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Thesis Deadline Around the Corner? Tips for Those Who Haven’t Started It Yet

HSE Life and Anna Isipchuk break down how to write your thesis at the last minute

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

Many writers, copywriters, and, in our case, researchers struggle with a fear: the fear of the blank page. Some feel insecure and think they won’t be able to handle such a large amount of work. Some  simply don’t know how to get started with their research. Together with HSE 4th-year student Anna Isipchuk, HSE Life finds out how to shake off your fear of work, start doing something, and avoid sleepless nights trying to do everything in 24 hours.

Every student is prone to procrastination. You understand that it’s important to work on your thesis, and you promise not to start it at the last minute like you did last year. You even meet with your academic supervisor a couple of times and feel motivated afterwards, feeling sure that you will write it long before the deadline, and everything will be fine. And then everything flashes by like a dream: during your free time you meet with your friends, walk your dog, or watch a very important TV series. When you wake up somewhere between the beginning and the middle of April, you realize that you can no longer procrastinate. So, where to start?

The Deadline Was Yesterday

First, you need to determine exactly how much time is left before the text needs to be uploaded to LMS — you’d better mark this date on your calendar with a big fat red marker. Based on this information, let’s analyze our daily schedule and allocate several hours a day for writing only: it can be an hour or half of your day, but during this period you should not get distracted by social media notifications or watching TV shows.

Remember What Your Research Is about and Get Inspired

You chose your thesis topic six months ago, so you might have already forgotten what it was. You’d better log into LMS and check the English translation of your topic and make sure there aren’t any spelling errors.

To get inspired by your research, I recommend looking for similar works in the field. The works of other HSE students can be found in the thesis database, and if the work is not readily available, you can politely ask the author for the text.

Split up the Elephant into Smaller Pieces — It Will Be Easier to Eat It

The essence of this technique is simple — we divide a big task into smaller tasks. In the case of a thesis or a term paper, it is even easier, since there are clear requirements for the study structure — and you should make a plan based on it.

If you do not understand exactly what information should be in the introduction or literature review, you can check out the Telegram channel ‘You Can’t Put off Writing’, which explains point by point how to identify a problem or where to find necessary information. When you see that part of the work has already been done, it is easier to reach the finish line.

Where to Find Sources for Your Research

There is a lot of useful and open-access information on the Internet, but it’s easier to navigate and find literature on the right topic in the free electronic library. If you still do not know how to get access to the HSE databases, click here.

Let’s not forget about alternative information resources, either. Sources like eLibrary, CyberLeninka and Google Scholar have a lot of scholarly articles and research.

Your Academic Supervisor is Your Friend

Many students do not turn to their supervisors for help at the last moment. This may be due to the fact that they are not confident of the quality of their work and are afraid of being judged. However, this approach is fundamentally wrong, since your academic supervisor can help eliminate any shortcomings of your paper from the very beginning, so that you don’t have to rewrite everything at the last moment. Please remember that you can also contact other teachers. Very often, they are happy to help and consult other students.

You can also turn to other students for advice. For example, find a person using the Telegram bot ‘Academic Matching’.

Please note that it’s still worth consulting your supervisor, since their assessment of your work may affect the opinion of the committee.

Trust Yourself, but Double-Check Yourself, too

Ready-made resources and studies are often used by students in the process of a writing literature review and other parts of their work — there is nothing criminal in it. It is important to remember the strict requirements of originality at HSE University and check your work for plagiarism using the antiplagiarism tool from time to time. This is all the more important since students now have wider access to this resource, which accurately determines the percentage of borrowed text in your work. A bad paper is not a death sentence, but plagiarism is a sure-fire way to get expelled.

Combine Your Tasks

In case you have very little time, you can speed up the process by working on several parts of the work at the same time. With proper skill, it’s possible to write a literature review on Monday and collect data for the empirical part of the work on Tuesday. It’s not the best idea to leave the research part for the last moment, since you may simply lack time to interview the required number of respondents.

Don’t Forget to Take Breaks

The process of writing a large research paper requires a lot of work and can lead to emotional and creative burnout. To avoid such consequences, don’t forget about getting some rest and enjoying an extracurricular activity. Even a half-hour walk helps to boost your brain activity and improves your well-being, while constantly sitting in a stuffy room will only slow you down.

A thesis or a term paper is definitely a challenge for every student. Try not to focus on the negative aspects while you are working. Ask yourself: what are some good things about it? Perhaps you will study the topic you are interested in more deeply or test your willpower. And, most importantly, remember that how we treat certain events in our life depends only on us, and the result of our work directly depends on our attitude to it.

Author: Anna Isipchuk, April 15, 2021