Bachelor Thesis: Practical Advice

Anastasia Vlasenko knows which methods of writing to choose if you feel stuck with your final paper.

Bachelor Thesis: Practical Advice

The student life is full of all sorts of tests, exams and written papers. However, it is not always easy. Many of us can feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that is to be done, especially when it comes to long-term projects like a course paper or a bachelor thesis. If you ever find yourself struggling to write the first few words or to find the correct words to put your thoughts on the paper, sit down and open this article. I will try my best to help you overcome the obstacles that all of us might face one day.

I don’t know what to write about

If your head is completely empty when it comes to choosing a subject or, on the other hand, there are too many ideas and you cannot choose just one, put all the things you are passionate about - your research interests, any phenomena you have learnt about recently, things that you want to know more about - put all of them on the paper. It doesn’t have to be actual paper, an online mind map or your iPad’s notes will work just fine. Seeing things that you cannot articulate yet in front of you can be very helpful in dissecting the ones that might work for you from the rest. The topics you are to choose must somehow relate to your major, keep that in mind! After carefully evaluating your final contestants, rank them on the following criteria:

  1. accessibility of data
  2. utility of research 
  3. your personal interest

Pick the few subjects that are at the very top. Congratulations! We have some winners. Finally, you can ask some of the professors from your major whether they would be interested in working with you

I am not particularly interested in anything

That happens too and that is completely normal. If you feel no attachment to any particular topic, you can try to find a scientific advisor that you like working with. Make sure you are okay with writing a paper on a subject they are likely to suggest. Thus, you have to check what their research interests are. This information is usually easily available on their staff page on the HSE website. Try contacting several people before making a decision. However, remember that they have many students who are willing to work with them, so make sure not to put off this step til the very last moment.

How do I start writing?

Now that you have your topic, one of the biggest challenges comes into the view - actually sitting down and starting to write your paper. If you struggle and have no clue where to begin, try to map out the field. Put down a plan of things you need to cover: literature review, methodology, data, etc. Consult with your major’s webpage because they have instructions on the papers’ content. Don’t expect to write the whole chapters as soon as you start, for now you just need a plan. The second step is to put as many details in your plan as you can. Any ideas or even associations that pop up in your head, write them down in the corresponding chapter. See, you already have something to work on, well done!

Do you feel like there are no right words? In this case, try to avoid using complex structures and sentences. Use the easiest way to document your thinking process, not necessarily academic language. As long as you understand what is written, that is enough. Now that you have laid it out, go over your text again and rewrite it, using appropriate academic language. If you still find yourself struggling, skip the introductory parts, start writing the parts you are most comfortable with: methodology, expected results and etc. Don’t be scared, you will return to the other parts when you feel more confident in your knowledge on the matter.

Another tip that helps me immensely is talking about your work with other people. I often find myself stuck on something, unable to spin my thoughts further. However, this is at most times easily solved when I bring up my subject to others. You can discuss it with your scientific advisor, family, friends or your groupmates. Not only a suggestion or opinion of another person can be a valuable source of knowledge, moreover, when you lay out your thoughts, explaining them to someone else, you can connect the two dots that have been on the loose before. Your goal is to explain your train of thoughts to another person and put the missing pieces to place.

I don’t have time for that

Many of us are balancing work, studying and personal life. This can’t be easy but we all have to make it work. If you are worried about your paper consuming all the time, control it! Put a timely deadline and follow it strictly. For instance, every day after 11 am you have 40 minutes to do some writing - use it. Dedicate the whole period of chosen time solemnly to your thesis. 

If you are, on the other hand, worried that your everyday schedule leaves no room for writing the paper, give yourself deadlines for when some of the parts have to be done. Again, HSE website has all the necessary information on when and what should be done. Follow them! If you have to submit a literature review by the end of December, plan your work and study accordingly. Prioritize tasks and estimate the amount of work, be careful not to overwork yourself. Don’t forget to rest.

I don’t have any motivation

As I mentioned earlier, there are specific deadlines for when different parts of a thesis should be ready. However, for some people it might be not enough of a motivation for work. If you have a hard time getting down to actual work, you can try the rewards technique. For every reasonably important part of work done, treat yourself with something that you like. Are you experiencing difficulties with getting work done and watching YouTube instead? Sit down and write as much as you can, edit your old drafts, search the literature for inspiration. After having done so, watch some of your favorite person’s content. Be careful and consider how much time you will end up spending on the watching.

Speaking of the literature, I sometimes might find myself completely apathetic towards the work I have to do and without any idea of what should be written. In such cases I use the digital libraries as my resource for brainstorming ideas. Trick yourself into doing some research, find a paper that resembles your expected outcome the most and read it thoroughly, go through the references, compare their data to the data that are available to you or, on the other hand, estimate how you would collect such data. This burst of active work and thinking can spark your interest and help you move forward.

I feel overwhelmed

Bachelor thesis does indeed sound quite terrifying, if you ask me. However, it is just a project. A lengthy one, with its own deadlines, a one that requires more attention and willpower to do from a student but just a project. Do not treat writing a paper as a tremendously large task that cannot be done in time. Be realistic with yourself. Get some advice from students who have already written a paper, they can often provide you with a useful piece of advice.

If you still cannot overcome fear of the monster that is in front of you, divide it and conquer each part separately. The task can be as small as reading a paper for the literature review but it will bring you closer to the finish anyway. By doing these one by one you will sooner or later see that the progress is going well and everything is in your hands and at your will.

It’s not perfect?

Remember that your work is in process and do not push yourself too much. Many of us can be feeling down and not content with the progress overall. If you catch yourself thinking so, try to put your energy to finishing the paper in the first place. It can be polished and edited until you are happy with the results after you have finished the significant part of the project. Still unhappy? Ask other students to read the parts you are unsure about and give their comments. This can be very helpful in establishing confidence in your own skills, if other people find your work interesting and affirm the good parts about it. It also can help you tremendously, since the critique, if it is reasonable, may be a concurrent point for further development.

I understand your struggle. However, try to remind yourself that starting is the hardest part. Talk to people about your thesis, ask your scientific advisor for help and advice, read a lot about the topic of the research. You will definitely succeed in your work, do not doubt in what you can do.

Text by
Anastasia Vlasenko