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Philosophy and Religious Studies

So you have to write a thesis...

The number one rule for writing your thesis is be organized.  This may be different for everyone, but here is the basic structure (see red slides below) on what your masters thesis or dissertation should include. Also included are videos, books, writing tips, websites, and articles that may assist you.  

Your specific discipline may have specific requirements for you to follow. Please consult with your thesis advisor whenever you have questions.

If you are having trouble with research please do not hesitate to reach out to a librarian (see the Stuck? page for contact information).

This video was created by Lund University in Sweden and is a great resource.  Please keep in mind that they use slightly different words for their sections such as "summary" instead of "conclusion", but the content that should be included is the same and the way they explain it is succinct and accurate. 

This video by Massey University (New Zealand) is a recorded lecture on how to write a thesis with several examples and good advice throughout. Please keep in mind that here too, some of the vocabulary is different but the content is useful. 

  • Start writing with the methods section and about your preliminary data.  You may find starting with a difference section easier depending on your topic/research but start writing with the easiest section and build your momentum. Write your introduction and your abstract at the end.
    • If you're in the humanities this would be the heart of your research. For example if you were comparing Game of Thrones to Shakespeare, instead of beginning with an introduction, you would jump into where you are comparing them. 
  • Instead of sitting in front of your computer every day for 2 hours with writer's block, try to write daily with well defined writing goals - I'm going to write 2 pages, or create a table, etc. 
  • If you miss a day, do not try to make up for it the next day. Just keep going and don't burn yourself out. Keep yourself to reasonable, realistic goals and make sure to keep a work-life balance.
  • Don't worry about perfect grammar when you're doing your first draft(s).  That's easy to edit, generating new content with perfect style? Not as easy. 
  • Try to keep some kind of memo pad with you at all times - on your phone, on paper, however works for you for those flashes of brilliance when you're not near your document.
  • Make sure you communicate with your supervisor - do not be afraid to reach out!  Make sure you're on the right track.
  • If you're research based make sure you have a clearly defined question your thesis will answer, including milestones. 
  • Make and outline, including bullet points for your data/arguments in each section. This may change over time but it will help you keep track of what data needs to be collected and what information needs to be included in each chapters.
  • Include all your results, not just the results that support your hypothesis - this is called cherry picking.  Be transparent. 
  • Read and look at other theses in your field - this can help inspire you and answer questions as you go along. You can do this in the library, or online by visiting our dissertation databases. You can also check out Google Scholar to see what's available there. 
  • How to Write a Thesis Without Losing Your Mind - Risto Sarvas

Thesis Structure

Overview of General Thesis Structure

What's in the body of my thesis?