Strategies for Success

Organize your approach

  1. Keep a binder with separate tabs for each part of the thesis
  2. Keep a check-off list in the front of the binder to make sure you have completed all steps, and to give you a sense of your progress
  3. Organize your computer files rationally and consistently in one folder which is dedicated only to the thesis
  4. Keep each section of your thesis in a separate subfolder and label the drafts consistently.
  5. Date each of the drafts and save all of the drafts. For example: Introductory Pages 4-7-08; Introductory Pages 5-8-08 etc.
  6. Do not discard your previous drafts, since you may need materials you deleted in subsequent drafts.
  7. Back up all files in several places, including the home drive.


Work a little at a time

  1. Do not attempt to write the thesis all at once, since this method invites disaster and writer’s block. One hour twice a week is far better than twelve hours once a month.
  2. Divide the thesis into manageable sections and complete each section individually.
  3. Submit each individual section to your advisor before going on to the next section.
  4. Keep all the sections filed in their dedicated place in your binder.
  5. Complete the “simpler” tasks during times when you come to a standstill in your research. These include the narrative preface, title page, bibliography, and signature page.


Dedicate adequate time

  1. Think of how much this thesis is worth in credits. You will receive a total of 8 credits for the off-campus work, the research and the thesis. This is the equivalent of more than two and one half courses.
  2. Consider how much work you regularly put into two challenging courses, and assume that you will need to spend adequate time on a thesis which receives just as much credit.
  3. Pace yourself. Courses pace you automatically with their due dates, exams and papers. For this independent study work, you will need to pace yourself independently. This requires maturity and an ability to think and work for yourself.
  4. Remember that your rewards are far greater than for a course, since this thesis can often make the difference of thousands of dollars in scholarships and wages, and can help you to get into the school of your choice, rather than the only school or firm that will accept you.


Use writer’s block wisely

  1. Writer’s block means that you have an as yet unrecognized or unresolved problem which may include actually starting the project.
  2. This can be a profitable time if you remember than it is an essential part of writing, and often leads to better writing.
  3. Use the time to work on something that does not require a high level of conceptual skills, such as writing your acknowledgments, or working on your bibliography or completing graphs, illustrations etc.
  4. Begin somewhere in the middle, rather than at the beginning. This is a method for circumventing starter’s block!