Get a guidebook
Even if you have taken the necessary courses in academic writing and research methods and attended a seminar, a guidebook can be a significant additional support in developing the topic and approaching the project.
This theme was repeated several times in the feedback from the Thesis writing workshop: weekly jointly agreed writing times were the single most important thing to facilitate one’s work. Regularity can even be an hour a day or two mornings a week. In many cases, agreeing on a time with a friend also brings structure to writing – even remotely, as was done in Thesis writing workshop in April!
Especially when working from home, getting started is the most common problem. For example, you can use one of the following three techniques to start writing:
1) In the snowflake method, you first write one sentence that sums up your message: “A thesis writer needs a variety of methods”. After that, you write a sentence for each word: “A thesis writer is a person who experiences writing a thesis as the centre of their life currently.” and so on.
2) In the speed writing method, you begin writing about your topic for about 10 minutes without letting your pen or fingers stop. The quality of the text, spelling or factual basis do not matter in this exercise; the main point is that you start thinking by writing. After ten minutes, read your text and choose the bits that you can use.
3) In the construction method, you first write apart the thoughts (quotes or points) you have read in books, leaving a couple of lines blank. Then you start to come up with sentences to get the points connected. The quotes are bricks and your own sentences act as the mortar between them.
At home, working time and leisure are easily mixed so that work is hampered by inefficiency, and stress about the thesis is easily continuous. By creating a clear schedule, you can create routine and continuity for working on your thesis. At the same time, you help yourself to recover from work and maintain your work ability when you can do the things that you enjoy after you have completed your daily work.
When we facilitated the Thesis writing workshop, we noticed that participants had varying needs for breaks from working. For some, short stretches of work and breaks eg every 20 minutes seemed to work the best while others worked for hours once they got started. The best-known method for working and taking breaks is the Pomodoro technique, but it is even more useful to learn to identify decreased alertness in yourself and the times when you require breaks.
The thesis is perceived as a demanding and an anxiety-inducing large piece of work. Because a person prefers to do tasks where he/she believes he/she is succeeding and sees progress, it is a good idea to systematically look for successes in the master’s thesis process. For example, the number of words written during a day is a good measure to check and to thank yourself for the work you have accomplished. It is especially important to consider the working mood of the day and relate your output to it: “Even though it was a really hard day, I still managed to read this article!”
Investing in well-being increases productivity
You should seek productivity through well-being rather than tightening the screw or compromising on well-being. Writing a thesis can be an arduous and stressful project for many, so it is important to remember the importance of recovery as you work. Imagine pushing a wheelbarrow: When the load is suitably light, the wheelbarrow rolls comfortably. While the wheelbarrow is loaded more heavily, pushing starts to feel hard and it is difficult to keep the wheelbarrow moving. You find that to make pushing easier, the load needs to be lightened somehow. Most frequently, we start the lightening with things we do not consider mandatory, such as hobbies, meeting friends, or the amount of sleep. It is the same thing as trying to lighten the wheelbarrow by letting out air from the tire. Pushing the wheelbarrow does not become easier, it becomes downright impossible.
Finally, the most important instruction: The thesis progresses the best when you have started working on it. When you write things down you start developing your understanding of the issue at the same time. This type of writing is done primarily for oneself, not with the supervisor or future readers in mind. Unnecessarily often, working and writing suffers when the author is trying to write directly publishable text.
Those who experience challenges with their theses can now receive support from the study psychologists in the early summer as well. The new Thesis workshop is scheduled to be held as a remote implementation on Thursdays at 9.00-11.30 from 28 May to 25 June, registrations and additional information by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best for your thesis work from the study psychologists Simo, Eero, Taija, Sonja and Hanna.