headings of your thesis. Then, worked diligently to fill in the gaps with data and analysis.

It would help if you create a schedule of how many sections you need to complete a day to write up in two months.

Also, it is important that you get your supervisor on board from the earliest opportunity so that they understand the urgency and their responsibility of getting any drafts back to you in a timely fashion.

How long does it take to write a master’s or graduate thesis?

Writing a graduate thesis can be a long and arduous process that can take anywhere from one month to many years.

It is essential to start writing your thesis early in your final year of graduate school, as it requires extensive research, data collection and analysis, in addition to the actual writing.

It is important that you go into the thesis writing portion of your degree with as much of the data analysis done as possible.

When you are writing you want to focus 100% on the production of words on a page.

Depending on the topic and depth of study, it can take anywhere from six weeks to two or three months just to complete the first draft.

This is followed by further revisions and edits before finalizing the dissertation.

My 8 tips on how to write a thesis or dissertation in two months

Writing a thesis or dissertation in two months can be a daunting task, but it is certainly possible. This assumes that you have all of the data analysis done and you are literally just writing up what you have found.

Here are eight tips that can help you finish writing your thesis in 30 days:

  • Start by breaking up the task into manageable chunks and set deadlines for each stage of the process. This will make it easier to stay on track and not become overwhelmed by the whole project.
  • Make sure to give yourself enough time to do a thorough literature review, as this is an important part of any thesis or dissertation. Many people have already completed the literature review in the early stages of their graduate degree. Revisit and use as much of this literature review is possible and add the research from recent years.
  • Write your first draft as quickly as possible; don’t worry too much about grammar and spelling right now, that comes later. It is all about getting the words out onto the page as quickly as possible.
  • Set aside some time every day for writing your thesis; even if it’s only an hour or two, this will help you stay focused and motivated throughout the entire writing process. I used to work in two hour blocks. I was able to squeeze three of these in a day which meant I got a lot of writing done.
  • Don’t forget to use helpful tools like Grammarly to ensure the quality of your work is at its highest level before submitting it for review.
  • Take regular breaks during your writing sessions; this will help you stay fresh and focused on what needs to be done next. I used to take a break every two hours away from my screen and ensure that I refuelled with good food and caffeine.
  • Seek feedback from other PhD students or experts in your field; getting constructive criticism can help you improve the quality of your thesis significantly before submitting. However, do not allow people to sit on the draft for ages. We need a quick turnaround if we are going to complete your thesis in two months.
  • Finally, plan ahead and stick to deadlines; this will help keep you on track with completing your thesis in a month’s time!

If you want to know more about how to finish a masters thesis in two months check out my other video where I show you the unglamorous trues about writing a thesis.

Understanding what you are going into and what is likely to happen is half the battle.

If you want to know more about how long a Masters’s thesis and PhD dissertation is you can check out my other articles:

  • How Long is a Masters Thesis? [Your writing guide]
  • How long is a PhD dissertation? [Data by field]
  • Is writing a masters thesis hard? Tips on how to write a thesis

What are the common structures of a Masters’s thesis?

The common structure of a thesis or dissertation usually includes:

  • the main text,
  • literature review,
  • methodology,
  • results and discussions
  • conclusions

Depending on the school and field of study, there may be additional elements such as appendices.

Generally speaking, the first step in writing a thesis or dissertation is to create a literature review that assesses relevant academic sources related to the topic at hand. This is typically done in the early stages of your research project so you can reuse many parts of your literature review in your thesis. Just make sure you update it with new information.

Then, the methodology section outlines how research was conducted and what methods were used.

The main text presents your findings and conclusions based on your research and the final part of the thesis is to summarise everything you have just written in an abstract.

Each section must be written with clarity and accuracy in order to be accepted by graduate school. However, initially you only have to worry about getting your ideas out onto the page – you can refine them for clarity and accuracy in the editing stage.

Here are all of the sections of a typical master’s thesis and how to write them quickly.

Introduction/literature review

The introduction and literature review are an important part of any academic paper. It outlines the topic, provides background information, and introduces the research question.

The introduction is typically the first section of a paper and should explain the general context and importance of the research being undertaken.

The literature review follows the introduction and provides an overview of relevant previous studies, theories, or debates related to the paper’s research question.

This section may include summaries of key articles or books that have been published on the topic, as well as alternative perspectives and arguments.

A strong literature review will provide a comprehensive summary of prior work while also identifying gaps in knowledge that can be addressed by the current study.

Reuse your literature review from the early stages of your project and update it with more recent publications.

Methodology in a thesis

this is the part of the thesis which details the methods used in researching and writing the paper.

The methodology should include information on how data was collected, analyzed, and interpreted.

I quite often like to start with the methodology because it feels like I am making a lot of progress whilst it being a relatively easy to write.

Feel free to look at other people’s theses that have used the same techniques and follow a similar format that they used. It is common for research groups to share their methodology sections with each other including any schematics required to describe your research process.

You can republish these as long as you reference the appropriate studies and people.

It can also explain why certain methods were chosen over others and provide justification for any assumptions made during the research process.

Results and discussion

Results and discussion provide a platform to present the findings of a research study.

They are essential components of any research paper as they provide an opportunity to analyze and interpret the data collected during the study.

Results typically include descriptive statistics, tables, figures, or graphs that display the main outcomes of the research.

