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How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 14, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

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You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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write a thesis in 3 days

An Insider’s Guide On How To Write A Thesis When You’re Short On Time

write a thesis in 3 days

Written by Dora Farkas, PhD

I thought about quitting graduate school in the beginning of my 6th year.

I was almost certain that there was no way that I could graduate that year, or ever for that matter.

I started several dead-end projects, and most of my data was inconsistent and did not support any of my hypotheses.

I felt stuck and trapped in my own life.

The irony was that I actually created this life for myself because I thought that getting a PhD degree was the road to a better life and a career that I would be passionate about.

I finally summoned the courage to have “the talk” with my supervisor and clarify once and for all what I needed to do to graduate.

As I had expected, I could only use a very small portion of the data I had collected up to that point in my thesis.

My supervisor assigned me a new project, and I had to learn how to use three new instruments that I had no prior experience with.

If I wanted to graduate in a year, I had to make that project work.

In order to meet this ambitious deadline I decided to extend my 10-12 hour days to 15-hour days and learn the methods I needed for the new project.

After 5 months, I was finally able to generate some reproducible data with my new experimental setup.

I still had to run hundreds of samples through my system, but I finally had hope that I might be able to graduate that semester.

The problem was the thesis deadline was only 3 months away and I had no idea where to start.

Which section should I write first?

How should I organize my data?

When should I write?

write a thesis in 3 days

7 Helpful Guidelines To Writing A Proper Thesis

My 15-hour days turned into 18-hour days fueled by junk food and soda.

Still, I wasn’t getting anywhere.

No one had taught me how to write a thesis.

To make matters worse, I was a perfectionist.

I spent countless hours writing and rewriting paragraphs and jumping back and forth between different chapters because none of the sections ever felt “good enough.”

Eventually, just as I was burning out and spinning into a dark cycle of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, I finished my thesis.

As I turned the document into my thesis committee, I remember thinking…

There has to be a better way.

Over the next few years after finishing my thesis, I started studying the process and creating a more effective system for writing a thesis .

Since then, I’ve trained hundreds of PhD students on how to write their theses.

Here are 7 tips on how to write a strong thesis I’ve learned and continue to teach to other PhDs students…

1. Know What Questions You’re Asking

You always need to know what your hypothesis is or what questions your thesis is asking.

This may seem obvious, but so many graduate students fail to define their overall hypothesis before beginning their thesis.

You must be able to summarize your thesis in one sentence such as: “The purpose of this thesis is to….”

If you don’t know what your thesis question or hypothesis is, meet with your supervisor (See #3 below).

Over the years, I’ve encountered a few exceptions to this rule.

For example…

Some PhD students spent 8 or 9 years (full-time) in graduate school working on many small projects because no one project was viable enough for an entire thesis.

These students had what I call a “hodge-podge” thesis.

The only reason their thesis committees let these students graduate is because the students had been in school for so long.

While it is possible to pull a group of small projects together into one thesis, you don’t want to be at the mercy of your thesis committee.

It’s best to always know what question you are asking.

Your question will probably evolve over time, but the more clarity you have about the purpose of your thesis, the more efficient your research will be.

2. Break Your Thesis Into Defined Stages

Thesis writing is a process with well-defined stages

The details of each stage will vary slightly depending on your field, but for most thesis writers the stages are, first, idea collection, second, editing and data analysis, and third, polishing.

Perfectionists (like me) will particularly benefit from dividing their writing into discrete stages.

The purpose of the first stage of writing is to get as many ideas as possible on paper, without judging, editing or formatting your document.

By allowing yourself to collect your ideas without criticism, you can spark your creativity and overcome the fear of imperfection that may be holding you back from starting to write your thesis.

It is during the second stage, editing and data analysis phase, that you need to be rigorous with your writing and editing.

At the end of the second phase your goal is to produce a manuscript that has a clear structure and a logical flow of arguments so that you can submit it to your supervisor for review.

