An Overview of Writing a Masters Thesis

By Anne Sexton - Last update


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Writing a Masters Thesis is no joke. This is the final stage of your Masters degree, and your final submission has a huge impact on your results.

A thesis shows that you know how to apply the knowledge you gained during graduate studies. It also needs to be an example of original scholarship.

Choosing a topic

First things first! You need to think carefully about your thesis topic beforehand. You may have encountered an area of research that excites you during the lecture component of your course. If not, begin by reviewing your course work. This should suggest a few ideas to you. Next, you’ll need to whittle those down. While doing this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you personally or professionally interested in this topic?
  • How will this thesis help you in future? For example, in finding work or progressing to a PhD
  • Do you have resources available to support research or data efforts?
  • Is there substance to the topic?
  • How will this contribute to scholarship?

Once you have a topic or a short-list of topics, you’ll need to determined what scholarship has been done as well as what resources are available to you. Conduct a literature review of the primary and secondary sources. You are looking for a topic that has a sufficient number of data sources to allow you to move forward, but not one that has already been researched and written about.

Create an outline

Once you have done your literature review, you can begin on your outline. Your outline will should include the research data you and methodology you will use. It will also contain a brief overview of your introduction, a review of existing scholarship, and your arguments.

The structure of your thesis 

Your university or institution will have standard expectations for how a thesis is written. These are not suggestions – they are requirements. Learn what they are, and stick to them!  Knowing this format up front will minimize the edits needed during draft reviews.

The basic structure of a thesis is as follows:

  • Introduction: This will contain your thesis statement and will give the supporting reason for pursuing this topic
  • Review of Literature: Explanation of what scholarship already exists on the topic
  • Arguments: This section will compose a large body of the entire work. These arguments will provide support to your thesis answers and must clearly and effectively engage and enlighten the reader. You should organise this so that the paper flows smoothly from argument to argument and cohesively to support the ultimate conclusion of the paper.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the various arguments supplied in the paper, provide your final, concise argument with reference to supporting information and give final conclusion

Once the written version is complete it will be submitted for final review. Depending on your institution, you may need to defend your Master’s thesis. Even if this is not the case, it is imperative to know your paper inside-out. Once you have completed your thesis, you should be an expert on your subject. Therefore, you need to know your arguments and be ready to defend your conclusion, at length.


Anne Sexton

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