By: Vladimir Chen
Your master thesis can give you a great sense of accomplishment. There's pride in contributing something new to the greater body of academic knowledge. Completing your thesis also means that you can finally gain your Master's degree and move up in the world. Unfortunately, much of the sense of accomplishment you'll get when you finish your thesis will come from overcoming great odds. For you see, completing a thesis easily falls under the category of "things easier said than done."
The worst part is getting started. To help you get started on your master thesis, here is a technical checklist of the following things you need to have and to do.
- Funding (optional)
Topic: Can you study and write about tapirs without first knowing what they are? Tapirs are pig-like mammals that can be found in the South and Central America as well as in Southeast Asia - but this is beside the point. The point is that before you can write your master thesis, you need to know what it is you want to write about.
Thus, the first step is to choose your thesis topic. Naturally, this should be something with which you're familiar. You have to do some narrowing and trimming in the topic-selection process, especially if you belong to a large discipline; in demography, for instance, you have to decide whether you want to do a study in migration, fertility, mortality, etc. After specifying your field, choose your particular topic and formulate your thesis statement.
Thesis Adviser: Another preparatory step is selecting a thesis adviser or supervisor from amongst the members of your department's or institution's faculty. By the way, don't choose an adviser because he or she is nice to you. You don't need another friend; you need a professional guide.
Therefore, choose an adviser who has specialized knowledge about the field you've chosen and an extensive knowledge about the research process, research methods, thesis-writing, and relevant reading materials.
Readings: If you think thesis-writing is all about writing, you can never be more off beam. Thesis work involves a lot of reading. Find and read similar studies; this way, you'll know what has and hasn't been done so you can differentiate your thesis from all that has been written on the same topic. You also need to review the literature in relevant fields so you can see what approaches you can borrow and improve upon. So get your eyeglasses out of its case and be prepared to go through mounds of reading materials.
Research Design and Methodology: The research design outlines how you'll prove your thesis statement. Your research design and methodology will make data gathering and analysis easier, and it will ensure that your results will be valid and acceptable to the academic community. The theories, concepts and approaches which you have learned from your reading materials should come in handy here. You'll also probably need your adviser's help on this; he/she'd better be able to provide you with useful insights - or you'll know for certain that you've got the wrong adviser.
Funding: If you're not rolling in gold, then you'd better be rolling in contacts because you need them to help you find a source of research funds. You need money for equipment, materials and other expenses so if you can't finance your research, you'd better find a willing benefactor.
The above are just "getting-started" procedures and specifics. You'll still have to defend your thesis proposal then do your actual study and analysis. Next, you'll have to write your first, second, third, and nth draft until your adviser is satisfied. After that, get your best suit out and prepare for the defense. If you pass, you'll have done it - you'll have completed your master thesis!