In the final polishing phase, you need address the feedback from your committee and fill in any gaps in the logic.

Polish, polish, polish, and polish some more until your document is ready to be handed in to your university’s library.

3. Don’t Rely On Your Academic Advisor

Your academic advisor will not give you all the answers.

Some advisors are either too busy to mentor you properly or are micro-managers who want daily updates on your progress.

Other academic advisors are simply bad mentors who don’t want you to graduate in the first place.

Either way, you shouldn’t rely on your mentor to give you all the answers.

You also shouldn’t rely on your advisor for a second reason…

Writing your thesis is your job and your job only.

The role of your advisor is to mentor you so you learn how to be an independent researcher, not to hold your hand for the rest of your life.

Your advisor may or may not be a good mentor, but you need to be in agreement regarding the direction of your research because you need their approval to graduate.

If you have disagreements with your advisor, or you have a dead-end project, it may take several meetings to determine the overall direction of your thesis.

The most effective way to meet with your advisor is to schedule meetings far in advance and come to every meeting with a clear agenda.

Students who plan proactively before talking with their supervisors have much more efficient meetings than those who don’t plan.

If your advisor is a difficult person, continue to be proactive about planning meetings and developing solutions to your problems.

Keep a record of every meeting you have or every meeting he or she refuses to have with you.

Finally, reframe your situation into a learning experience for your career.

4. Realize You Will Never Feel Like Writing

You will never feel like writing your thesis.

Even the most famous and prolific authors in history had daily battles with writer’s block.

You won’t be any different. There will be times when you sit down to write when you feel like you’re dying.

That’s okay—just start typing gibberish. Type sentence fragments. Type anything. Just get something down on paper.

Don’t wait to be inspired to write. Instead, go out and look for inspiration.

Listen to music that puts you in the mood to write. Watch a short video that motivates you to take action. Visualize all the things you will do once your thesis is done.

Warming up your “writing muscles” and seeking out inspiration are the only cures for writer’s block.

Once you’re warmed up and inspired, words will start to flow more naturally. They may even start to form cohesive sentences and paragraphs.

Overtime, your warm-up period will get shorter and shorter until clicking into writing gear becomes an automatic habit.

5. Don’t Write Your Thesis Chapters In Order

When I started writing my thesis, I thought I had to begin with the abstract, then the introduction, then an in-depth literature search, then chapter one, chapter two, on and on all the way to the conclusion.

This is the worst way to write your thesis.

Writing your thesis in order can lead to several months of agonizing writer’s block.

Don’t start writing your thesis by writing the abstract first.

Instead, the abstract of your thesis should be the last section you write

By definition, the abstract is a summary of the highlights of your thesis, and therefore you should only be able to write a quality abstract once you finish all of your chapters.

Don’t start writing your thesis by diving into the most difficult chapter either.

If you do, you will inevitably face writer’s block.

Starting your thesis by writing the most difficult chapter first is like trying to deadlift a 500-pound weight without any prior training.

You’ll keep trying to lift the heavy weight unsuccessfully until you’re completely exhausted. Eventually, you’ll give up entirely and label yourself as simply not good enough to do the exercise.

Instead, start writing your thesis by writing the easiest section first—the methods section.

The methods section is the easiest section to get started and the quickest to finish. Start here to get a few pages under your belt and boost your confidence before you try any heavy lifting.

6. Never Write “work on thesis” In Your Calendar

“Work on thesis” is too vague.

If you put this phrase in your calendar it will either lead to you taking a nap, surfing the web, or staring at a blank computer screen.

Even if you do manage to put some words on paper or analyze some data, you’ll do so randomly.

Instead, you need to turn your work hours into measurable progress.

You need to be very deliberate with how you allocate your time.

Once you decide on the order in which you will write your chapters, continue breaking them down into smaller chunks.

This will allow you to set up specific goals for every block of time you have.

Instead of inserting “work on thesis” into your calendar, insert measurable goals like “finish Figure 1” or “write two pages of Chapter 2.”

