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MA Thesis Writing Guidebook

(by Andrew Goodspeed, incorporating material by John-Paul Colgan)

The following notes are intended to be useful as you write your thesis. They are provided
as a guide, with the hope that many of the technical questions you may encounter will be
answered here. But they come with a word of warning: things change. The policies and
procedures listed here are correct as of the time of writing (late 2010-early 2011), but you
should always ask your mentor if something new has happened.
Also, please bear in mind that writing a thesis is an individual experience. The
suggestions here are just thatsuggestions. It may be that you, in consultation with your
mentor, will choose to approach your thesis in a manner different from the basic outline
you find here. That is fine; some research requires an unusual approach. But this
guidebook is intended to offer some answers to the most commonly encountered
questions and problems that MA students face when writing their theses.
Remember: writing a thesis is not just an obligationit can also be rewarding,
instructive, and fun. Please try to enjoy the process.
Good luck.
The Basic Procedure
At this point you have finished the taught (classes) section of your MA work. Here is a
general list of what you should do now:
1) Find a mentor: This is a crucial stage, and one that will influence the rest of your
work. Your mentor should be someone who is professionally familiar with the
type of work that you want to do. You should not choose a mentor just because
you happen to like him or her. The best fit is when a student can find a teacher he
or she likes, but who is also knowledgeable about the academic field for which
the student wants to conduct research. Your mentor will be your primary contact
with the university, and will be the person who gives you the most advice about
your work. Your mentor must be the holder of a PhD. Please remember: some of
the potential advisors already have their full quotient of MA students, and may
have to decline your request. This is not a personal insult, nor a reflection on your
abilities or upon the value of your proposed research.
2) Write a research proposal. There is a later section in this guidebook that addresses
research proposals directly. Write this in close collaboration with your mentor. A
well-written proposal will serve as the basis for your entire thesis. It can be the
best gift to yourself that you give during the process of writing a thesis. A badly
written or imprecise research proposal will not ordinarily be approved by the
Academic Council.
3) Present the research proposal to the Academic Council. The Academic Council is
the primary decision-making body for the Faculty of Languages, Cultures, and
Communications. It is composed of all PhD holders in the Faculty who hold
academic titles (Docent or higher). You will not be asked to address the Council

personally. Your mentor will speak on your behalf, and will present your research
proposal to them. Here again is a good reason to find a mentor you trust, and with
whom you can work cordially: this person will have to fight for you in the
Academic Council. Be sure to choose somebody with whom you are comfortable.
4) If the research proposal is approved by the Academic Council: You conduct your
research. This may take many forms. You will certainly need to read books and
journals, and this will help to form the basis of your literature review. Many of
you will also conduct specific research (involving language acquisition, CALL,
etc.). Whatever you do, be absolutely certain to discuss your methodology with
your mentor. There is nothing more frustrating for a student than to do a lot of
research, only to find that a methodological error has ruined the results.
5) Write. This may seem obvious, but treat the urging seriously. One of the most
common reasons for people failing to complete their thesis is that they simply
dont put any ideas on paper. It is almost always a good idea to write during the
research process. You will always have the ability to modify your draft later. But
it is much easier to modify what is already written than to write something new,
particularly later in the process, when stress and pressure will be building upon
6) When you have finished your thesis: When you have finished your thesis, and
your mentor approves the thesis, he or she will write a formal evaluation (in
conjunction with your other panel members). This will officially recommend to
the Academic Council that you are ready to defend your thesis. Your mentor will
then present this report to the Council, who will vote upon whether or not to let
you proceed to the defense.
7) Assuming you are approved to defend: You will have several copies of your thesis
printed and bound. One copy of this will be placed in the SEEU library for public
consultation, usually for a period of about two weeks.
8) You defend your thesis: On the day specified, you will defend your thesis. You
will be examined by a panel of three peopleyour mentor, and two professors
who will serve with your mentor as the panel. If you pass, you will be notified
that you have successfully defended your thesis.
This is, generally speaking, the process by which you will progress to your MA.
The Defense Itself
Many people do not know what to expect from the defense itself. You are urged to
attend a defense before your own; they are public and formal ceremonies of the
University, and are therefore open to you.
Here is the basic order of what happens in a defense:
a) The meeting is called to order.
b) Then the president of the examining commission will read a brief introduction:
this covers the relevant sections of the Macedonian Law on Higher Education,
and introduces the members of the panel.

