There’s college, and then there’s a Master’s program. Master’s programs are not for the faint of heart. Writing a Master’s thesis requires time, dedication, and a whole lot of coffee.
If you’re in your Master’s program and are wondering how you are possibly going to make it through the next few years, this is the guide for you.
Here are some important tips on surviving the marathon that is writing a Master’s thesis.
Create a Viable Work Station
Libraries are only open so late. If you’re going to get your Master’s thesis written without losing your mind, you need a viable work station, preferably in your home or apartment.
This is a place where you are going to spend a lot of time over the next several years, so it’s imperative that you make it as comfortable and practical a space as possible.
One great idea is to consider a standing desk to improve posture. Standing desks can also keep you feeling healthier during long study sessions when you would otherwise be sitting in one position. Come up with a system to organize all of your notes.
One great idea is to write notes on index cards with the sources on the back. This way, you can physically rearrange the cards as you’re planning out the sections of your thesis and you never lose your sources.
Caffeine is one way many students make it through the thesis writing process. If you’re that type of student, consider having a coffee station in the same space that you work.
This cuts down on the amount of time it takes to go make yourself a cup of coffee and ensures you have your caffeine fix nearby when you need it.
Build a Support System
Back when you were an undergrad, you probably had tons of friends in your major. You might have lived on campus, which often fosters friendships, or participated in campus events.
Grad school is a little different. Graduate students rarely live on campus, and grad school is often only one part of a busy life that may include a full-time job or a spouse and children.
However, that doesn’t negate your need for a support system that understands what you’re going through.
Make a point of chatting with other students in your program during breaks or after class. If you can, come up with a regular time to meet up with a couple of them each week or create a Facebook group where you can all get together to talk about your struggles and give tips.
However you do it, you have to build a support system for yourself so that, in the moments when you feel like you’re going to give, you have someone to help you power through.
Create Backups of Everything
Every grad student’s nightmare is losing work. It’s already hard to get through a thesis once without having to repeat any step of it.
So create backups of everything that you do, and then create backups of your backups. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are great places to store information because even if something happens to your computer, you can locate your work again.
Do Class Papers Strategically
In an ideal situation, every single paper you write in grad school will move you one step closer to completing your thesis. Perhaps the paper itself can’t be used, but if you pick logical topics for your class assignments—rather than just picking topics to get the job done—you can use the research you do for each of your small papers towards your thesis.
This is an invaluable trick to learn as it can save you hours upon hours of extra work.
The other great thing about using small papers to work towards your thesis is that you have an ability to begin dissecting an author and to get a professor’s feedback on your interpretation before your thesis goes up in front of a committee for review.
Remember This is Temporary
Getting your graduate degree can feel like an all-encompassing project. For a time, it might feel like you have to put your whole life on pause.
The important thing is to remember that grad school is temporary. Your friends—the good ones—will still be there when you manage to pull your head out of your books after your thesis is written.
Writing a thesis takes a lot of hard work and dedication. By following these tips, you can set yourself up to succeed and power through rather than to crash and burn halfway through your program. Remember that your professors want you to succeed, and go to them for assistance when you get stuck.
Most of all, persevere. You got this!