10 Tips on Writing an Undergraduate Thesis

For undergraduate students, the opportunity to conduct research in an academic lab can be educationally beneficial and personally rewarding. Working on a thesis project can also help students figure out whether a career in research is something they’re interested in, while allowing them to gain valuable technical and critical thinking skills that will help them succeed after graduation.

As a requirement for graduation, Honours students need to write a thesis.  This document tells the story of their research questions, what they did, and their conclusions. However, writing a fifty-page thesis describing a 9-month project is no easy feat. This article will  outline ten actionable tips to make thesis writing more straightforward and efficient.

  1. Check and adhere to the format required by the department. They will have specific instructions on formatting figures and tables, as well as the word limit of each section.
  2. Start early. The Background and Introduction sections can be written early on, even before data collection. In order to write those sections, you will peruse the literature, which will help you make informed decisions on experimental design and better understand how your results fit in the greater context.
  3. If you have writer’s block, start with the Materials and Methods section.
  4. You do not have to include every single thing that you did. It’s better to have one tight story rather than filling space with preliminary or ambiguous results.
  5. Give yourself enough time to write. Discuss with your supervisor what to include in the thesis, and a timeline for conducting and completing experiments.
  6. On that note, it is not required that you include the work you do at the very end of your time in the lab. If you have to do a few more experiments despite already having enough data for the thesis, write while conducting experiments.
  7. Minimize repetition. Don’t summarize results in discussions.  And don’t repeat anything thrice in the discussion.
  8. The general discussion should discuss the significance and impact of the project as a whole. Also, discuss what should be done next and why.
  9. Writing the abstract can be more straightforward after fleshing out the rest of the thesis. Consequently, you may want to write it last.
  10. During proofreading, ensure that the formatting of abbreviations and acronyms is consistent. For example, don’t use both TNFα and TNFα.
  11. Bonus tip: the Canadian Journal of Undergraduate Research (CJUR) publishes research articles written by undergraduate students who study at a Canadian university. You’ve done the lab work and presented the findings in a coherent written form (thesis), why not get a publication out of it?

Hopefully, some of these tips are/will be helpful to you in your thesis writing journey. If you have any other questions about conquering the undergraduate thesis, feel free to reach out to me via the NSN’s NYL program.

 

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