These are what you should place under the headings first.

Create a story with the figures and tables you have already created throughout your research. If you haven’t done them already, create the figures and tables that display your data before writing.

The discussion section should explain how these results relate to prior studies and answer the original research question posed in the introduction.

It should also discuss any limitations or unexpected findings that emerged from the study, as well as potential implications for future research.

Conclusions in a thesis

Conclusions in a thesis are important because they provide readers with a final summary of the main points and themes discussed throughout the thesis.

The conclusion should not introduce any new information, but rather draw on existing evidence to summarize the overall argument presented in the thesis.

It should also reiterate the main points of the paper and include implications for further study or action that could be taken based on the findings.

Conclusions should be written in clear language, using strong arguments and evidence to support their claims.

It is really important to avoid making broad generalizations or unsubstantiated statements in one’s conclusions as this could weaken an otherwise sound argument.

The abstract of a thesis

The abstract of a thesis is a concise summary of the contents of the entire thesis.

And it should be written as one of the last parts of your thesis.

It should give an overview of all the major aspects discussed in the thesis, such as the research question, methodology, findings and conclusions.

The aim of an abstract is to give potential readers a clear idea of what the full dissertation contains without having to read it word for word.

An effective abstract should be concise and self-contained; it should be able to stand alone without needing any explanation or clarification from outside sources.

It should provide enough detail so that readers can determine whether they have an interest in reading the full dissertation.

Writing motivation

If you want to know more about how to increase your writing motivation check out my other video below.

Wrapping up

this article has been through everything you need to know about if you can write a Masters thesis in two months.

It is completely doable as long as you have all of the appropriate data and figures ready and you are committed to writing consistently throughout the two months.

Another really important part of completing your master’s thesis on time is getting buy in from your supervisors so that they return any drafts as quickly as possible.

Work diligently and consistently and in no doubt that you will be able to finish your master’s thesis in two months.

when to start writing phd thesis

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

Thank you for visiting Academia Insider.

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Time to Write a Thesis or Dissertation: Tips to Finish Fast

time to write a thesis

time to write a thesis

For many students, writing a thesis may be a challenging task. This is because it requires a lot of research to complete. It is good to know how long it will take to complete your thesis or a dissertation if you work on standard timelines.

Though the time taken by individual students to write a thesis may differ due to various factors, this article tries to determine the time it would take for students and other research persons to complete a thesis. 

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How long does it take to write a thesis.

Tips to Finish Fast

As noted, various factors can determine the time to write a thesis. However, to determine how long it would take to write a thesis, the determinant factors will be assumed and discussed later in this article.

Writing a thesis takes between 9 months and 15 months in total if you follow the standard steps and all the academic writing standards.

However, this period depends on the time you dedicate to the project daily, if you are working on it full-time or part-time, and the extent of the research done.

To determine or understand how long it would take to write a thesis, it is important to break down the process stage by stage so that we can know how long it takes to complete each stage.

1. The Prospectus or Proposal Stage

The prospectus stage of the thesis cannot be easily determined because it is the stage where the foundation of the thesis is laid. It is also the stage where you consult with the committee members.

This stage can take between 3 and 6 months. The time is not taken by writing but mostly by refining the approach and topic of your thesis.

This stage takes a lot of time because you will be required to express yourself academically because the reviewing committee may ask for various revisions so that you can refine your approaches and topic

2. The Proposal Stage

Coming up with your thesis proposal can also take a lot of time. You will be required to develop further and refine your ideas during this stage. You will also develop your research methodology and questions guiding the study. 

At the same time, you will dig deeper into the literature you will be using for your study. This can come before coming up with the research questions and methodology to avoid further revisions that may make you spend even more time.

What should be noted is that revisions and multiple submissions of your proposal may take a lot of time. Therefore, be very careful during this stage to avoid such issues. This stage can take between 3 and 4 months. 

After you have presented your thesis proposal, the approval stage of approval may take about a month. 

3. Data Collection

The next stage of data collection is also time-consuming depending on the scope of your thesis. If your secondary resources are readily available, this stage can take only a week.

However, if you are conducting primary research, such as conducting interviews with individuals who are challenging to find or you have not located the right or sufficient sample size for your research, this stage may take up to 4 months to complete. As such, this stage should take between 1 and 4 months. 

4. The Writing Stage

The writing stage takes the least time. This is because you will be reporting the research you have conducted and the results of your study.

Though the writing stage will depend on the writer’s time, dedication, and typing speed, this stage will probably take about 2 months. 

Therefore, writing a thesis will take about 15 months to complete. Note that the time taken to defend your thesis has not been considered because it is not part of creating the thesis.

However, defending the thesis may take about 2 months, meaning that the total time for the whole process will be about 17 months. 

How Long does it take to Write a Dissertation?

The time to write a dissertation ranges from 12 months to 20 months, and even more than that, depending on the type of the project, the research to be done, and the data to be collected. A dissertation is long and may require months and years to collect the data needed for the analysis and conclusion.

Writing a dissertation

It should be noted that writing a dissertation will require you to adhere to the aforementioned stages when writing a thesis.

However, a dissertation will take longer than a thesis because it provides new information that requires primary research.

Conducting primary research may take a very long time to complete.

