Stuck On Your Master’s Thesis? Read This

Choosing a topic for your master’s thesis is anything but an arbitrary process. After all, you’re going to be stuck with it for a long time. However, if you’re like most master’s students, you’re probably in graduate school because you have an interest in a particular area or subject. Your brainstorming process starts here.

Write down a list of all possible ideas, welcoming creativity throughout the process. An open mind and expansive approach are integral: While some of your ideas may not be feasible, others may lead in unexpectedly fecund directions.

Student girl writing an exam in computers' room

Student girl writing an exam in computers’ room

It’s also useful to keep your career goals in mind when narrowing down your list of potential topics. While the job hunt may feel like it’s a long way off right now, it will be here before you know it and a relevant thesis can give you the leading edge when it does.

And while the idea generation process may be a solitary one, the selection process doesn’t have to be. Everyone from classmates to your thesis advisor can be ideal sounding boards for exploring potential ideas.

Your master’s proposal outlines the plan for its completion. The more comprehensive your proposal is, the clearer your path will be throughout the research and writing process. Investing inadequate time into your proposal, meanwhile, will not only interfere with your progression, but may also lead to complications when the time arises for committee review.

If you’re still not sure about your topic, performing a topic analysis can help. A simplified version of a proposal, a topic analysis can help you “test” a topic in order to determine whether it’s worthy before you venture too far down the path. This step includes identifying the hypothesis or question; evaluating the topic’s importance; assessing the significance of prior work on the topic; determining your planned methodology or approach; and predicting possible outcomes along with their significance.

Don’t limit yourself to a single topic analysis.  Exploring several different directions can help you hone in on the best topic, which can then be built out into a strong proposal.

The best master’s students advisors are involved with the research process from its inception to completion. While the role may be supervisory in nature, it can also be quite active. Choosing an advisor who is interested in your topic and has expertise in the field is critical. After all, advisors who have a stake in your work are much more likely to offer the most useful guidance and help.

In addition to interviewing potential advisors, take time to talk to their advisees, who can offer invaluable insight into determining everything from how available a particular advisor is to what sort of feedback will be offered. Other questions to ask may pertain to management style, facilitation skills, working atmosphere, expectations, and the average time advises take to finish under a particular advisor.

It’s also essential to remember that advisors have commitments of their own. Making sure your mutual expectations are in alignment in advance can save you heartache and headache down the line.


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