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August 2017

What is a Master’s Thesis Paper?

thesis writing

To quickly summarize, a master thesis paper is the culmination of your whole master period. It’s where you showcase that you’ve learned what you were supposed to learn and that you can produce a high-quality piece of work that follows that can make use of the knowledge that has been collected in the field that you’re currently doing your studies.

Of course, what you study has a big impact on what kind of master thesis you will write. For example, if you’re writing a paper in physics that will be a very different master thesis than you will write if you write one in – say – literature. Nonetheless, they have some common themes that generally span across all master thesis papers that you’re likely to encounter.

They synthesize a broad range of knowledge

Generally, a master thesis will require that you do a lot of reading in your field. Often, you’ll be expected to read the actual research papers of your field as this is as close as you can get to the actual science that’s going on in your area of expertise. Of course, academic textbooks will also serve well – particularly if they’re written by people who have done a lot of research into the area you’re writing about.

It’s a good idea to stay away from more popular science books as often these books will cut corners and over-simplify things in order to make the subject matter accessible to a lay audience who may not necessarily be familiar with the ins and outs of your academic area. Of course, there are exceptions. Some popular science books are both academically sound and broadly accessible. If you’re not sure whether a book is academically rigorous enough, you should consider asking your professor. They’ll be able to tell you (and often will even appreciate your thoughtfulness).

At its heart, a thesis is an essay

With that, I mean that the same rules apply. You write an introduction, forward a broad set of arguments that support the thesis you’ve written, and then offer a conclusion. The nature of those arguments can take very different forms, of course. In some cases, it’s your own field research that you’re presenting, while at other time you’ll be relying exclusively on the research of others.

That does not take away from the basic structure, however.

What’s vitally important though is that because these essays are so long you have a clear red line that runs throughout your text which you follow at all times. Don’t be afraid to signpost. This is where you explain what you’ve just covered. Bring it back to what your overall thesis is. And then dive into the next topic.

It’s all about the outline

Because the thesis is longer than any text you’ve probably written, you have to have an outline. For that reason, draw one up before you start writing seriously. Also, constantly refer back to it. Of course, outlines can change as your writing progresses. That does not mean they should be abandoned, however. For when that happens, you’re straying from the known path and into the deep forest. And once there, you’ll lose your way and your audience.

The best idea is to write up an intricate outline with all the arguments that you’d like to cover. Then, go see your supervisor and discuss the outline with them. They’ll appreciate it as this is the easiest stage to make suggestions. And you’ll appreciate it as those suggestions can turn your essay from something okay into something fantastic.