c) The mentor then reads a short assessment paper about the merits or demerits of
the research about to be presented.
d) At this point the secretary of the Faculty will read a short biography of the
candidate (you).
e) When the secretary finishes, you will be given twenty minutes to make a
presentation of the major findings of your thesis.
f) When you are finished, each member of the examining panel will be allowed to
ask you questions for a period of ten minutes per examiner. (Sometimes the time
is used to make specific statements about your research; not all of the remarks are
required to be questions.) It also happens that sometimes the examiner does not
use the full period of his or her time.
g) When the examiners have finished asking the candidate questions, they will retire
to another room and deliberate about your defense. They will then agree that you
either defended the thesis successfully, or else that you failed to defend the thesis
h) The panel will then return and announce their decision formally and publicly.
Notes on Mentors
Your mentor is your best resource. This person will explain the process of thesis writing
to you, will provide guidance about methodology and background reading, will speak on
your behalf in the Academic Council, and read your drafts. Please choose your mentor
carefully, and be certain to ask if you have questions.
Your mentor will try to assist you, but is not a mind-reader. If you have a problem or a
question, it is your responsibility to bring this to the attention of your mentor. He or she
cannot be assumed to know that you are in a crisis unless you speak up.
Please also bear in mind that your mentor is not just your exclusive property. Your mentor
will genuinely try to help you. But this person will be someone who teaches a full
undergraduate schedule, someone who is expected to mentor at least three MA students,
and who is contractually obligated to conduct and publish his or her own research. It can
be lonely writing an MA thesis, and your only frequent contact will be your mentor. This
often means that students feel tremendous stress and anxiety when they write to their
mentor, only to have the mentor reply two days later, asking for a week to read the draft
that has just been submitted. Your mentor is not ignoring you or wasting your time. It is
simply a fact that each mentor has many professional obligations, of which you are only
one. Please try to be patient.
Basic Facts about Your Thesis
Generally, an MA thesis will be approximately 100-120 pages. It should not be less than
80 pages.
Your thesis will be expected to follow basic stylistic guidelines about which your mentor
will advise you (spacing, margins, etc.).

It commonly takes one year to write the thesis. It is possible to write it in perhaps nine
months, if you work extremely hard, but you should not expect that it will take only the
fourth semester.
For most students, the research and writing is not as difficult as they expected; for almost
all students, the most difficult aspect of writing a thesis is the mental strain and pressure.
If you feel a great deal of stress, do not panic, as you are not unusual or alone in feeling
overwhelmed. If you find this sense of pressure interferes with your ability to work,
please speak with your mentor, who may be able to suggest means of reducing the
tension for you.
Do not do it. Do not consider doing it. If we catch you, you will be subject to serious
punitive measures, up to and including expulsion from the university.
When you submit your thesis you will be asked to sign a formal declaration that the
writing is entirely your own work. This will be included with your thesis, and will be kept
with it forever. You are also advised that the Macedonian Law on Higher Education
provides for retroactive degree revocation. This means that if you are ever found to have
cheated your degree will be cancelled. It will not matter if you have held your MA for
twenty years; suddenly, you will cease to have an MA.
It is also worth pondering the fact thatif you cheatyou are hoping that technology
will never catch you. Consider: even if you trick us successfully now, you are also hoping
that computers never get better. Right now many computer databases can register and
compare plagiarism from many universities, and they are all improving. It is not
advisable to take the easy way out now, only to find later that your degree has been
recognized as plagiarism, and has been revoked. (It should go without saying that any
such revocation proceeding would almost certainly destroy any academic career you have
built, however successful).
The Research Proposal
There is a basic template for the research proposal. You should follow this to the best of
your ability. The University is considering changes to this structure, but at present this is
the structure that you should use. Your mentor can advise you about any difficulties you
may encounter.
The basic point of a research proposal is to sell your idea to the Academic Council. Yet it
is also something that will be the basis of all your future research. It is therefore to your
benefit to do this as carefully, thoughtfully, and precisely as you can.
Here is the basic structure of a research proposal:
- Title of thesis
- Name of (proposed) mentor
- Elaboration of the thesis
- Overview of thesis content