For example, if your dissertation is about the effects of global warming on the whale population within the Arctic region, the study of the whales and global warming effects on their population may take over 10 years to compile. This is because it is a gradual phenomenon that cannot be hastened.

However, some studies may take a shorter time. What differentiates the time taken to write a dissertation is the topic and the scope of the study. 

The Difference between a Thesis and a Dissertation

Before exploring how long it would take to write a dissertation, it is important to understand the difference between a thesis and a dissertation.

When it comes to a thesis, it can be regarded as a compilation of research submitted at the end of a master’s program to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable in your discipline.

However, a dissertation is part of doctoral studies that allows doctoral students to contribute new theories, knowledge, or practices in their discipline. 

Now that we have understood their differences let us explore the factors that affect the time it takes to write a dissertation. Also, sometimes, it takes longer to present a thesis than to present a dissertation.

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Factors Determining the Time to Write a Thesis

Various factors determine the time taken to write a thesis. The first factor is the timing issues. The course you are taking is the primary determinant. This also dictates whether you will write a thesis for different universities.

Factors affecting thesis writing

From one perspective, the committee members may take more or lesser time when responding to your proposals and other things.

Therefore, if they take a lesser time, you will complete your thesis using a shorter amount of time.

If they take more time, you will take longer to complete the thesis.

From another perspective, your commitment to writing the thesis will determine the time it will take you to complete it.

For example, some students may be working while doing their thesis. As such, they will likely take more time writing the thesis because they will have other commitments. 

The capacity of the student to complete the thesis is also a determining factor. Some students are intellectually more capable of completing the various stages of the thesis without receiving any revisions.

However, some will face challenges during the various stages, meaning they will take longer to complete them. Long projects take longer too. Read more about how long a thesis should take to understand these dynamics.

Finally, the topic or scope of your study will determine the time it would take to complete the thesis. Some topics will require secondary research that may be readily available. This will significantly reduce the time it would take to complete the thesis.

However, if the topic or scope of study requires primary research, you will take more time to complete the thesis. 

Tips on how to Fasten the Time taken to Write a Thesis

The first tip is to adjust or alter your expectations. You do not have to break new ground to have a perfect thesis. The committee expects to either develop new knowledge or advance existing knowledge.

To complete a thesis faster, you should consider advancing rather than creating new knowledge.

You will not be required to conduct time-consuming primary research. Secondary research will be readily available. Also, avoid being a perfectionist because there is no perfect knowledge. It can always be disapproved of by someone else.

Another tip is to select topics with a smaller scope of research. This is because topics with larger scopes will require more time to research and complete. 

Another helpful tip is to create tight deadlines to complete each stage. For example, if you are required to complete a particular stage after a month, you can cut that time down to 2 weeks. This is 80/20. However, make sure that your deadlines are realistic.

I hope that this article has helped you understand the time it takes to write a thesis and dissertation. Good luck with your studies.

Josh Jasen working

Josh Jasen or JJ as we fondly call him, is a senior academic editor at Grade Bees in charge of the writing department. When not managing complex essays and academic writing tasks, Josh is busy advising students on how to pass assignments. In his spare time, he loves playing football or walking with his dog around the park.

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Postdoctoral Scholar in Equitable Coastal Community Resilience | Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub | Oregon State University | Deadline: December 15, 2023

Position Summary

The College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is seeking a Postdoctoral Scholar (within 4 years of receiving PhD or equivalent degree) for the Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub.  This is a full-time (1.00 FTE) one-year fixed term professional faculty position.  Reappointment for an additional one to two years is possible depending upon annual review.

About the NSF-funded Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub

The Cascadia Coastline and Peoples Hazards Research Hub , or Cascadia CoPes Hub, is a team of researchers funded by the National Science Foundation to increase knowledge about natural hazards and climate change risks coastal communities face and ways to increase their resilience. The Hub is working with communities in the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, and Northern California to increase their ability to mitigate and adapt to impacts from hazards like “The Really Big One”- a mega-earthquake, tsunamis, sea level rise, landslides, erosion, and climate change.

The Cascadia CoPes Hub was formed to respond to a local, regional, and national need for improved coordinated coastal resilience in the face of these chronic and acute hazards ( Ruckelshaus Center, 2017 ;  Oregon Resilience Plan, 2013 ). The Hub’s long-term goal is to equitably improve coastal communities’ preparedness and the ability to bounce back after any setbacks from these events ( Fox et al., 2023 ). 

The Hub is made up of 5 convergent teams who are conducting research relevant to all of Cascadia. This includes research into how natural hazards are currently, and will progressively, affect communities, how local governments are organizing and preparing to respond to these hazards, and effective ways to support communities.

Hub projects are co-developed with community partners and each Hub team has community leads who are focusing on helping coastal communities integrate new scientific advances into their planning. The Hub is also increasing the diversity of future coastal hazard researchers and practitioners and information sharing between underrepresented communities.

About the Candidate

We are seeking a Postdoctoral Scholar in Equitable Coastal Community Resilience to participate in convergent coastal hazards research focused on how impacts, and current and potential adaptation strategies to chronic (climate change induced) and acute (seismic induced) coastal hazards within Cascadia (from Humboldt County, CA to the Salish Sea, WA) are distributed throughout communities. The successful candidate will join a cohort of several postdocs spread across partner institutions who will work collaboratively on a wide range of project components from seismic hazards to coastal inundation to community planning and engagement.

