Theo Post (24) is a Master’s student in the Labour Law programme and has now written and defended his fifth thesis, for a total of three Bachelor’s and two Master’s theses. “It’s always a challenge, every single time, but I’ve become more independent with each go-round”, he says, looking back. “During my first thesis, I thought of my supervisor as a kind of all-powerful judge and jury, but now I know that your supervisor is mainly there to help you. You both want the process to be smooth and successful.” While writing his most recent thesis, he frequently spoke with people around him about his topic, working part-time. “That can sometimes yield unexpected new insights, because those acquaintances are often thinking about things from a real-world perspective rather than through an academic lens.”

So what advice does Theo have as an experienced thesis writer? “To quote the rappers De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig: ‘Being well-prepared is half the battle, but it’s still only half of it’. Finding a good topic is difficult but essential; I spent a lot of time going back-and-forth about it with a classmate. The second half consists mainly of writing your discussion and conclusion, and is something you definitely shouldn’t underestimate. There is still a lot of thinking during that part.” With regard to compiling a bibliography at the end of his thesis, he says: “I wasn’t able to use Scribbr (an online tool for source citations, ed.) because the School of Law uses the legal style for these rather than the APA guidelines. There was a lot of painstaking work in the last few days before the deadline, when I was manually laying out all the footnotes.”

The book from the professor

Image credit: Josine Henneken

Annaelle Pater (20) and Sophie Ruetze (21) are both students in the International Business Economics & Business (IBEB) programme. “We talk to each other about our theses, as a way of keeping ourselves on schedule”, they explain. “The professor gave us a book on how to write a thesis. I use it mainly to make sure my paper has the proper structure and so I know what should go in each chapter.” Annaelle’s thesis is about mergers and acquisitions. “It’s not something I find terribly exciting, as it turns out – it’s pretty dry and theoretical.” Her indispensable tip: “Be sure that the relevant research data is available before handing in your proposal.”

Sophie is writing her thesis about CO2 emissions and creditworthiness. “Some days, I hate it and want to quit because the research is so tedious and drawn out. But on other days, I feel like it’s a nice way to spend the final months of my study programme. I’m glad there are no hard deadlines in the interim; it’s really flexible. In another programme, for instance, they have a deadline every week.” Sometimes there are setbacks. “Certain elements are taking a lot more time than I thought they would. I’m going to finish later than I had hoped, but I think that’s pretty common for students and their theses. Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations, such as by reducing the size of your sample. That’s the way it goes, and you have to accept it.” Her advice: “Make sure your topic isn’t too outside the box: be ambitious but realistic.”

Make travel plans

Berdil Tosun (21), a student in the Psychology Master’s, is conducting an experiment for her thesis. “That makes me feel like we’re really testing something.” She has a clear end goal in mind: “I am tremendously looking forward to the moment that I realise all the hard work has been worth it. That’s what I’m working towards.” Berdil’s secret: “Honestly, what’s keeping me going at this point is thinking about the trips I’ve planned. I went to Japan last month and am headed to Spain this summer.” She finds this helpful. “You have to work really hard on your thesis, so that you can go on a trip when you’re done.”

Berdil does not have any specific advice on how to go about writing a thesis. “You simply have to get it done. Like the Nike motto says: ‘Just do it’.” She thinks it is possible to apply the travel strategy at a smaller scale as well. “I also plan little things that I can look forward to during the day, so I don’t lose my mind. Going for walks and playing with the dog I pet-sit, for example, is something I really enjoy.”

Tijmen van den Born (EM)

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