Tips and Tricks to Take on a Thesis

By Alyssa Sileo

5 mins read
a diligent male student reading a book
Photo by cottonbro on

Attention all juniors: these are the days you’ll be considering writing a thesis. Or, if you’re already on board for the challenge, you’re thinking about how you’re going to make it happen. I’m two weeks away from my defense, and besides cleaning up some typos and mapping out my defense presentation, I’m all finished. 

As a soon-to-be graduate and Peer Academic Coach at the CAE, I want to share some things that I was lucky enough to try out, which made my writing process feel manageable amidst the hustle and bustle of my final year of college. 

  1. Your thesis is a class. So think wisely on how you plan the rest of your final two semesters. Since there is no regular meeting time for the four-credit course that is your thesis, you may see the white space in your schedule and feel tempted to take another course. I am not an academic advisor, and everyone’s tolerance of work load is different, so this is only a strong opinion. This all being said: be careful about taking a course just because you have the time to do it “thanks” to your thesis. This is because you should…
  2. Take action on your thesis every week. I met with my thesis advisor weekly, and I also worked on drafting new portions or editing old ones nearly every week; consider this your “class time” for those four credits. I found that because of the weekly action I took at the start of my senior year, there was less I had to worry about on the backend. Writing 60 pages sounds scary. Writing six pages 10 times sounds a whole lot better. 
  3. Make a Google Folder for all things thesis. You’re going to be using a lot of documents for new drafts and outlines. Having them all in one place makes sure none of your hard work is lost to the mound of other assignments. 
  4. You don’t need a massive amount of chapters. Similar to my first piece of advice, this is a tip that you’ll have to take with a grain of salt and consult your thesis advisor about because every thesis has different requirements. Mine needed two chapters to tell a complete story, but I walked into the process thinking I would need five. I share this so you could also think of a thesis as really just a couple of long papers put together. 
  5. Consider how your spring (or final) semester is going to look, and plan your fall (or penultimate) semester accordingly. I personally got my introduction and first two chapters drafted before I began my spring semester. This left ample time for editing the whole piece and writing my conclusion. This also left time for all the other things spring semester is about: finishing up final college classes, applying for jobs/grad school and enjoying pre-graduation celebrations (and processing being done with college soon!). I feel lucky that I was able to focus on these things, rather than cram my thesis in. On the flip side, I am glad I made my spring semester less course-heavy, so if my thesis needed to take up more of my attention, it could. So, I recommend giving your future self a gift and making your spring semester a fertile place for your thesis to grow.
empty paper cups on green surface
  1. Outlines are your friend. Everything they said in DSEM is true. I’ve always believed that a paper is just a snazzy outline. Once I found the spine of my thesis, writing it felt so much more possible.
  2. The CAE is also your friend when it comes to fine-tooth-comb editing. While there is something to be said about having too many cooks in the kitchen—and your thesis committee is your best resource in perfecting your paper’s content—CAE Writing Specialists are amazing resources when it comes to finding typos and editing your works cited.

I am rooting for each and every one of you starting your thesis journey. You can do this!

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