- Bibliography
- Theoretical and practical importance of the Masters Thesis
So, what do these sections mean?
The Title of the thesis is self-explanatory. But there are several things to keep in
mind. Try to be as specific as you can be. The more precise the title, the more clear it will
be to readers and to other scholars who might find it useful. It is also important to
remember that you will be held accountable for the title as it is approved. If you wish to
change the title (except in the most superficial ways), you will need to ask for the
approval of the Academic Council a second time.
Name of the (proposed) mentor: This is just your mentors name. It allows the
entire Academic Council to know with whom you are planning to work. Remember,
though, that your mentor is not officially your mentor until approved by the Academic
Council (through the process of approving your research proposal). Although it is by no
means common for your proposed mentor to be replaced by the Council, it is possible.
This is only done in the most extreme cases (for example, if your mentor simply knows
nothing of what you propose to study), but you should be aware that it is possible,
however unlikely.
Elaboration of the Thesis: This can be somewhat confusing. In essence, you will
here state your basic idea for the thesis, including the major research questions or
hypotheses that will guide your research. This is not a full accounting of all that you hope
to do. It is rather a brief attempt to make clear what you intend to study, what your basic
methodology will be, and why you have chosen to approach the subject in the way that
you have selected. Perhaps the best way to think of this is to imagine that it is a one or
two page description of what your title says in only one line. You are not giving the full
thesis information, but are just giving the appropriate information for those interested in
what you intend to study, how, and why.
Overview of Thesis Content: This is the main body of your research proposal. It is
the most complete statement of what you hope to study, and how. This is the section
where you would like to be precise about your methodology. It is commonly the most
extensive section of the research proposal. It is probably best to write this with a brief
summary of what will be in each major section of the thesis. (For the sections of a thesis,
please see the Thesis Section passage, below).
Bibliography: This is not the full bibliography of your thesis. How could it be? You
cannot possibly know what youre going to need. But you will be able to list those books
that you have already used, as well as to indicate some of the major works in the field.
(You may not have used one or the other yet, but if you know that you will, you should
include it in the bibliography here). Again, a well-prepared research proposal
bibliography can be extremely useful in the writing of your actual thesis. Please do not
rush through this stage, and show it to your mentor more than once. (He or she will be
able to assist you in preparing the bibliography, particularly by recommending books,
journals, or other useful resources).

Theoretical and Practical Importance of the Thesis: This is where you tell
the Academic Council why you should do this research. Notethis is not the same as
what you have already mentioned in the Elaboration section. In that section, you are
expressing the basic academic and intellectual interest of your question, and why you
have taken the approach you propose. Here you will tell the Council what use your
completed research will be to anyone. Why should we let you do this? Will it improve
knowledge? Will it answer a useful question? Will it change the way we study or teach
some subject? These are the types of things that we hope for here. (A word of advicetry
to be realistic. It is always a bad sign when someone writes that his or her work will
change the educational curricula of the Republic of Macedoniano, it wontor that it
will show teachers that this method is better than what they currently usethey wont
read it, and wont even hear about it). Try to restrict your assessment of your contribution
to reasonable, concrete results. Most academic and intellectual work is a process of small
victories. We only ask you to accomplish a small victory in an MA; we dont expect you
to cure cancer, or write the Ode to Joy.
Some suggestions about your research proposal
Discuss it carefully with your mentor. Dont be informal; take notes and ask questions.
Treat it as a plan. This proposal is not about asking a nice person for a date; it should
be the basic map or guideline you follow for the whole process of writing your thesis.
Be specific. A vague proposal is a bad proposal.
Be realistic. Keep in mind the amount of time you have is limited, as are the pages you
have to express yourself. Although it may seem wonderful to write an extremely
ambitious proposal, if you do not have the time or resources to do it, you will not make
any progress.
Answer these three questions: What do you intend to research? How do you intend to
do it? Why should this research be done? Any proposal without answers to these three
questions is a weak proposal, and is not likely to be approved by the Academic Council.
Basic Ideas for Topic Selection
One of the biggest troubles that students encounter is trying to decide what exactly they
want to study. A poorly chosen subject will condemn you to a year of unhappiness, and
may result in a thoroughly unsatisfying thesis. Such a situation would be tragic; a good
research project will be energizing, illuminating, and fun. We at SEEU want you not only
to work hard, but also to enjoy the work you are doing. To choose a good subject for
research will be an excellent step towards enjoying this extensive research opportunity.
Again, one of the best sources for ideas can be your mentor. Feel free to approach your
mentor with questions. Although it is always pleasing when students know exactly what

