Not all master’s programs require writing a thesis. In the Mass Communication and Media Studies program at San Diego State I was given a choice between writing a thesis and taking comprehensive exams. Most people choose comprehensive exams for various reasons, but a big part of it is that the commitment isn’t as long term. Yes, they are very intense and require studying for weeks, but a thesis is a more drawn-out process that can take a year or more of dedication. Despite this, I chose the thesis route. That choice is not for everyone, but based on my personal goals, made more sense. Here’s why:
- I had an area of research that I wanted to explore and become an “expert” in. For comprehensive exams you must have a solid understanding of a wide variety of topics. For a thesis, you choose one topic and dig deeper… and deeper…and deeper.
- I would like to pursue a Ph.D. at some point. Most doctoral programs want to see that a candidate has done their own research and has what it takes to see a project through from start to finish.
- Writing a thesis is part of the grad school experience that I wanted. I wanted to add to the body of knowledge in PR and have something that I could take with me forever.
Knowing I made the right decision about writing a thesis didn’t make the process easier. In fact, there were times where I was so overwhelmed I didn’t think I would ever get to where I am now (very close to done). It does NOT have to be that way though. If you’re writing a thesis, here are some tips that might help you out:
- Buy a book on thesis or dissertation writing and read it. Demystifying Dissertation Writing by Peg Single is a book my friend, Navy Cmdr. K.C. Marshall, bought for me and I should have read it cover to cover BEFORE starting my writing process. It is full of great tips about establishing a writing space, writing partner, routine and overcoming the many forms of writer’s block.
- Talk about your challenges! This is definitely discussed in Single’s book, but I still want to call this one out separately. Writing a thesis can feel isolating. It is by far the biggest project you have ever done and you are doing it by yourself. My thesis became a source of anxiety for me and it took me too long to speak up about it to my adviser. I eventually did and felt much better after venting. Maybe your adviser will be the best person to talk to or maybe you’d feel more comfortable with someone else. Talk to colleagues also writing a thesis or see a school therapist. Your university has resources to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Use them!
- Think beyond “getting it done”. Of course you want to graduate, but if you look into conference and publication opportunities for your research, it will be far more rewarding.
Have any of you written a thesis? Any advice I’m missing?