7. Write In Very Short Bursts

Writing in several short bursts is more efficient than writing in a few, long extended periods of time.

If you ever tried to write for several hours in a row, you may have noticed that your concentration becomes weaker after about 45-60 minutes.

Writing requires creativity, and it is difficult to sustain your focus for several hours in a row over the course of months (or even years) until you finish your thesis.

If you have a 3-4-hour block of time in your calendar, resist the temptation to glue yourself to the chair for the entire period.

You’re only fooling yourself if you think that more hours of writing leads to more progress.

Instead, break up your writing time into short blocks with rest periods in between.

I suggest alternating 45 minutes of writing with 15 minutes of rest.

These rest periods are crucial. Many students get sudden insights when they are away from their desks and they become more efficient when they return to work.

Turn off your email and phone alerts when you’re writing.

Don’t be tempted to check these updates during the rest periods. It’s far too easy for an update to distract you from your work and derail your next writing period.

Bad writing habits are tough to break. If you try to eliminate your bad habits overnight, your brain and body might rebel against you. A better strategy is to change your habits slowly and one at a time. Don’t take on all 7 of the above thesis writing guidelines at once . Instead, take on one, complete it or master it, and then move on to the next tip. The toughest part of writing is the beginning. The sooner you start writing your thesis, the easier writing it becomes . A good writer is not someone who never struggles, but someone who keeps writing even when they’re struggling.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists.  Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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write a thesis in 3 days


Dora Farkas received her Ph.D. from MIT in the Department of Biological Engineering and worked for several years in the pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Scientist. Dora is a thesis and career coach and the founder of the online Finish Your Thesis Program & Community, which has helped hundreds of graduate students finish their thesis.

Dora Farkas, PhD

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Is it possible to write a masters thesis in 10 days? [closed]

Was it ever possible for anyone to finish writing a master thesis in 10 days? I've been struggling for a long time now to focus on my writing due to several personal problems and I'm running close to my deadline so I'm starting to freak out. I welcome any suggestions at this point.

ff524's user avatar

4 Answers 4

If by "writing" you mean to do the research/experiments/studying and then write the thesis then no .

If by "writing" you mean transforming your well organized notes into one document, then yes , maybe if you have great discipline.

If by "writing" you mean to start to write-up from not-so well organized notes, then most probably not .

If you want to try to make it, stop hanging around on the internet and start working.

Dirk's user avatar

It can be done, but I would be dubious of the quality. That said, I can't recall a Master's thesis that set the world on fire, so I suppose quality is a poor metric.

Here are some suggestions:

Good luck to you.

Yes. You can write it in 10 days though the result won't be good. Make sure you write 1000 to 1500 words a day. So, rather than starting to freak out, you can start writing now

Saber Alex's user avatar

If it's an MFA thesis (average length: 2-3 pages) yes. If it's a science one where you're reporting on results and my impression is that the length isn't too terribly long, maybe. If it's a humanities one that's in the 100-150 page range, it's unlikely (I've written 10-15 pages in a day before, but I doubt I can keep that pace up for ten pages).

You should look into extending into next semester, even if it's just shooting off a quick email while continuing to work. If you have had a large number of personal problems that have negatively affected your ability to complete your school work (and are in the US, not sure how it would apply elsewhere), you should (a) speak with the counseling center on campus and (b) consider a withdrawal under extenuating circumstances (typically called a medical withdrawal, but at least at my school they are allowed for other reasons). If there's no penalty at all for extending into next semester, (b) might not even be necessary — it's super common for both master's and PhD students to miss their expected graduation date by a semester or two because of the thesis/dissertation.

But if you're running up against a hard time limit, the withdrawal would gain you an extra semester. If withdrawal isn't an option, at many schools you can also (c) petition the university to waive the time limit given your circumstances. I don't think I've ever really heard of those petitions being denied if the reason is even halfway reasonable.