they want to study, it is also rare. Most of the time, students have some basic ideas about
what they enjoy, what interests them, and what kinds of resources they have available to
them. From these basic elements you can make a great thesis. It may just require
spending an hour or two with your mentor to find out exactly how to delimit your
research to fit your particular circumstances.
Remember: you do not need to solve all of the worlds problems with your research. One
of the most common sources of misery amongst MA students is the belief that their work
must change the world. It will not, and is not required to do so. Just find something that
has academic value, is not already known, and that interests you.
The best advice one can give about choosing a topic is simply this: think in
questions. Far too often we think in statements: I am happy, she is pretty, etc. But
these can be turned into questions very easilyWhy do I find her pretty? Is she pretty
to others? By what criterion is she pretty? () For what reason am I happy? Would
others feel happy in these current circumstances? Is this happiness provable? etc.
Obviously, why do I find her pretty? is not a good choice of an MA topic, but you
understand the idea. If you begin to contemplate the subjects that you enjoy by asking
questions about them, instead of thinking in terms of what you already know, you will
often find a good question that can lead to research. The process is really that simple:
start thinking in questions.
There are several basic guidelines that will be useful, though, in helping you to choose a
1) How much time do I have? Usually, the answer is one year. Dont pick a project
that will take you much more than this. Remember that you must plan your
research, conduct your research, and then write approximately 100 pages about
your theme. Each of these steps will take at least several months, so do not give
yourself too large a topic.
2) What resources do I have? Writing a linguistic history of Anglo-Saxon battle
vocabulary would be wonderful; it would also be impossible with the resources
available in this country. Think in terms of what you can realistically accomplish.
3) Use what you know. Although curiosity is one of the most wonderful things in the
world, it is not smart to begin a thesis on a subject of which you know nothing
just because you want to learn something about it. Try to align your curiosity with
what you already know.
4) What interests you? Far too often students feel compelled to write a thesisthis is
really your opportunity to investigate deeply something that intrigues you. As
previously mentioned, try to think about classes or books that you enjoyed, and
then ask yourself why you found these things engaging.
5) Move from broad categories to smaller categories. A broad category of
investigation will almost always be too broad for your purposes, but if you can
narrow your interest slightly, this is often a great way to decide what to research
for your thesis.
There are also several things that you should avoid in choosing a thesis topic:

