A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It’s that time of the year when writing a final thesis becomes the bane of every student’s existence. Whether you’re doing a Bachelor, Master, or even a PhD, most students will have to face the dreaded thesis. But, I’m here to tell you it’s not all doom and gloom! Here are five tips that I think can help you survive the ordeal:
Whether it be an hour at the end of every day, or six hours a day, two days a week, it is vital to set yourself a schedule, and more importantly, to stick to it! This way you won’t have to worry about when you’re going to fit it in, plus you can feel more relaxed and take a break from it on the days where it is not scheduled in. It all depends on how you work best. Personally, it takes me a while to get focused on the work, so I prefer researching and writing my thesis in large blocks of up to 5-6 hours a day a couple of days a week so that I can afford to waste some time getting focused. Just create a schedule and make it a routine.
It’s cliché but true; writing a thesis is like climbing a mountain, step by small step. Seeing a blank page in front of you can be daunting. Focus on writing it bit by bit, eventually you’ll look back and be surprised at how much you have written. Look at it as lots of short essays rather than one monumental piece of work, split it into short sections which you know you’ll be able to complete. This will also make it feel like you are progressing quicker so that you are less likely to lose motivation. Viewing it as lots of short essays will also be more refreshing and you will (hopefully) be less likely to get bored.
Like tip 2, this tip will help you lose the fear of the blank page. I used to spend hours obsessing about getting one perfect sentence down on the page, losing both valuable time and the will to live. One day after much frustration I decided to just write, not caring about sentence structure or word choice, and I’ve tried to stick to this strategy ever since. Focus on getting anything down on the page, it doesn’t matter if it’s terrible, as long as you get some facts down in some kind of order it will be something to work from later. Focus on allowing the perfectionist within you to come out only once you’ve got an entire rough draft completed.
Put your books down, shut down your laptop, get outside. As important as actually writing the thing is taking plenty of breaks away from it. If you wish to stay sane during the whole process it is important to get out there and experience more than just what is on our laptop screen and in the pages of your books. Luckily in Leiden there is plenty to do which will take your mind off work. I have found that walking through Leiden’s food market on Wednesdays and Saturdays works best, there are so many free tasters that it’s basically a free buffet! Or, if it’s raining go watch a film in the cinema, or meet up with a friend for coffee in a cosy café such as Bagels & Beans or ‘t Koffiehuisje where you can challenge your friends to a game of chess. Just make sure to leave your work-brain at home!
Don’t beat yourself up when a draft comes back with a ton of corrections and changes, make the adjustments and move on. Understanding that your thesis is not going to be perfect, even once it has been handed in is important. Remember that it wouldn’t all be worth it if it was easy!