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8 Tips to Write a Thesis in 30 Days (Bonus Tip Included)

how to write your thesis in a month

All students want to know how to write a thesis in a month . Before sharing the tips that I’ve used in my writing journey, we first need to ask: is it possible to write a thesis in one month? and actually finish it? The answer to this question is yes! You absolutely can write a thesis in 30 days. And you can write your thesis, from start to finish, without the emotional distress that often comes with such a monumental task. And, before you ask, no you’re not going to pay anybody to write a thesis for you. You’re going to write your thesis by yourself.

I’ve written two Masters’ theses, a PhD dissertation and a draft of a book. Here are the 8 tips that have helped me write my thesis as quickly as possible and get to the other side.

3.1 Use Grammarly: An Online Writing Assistant

8. bonus tip – join online writing communities, my 8 tips on how to write a thesis or dissertation in a month.

Before we start, let me say that no one is born knowing how to write a thesis. My professors were not born knowing how to write a thesis and I wasn’t born knowing how to write a thesis either.

I learned how to write a thesis. It was not easy, and I struggled a lot in writing my first thesis. That’s until I discovered what I needed to do to push through and finish writing it.

I then used those lessons and applied them to my second thesis and every writing assignments since then. Writing became fun. 

In fact, I was having so much fun writing my second thesis that I took on extra writing assignments. Hence the birth of this blog.

1. Adjust Your Expectations

If you want to finish writing your thesis in a month, the first thing you need to recognize is that you don’t need to break new grounds in your thesis for your thesis to be acceptable.

If for some reason you think you need to break new grounds, then you need to quickly adjust your expectations. The point of a thesis is to demonstrate mastery of the literature and show that you’re able to competently synthesize  and present those works persuasively.

That’s all you need to do.

If you’re aiming for more, then consider these two points:

For these two reasons, I think it’s best to view your thesis as something that reflects what you’ve been trained to do, which is to write a good thesis using the skills you already have. You are enough and you probably already have what it takes to write your thesis. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Think of this: Just like you can’t run a marathon if you’ve been training for a 5k, you also can’t “contribute to the field” when you’re still in the process of being trained on how to write a thesis. Most probably, this is your first time writing a masters degree thesis, so take it easy. (More on writing a PhD dissertation below).

So, adjust your expectations accordingly.

Now, if you are trying to write your PhD thesis in a month, let me first say that it’s almost impossible. But if you have certain circumstances (say like a serious illness), then talk to your advisor about it and see what he/she suggests.

2. Don’t Be a Perfectionist

A professor once told me, if you want to write a perfect thesis, “you will never finish writing.” And he was right. I can’t begin to tell you just how much time I wasted trying to write a flawless thesis (AHHH!). In the end, it was not worth it. I ended up procrastinating and wasting time. I wish I could have that time back. Please, don’t make the same mistake I made.

After that emotionally draining experience, I changed my approach. I strove to write something good (and not perfect). I then got feedback on my ideas from my professors and went back and made them better. Eventually, they were, in my eyes, perfect. I was happy.

If you still think you need to be a perfectionist, consider this: there’s always more you can say about your topic. There are more examples you can discuss, more evidence to support your arguments with, and there is an infinite number of ways to organize your ideas, paragraphs and chapters to eventually turn your thesis into a “masterpiece.” You literally can go on forever writing and re-writing your thesis.

If you’re tight on time and you want to finish writing your thesis in 30 days, then do yourself a favor and focus on being done . Write something that’s good enough and move on knowing that you will get back to it later. 

So stop fixing things day in and day out. The goal is to make linear progress every single day until you’re done.

Remember, a mediocre finished thesis is better than a perfect unfinished one.

3. Take the 80/20 Rule Seriously

Each writing assignment will take you as much time as you’re willing to give it.

So if you give yourself 10 hours to write what usually takes 2 hours, then you will spend 10 hours working on it.

And the opposite is true.

If you have an assignment that usually takes 10 hours to finish, and I give you 2 hours to work on it, you will probably finish it in 2 hours.

