#coronacrisis... Thesis tips for those at home!
Now that public life ground to a halt and you are mandatorily at home, a chance to really get going with your thesis presents itself. Without all of the social activities such as internships, work, and friends, there’s finally time to work on the thesis.
That is why you should start “omdenken”, or flip-thinking: being forced to stay at home will really help my writing!
Small steps, great results
It helps to begin your thesis with a (preliminary) conclusion in mind, but it is important to keep your focus on the present as you are writing. That means that you should not be 10 steps ahead in your mind, panicking because you have no idea how you’ll get there. Writing a thesis is a process, and every step you take helps you climb the mountain that is the thesis.
These tips will help you gain better insights into the process, take steps forward, and find a way to work effectively at home. Have a look at the hyperlinks, too!
Create your own space to work AND a rhythm
Home is where you relax, binge Netflix, and lounge on your couch undisturbed. From now on, it’s also where you write your thesis, and that requires structure. But you do you achieve that?
- Create your own space to work.
- Start every day at the same time (after making your bed, showering, and getting dressed).
- Make a schedule (and stick to it!)
- Build it up gradually, just like working on your fitness: Days 1-3: 2h, days 4-6: 3h, and so forth.
- Take breaks!
- Share your schedule with any housemates, so that they know when not to disturb you.
- Share your progress (or lack thereof) with someone.
- This gives you more insight into where you’re at;
- And gives you an extra reason to keep at it by sharing your work every day.
NB. Working from home is something you need to learn, so give yourself some time to get used to it. Think about it like this: Next week will be easier already!
The pomodoro method
Get the myth that we can work on our theses effectively for days on end out of your head. Working for a few hours at a time is doable, but even this takes practice. You can practice with the help of the pomodoro method. This entails that you break up your time in bits of 25 minutes and take a short break after your alarm goes. Repeat this about four times before taking a longer break. And keep in mind that these breaks help you become more effective, so don’t skip them!
The pomodoro method is most effective if you determine what you want to do for the day before starting. You can then break that plan up into blocks of 25 minutes. Try to wrap something up in every block and there’s a better chance that you’ll finish everything by the end of the day. Use your last pomodoro to plan what you’ll do next day.
In the end, every section, paragraph, and sentence goes through the following cycle. You need knowledge to be able to write, then rewrite, and then rewrite again and again… Don’t be afraid to start writing because you might not know enough (yet). If you follow this cycle (Mewburn, 2018), both writing processes and thinking processes will get going and you can take steps forward.
You can also literally write in chunks, with writing apps such as Scrivener (iOS & Android) and Bear (iOS). These apps allow you to write individual paragraphs and then move them around to make an ongoing narrative. Believe me, it’s much better than getting stuck at an empty page in Word…
And if we’re talking apps anyway, check out BookBucket (iOS). This app help you keep track of the books you want to read and have read. The reading stress can get to you, but it’ll give you a great personalised overview with this digital bookshelf. If you want to read something else than your academic literature for a bit, I recommend Mark Manson’s book (link).
Mens sana in corpore sano
The key to a healthy mind is a healthy body. This means eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, and getting active. And yes, you can also get active indoors. The cyclists amongst us should check this link to get fit. Or try calisthenics and get that #killerbody and #activemind. Of course, you can also just download an app to get fit, like Virtuagym. Moral of the story: Don’t just work on your writing endurance, but also on your general fitness!
And procrastination, you know.. that’s just a waste! Especially these coming weeks, when you’ll have minimal distractions, that thesis can really get going. So get on it! And if you really need some distraction for a while, read Brian Tracy’s 2017 book. At least that’ll teach you to get rid of that procrastination 😉.
Are you about to start your thesis, or have you already been writing for some time? This page contains advice which Scriptiewijzer thinks will really help you graduate.
how to write a great research paper
Professor Simon Peyton Jones’ “How to write a great research paper” is a must-see for everybody who is writing a thesis. This lecture provides the basic insights that you need to write in a structured manner.
Professor Simon Peyton Jones, Microsoft Research, gives a guest lecture on writing. Seven simple suggestions: don’t wait – write, identify your key idea, tell a story, nail your contributions, put related work at the end, put your readers first, listen to your readers.