1) Contentious topics. Although we encourage you to study what you would like to
study, choosing politicized, religious, or personal questions can often lead to
needless complications and problems.
2) Know your resources: dont pick something you simply cant accomplish with
your time and resources.
3) Dont choose your methodology before choosing your subject.
4) Dont rush. A hastily chosen topic is rarely a good topic.
5) Dont delay. This seems contradictory with point 4, but choosing a topic after
eight months of pondering is no better than choosing a topic too quickly.
Again, your mentor can be of great assistance to you. Do not be afraid to approach your
mentor with some general ideas, and be willing to speak openly about your interests.
Your mentor will try to help you narrow your primary enthusiasms into a research
proposal; but if he or she suggests something that you dont like, it is your responsibility
to say so. The mentor will be grateful for your honesty, and will try to find a good
research topic in collaboration with you. The last thing we want to do is to force an idea
upon you, but if you do not let us know that you dislike an idea, we will not know.
The Thesis Itself: Sections
We ask that you follow a specific template for writing your thesis. Although some
students find this restrictive, most find that it is useful to have this template as a specific
guideline for how to compose your thesis. This, therefore, is the basic structure that you
should use in creating your thesis:
1. Title
2. Abstract
3. Acknowledgements
4. Table of contents
5. Main text
6. Bibliography
7. Appendices
Each of these sections has a specific purpose:
1) Title. This will be your title exactly as approved by the Academic Council.
(For more on the title, see the discussion of the title in the section on research
proposals, above).
2) Abstract. This is a brief (one page) synopsis of what you have done in the
thesis. It is usually best to think of this as what you would find on the back of
a book. (As you know, if you are interested in a book, you often read the back.
There one finds a very brief description of what is in the book. This is largely

what you are writing in the abstract). It should be one page, and should exceed
one page only in exceptional circumstances (and with the approval of your
mentor). For the purposes of SEEU, your abstract should appear in all three
University languages.
The reason we write abstracts is to allow other scholars to decide quickly and
easily whether or not our work has relevance to their own researches. Try to
be as specific and concise as possible when writing an abstract. You are trying
to explain to other experts what the primary ideas of your thesis are. To write
with concision and exactitude will assist other researchers in the academic
It is common, and entirely permissible, to write ones thesis as the very last
portion of the thesis. There is no reason to write it before the thesis is finished.
3) Acknowledgements. This is the place in which you thank the people,
libraries, and organizations that have assisted you in your research. It is
customary to thank those people who were particularly supportive; it is
acceptable, and perfectly decent, to thank friends and family. Some students
believe that they must make only academic acknowledgments. In fact, you are
welcome to thank parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, and anybody else
who has been helpful or supportive. Some people thank particularly loved pet
cats or dogsand why not? This is your page, and it is a great opportunity for
you to express your gratitude to those who helped you, or whom you love.
It is customary to thank your mentor, but it is not obligatory. If you do not,
however, it may provoke a member of your examining panel to ask you why
you have not thanked your mentor. This may be usefulif you feel that your
mentor has not assisted you, or acted in a reasonable manner, you may choose
to raise that failure by withholding acknowledgement.
The Acknowledgments page is your own; please thank those people who
matter in your life. It will be pleasant for them, and for you.
Also, try to take a larger view of things. You will almost certainly never write
another MA thesis again. If you (for example) refuse to thank your mother on
the Acknowledgments page just because you recently had a fight with her, you
will be hurting her for a long time because of a transitory problem. It will not
matter to your mentor whom you may thank, but it will matter to your
immediate family. We wont tell you what to do on your Acknowledgements
page, but it is not wise or generous to slight people just because you are
temporarily frustrated. Be kind.
Joke gratitude will just look foolish. Thanking your own genius, or satirically
thanking the library that would not let you photocopy a useful book, wont be
funny to anyone but you.

4) Table of Contents. This is clear. It is something that one sees in every

book. All that it need do is tell people on what pages the various sections of
the thesis may be found. Be careful in composing thispeople often get
sloppy when composing their table of contents, and a table of contents that is
wrong is of no use to anybody.
5) Main Text. (See below)
6) Bibliography. This is an important element of your thesis. It is not merely a
footnote to your own research, but can often be extremely useful to other
scholars. Take care in preparing this, because it is something that reflects the
seriousness of your research. A good researcher will use and acknowledge the
accomplishments of previous scholars.
7) Appendix/Appendices. Of all the categories listed above, this alone is not
mandatory. If you wish to include an appendix or appendices, you may, but it
is not required. This is usually the best place to insert things like
questionnaires, images and graphics, etc.
The Main Text
Obviously, of the list above, the Main Text is the primary core of your thesis. It is the
body of your findings, and should be segmented into these sections:
1. Introduction
2. Literature review
3. Methodology
4. Findings/Results
5. Analysis/Discussion of findings
6. Conclusions and recommendations
Each of these sections has a specific purpose and utility in the thesis. Each will be
considered in turn.
1) Introduction:
This is, not surprisingly, where you introduce your thesis. Here you will address such
topics as your scholarly aims, your research hypothesis or research questions, and other
such facts. Many people commonly find that this section is most easy to write if it is
essentially a modification of the research proposal. Although your research proposal itself
will not work as an introduction, the basic ideas addressed in your research proposal will
have a place in your introduction.