Position Duties:

Social Sciences research design, implementation, and dissemination 50%:   Under the direction of their mentor, Dr. Jenna Tilt, the Postdoctoral Scholar will engage with coastal community members to co-produce qualitative and quantitative social science data with the overall research goals of 1) integrating multiple epistemological frames and values systems into disaster risk assessment and management; 2) identifying equitable multi-use adaptation strategies or pathways for disaster risk reduction; and 3) assessing trade-offs and co-benefits associated with  adaptation strategies or pathways.  The Postdoctoral Scholar will lead the collection of qualitative and quantitative data by employing culturally appropriate mixed methods approaches to accomplish research goals.  Specific data collection methods may include semi-structured interviews and focus groups, whole community workshops, participatory mapping, photovoice, cognitive mapping, and future scenarios exercises.  This research will most likely take place in Oregon, however, exciting opportunities for comparative studies in Washington and Northern California Hub Collaboratories abound.  The Postdoctoral Scholar will assist with IRB related activities including submissions, approvals, modifications, and renewals. The Postdoctoral Scholar will contribute to manuscript development and report writing. They will prepare meeting summaries, progress reports, study deliverables, journal articles, and other written materials, and present study findings at meetings as needed. Publication in appropriate scientific journals is expected.   Participation in grant-writing with PIs to fund the next stage and future expansion of project topics is expected.

Community engagement and outreach (40%):  The Postdoctoral Scholar will plan and implement community engagement and outreach activities with Cascadia coastal communities, with a focus on research co-design and knowledge co-production.  With mentorship and support from, and in coordination with OSU, UW, and Oregon and Washington Sea Grant faculty and staff, the Postdoctoral Scholar will serve as a Community Liaison to support science co-production, translation, and outreach through the novel  Cascadia Community Engaged Research Clearinghouse (CCERC) . Community Liaisons will help identify the research needs of communities and support researchers in increasing usability and applicability of research and will optimize opportunities for communities to apply science.  They will work with supervising faculty to identify and address problems and issues. They will oversee and assemble progress/interim reporting, communicate with funding agencies; submit project deliverables; and develop and monitor project budgets.

Professional development and program management/administration (10%):  the postdoctoral scholar will create and implement an individual development plan (idp) in consultation with their primary mentor. the idp includes research goals and long-term career goals and timelines.  the postdoctoral scholar will be encouraged to attend the wealth of seminars, workshops, and trainings available to cascadia copes hub postdocs and students. these activities include trainings in interviewing and negotiating job offers, grant and proposal writing, publishing in scientific journals, mentoring students, creating inclusive work sites, communicating science, and implementing open and reproducible science..

Minimum Qualifications

  • Candidate must have earned a PhD in Social Sciences or a closely related field by the start date of the appointment.
  • Demonstrated experience conducting research related to individual/household and/or community impacts of disasters or climate change, and/or adaptation pathways. 
  • Demonstrated history of academic productivity, including manuscripts published or in review for publication in peer reviewed journals and/or grant writing experience.
  • Demonstrated strong social science qualitative and quantitative research skills.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience in community outreach and engagement with local community members and groups, particularly with marginalized or underrepresented populations.
  • Demonstrated excellence in (English) written and verbal communication skills.  

Preferred Qualifications

  • Demonstrated knowledge of and application of key theoretical frameworks including disaster risk reduction, community resilience, social & environmental justice, distributional and procedural equity, traditional & local ecological knowledge, place attachment, and/or community capitals.
  • Demonstrated success in working both independently and constructively in multi-institution and/or interdisciplinary research team(s).
  • Experience utilizing geospatial tools such as ArcPro, StoryMaps, ArcGIS Online, QGIS, and/or Google Earth.
  • Familiarity with Cascadia coastal communities, including chronic and acute hazards, and current hazard mitigation plans and policies.
  • A demonstrable commitment to promoting and enhancing diversity and inclusion. This might include engagement with personal and professional development or be woven into the practice of any traditional professional duties (e.g., research, mentoring, education, scholarship, service).
  • Oral and written proficiency in Spanish.
  • Demonstrated experience with IRB compliance.
  • Preference will be given to candidates with a strong publication record, a demonstrable commitment to seeking external funding, and research interests that are aligned with the research team.

Work Conditions:   The Postdoctoral Scholar will primarily work in an office setting in Corvallis, Oregon with frequent travel to Oregon Coastal Communities and occasional travel to coastal communities in Washington and Northern California.

Salary and Benefits:  Stipends and Benefits for Postdoctoral Scholars are found here: https://gradschool.oregonstate.edu/postdocs/stipends-and-benefits

Timeline and Application:   While applications will be considered until the position is filled, we will start reviewing applications as of December 15, 2023.  A complete application will be a single PDF document containing:

  • Letter of interest describing how your qualifications and experience have prepared you for this postdoctoral position (1 – 2 pages).
  • Research statement that highlights your research accomplishments and describes your next steps (1 – 2 pages).
  • Curriculum Vitae (no length restriction). 
  • Names and contact information of three references (1 page). 

Please send direct inquiries to Jenna Tilt:  [email protected]   To apply for this opportunity, submit a complete application via e-mail to Jenna Tilt.