Does watching this still leave you without the necessary motivation to get started? Check out this video from Purdue Online Writing Lab. OWL Purdue provides a lot of additional information about academic writing.
The 15 Minute/Day Academic Writing Challenge
Writing is something that you need to practice, which is why Jo Van Every created this challenge. Start the day with 15 minutes of practice and build up a sublime endurance as an academic writer.
This is what she has to say about it:
“This challenge is for anyone who is struggling to do any research and scholarly writing during teaching terms. (…) It is also useful for those who are finding some time to write but not enough to build any momentum. Maybe you write once a week, or find a day or two a few times a term. But each time you come back to your writing you have to find your way back in. You are making progress but it feels really slow. You can use the 15 minute challenge to connect those longer, but less frequent, writing sessions.”
These two books can also help:
Paul J. Silva (2018) How to write a lot – A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. And if you manage to write, but your feedback does not reflect the time you put into it… Paul Gruba’s 2014 book How to Write a Better Minor Thesis.
Distractions come in many forms and shapes, especially when you have to write a thesis. These distractions make the writing process slower and more difficult. Cal Newport’s 2016 book Deep Work: Rules for Focussed Success in a Distracted World gives many lifehacks for keeping your focus and increasing your productivity.
If you don’t have time to read, this visual summary has your back. If you need an overview of the choices you need to make to keep your focus, check out this link. Of course, you could also install the Forest App, that’ll definitely keep you off your phone. Or use Cold Turkey, the toughest website blocker of the internet, for your browser.
And what if you just suffer from procrastination, like so many others? Read this book by Brian Tracy (2017): Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Things Done in Less Time.
Many students struggle with perfectionism, which keeps them from writing their thesis. Expectations are continuously too high and the goals that have been set are often completely unrealistic. In the end, this may affect more than just the thesis process: perfectionists may even lose their grip on life. Thomas Curren and Andrew Hill (2018) show that the current generation of highly educated people in their twenties are the most perfectionist generation since the 80s. More information about this can be found in The Guardian piece by Diasy Buchanan (2018): Perfectionism is destroying the mental health of my millenial generation.
To those perfectionists, I would say: read Brené Brown’s (2010) book Gifts of Imperfection – Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Alternatively, check out her inspiring TedTalk here and learn to let go a bit more, as this will only make the thesis writing process more interesting and rewarding. It will help you grow not only as a researcher but also as a person, and this will help you for years to come.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,”
wrote the American professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University in her book Mindset (2017). She discovered that there are two types of mindsets: The fixed and the growth mindsets. Someone with a fixed mindset assumes that intelligence is set. As a result, this person avoids challenges and effort, throws the towel when facing setbacks, ignores feedback, and sees other people’s success as a threat. This mindset leaves little room for personal growth. Someone with a growth mindset, on the other hand, embraces challenges, perseveres after encountering setbacks, sees effort as a part of the deal, is open to feedback, and is inspired by others’ successes. They make use of their potential, dare to learn, and as a result keep performing better and better. This is super useful when you’re writing your thesis!
Carol Dweck explains how to activate your growth mindset in this TedTalk, which will help you enjoy working on your thesis.
introduction to dutch
International students and professionals who are interested in the Netherlands can now register for the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Introduction to Dutch, available world-wide on Futurelearn.com.
This MOOC, which was developed by the University of Groningen Language Centre, is aimed at prospective students and staff of the University, international professionals who intend to live and work in the Netherlands and people from other countries with an interest in the Dutch language. The course introduces participants to the basics of the Dutch language, and gives background information on the city of Groningen, the University of Groningen and the region as a whole.
Other interesting, useful (or entertaining) links:
- APA Formatting and Style Guide (Purdue Online Writing Lab)
- Grammarly: Free Writing Assistent
- BBC Learning English
- Thesaurus: definitions and synonyms
- Language Tool: Style and Grammar Check
- Manchester Academic Phrase Bank
- Study Hacks Blog (Cal Newport)
- Unsplash: Free high-resolution photos
- Written? Kitten! The Internet’s best write-reward system
- RUG Honours – Finding Your Place 2020 – Stephen Covey Chapter II