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Writing a Thesis: Introduction

Introducing a set of essays pertaining to the writing of a thesis.

This is the first of a set of essays on the general theme of " Writing a thesis". The theme is actually broader than this, and applies to the research and the writing up of any academic report, essay or assignment.

In general the writings will be directed toward theses and dissertations at a Masters level. However almost everything also applies to every level of academic writing.

Reason for Writing Essays

Why am I writing this? As a supervisor and tutor to students preparing assignments, final year reports, and theses, I have frequently been asked for advice and guidance. The guidance that I have given has covered all areas of the research and writing involved, and I have decided that it is time to gather all the separate ideas together in one place.

A Thesis as a Project

Researching for a thesis is a project. The essentials of a project are the same whether the project is building a bridge or writing a thesis. All projects have a common development pattern, and fig 1. illustrates the application of this pattern to the steps involved in planning and writing a thesis.

Project Development Lifecycle Diagrasm

Fig 1.

The idea of researching towards a PhD or Masters degree, indeed writing a dissertation at any level, can appear very daunting. The trick is to see that, as illustrated in the figure above, it can be broken down into stages, and the whole becomes easier as the researcher concentrates upon the individual stage.

The sections that follow will consider some of the stages and break them down even further. They will look at all the sections of the thesis writing project. They will be guided, but not constrained by, the notion that the research and writing can be considered as a project.

Grix considers the process of research and writing a thesis in terms of a flow chart, but argues that,

"The research process can be broken up into stages … "
"Spending time considering and planning … [the initial stages] … of the research process … is essential in order to carry out the subsequent stages to maximum effect." (Grix 2004: 154)

Anderson suggests that while the acceptable form of writing may vary depending upon the established rules and regulations and the type of thesis or dissertation, there are concepts and processes that can help in the research and writing. (Anderson: 5)


Grix, J. (2004) The Foundations of Research 2004 Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillan
Anderson, J. (2001) Assignment and Thesis Writing. 4th edition 2001 Chichester: Wiley

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