How to Write Your Thesis (2/4): Planning

Thesis writing is a long and arduous undertaking that lasts several years. Hence, it is important to prepare and plan ahead to get it right from the start!


A) Identify your interest

Before starting on your thesis, you should first identify your interests.

  • Note down what are you most passionate about and, carefully consider those options and narrow them down until only two or three left which will be your key research interests.
  • Investigate and conduct preliminary readings on the latest findings in these areas of research and identify a topic that allows further exploration. 

After all, the purpose of postgraduate education is to lead you to new insights that will contribute to the vast body of human knowledge. Research and thesis writing is a long lonely journey for the next three to five years of your life. Therefore, it is best to choose a subject that will hold your interest, otherwise you are in for an extremely miserable ride. You will excel and enjoy the process better if you are working on something that you feel strongly about. Remember, always study what you like and not what you despise. 

B) Make an outline

Once you have decided on a research topic, create an outline for it and identify the points that you would need to cover in your research. 

  • The outline funcstions as the skeleton of your thesis.
  • Serve as a reminder of what is needed to be done during your research.
  • Easier to conduct changes, remove, update and keep track of ideas.
  • Cover basic introduction, main points of the body and a brief conclusion. 

Do approach your supervisors and peers to ask for feedback.

C) Keep a database

As you go deeper into your research, you will find yourself reading hundreds of scholarly articles, journals and books. You will end up accumulating a mini library of resources that will eventually contribute to your thesis, especially towards the literature review segment. It would be advisable to start keeping a database of your readings early on in your research, which will come in handy and save time when you began writing. Your list of sources should include the full names, titles and page numbers of the books, articles and other sources that you plan to cite in your thesis.


It is fine to ask for advice and brainstorm ideas with your supervisor but never ask them to come up with a thesis topic for you. Doing so will not only seem rude and lazy but you will also come across as clueless and uncommitted towards your research. You should know - or at least have a slight idea of what you want to do at this point of your education journey, and if you don't, perhaps you are not ready for postgraduate studies.