On this basis, if you want to write your thesis in 30 days, you have to decide that 30 days is all you have to finish writing it. Be firm about this deadline, and work with the aim of finishing.

To help speed up the writing process, you can benefit from using a powerful writing assistant like Grammarly . ( Disclosure : these are affiliate links which means I will receive a commission if you make a purchase using my referral links.) Please know that I only talk about services that I believe in and can stand behind. And this is one of those amazing products that can be of tremendous benefit to you if you are looking to get over writer’s block and avoid unnecessary slowdowns .

Okay, so quickly: what should you expect from Grammarly?

Grammarly can help save you a lot of time – especially when you are stuck looking for the right word, or the right way to phrase a sentence. Grammarly gives you a list of context-specific vocabulary suggestions/enhancements/corrections and allows you to make an informed decision about what’s best in your specific writing context. This makes your writing flow better and allow you to move forward at a faster rate.

Here are testimonies by students about how Grammarly has helped them with writing their thesis.

finish writing your dissertation in 30 days

Just downloaded Grammarly for the first time and it has transformed my essays. I sound so smart! #Grammarly #Student — Lucy Jade ANutr (@lucyj_nutrition) March 2, 2019
#WhiteSmoke online editor combined with #Grammarly Chome extension..genius… Why didn't I discovered that earlier #Writing #Thesis #PhD — Quirina de Ruiter (@QuirinaDeRuiter) June 28, 2016

Here are some statistics on how Grammarly has helped students and writers get better results.

how to finish thesis or dissertation in less than a month

With Grammarly, you don’t have to worry about proofreading. It will do that for you. You don’t have to worry about manually checking for plagiarism , style, punctuation, and even wordiness. Grammarly can help you do all of that and will also offer explanations for the reasoning behind each correction.

write a thesis in 30 days

You can also use Grammarly for better and more professional sounding emails – especially when you want to email your advisor and your committee. You can also use Grammarly across pretty much all of your social media platforms including twitter, facebook, linkedin and more.

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In order to get access to all the tools that will help you write your thesis efficiently, I recommend their premium plan . The total cost comes out to 2 – 3 cups of cappuccinos… it’s worth it.

4. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Here’s a dose of realism.

As original as you would like to be in your thesis, someone has already written on your topic… and that’s a great thing!

Someone has read the same sources, summarized them and put them in their literature review. You can save yourself a whole lot of time by reading literature reviews. There, you will see exactly how they used those sources and how they might fit into your work. Consult the original sources briefly, but as much as necessary to get the main ideas out of them, and move on.

A literature review shouldn’t take you more than a week to complete if you plan to finish writing in 30 days, and that’s totally doable.

5. Complete a Quick First Draft

The fastest way to finish writing is to write quickly…duh.

What I mean by that is if you’re stuck and you can’t quite round up the paragraph or idea you’re working on, don’t dwell on it. Move on to other topics within your thesis and write them out. 

The most helpful tip that I can share with you is to force yourself to write a quick high school draft (first draft) of the entire thesis. Go all the way through until you have a completed first draft of your thesis in your hands.

This is going to be tremendously helpful for your progress because if you can see the conclusion of your thesis, you will a have better sense of which parts of your thesis need work, and which parts need to be completely cut out. 

In fact, that’s, in my opinion, the only way to know what your thesis really needs. I say this because imagine if you had spent tens of hours fixing a paragraph only to discover later on (or be told by your advisor) that you really don’t need it.

Let me tell you, it freakin sucks!

6. Journal Articles Are Your Best Friend

Journal articles are usually less than 25 pages in length and sometimes even less than 15 pages long. The best part about them: they’re succinct. You can pretty much read the abstract and you’ll know exactly what the main argument is and the strategy of the paper.

All you need to do then is to look for the evidence in the paper itself. It shouldn’t take you anything more than 3 hours to get this information out of the paper. And when you get good at this, it will take you even less than 3 hours.