Oregon State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

Centrally located in the Willamette Valley, the OSU campus in Corvallis is in close proximity to the Pacific Coast and Cascade range and offers an excellent opportunity for work-life balance. We foster a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment with many opportunities for postdocs and students to engage with a rich campus life.

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  • Jennifer Ritvo Hughes, MA'11, Musicology: Chief Executive Officer, Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Xiang Li PhD'23, Chemistry: Analytical Scientist, SEQENS
  • Simon Huynh, MA '21 and MS Mathematics: Math Teacher, The Newman School
  • Hanh Bui PhD'21, English: Teaching and Research Fellow, Shakespeare's Globe
  • Kelly Andriamasindray MA'17 American History: Instruction & Mentorship Lead, Generation France
  • Julia Bandini PhD’19, Sociology: Associate Behavioral/Social Scientist, RAND Corporation
  • Robert Pearson PhD'10, Musicology: Assistant Dean of Professional Development and Career Planning, Emory University
  • Killian Jampierre MA ’19, Global Studies: PSG Evaluation and Leadership Analyst, Boston Consulting Group
  • Xinyi Du MA’18, Comparative Humanities: Faculty Affairs Officer, Schwarzman Scholars Program in China
  • Daniel Friedman MA’18, Philosophy: Associate at Reputation Institute
  • Sierra Dakin Kuiper MA ‘18, Anthropology: Senior Manager, Foundation and Donor Relationships, Environmental Law Institute
  • Matthew Linton PhD’18, History: Publication and Communication Manager, Council of Graduate Schools
  • Rachel Madsen PhD ‘18, Social Policy & Sociology: Director of Assessment at Wake Technical Community College
  • Katherine Nadeau PhD ‘18, English: High School English Teacher, The Academy of the Holy Family
  • Laura Paige PhD ‘18, Psychology: Market Research Manager, Putnam Associates
  • Rebecca Barton MA'17, Sociology: Research Specialist, Isaacson Miller
  • Ian Campbell PhD ‘17, History: Teacher, Rising Tide Charter High School
  • Susanna Klosko PhD ‘17, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies: Digital Humanities Project Designer/Manager at the University of Virginia
  • Victoria McGroary PhD’17, Politics: Deputy Political Director, NewDem Action Fund
  • Alexis Antracoli PhD‘06, History
  • Daniel Becker MA'03, Comparative History: Research and Instruction Librarian, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Sylvia Guillory MA'12, Psychology: Research Psychologist, Leidos
  • Sim Janjua MA'16, Psychology: Consultant, Deloitte
  • Emily Vetter MA’11, Anthropology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: Senior Project Manager, Office of the Provost at Harvard University
  • Jonathan Golden PhD ‘08, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies: History Teacher and Israel Curriculum Coordinator, Gann Academy
  • Emily Sigalow PhD ‘15, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies: Executive Director, UJA-Federation of New York
  • Jason M. Olson PhD ‘16, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies: Navy Foreign Area Officer, US Marine Corps
  • Milka Kostic PhD'04, Chemistry: Program Director, Chemical Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Seila Selimovic PhD'10, Physics: Program Manager, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Lila Fakharzadeh PhD'20, Neuroscience: Computational Biologist, RCH Solutions
  • Maria Genco PhD’17, Neuroscience: Senior Business Insights Analyst at Decision Resources Group
  • Josiah Herzog PhD’18, Molecular and Cell Biology: Research Scientist, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Zachary Knecht PhD'18, Neuroscience: Medical Writing Scientist, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Jacob Vinay Vikas Konakondla MS’19, Molecular and Cell Biology: Senior Associate at Torque
  • Jacqueline McDermott PhD'18, Molecular & Cell Biology: Assistant Director of Graduate Recruitment and Retention, College of Engineering, Purdue University
  • Narendra Mukherjee PhD'18, Neuroscience: Machine Learning Scientist
  • Jacob Wirth PhD'19, Biochemistry and Biophysics: Scientist, DoubleRainbow Biosciences Inc.
  • Martin Wojtyniak PhD'12, Molecular and Cell Biology: Senior Biotechnologist, MITRE
  • Lite Yang MS’18, Biotechnology: Research Assistant II, Harvard Medical School
  • Florie Namir PhD ‘17, Music Composition and Theory: Social Media Assistant, Shapeshifter Productions; Independent singer-songwriter and classical composer
  • Jayne Ziemba, MA‘11, English and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies: Associate Managing Editor, Penguin Random House
  • David Hampton PhD'19, Neuroscience: Data Scientist, DCI Solutions

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Gsas joins first-generation college celebration.

Text reads "Nov 8th, First-Generation College Celebration, Celebrating First-Gen Student Stories." Clockwise from top left, headshots of Michael Strand, Paul Garrity, Patricia Alvarez Astacio, Laura Miller, Teresa Mitchell, Howie Tam, Víkko Suàrez Casanova, Jiahua Chen, Ashley Gilliam, and Anna Valcour.

November 8, 2023

Abigail Arnold | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

November 8, 2023 is the seventh annual First-Generation College Celebration . Started by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success in 2017, this celebration highlights the accomplishments and experiences of first-generation college students. It is observed by institutions throughout the United States.

This year, GSAS is celebrating by hosting a webinar, “A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum,” with Jessica Calarco, PhD , author of the book of the same name. In the webinar, open to the Brandeis community, Dr. Calarco will explore the idea of the hidden curriculum–things you're expected to come into graduate school knowing or figure out for yourself–and its consequences for inequality and higher education, along with providing some advice for navigating it.

