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How to Write a Thesis Paper

Would you like to learn how to write a thesis paper? Below is a clear guideline on how to write a first-class thesis paper.

Getting Started

  1. Most studies begin with a question. Look at the topics and theories covered in your program, and ask yourself if there is a topic that you would like to study further. Do you feel like there are some unanswered questions or topics that were not covered comprehensively and you would like to seek more information on the same?
  2. Once you have identified a topic or theory, begin to look for relevant information. Find out all the information you can including academic work, previous research, trade literature, info in press releases and the internet.
  3. As you learn more about your topic of interest and prior research on the same, you should come up with a purpose for your thesis. Ensure that you have a clear reason for your research. After you can articulate your purpose clearly, then you can begin writing your proposal. The proposal articulates the purpose of the study and its significance. It further tentatively reviews the literature and the theoretical framework of the topic. In the proposal, you should include a working bibliography, hypothesis/ research questions, and your data collection methods.
  4. Are you learning how to write a thesis paper for masters? For your master’s program, at this point, if you haven’t recruited committee members you need to do so. Hold a preliminary meeting with your committee members, where you will refine your research plans and clearly define your expectations for the thesis. Are you learning how to write a thesis paper for your doctoral program? Note that in the doctoral program, proposal discussions are part of the qualifying exam. After the meeting students are expected to submit a memo that summarizes what was discussed in the meeting.
  5. Before you begin collecting data, you need to clear the instrumentation you have developed with your institution’s review board. The process can take a few weeks; therefore you need to allocate it adequate time.
  6. After you get approved, proceed to collecting data, writing what you find out and writing your last chapter. Once you complete chapter 1 and 2, present your work to the chairman of your committee who should offer you feedback and guidance. After that you should try to work independently.
  7. You can hire someone to help you with coding and data entry if possible.
  8. Your institution should have a guideline for how to write dissertation or how to write thesis. Get a copy and follow the guidelines.

Each thesis is unique. However, there are certain elements that are generally similar. Below is a general outline of what your thesis should look like.

How to Write a Dissertation/ Thesis Step by Step

Chapter 1: Purpose of the study

In chapter 1 you should clearly state the purpose of the study and its significance. The significance of the study is basically a discussion about how the study adds to the subject of discussion. A PH.D thesis must explain the original contributions the study makes to the subject. Students must explain how the studies benefit mass communication education. It is of utmost importance that the first chapter be well developed. If the purpose and significance of the study is not well defined, or build on strong theoretical foundation, the dissertation/ thesis is flawed.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The second chapter comprises of the literature review. Literature review is basically an analysis of previous studies on the subject. This chapter should not just report on other researchers’ work. Rather, the literature review should explain what is known about the subject and what is unknown. It should show what has been achieved by previous researchers and what is yet to be achieved. A good literature review should form the basis for research questions and hypothesis. Sometimes, you may decide that replicating previous studies is necessary.

Chapter 3: Methodology

Methodology refers to a definition and justification of the method used to collect data. In this chapter, you will describe how you analyzed data. In the beginning you should describe the method you used and why that method is appropriate. Make sure that you cite a reference about the method used. Next, you should give a detailed account of the information collecting and analyzing process. In this section you should address

  • Research design internal validity and external validity
  • Population and its description – Give reasons for the sample population used and method of selection
  • Method used to make observations – Questionnaire, experiments, observations etc. Show reliability of the methods used to make observations.
  • Coding of data – this involves description of statistical analysis and identification of themes.

Chapter 4: Findings

This chapter addresses results from your data analysis. Do not include other research literature or inferences/ effects of your findings. Start by outlining the descriptive and confirmatory analyses you conducted. Then you report about the findings from testing the hypotheses. Numeric data should be illustrated using tables or graphs.

If you are conducting qualitative research, findings should be organized by themes or different categories revealed in your study. Therefore, If you have studied groups or conducted interviews, it is advisable to provide a brief description of your participants (e.g. demographics). Use evidence such as direct quotes and paraphrased quotes from the groups studies and interviews conducted, to support your findings.

Chapter 5: Discussion

The purpose of the discussion is not just to recap your research/findings, but to discuss what your work means to the subject of discussion and to your profession. Hoe does your research contribute to the subject? Students often do not pay much attention to this chapter. They forget that this is among the most important (if not the most important) chapter. This chapter explains the significance of your study.

Start by discussing your findings relative to the information you included in the literature review. With qualitative research it may be important, but not a must, to introduce new literature. In this chapter, you should discuss what your research means for professionals in your area of study.   What are the literal implications of your research? In the discussion you should include the limitations of your studies, and suggest areas that researchers should look into in the future. The conclusion should provide closure; the last sentence should be strong.

What to Expect When Writing Thesis?

If you hope to start and complete your theses within a single semester, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You need ample time to brainstorm and gather data. You should begin your thesis two semesters to graduation. Even with a smooth writing process, a good thesis takes six to nine months to complete. It is the same for dissertations too, but PhD students should allocate even more time to their thesis. If you would like to know how to write a PhD thesis, basically the process is the same but intense research is expected for students in the doctoral program. A thesis paper for PhD program is should take at least a year to complete.

Your chair or committee members will not edit your thesis. Before you turn in any work, including drafts, make sure that you conduct a thorough grammar and spelling check. There are at least two levels of editing a thesis. Micro-editing refers to correcting grammar and spelling mistakes. It also involves looking at sentence and paragraph structure. Macro-editing refers to correcting the overall structure of the thesis. Chapters should be arranged correctly, and there should be a flow of information from the start to the end. There should be proper transitions between topics. Macro-editing determines if the thesis needs to be expanded or streamlined. If you are wondering “who can edit my thesis for me?”  Well there are many online companies that offer dissertation editing services, and thesis editing services.

Ensure that there is enough time for your chair to read your thesis before turning it in to the committee. It might take some weeks before you defend your thesis. Therefore, do not expect to turn in your thesis and defend it the following week. Also, you should expect the committee members to take a couple of weeks before the defense.

It is not unusual to revise the thesis after defense. You can avoid revision by letting your instructor or other members of the faculty examine your draft before defense. You should provide your committee members with a bound final copy of the thesis.

Bonus Thesis Writing Tips

  1. Pick a topic you are interested in – Writing a thesis is no easy task. Your interest in the topic is what will keep you motivated.
  2. Find a dedicated writing area – Find a place where you can spread out your papers. Agree with everyone that you will clean up after the thesis is done.
  3. Segment, schedule, reward – Divide the work into small chunks and tackle each at a time; this way you will not feel overwhelmed. One way of segmenting is coming up with an outline; your outline does not have to be perfect but it will give you a structure and help you plan.

Allocate each part of the outline some time. After you complete a section, reward yourself by doing something you like.

Writing a thesis doesn’t have to be an uphill climb. With proper preparation, you will succeed. It is our hope that our “how to write a thesis paper guide” will help you.

How to Write a Thesis Paper FAQ

How long should a thesis paper be?

A master’s or PhD thesis paper should be at least 40 to 80 pages without counting the reference pages. However, the length of your thesis will depend on your professor’s instructions, and the advice given by your committee.

What is a thesis paper?

A thesis paper is a long essay that you write at the end of your master’s or doctorate program. A thesis paper focuses on an interesting unanswered research question, and persuasively answers it. therefore, your thesis should have a research question and persuasive answers to the question.

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