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How to Write a Thesis – Making Sense of the Process

December 18, 2015 - Posted toWriting

Content how to write a thesis   making sense of the process x essays

How to Write a Thesis – Making Sense of the Process

Whether you are getting a Master’s in an area of teaching elementary children or in international business, you will come upon your final semester and face your capstone project – that thesis. Having never written one before, you will naturally be a bit anxious about how to go about producing this major work. This guide is meant to take some of the anxiety away, but showing you the step-by-step process and the dos and don’ts as you produce your final project.

Defining a Thesis

A thesis is a major piece of research and writing based upon a topic area that you selected within your Master’s program. If, for example, you are working toward a Master’s in elementary education, you might select some specific topic area, such as mathematic instruction. You will then need to determine the type of research project you will undertake within that topic area.

The Step-by-Step Process for Thesis Writing

If you follow the process outline below, you will find that your thesis will fall into place quite nicely.

  1. Review Your Department’s Requirements

Every department is different, but will have a guide for you. Make sure you review that guide completely. There will be important information about timelines and deadlines, as well as how your thesis must be structured and formatted. Keep your guide handy for quick reference as you write your work.

Some departments will insist upon original research, such as designing an elementary math project which you will implement in actual elementary classrooms in your locale. Still other departments will allow such things as case studies or qualitative studies where your research may involve literature reviews, problem identification, and such things as surveys, questionnaires, or focus groups as your research.


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  1. Identify your Research Question and Develop a Hypothesis

You may have your general topic area defined. Now you have to formulate a research question that you want to answer within that topic areas. Most students work closely with their advisors in devising this research question, because, in the end, the advisor will have to approve it anyway. If you are stuck for a question, there are several places for you to look for ideas.

  • One will be doctoral dissertations that have been written in your topic area. Suppose, for example, that you want to focus on the use of technology in the primary grades, and the effects on performance of children at that age. There will be many dissertations on the subject. Read the abstracts, and a great idea may come to you.
  • You should also review all of your coursework and texts related to your focus area. You might come across a discussion of technology in the primary classroom and the benefits and drawbacks for teaching children.
  • Be certain to speak with your advisor before writing up your research question and developing your hypothesis (what you believe to be true).  S/he may have some great suggestions now that you are this far along in the question and hypothesis phase.
  1. Do the Research

You need to know what other researchers in your topic area have done and what conclusions they have reached. This will be almost like a research paper and will be included in the 2nd section of your final thesis. You want to focus on research that relates directly to your question and hypothesis, for it will you good ideas for setting up your own research design.

If your hypothesis states that interactive software and tools for the teaching of mathematics at the early grades improve student performance, then will obviously want to find studies on that very topic. You can then choose whether you want to design a research project that will confirm that earlier research or take one of the researcher’s suggestion for a future research design.

  1. Design and Implement Your Research

Your design will depend upon the type of research you have planned (qualitative or quantitative). If, for example, you have decided to “test” the effectiveness of a new elementary mathematics program, you might want to set up experimental and control groups, so that you can compare performance of students using the new program versus those who do not. On the other hand, if you want personal responses regarding the effectiveness of this new program, you might implement it in several classrooms and then have focus groups with teachers, parents, and children for comment and feedback.

  1. Gather and Analyze Your Data

Once you have your data, you will need to determine how you will report it, and then how you will analyze it so that it answers your research questions and either supports or negates your hypothesis. This is where statistical analysis will come in. If you are uncomfortable with statistics, it is perfectly acceptable to get help.

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  1. Create Your Outline for Each Section

Theses are divided into specific sections, according to department guidelines. Fortunately, your outline will be relatively easy to craft, because each section almost organizes itself. In general, sections follow this pattern:

  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Research Design
  • Data Reporting
  • Analysis and Results
  • Conclusion
  1. Writing the Rough Draft

Take your time in crafting your rough draft. You have all of the information you need. Now it is a matter of good composition skills, a scholarly writing style, and the right visuals (charts and graphs) for your data reporting and results. Get help with those visuals if necessary. They need to be really well done.

  1. Write the Final Draft

If you have taken your time with the rough draft, the final draft will simply need the final polish, the formatting, and the citation “rules” that your department requires.

Dos and Don’ts

Dos Dont's

Make certain that your introduction states your research question and your hypothesis very clearly. seek help and advice when you need it. 

Don’t give away too much in the introduction. You want the reader to be motivated to read your entire piece to see the results.

Do keep regular meetings with your advisor along the way. This is the surest path to approval in the end. 

Don’t wait until the very end to write your entire rough draft. Do write each section as you finish it.

Also make sure to enlist an expert writer to review your rough and/or final draft and make suggestions for improvement. An objective “eye” will find things that you will not. It would be  include a mission statement if required by your department. This will be housed in the introduction, and is really a clear statement of your goal for the research you are conducting. It should relate to the contribution you hope to make to your field.


Keep this guide handy as you go through each stage of your thesis project. If you do, you will not have to worry about any part of how to write a thesis.