Becky Prigge, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for GSAS, says, “I first heard about First-Generation College Celebration Day through social media last November. Since then, I’ve been thinking about ways we can acknowledge and break down the unique barriers first-gen students face in higher ed. I read Dr. Calarco’s Field Guide and was so impressed with how she decoded academic speak and made it easy to understand. I wanted her to share her infinite wisdom with as many students as possible, and I am thrilled she’ll join us for a webinar.”

GSAS talked to several of our graduate students who were first generation students as undergraduates. Here is what they had to say.

Jiahua Chen

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: While GPA remains important, networking plays an equally vital role in achieving success. Professors, advisors, professionals, and peers can serve as invaluable resources for academic excellence and potential catalysts in your career journey.

Something from college that was a challenge: In college, you experience more freedom, but it also comes with increased responsibility, which can be stressful sometimes. Thus, it is crucial to always plan ahead, establishing a well-defined but also flexible schedule for sleeping, homework, exams, and courses to maintain a healthy and successful academic life.

A resource that helped you: Brandeis has many excellent resources, such as the Hiatt Career Center and the Gen One Network [Chen also attended Brandeis as an undergraduate]. The university’s relatively small size also allows students to easily connect with the professors, who can serve as a mentor not only for professional development but also for personal life.

Something you wish you’d known: It is okay to be scared to step beyond your comfort zone and do things you have never seen anyone do in your family. For any opportunity you want, or you believe yourself is suitable, please do not be afraid to ask and to try. If it works out, that’s fantastic; if not, remember, you haven’t truly lost anything, have you?

Ashley Gilliam

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: How easy it was to get involved in research and how much I loved doing it! I wasn't a math and science person growing up. I wasn't bad at it, but I didn't like it and I didn't have good mentors to show me that it was fun and interesting. When I got to college I realized that I could do research on topics that I was passionate about and learn about things that weren't even possible to take classes in! I started research as a Freshman with a really eccentric professor, handing fake bell peppers to people to touch with different numbers of fingers, and I fell in love! Now I even love statistics and coding!

Something from college that was a challenge: I confided in a staff member that I wanted to go to grad school as a first-gen and she then told me that she'd advised her first-gen husband not to do so as it would probably be too much for him to handle. I felt determined to prove her wrong, but I was also more careful in who I spoke to about my background after that. Because I was high achieving and because I avoided mentioning my background, people around me often assumed I had a lot of unwritten knowledge that I didn't. I didn't know how to dress or talk in a way that was seen as professional (all of my family worked working-class, blue collar jobs) and I started avoiding talking with my accent. One semester I accidentally signed up for too many credit hours and had to pay an unexpected $500 fee that I didn't have. Thankfully, I was able to use part of a research grant to cover it -- otherwise I don't know if I would have continued in college.

A resource that helped you: I found an amazing faculty mentor who understood the barriers to higher education. She offered to help me purchase professional clothes when I attended my first conference and grad school interviews and she constantly encouraged me to apply for grants, scholarships, and awards that I was too scared to try for at first. Having her as a role model and wealth of information completely transformed my college experience and empowered me. There are many faculty out there like her -- you just have to reach out and start building a relationship with them.

Something you wish you'd known: I wish I knew earlier in my time at college that faculty are there to support you and so many are happy to have you drop by office hours just to talk. It was these more informal interactions that really helped build relationships that helped me get through my degree and answered the hundreds of questions I had about how the academic and white-collar professional system worked.

Víkko Suàrez Casanova

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: I learned that there was so much more to college than just getting a degree: you really learn about yourself, what you like and dislike, and form friendships that truly do last a lifetime!

Something from college that was a challenge: Being first-gen, I had to work multiple part-time jobs throughout college to afford attending my education and to buy my books/materials. It was definitely hard to balance working 30 plus hours a week with a full course load but it taught me how to prioritize and manage my time efficiently.

A resource that helped you: I would not be here today without the support of my mentors who encouraged me when I was down, kept me focused when I was trying to take on too many responsibilities, and kept me humble and true to myself and my values. Thank you, Dr. Shumskaya and Dr. Coniglio!!

Something you wish you'd known: Ask. For. Help!! Being first gen, I was so nervous of being seen as stupid or incompetent so I often struggled in silence. I did not know that I could ask for help. It's college so we are all struggling but remember, closed mouths don't get fed!

Anna Valcour

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: Finding a sense of community and belonging with other students is so valuable - creating that support system.

Something from college that was a challenge: Imposter syndrome is so real and never really goes away. Also, there's so much tacit knowledge in higher education - I wish it was more transparent.

A resource that helped you: I often felt too ashamed to ask for help, but please do - professors, students, mentors, tutors, administrative staff, etc. are there to help you.

Something you wish you’d known: I wish I knew (and still do) how to handle the burden, stress, and shame of insurmountable student debt.

We also have first generation college students among the GSAS faculty. Here are their words.

Patricia Alvarez Astacio

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: The amount of classes and fields of study that I didn't even know existed! How the majority of faculty were accessible and eager to find ways of supporting students. I was terrified of talking to them, but once I did, a world of opportunities in relation to my interests and advice opened up.