You should be certain to include several things in your introduction. You should certainly
offer some explanation for your research. This is often called the justification. In other
words, you are simply explaining why you are doing this research, and why it would be
of interest to anybody. Please do specify why this is important research, or the expected
answer is important.
You should also include definitions of any significant terminology that you will use.
It is also worth including here some of the limitations of the study, and the scope of the
study. Some mentors will advise you to do this in a separate chapter; there is nothing
wrong with that approach, but you may also at least consider putting your limitations and
scope arguments in the introduction.
Try to remember that your introduction should be an intelligible microcosm of your entire
thesis We dont need to have the entire set of your results, but someone who has read
your introduction should be able to state clearly what you are studying, why you are
doing it (and why your research matters), and how you intend to do it.
2) Literature Review
The literature review is often the most time-consuming part of an MA thesis. This is
basically the section in which you tell the story of your subject as others have studied it.
This requires a good deal of research, and requires also that you have taken careful notes
during your reading.
[As a brief aside: You are urged here to be careful when taking notesgood note taking
can be a great gift to yourself, but poor or imprecise note taking can make you really
miserable at just the time when you are under the most pressure. There is little so
frustrating than to find a quotation in ones notes and not know the book from which it
came, or not know the page.]
A good research proposal will do several things. The first is that it will show the current
state of research in your chosen field. Obviously, you will not be held accountable for
having read everything related to your subject. But your literature review should include
the major and relevant works that have been influential in your chosen subject-area. The
second thing a good literature review will accomplish is that it will set the stage nicely for
your own research. These two things are the elements that you will want to keep in mind
does it adequately explain the major researches that have already been conducted in the
field, and does it present the current state of research in which you have done your work?
You should also be aware that one of the things your examining panel will consider
(when reading your literature review) is that shows whether or not you actually know
what you are writing about. A poor literature review, or one that misses some of the major
writers or researchers in the field, gives a very poor impression. It suggests that you have
not done adequate research.

Feel free to ask your mentor for help with the literature review. He or she will know
which books will be essential for you to read, and may even have copies. This is one of
the best ways in which to use your mentors expertiselet this person guide your own
research and reading. Please do not worry that you will look unaware or silly if you ask
what you should be reading. Some students do not like to ask their mentor that question;
in fact, what books should I be reading is the best question you can ask your mentor.
The literature review should not just be a dry list of quotations. It should be a storythe
story of your subject. Someone who reads your literature review should be able to learn
what the history of your subject area is, who the major figures are, and what the main
gaps or inadequacies of the field are.
3) Methodology
If your introduction and literature review have been well written, your reader should have
a good idea by now what you intend to study, why it interests you, and what the purpose
of your research will be. The methodology section will tell your reader how you will
conduct this study.
The primary purpose of this section is to explain to your reader how you will do your
research, but you should also make clear why you have chosen this method. It should
convince your reader that your chosen method is appropriate and reasonable as an
approach to your topic or problem.
You should explain your methodology as clearly as possible. It is preferable to be a little
boring than to be inaccurate or incomplete. You should explain all of the major steps that
you will take, as well as explain how you are using test/control groups (if necessary).
This is also the appropriate place for you to explain any moral or ethical questions that
you have addressed in your structure or methodology. As you know, you are expected to
conduct your research in as ethical and as responsible a manner as possible. Thus, for
example, if you wish to study other people, you must first obtain their permission.
Secondly, if you are studying young people, you will need to obtain their parents
permission. These types of ethical responsibilities are MANDATORY if your research in
any way involves other people; this is the place to explain how you have modified your
research to accommodate the rights of the people you are studying.
4) Findings
This section is where you present the results of the study you have just described in the
Methodology section. It is generally a pretty easy section to write, as you are offering the
findings obtained from the study you have already explained.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should not use this section to
interpret your findings. Quite the contraryit is extremely important that you do not

