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How to Write a Masters Thesis

by Teresa J. Siskin

Your master's thesis can serve as a professional calling card for years following graduation. It reflects both your researching and writing skills as well as your overall competency in your field of study. Knowing the general steps to writing your thesis can transform the process from one seemingly insurmountable job to a series of smaller, more manageable tasks.

Develop a Research Question and Thesis Statement

The first step toward writing your master’s thesis is defining your research question. This question should address a gap in or expand upon current scholarship and should strike a balance between being personally engaging, so you will not tire of the topic, and choosing a topic that is too ambitious, so you do not overwhelm yourself with the scope of your project. The question will serve as the basis for your thesis statement, which will summarize your unique approach to this question’s resolution.

Review Related Research

With your research question and thesis statement drafted, your next step is to complete a review of the current state of research pertaining to your topic. The purpose of this scholarly review is not only to ensure you are as informed as possible on your topic but also to guarantee that your approach is original. Your thesis advisor, other faculty members and your peers may be able to provide resources or research previously unknown to you, so consulting with them during the development of this related research section can be beneficial. As you develop this section of your thesis, you might also find that your thesis statement needs adjustment to ensure its continued quality.

Individual Research and Proposal Draft

Following a scholarship review, you can outline and begin your own research along with a draft of your thesis proposal. The proposal is a requirement of many master’s programs as it allows your thesis advisor and committee members to review your proposed topic, assess it scholarly merits and offer important adjustments that can strengthen and improve your final thesis. In addition to stating your research question and thesis statement, your proposal should include the most significant research you have completed as well as your proposed research methods and potential outcomes. A master’s thesis proposal can provide an excellent outline of what you wish to cover in your actual thesis so it can work as a useful writing guide as you continue to refine your writing.

Elaborate on Your Findings and Your Thesis’ Originality

With your research complete and your proposal accepted by your master’s committee, you can put the finishing touches on your thesis. This step involves a full account of your research methods and results, along with significant conclusions you can draw from your findings. Just as the originality of your research question is important, so too are your thesis’ findings and conclusions, so you must ensure that the data you report and the conclusions you draw are unique. You can also use this section of your thesis to discuss future extensions of your research.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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