Something from college that was a challenge: Finding the courage to talk to my professors was difficult. I went to a big public university in Puerto Rico where it was easy to get lost–it was a challenge to learn how credits worked, what classes I needed to take to fulfill my major requirements or how to figure out how to do a major and a minor; how to even get enrolled in classes that I wanted to take required a learning curve. I worked multiple part-time jobs and studied full-time; it was a challenge learning how to balance my class workload with my jobs. While many faculty were understanding of situations like that, others didn't care and I had to learn how to be organized and manage my time the hard way.

A resource that helped you: My peers who were not first generation students who I could talk to and ask, without feeling judged, what I thought were silly questions. Some of my professors offered me different opportunities to develop my interests and help them in their research. In my junior year, by recommendation of a professor I discovered a program that supported minority students that wanted to go to grad school. Discovering that program was very helpful in demystifying the process of going to grad school and being part of a community of peers with similar aspirations but who were also as lost and new to academic spaces like me.

Something you wish you’d known: I wished that at some point, either during orientation or my freshmen year there would've been a clear discussion about: how universities work (credits, requirements, electives, what does doing a major and minor look like), what were concrete benchmarks I could identify to know I was on track, what could I do to prepare myself during my undergraduate career in order to set myself up to be a competitive candidate for my future professional aspirations beyond getting good grades, things like doing internships or gain field/research experience. Even though my undergraduate institution didn't have many resources, for example the library and theater were closed during the whole time I was there, I would've loved to know what resources were available. For example, I had no idea of the existence of programs like the one my professor directed me to in my junior year that were there to support minority students wanting to go to grad school or that there were grants and fellowships for minority or first generation students. I would've also loved to know how important are the networks you build with professors and peers for one's future aspirations and ability to achieve those.

Paul Garrity

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: That the faculty were more than happy to help me think through and make career choices. This was important as I was interested in a career in science and no one in my family or in the community where I grew up had ever done anything like that.

Something from college that was a challenge: The hardest thing for me was writing essays and papers. My writing had not been critiqued much in high school, so trying to write at a college level was extremely challenging for me. I love what I do, but I had many academic interests and, in retrospect, my struggles with writing may have contributed to my ending up in science!

A resource that helped you: The faculty member (Dr. Robert Pasternack) who took me into his laboratory was key to my learning that I wanted to be a scientist and helped me be able to do a PhD.

Something you wish you’d known: That as long as I did my best and could make myself useful, things would work out.

Laura Miller

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: I was surprised, in a good way, to learn that there was such a thing as graduate school.

Something from college that was a challenge: A challenge was coming to terms with the reality that the mere act of attending college would not magically transform me into the person I wanted to be.

A resource that helped you: I learned to carefully read handbooks and other written policies so that I knew the rules almost as well as the people implementing them.

Something you wish you’d known: I wish I had known before my first semester that finals had set schedules that could not be changed.

Teresa Mitchell

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: How much I learned from the other students, most of whom were so different from me.

Something from college that was a challenge: Becoming more intrinsically motivated, rather than being motivated by competition with classmates.

A resource that helped you: My sisters and my roommate.

Something you wish you'd known: That simply going to class will get you most of the way!

Michael Strand

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: That I was actually "good" at school! Cause I wasn't considered to be good in my prior educational institutions. College (even community college where I started out) just seemed like a completely different world from what I was used to.

Something from college that was a challenge: Figuring out what to major in. My parents had no preferences, and essentially no idea what a major even was, as long as "I enjoyed it" and was going to graduate. I took a few classes in my very impractical major and liked it enough to say "why not?" paying absolutely no attention to the future.

A resource that helped you: So many it's impossible to count. Two stand out: A political science professor at community college who saw something in me I'd never seen before. He essentially allowed me to attend a four year institution by recommending me for a scholarship to the only university in my state. Otherwise I could not have afforded it. Then, a sociology professor who I took a few classes from at the university. He had a notorious reputation, but beyond the facade, was a dedicated and selfless person. He was a kind of compass point, someone I might be able to be like, once I actually started to think about the future.

Something you wish you'd known: I'm actually kind of glad I knew nothing about college before I enrolled except for what I had seen in movies. I suppose this meant I never lost my romanticism about it. But I do wish I knew how to keep track of gen ed requirements. That way I wouldn't have had to cram like 6 classes into my last semester!

Howie Tam

Something from college that was a good surprise to you: One thing about college that was surprising to me was its diversity. I grew up in a rather close-knit Vietnamese American community, and going to university was the first time I got to interact with people from other parts of the country and the world, people of different backgrounds, faiths, political inclinations, etc. I remember feeling exhilarated, but I also had to learn how to socialize and navigate in such a diverse community. That wasn't always easy. Universities usually emphasize diversity, but it's a much more difficult and important task to create a meaningful community out of that diversity.

Something from college that was a challenge: There were many challenges to being a first-generation student, on top of being a queer person of color from a low income family, but the one I struggled with the most was the anxious feeling that I was always only a guest or intruder at this otherworldly place that is the university.

A resource that helped you: One incredible resource that I eventually found was the beautiful community of queer students of diverse backgrounds who made me feel like I belonged. They became my friends, mentors, and supporters.

