Writing a Thesis #3: Utilizing Your Classes

I encourage you to take a look back at the first and second entries in this series to give you a bit of a backdrop on what we’ve already covered regarding writing your thesis. Those entries covered two particularly important items: picking a topic, and picking your advisory committee. With this week comes a bit of practical knowledge.

Use all of your classes and coursework to complete research and build your thesis, right from the start.

Writing ThesisAs recommended in post one, pick your subject early on. Figure out what you’re interested in, settle on it, and begin to explore and research immediately. Many programs will then allow you to take courses based on your areas of interest. For instance, if, early on, you know that you are passionate about, and want to study, the relationships between cellular response and cell adhesion kinetics, then you should take BIOM 525 – Cell and Tissue Engineering. I admit that I don’t know if there is even a relationship between those two, but hey, it works as an illustration. Point being, a lot of the literature you will read in that class will give you jumping off points to research and write on. These bits of writing will allow you to potentially plug those sections right into your thesis proposal and your thesis with hopefully only minor tweaking. You can finish large sections of your literature review in the normal course of your classes. (What is a literature review? Check out this link for more information).

That’s where Teddy’s advice on picking an advisor comes in; if you pick the right advisor, who is knowledgeable on your topic, he or she can help you select classes that are relevant to your subject matter as you move through your program. Once in those classes, talk to the professors about your thesis topic, and ask them how you can use their class to further your research. Most professors, if not all, will get excited about your topic area and help guide you in your particular interest.

Note: This is a one-way street. Working on your thesis while you are in class is fine, but it isn’t a free pass to recycle content you have already completed on your thesis for class work.

Depending on the program, the thesis can be more than 100 pages, so any little bit you can finish along the way helps tremendously. Teddy and I have a classmate who already has 75 pages of her thesis done. That’s before she has actually begun her research. The bulk of that work she had completed in classes she was already taking anyways, through the normal selection of courses for the degree program.

I am still learning how to write a thesis, but I do know one thing. It, in large part, is about managing stress. By being strategic, picking your courses wisely, then using those courses to further your research, your stress will be reduced greatly. And that…is a good thing.


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