How to Write Your Thesis (1/4): Dos & Don'ts
A) Start early
When it comes to a massive undertaking such as thesis writing, it is always best to stay ahead of time. Avoid the mad rush of working at the eleventh hour as rushing through your writing will only increase the chances of you making mistakes and missing out on errors. To get a good head start, some students will even begin their postgraduate research before submitting their university application.
Thesis writing is all about organising and presenting your data in a coherent manner. After all, what good is a thesis if it consists of a jumble of unanalysed data or a hodegpodge of ideas? You papers should be presented in a logical flow as it allows the readers to follow your train of thought and understand your arguments better. Planning and writing your thesis in an organised manner will also save you a lot of precious time.
C) Give credit
Citation is important in research for two main reasons. First, it acknowledges and credits the original sources and secondly, it allows the readers to trace the ideas that lead up to your research. In fact, the bibiliography of your thesis is dedicated to the compilation of all the sources that you have referred to, including quotes, paraphrase sentences, summarisations, and statistical data. Without citations and proper reference, your paper will be pegged for plagiarism. Also, using sources without any proper citation is dubious and unreliable at best.
D) Back up
One of the most common horror stories of postgraduate students is the loss of their thesis, usually due to computer damage or theft. Imagine if all your years of hard work went to waste overnight because you only have one copy of your thesis? Make it a habit to back up your files whenever you update them and save copies of your work in multiple storage locations: USB flash drives, portable hard disks, printed hard copies, Dropbox or cloud computing.
Procastination is the worst enemy of students. When faced with a road block, some students would escape from their problems rather than overcome it. To avoid that from happening, plan ahead and give yourself specific goals to achieve every day. Tha way you can see meaningful progression with your thesis which will envourage you to work harder. Good time management is essential for your research to be a success. Step away for a breather if you need to disassociate yourself from your work but do not put it off to the last minute.
B) Fake your data
If your find that your thesis contains incomplete information or experiment results that you are unsure of, you will have to find ways to obtain solid, real data to repalce it. Extend your deadline or the duration of your study if you need to, but do not fabricate your data. Your examiners are experts in the field and woud recognise deceit when they see it. Falsification of data is a serious offence that will jeopardise your academic integrity.
Plagiarism, regardless of its form and purpose, is one of the cardinal sins of research. In recent years there have been plagiarism scandals in academia and the industry has taken preventive measures - such as using Turnitin, an online plagiarism checker - to reduce plagiarism. Academia does not take plagiarism offences lightly and once caught, you will be blacklisted with all your efforts gone to waste.
D) Lose focus
As you work through your research, for better or worse, you will find yourself with an overload of information. New ideas will sprout up and it is easy to be waylaid or lured away from your actual research. Do not allow yourself to lose focus and deviate away from your topic. However, do not discard these ideas as you can further explore them in the future, once you are done with your initial thesis.