As any students at the University, at the end of the program, I am obliged to write a final research paper. I have heard so many stories from other people about struggles and difficulties they faced while doing this task, so I thought I am pretty much prepared for this challenge, however, I felt it to its fullest when my turn to write came. Right now it is the beginning of April and I am on the half way, but from those previous months, I managed to bring out a few of my personal tips and rules which help me to write my paper. Today I decided to share my experience and who knows, maybe you will find something useful for yourself. So, here are my 6 things that I have understood with time.
1. DO NOT let procrastination defeat you
Every student has met procrastination at least once in their lives, but this laziness becomes extremely dangerous and serious when it comes to writing a final research paper. At the beginning, it seems like you have plenty of time for completing the task, so without even realizing it you postpone the start day over a day. But you should understand one thing… you CANNOT write a year-long work in two days! This you should constantly remember. Thus, as thesis implies lots of hard work, you should start as soon as possible, as the most difficult step in writing process is the beginning. After you start, write a page/few paragraphs/lines every day, and your research will become less stressful and more enjoyable.
One of the really awesome videos that actually made me realize the danger of procrastination is this TED talk. I definitely recommend you to check it out:
2. Get a clear plan of your paper
With my experience, I was forced to struggle a lot to understand how important it is to make the structure of the paper clear, to organize all your thoughts. As the topic is so big, you have to see a very detailed picture, which grows from the broader field. You should have a really good understanding what you are writing about, why you are researching on the topic, and what would be the use of your results. Try to explain somebody your research questions and aim, and if you have difficulties with doing this, it means your thoughts are not yet in the right place. In case you feel that you need additional help, you should come to your peer and ask for a hand.
3. Write, write and write!
I do not remember where I read it, but there it a really good saying – “You cannot edit a blank page”. Thus, in order to actually format your paper and make sense out of it, you should first of all write at least something. I personally like to put some music on and get into “study trance”, by which I mean going with a flow and writing everything that comes into my mind about the topic. When I finish, I usually reread with a clear mind the draft on the following day and start editing it: add new ideas and thoughts, move the parts depending on the structure of the paper, and make new notes. This way my paper slowly starts building up part by part.
4. Talk to people
There is no shame in asking people for help and opinions – this is what I understood for these few months. Think about writers of books. At the preface, you can nearly always find a part when the author thanks all those people who contributed to the writing process and made the book as perfect as it is. A similar situation happens with thesis writing: in order to sharpen your “academic diamond” you should go through constructive critics of other people, who could actually suggest some improvements, point out new ideas and bring up the issues that you might not even think about. The thing is that you get so used to your topic, so you stop seeing some defects. By communicating, people could help you find them and can help you to remain on the road of success.
5. Find the right place
Different people have different abilities to concentrate. I personally get easily disturbed, thus, I always need a thing which would keep my attention on one particular task. My personal recipe for this: coffee, right place, and my headphones. My “right place” changes depending on the mood, time of the day, the day of the week, etc. I know that some people could easily write their assignments at home, but for me, the temptation to shift to doing something else is really high, thus, I need to get out. In Tartu, I mostly prefer to stay in the library on Lossi 3 or in some cafes, Säde or Werner for instance. The right place could help you to stay concentrated and productive, will stimulate your work and keep you on the track. Thus, if you feel like your attention is flying away or you think about too many things apart of your thesis, I would definitely recommend you to experiment with different places, as it is better to spend a few hours a day productively, rather than to sit for several hours doing nothing.
6. Stay positive because HELL YEAH YOU CAN DO IT
I know that it is difficult, I know that sometimes it is frustrating, I know that you want it to be finished already, but you have to be strong and keep on going! Unfortunately, I see quite a few people around me losing hope and motivation as the time goes on. It is understandable because you put so much effort in what you are doing, but the result still seems so far. Moreover, sometimes you feel you have done such a great job for a certain part and end up being criticized. This, without any doubt, can discourage you, yet all the critics that you receive are not meant for showing you as a loser, but on the contrary, to help you to improve your paper and make it perfect in the end. I hardly believe that Olympic champions were constantly told that they are good and everything they do is perfect. Hard work, supervision of the couch, unbreakable motivation, support of friends and family – these are the things that made those people reach such high results. Same here, you should go till the end without losing hope and optimism. Think how many people have well through this and how much more will face similar task! Just bare in mind that you can do it and eventually you will stand with your diploma and be proud of yourself.
I hope those points can help you somehow. Good luck to everyone! Now, however, stop surfing the internet and go back to finishing your tasks 😉