Something you wish you’d known: I wish I'd known that I was also a valuable member of the university community as much as my peers, even though I didn't get that message from the university itself. I learned only much later that all the things that made me different gave me a perspective and worldview that could enrich the university, not something that I should hide or minimize in order to fit in.

GSAS is excited to share these stories as part of our First-Generation College Celebration for 2023 and continues to strive to support students from all educational backgrounds. Prigge says, “In addition to naming first-gen students' obstacles, it’s important that we celebrate their resilience and drive. I picture graduate school as a long-distance race. Everyone starts at the same line, but first-gen students must jump over a series of hurdles before they can start running. It takes grit to stand at that starting line and tell yourself that you will run that race, no matter what.”


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    A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) - from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion. The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social ...

  9. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    Published on September 7, 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes. Revised on July 18, 2023. The introduction is the first section of your thesis or dissertation, appearing right after the table of contents. Your introduction draws your reader in, setting the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose, and direction on a relevant topic.

  10. Mastering Your Ph.D.: Writing Your Doctoral Thesis With Style

    Start thinking about your introduction long before you start writing your thesis. During your final year--or even earlier--create a file in which you collect ideas and article clippings that could be useful for the introduction. A file of good ideas will be a big help in writing a comprehensive and elegant introduction when the pressure is on.

  11. How to write a PhD thesis: 13 Tips for PhD thesis writing

    Create an outline before you start writing - The most effective way to keep your work organized is to first create an outline based on the PhD thesis structure required by your university. Using an outline for your PhD paper writing has tremendous benefits.

  12. PDF How to write a good PhD thesis and survive the viva

    Normally, a successful PhD candidate shows this ability by having • Studied a particular area within a subject for three to four years • Made at least one new discovery and/or at least one contribution to the knowledge of a sub-area within the chosen area of the subject • Written a thesis about that area, placing the own independent, novel contr...

  13. Insider's Guide: Writing A Thesis When You're Short On Time

    Instead of inserting "work on thesis" into your calendar, insert measurable goals like "finish Figure 1" or "write two pages of Chapter 2.". 7. Write In Very Short Bursts. Writing in several short bursts is more efficient than writing in a few, long extended periods of time. If you ever tried to write for several hours in a row, you ...


    Writing a PhD's thesis is a challenging mission in higher education. This work requires in-depth research executed by motivated students. ... In general, the start of your writing depends on the ...

  15. phd

    1 What field are you in? (The answers may vary because of subject area and the kinds of research you are doing.) Also, I would like to suggest an edit to the title: "...to start thinking about writing the thesis," unless all the work that you're doing now isn't all going into your thesis. - user7123 Jul 10, 2013 at 22:26

  16. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  17. How to start writing from Day One of your PhD

    Here are a few writing prompts you can use to start writing: Keep a research journal: Make a point of writing regularly in your research journal, for example, every day or once a week. As this is not a formal piece of work, there is more room for you to write about fledging thoughts and explore your ideas.

  18. What is a Thesis? Everything You Need to Know about a Graduate Thesis

    A graduate thesis is a capstone project that demonstrates what a student has learned in graduate school. Some programs require students to conduct research for their thesis, while others may require a creative project. Regardless of what form it takes, a graduate thesis is a substantial project that showcases your ability to do independent ...

  19. 3 tips in preparation for writing a PhD thesis

    PhD Writing 1: Things you should do in preparation for writing your thesis. A PhD is many things: exciting, tedious, stimulating, tiring… the list goes on. All the hard work and stress culminates in a thesis or dissertation, the goal of which is to demonstrate that you furthered your field by presenting your findings in an original, behemoth ...

  20. Can I start writing my PhD thesis from the second year?

    Writing the introductory chapters may actually serve to guide the literature review. A thesis is based upon research conducted during a PhD. That research should be in publishable form and, ideally, some of it should already be published. Thus, a thesis is based upon publishable/published research.

  21. Where to start

    Where to start - writing up a PhD thesis Asked 1 year, 2 months ago Modified 1 year, 2 months ago Viewed 5k times 20 I am 2 1/2 years in a a part time PhD and really struggling to know where to start with the writing up phase.

  22. Quora

    We would like to show you a description here but the site won't allow us.

  23. How to write a masters thesis in 2 months [Easy steps to start writing

    Actions. Week 1. Collect all of the data into one place and create a structure with all of the chapters and sections you want to write. Finish up any experiments quickly and make your data as presentable and "thesis ready" as possible. Start putting bullet points under each section so you understand what you want to write in each. Week 2.

  24. Time to Write a Thesis or Dissertation: Tips to Finish Fast

    As noted, various factors can determine the time to write a thesis. However, to determine how long it would take to write a thesis, the determinant factors will be assumed and discussed later in this article. Writing a thesis takes between 9 months and 15 months in total if you follow the standard steps and all the academic writing standards.

  25. Postdoctoral Scholar in Equitable Coastal Community Resilience

    Position Summary The College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is seeking a Postdoctoral Scholar (within 4 years of receiving PhD or equivalent degree) for the Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub. This is a full-time (1.00 FTE) one-year fixed term professional faculty position. Reappointment for an additional one to two years is possible […]

  26. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

    November 8, 2023. Abigail Arnold | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. November 8, 2023 is the seventh annual First-Generation College Celebration.Started by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-Generation Student Success in 2017, this celebration highlights the accomplishments and experiences of first-generation college students.