Moreover, journal articles are a great way to help position your thesis within the literature on the topic, and you will have a much clearer destination when you do so.

See my post on  how to read faster .

7. Write (Your Thesis) Everywhere

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that I champion using free time effectively.  

Plan to read or write everywhere : whether you’re waiting on a friend, waiting for the bus, or eating lunch. It will help you address what I’ve called elsewhere as the “familiarity deficit.” Read that post here . Don’t underestimate the value of that time. It will give you a much needed head-start when it’s time to sit down and work on the relevant chapter within your thesis.

The key to finishing your thesis in 30 days is to keep writing even when you don’t feel you’ve got much to say. It will come to you, just don’t give up too soon.

If you experience some mental roadblocks and you’re dealing with procrastination, then give this article a quick read to help you overcome procrastination and take action.

Yes. Join online writing communities. They’re free and you will get a whole lot of support from people who are going through the same thing. Try Phinished . I’ve used it when I wrote my first thesis and it helped me a bunch. 

I need to caution that it is easy to spend a lot of time on Phinished reading what others have to say. You might find yourself reading page after page about the challenges others are going through: including what they’re doing to move through the process, and how far they are in their thesis writing. 

If you want to finish, then use it with the intention to finish  and not to waste more time or procrastinate.

Hope this will help you finish your thesis in 30 days!

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How I wrote a PhD thesis in 3 months

Before reading this post please note: it took three and a half years of full-time research to gather the data for my  PhD thesis; the three months refers only to the writing, which I did quickly at the end. I do not claim that everybody can write that fast, and if you have not done the research it will be impossible. You might not write as fast as I did, but you might gain some useful insights from the way I approached it.

In the summer of 2006, almost 3 years after starting my PhD, I was ready to quit.

I had nowhere near enough results, the equipment I was using didn't work most of the time, and I could barely summon the motivation to get up in the morning.

Cut to just over a year later and I'd managed to

turn things around and get the data for a few publications

write my entire PhD thesis from scratch in just 3 months.

pass my viva defence with zero corrections

And, on top of all that, I actually started to enjoy the process.

So how did I do all this? The tips below are not easy and many go against common thesis-writing advice, but they worked.

1. Dealing with stress

After a near-breakdown , I started taking walks around the campus when I faced a problem in my research or found myself getting stressed.

I took the time to think about what I needed to do and get myself in the right frame of mind to come back and deal with the problem.

Previously I would have found myself killing time on the internet just to get through to the end of the day. This one change in habit probably saved my PhD.

2. Slowing down

This may seem counter intuitive, but slowing down helped me to go faster. By taking more time over my experiments and doing things as carefully as I could, I eliminated a lot of time-consuming mistakes.

3. Limiting the time available

Though my productivity increased once I figured out how to deal with stress, I was still doing experiments well into my fourth year.

I had a final submission date (at the end of my 4th year), but my research was still a bit chaotic. It wasn't focused on finishing.

My supervisor (the brilliant Professor Moriarty ) then told me that I would no longer be allowed into the lab after the end of March 2007, and that I would have to write whatever I had.

4. Adapting and acting decisively

Because of the limited time, I had to make some tough decisions. Anything I did, I would either have to finish or let go . There would be some loose ends, but that was OK as long as I tied up others.

I had to decide not to do certain things, and focus with energy and determination on others.

Still, though, the thesis would be a little thin. So I took on a side project based on another student's research, which could produce some results quickly.

This side project produced the most interesting result of my scientific career .

5. Finishing research before writing

By the time I stopped doing experiments, I knew I had enough for a PhD. Not the best PhD ever, and not world-changing, but with two publications and enough data for another, I felt it was good enough.

Because I wasn't allowed back in the lab, I just had to focus on writing. The hard part was behind me. The results weren't going to change, so it was just a matter of making sure I was productive when writing.

It is much, much easier to write when you know the raw material isn't going to change.