interpret your findings here. The reason this is significant is that your results may be
effective or valuable, but your interpretation might be completely wrong. Because your
interpretation is misguided or inaccurate will not affect the value of your results if you
separate your report of the results (this section) and your interpretation of them (next
5) Analysis
This is the section where you will interpret your findings, as reported in the previous
section. What do your results prove, and how does this matter to your field?
You should write this section with particular attention to your research question or
hypotheses. Are your research hypotheses confirmed or refuted by your results, and why?
This is also a good place to connect your research with the literature review, as it may be
that your work confirms or disproves some of the ideas mentioned in the literature
It is good to mention anomalies or oddities that you encountered in your research.
Remember, you cannot correctly predict everything that may happen during your
research, and strange or unexpected developments are worth noting and analyzing. They
may also help other researchers who encounter the same difficulty that you found.
6) Conclusions
Do not just rush through the conclusion. This is a place to reflect clearly on your work,
and what you have discovered. It is also the place in which you suggest ongoing research
(which could be done by you or another). It is also the section in which to reflect upon
weaknesses of your own work, results, or methodology. Remember: there is nothing
wrong with an academic stating clearly, I dont know x or I dont understand y. But it
is not good to pretend to know x or understand y, so here is the place to reflect on what
you do not know, and admit it openly (if it pertains to your research).
Rememberyour conclusions and suggestions should be related to the work you have
done. It is not a general place for your philosophy of the world, or a wide-ranging claim
for your own greatness, but rather a specific and clear assessment of what you did, what it
means, and why you feel that you have succeeded.
General Distribution of the Thesis Sections
Although this is an almost impossible to offer specific guidelines for how long your
thesis sections should be, the following is an extremely rough outline of about how long
each section is (based on Christopher Harts model).
Introduction@10% of the thesis

Literature Review--@25% of the thesis

Methodology--@25% of the thesis
Findings--@15% of the thesis
Analysis--@15% of the thesis
Conclusion/recommendations--@10% of the thesis
Some Thoughts on Bibliography
You have to have a bibliography, and it can often be the most useful part of somebodys
thesis. Yet there are many, many different ways of listing materials in a bibliography.
Here are a few suggestions that may help
1) Be consistent: Most people in this part of the world use APA style. This is fine.
You are welcome, however, to use another bibliographical or citational style. The only
important thing is to stick to whatever method you have chosen, and be consistent. If you
are interested in APA style, a particularly good website for this is run by Purdue
University in the United States. Their website:
is a reliable and useful description of APA style.
2) A bibliography should always be alphabetized by the first letter of the authors
3) You do not commonly need to put regular reference books in a bibliography
(such as, for example, dictionaries). Of course, if you are specifically studying something
related to dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.or if you quote a reference work directly
then they should be properly referenced in the bibliography.
4) If you are confused about how to compose your bibliography, or what style to
use, please feel free to discuss this with your mentor. He or she will do this type of thing
all the time, and will be ready to assist you as you need help.
Final Thoughts
This process is designed to produce a successful thesis for you. These notes are general
guidelinesyour mentor may suggest slight modifications to what you find here, and you
should defer to your mentors judgment. As you will appreciate, these guidelines are
written without specific knowledge of your precise research topic, your methodology, and
your research needs. These peculiarities of your work may prompt your mentor to advise
that you take a different approach from what you see here.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions of your mentor. Do not feel that you need to do
automatically what he or she advises: ask why you are being advised to do something.
Also, feel free to take notes when you meet with your mentor.
Again, best of luck in this process. I, and the entire staff of the English Department, wish
you well in your research.