If we were asked to provide a single piece of advice to students writing their first thesis, it would be this: make a substantial time commitment to the project right from the start. No matter how far away that submission deadline may seem, you will have to learn many new skills before you finish, and you must work independently and do a great deal of reading and writing, as well as analysing, revising, reworking, and editing. Just about every thesis student regrets delays and procrastination.
To be successful, start writing early, take a professional approach to your project, and actively seek to keep your overall argument on track. We recommend that you don’t choose a topic (or supervisor) that is not a good fit; work to a realistic, detailed schedule that breaks the project down into small components; don’t get distracted by short-term deadlines such as assignments; and don’ t forget that completing even a minor thesis—a step that allows you to join a community of scholars—can be truly challenging.
Students who have done well in their coursework generally do well in their minor theses, provided that they put in sufficient effort. But there are exceptions, and it would be a mistake to assume that, because you have been an outstanding undergraduate student or have done well in your graduate coursework, a minor thesis will be straightforward. The skills of coursework are different from those of a minor thesis, and it is critical to recognize that you are taking on a new kind of challenge—and so you need to be aware of the possibility of unexpected setbacks.
At the start of this book we introduced you to two minor thesis students. Both Anouck and Mickey were slower to start than we would have liked, but managed to catch up in the middle of their projects. Anouck in particular initially struggled with the discipline of meeting milestones, but over the duration of the project she developed a more mature approach to her commitments. Mickey consistently worked hard, but also had to mature, in his case to become less sensitive when, for example, he had misunderstood a task or needed to redraft some weak text. They both finished well. Anouck went on to a PhD, while Mickey found a job at a search engine company.
As a final note, for many students, success in a minor thesis is transformative. It gives them the confidence to take on more ambitious goals, whether outside university or in further study such as a PhD. Approach the thesis with an open, enquiring mind; under take it with diligence; and thus complete what is often a deeply satisfying experience. It is a pathway to joining a community of scholars and to broad recognition for your intellectual accomplishments. Make the most of the opportunity, make use of all the resources available to you, and look forward to the completion of a rewarding achievement.