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50 Shades of Thesis Denial

By Katelyn Stark

Are you drowning in the gloom and fear of writing your thesis this semester? Have you procrastinated just long enough that your heart is racing at the thought of starting on something? You’re in luck. Let us pull you out of your thesis stupor and get you on the right track.

At this point in the semester, you’re most likely at the stage where you have a solid foundation for your research. We are hoping that you have already met your thesis advisor and have a question and topic in place. Your annotated bibliography is set, and the proposal has been submitted and approved.

Now what?

Getting started on the actual writing of such a large project can seem daunting, but do not allow yourself to drown in the darkness of due dates or topic sentences.

  • Pay attention to the tone.
    • A great way to start is by reading publications in your field for more than just context. Knowing what tone you should approach your paper with could help.
  • Focus on just getting some words or thoughts on the page.
    • White pages feel more dark and gray than filled pages. Even if your sentences are not complete just yet, write out the idea and see where it goes. Start several paragraphs, and do not delete anything. If your thoughts move in an unexpected direction, then go with it; write it out. You can always return to unfinished paragraphs at a later date, and they might even fit perfectly somewhere else.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the style guide you are writing in before you get started.
    • It will save you a lot of time and will make your overall project easier if you are able to cite sources correctly as you go along. Even if it takes a little bit more time on the first couple pages, you will soon get into the habit of doing this, and it will become natural as you go along, saving you time in the long run. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Write throughout the day.
    • If you get inspired to think about your topic and come up with an idea, pull out a sheet of paper or a laptop, and start writing. Taking fifteen minutes to mentally process this idea and get it written out could produce a solid paragraph. And for an extended project like a thesis, these small paragraphs add up quickly.
  • Revise your paper in chunks.
    • Use resources, like the writing center or your thesis advisor, to go over smaller chunks with you. By doing this, you will have a better idea of what is working and what is not. You might recognize places within that small chunk to expand upon, and it also gives you time to reflect on your writing in a big-picture sense, allowing you an opportunity to further organize your thoughts. Additionally, polishing your paper in small chunks will make it less daunting and will have a better turn out than if you try to read all sixty pages the night before it’s due. 
  • Take breaks.
    • Using a schedule for sticking to your writing time and for time to take breaks will help your mind focus on the project at hand. Knowing you only have fifteen minutes of writing time before your next break will do wonders for your motivation and your paper. You’ll have page after page whipping out of your fingertips in no time. Then breathe. Go for a walk. Make another pot of coffee. Take a shower. Take a nap. Try not to read or strain your eyes in this time. This is you-time. You deserve it. But set a timer that you will stick to and will get you back into writing mode. A lot of this takes discipline, but discipline is better than last-minute panic.

Before you know it, the semester will end, and you’ll be defending your thesis like a pro. Take small steps towards the prize every day, and your 50 shades of anxiety will turn into 50 pages of incredible writing.