Tip: If there's research or analysis still to do, prioritize this over writing

6. Preparation

I decided to work at home, not at the office, because there would be fewer distractions.

I got rid of the TV, and had no internet connection on my computer. The lack of internet meant I had to gather all the papers I would need beforehand, forcing me to think about what I would need.

I also set up a dedicated space (2 large desks joined together and a very comfortable chair, next to a large window for plenty of natural light), just for thesis writing.

7. Targets and consistency

I set myself a target of 3 months, broken down into targets for each chapter. This would give me about 3 months in reserve before the final absolute deadline.

I had a daily minimum target of 500 words , which I knew I could meet even on the least productive days.

This meant that because I smashed the target most days, I finished every day feeling good about my progress, which in turn meant I started the next day feeling confident.

Tip: Set your target as something you know you can achieve daily, then beat it. Don't set it as high as you can possibly imagine.

The two most important parts of the day are the beginning and end. It's important to build momentum early, and have a routine for ending the day too.

At the end of each day I always left myself something easy to do to get started with the next day, so I woke up knowing what I was going to do.

I also tidied the desk at the end of every day, which also helped close the day mentally and stopped my brain going over and over the thesis at night.

9. Applying ruthless standards to what I included

Whether it was the lit review, or my own work, I cut anything sub-standard.

I focused only on the very best literature, saving myself a huge amount of time. It also had the result of associating my work with the very best in the field.

I only wrote about what I knew about, which made the thesis shorter, faster and easier to write, and of higher quality than if I had included everything whether I understood it or not.

Tip: You choose the syllabus, not the examiner . Only include what you can comfortably defend.

10. Taking time over details that matter

I took painstaking care over the clarity of the writing, the diagrams and the overall look of the thesis.

If a diagram took 2 hours, so be it. If I couldn't find a high-quality image in a paper to paste in, I would re-draw it myself. Why? Because it adds so much to the feel of quality running through the thesis.

"The unreconstructed Si(111) surface". This took a very long time to draw and make sure the diagram was accurate.

"The unreconstructed Si(111) surface". This took a very long time to draw and make sure the diagram was accurate.

By applying obsessive focus to one detail at a time , I could make sure that I wouldn't have to do it again. This brings me to the final point...

11. One draft

I always edit as I write, with one goal only: to make sure I've expressed the idea in my head clearly on the page. I don't move on until I feel the sentence makes sense, with no ambiguity of meaning.

Clarity of thought is always the number one aim. But it is very difficult to come back to a piece of writing days or weeks later and sort out a mess of thought if you don't clarify your writing while the thought is still fresh in your head.

This means I was constantly re-reading and revising what I've just written, but also means that when I submitted something to my supervisor it needed very few revisions and saved months, simply by getting as close to "right" as I could the first time round.

Tip: It helps if you know what makes good writing. Check out this video for the most important tips:

 Another key factor

Throughout the course of my PhD, event though a lot went wrong, I built up a lot of experience and skill in the techniques I'd been using and in the data analysis. This is one of the reasons why, when I slowed down and did experiments more carefully, I was able to analyse the results quickly.

Too often, I meet students who have left analysis to the very final months, having done virtually none throughout the course of their PhD. This is a difficult situation to be in, as you have to learn analytical skills very fast under immense pressure. Practice analysis early and don't neglect your data!

Please Note

I've had some comments on this post reacting as if I completed my entire PhD in 3 months. No, I did three and a half years of research first, then wrote the thesis. I also do not claim that anyone can write that fast, as it depends on a lot of different factors. This is why the title is "How I wrote...", not "How to write..."

What to do if you only have 3 months to finish your PhD

Your final PhD year: Moving towards completion

The Writing Course

write a thesis in 3 days

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write a thesis in 3 days

Recovering physicist. I used to work in nanoscience before moving on to bigger things. After finishing my PhD in 2007 I completed 2 postdoc contracts before becoming starting coaching PhD students full-time in late 2010. In 2015 I published the book

Coping with PhD research stress


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