A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Dante may have believed that the seventh circle of hell is reserved for those who have sinned violently, but, were he around today, I could sincerely assure him that since I’m currently a resident of that particular postcode of Hell that’s just not true. The seventh circle is filled with the miserable damned eternally writing their master’s thesis, something of a Sisyphean task. Mine has been dragging on for many months, and now that the date for its submission has finally been set I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so, I would like to pass on some words of wisdom to those who will soon be embarking upon their own magnum opus, in an attempt to keep them from also taking up residence alongside me in the seventh circle.
1) Choose the right tutor
I actually think the right tutor is more important than whether you like your subject matter. My tutor has been incredibly important in the process of putting this work together and without the right one I’m not sure it would even have been possible. That said…
2) Pick a topic you enjoy
Luckily for me, although I chose a subject area that fit with the tutor I wanted to supervise me, rather than one I would normally have gone for, I like everything about ancient history (except economics –bleugh-). Though to me it is secondary to having the right supervising tutor it is obviously still very important; this will become your life for at least six months so you’d better at least like reading about it.
3) Take your time
You can actually take as long as you want to do you thesis in the Netherlands as long as you are able to continue paying your monthly fees. I will have been doing mine for ten months and I cannot imagine having been able to complete it to a satisfactory level in any shorter period of time. However, some people really need the deadline just to make sure they actually do it.
4) Don’t Panic
Writing a thesis can be extremely daunting when you think about the word count. Mine is 23,000 and I can’t pretend I didn’t have a mild panic attack when I first heard that. The best thing to do is to think of it as a few small essays, in my case, four, broken up in to 5000 word chapters with an introduction and conclusion. For a research master’s thesis I think it’s 60,000 words and I’m not sure that thinking about it as six undergraduate theses will help much but you can certainly try!
All in all, I think the moral is, if I can do it you certainly can too.