As a student, your motivation will often be the question “Why?” This is the same question that motivates many researchers. A researcher may question the validity of a theory or observe something that appears to lack an explanation. He or she investigates into a phenomenon, discusses with peers, writes down his or her ideas, explores potential solutions, makes numerous notes and forms them into short texts and preliminary drafts. Do as the researcher: make creative use of your feelings of curiosity and uncertainty. You will find that you become less uncertain as your ideas about your thesis gradually fall into place.
Talk about your thesis with your fellow students and anyone else who will listen. It can be very illuminating to put your ideas into words. Why do you think that this theme is interesting? Which potential research questions can you think of? How might you answer your research question(s)? What conclusion do you expect to come to? Presenting a draft to your fellow students is an excellent way of getting started.
THINK AND WRITE
It is more important to get started than to feel that you have complete control over the result. There are various writing techniques that you can use in order to develop your first ideas about a topic. Some you could try include brain-storming, mind maps, free writing and non-stop writing. Once you begin to write, you will probably find that you can think much more clearly about your project.
Start writing about that which you like the best. Write only a little at a time if that is what you feel like. Take a break BEFORE you start “running on empty”. That way it will be easier to pick up where you left off. Make use of writing groups to present your text to your fellow students. Ask for their feedback even if you are not yet satisfied with your text. Good authors often rewrite and restructure their texts.
There are (at least) two strategies for structuring a text:
Text before structure
- Write down everything you know about the topic
- Read through what you have written and use keywords to organise the text into paragraphs
- Use the result as your basis for structuring your text
Structure before text
- Make a schematic outline before you start writing
- Write text to fill in the outline, point by point
- Remember that you can always adjust your outline as you go along
Different people write in different ways. The important thing is to find out what works best for you. Do you tend to deliberate for a long time and then produce a more-or-less finished text just in time for the submission deadline? Or do you need to get started quickly and then spend time structuring, rewriting and developing your draft? Be confident about your way of working!
Bean, J. C. (1996) Engaging ideas: the professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.
Christie, N. (1983) Tolv råd om skriving. Oslo: Universitetet i Oslo, Kvinneretten.
Dysthe, O., & Kjeldsen, J. E. (1999) Skriveråd for studenter (No. 1/99). Bergen.
Last updated: March 11, 2014