Eugenia Ponomareva, second-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Photonics and Optical Information

You can endlessly joke about your thesis and how many different ways of destroying it after the defense you can think of. But in fact, there are a number of reasons it should be taken a little bit more seriously. Firstly, as an ITMO student you shouldn't forget about the contest for the best thesis, which usually provides various pleasant awards like diplomas, financial support, or points to count towards your entrance exams. Secondly, the State Examination Committee includes business representatives and experts. So it will be great to be noticed for your future career, won’t it? Finally, it’s an opportunity to develop your academic writing skills.

I would say one of the most important points here is being in touch with your supervisor. According to my personal experience, sparse student-supervisor communication causes unfortunate consequences in almost 100% of cases. As a rule, such students come to the defense with visible gaps in their work, which they personally can barely notice. It is very important to seek attention from your supervisor so that the tasks and goals are set correctly from the start. It is also necessary to make sure that you understand your topic and can determine your personal contribution if your work is carried out as part of a larger project.

Remember that there are always some difficulties, but there’s nothing you can’t overcome! For me, a real torment and a great adventure at the same time is writing the literature review. I would like to write a review article for a top-ranked journal one day, which means that making this part good for a thesis is a great experience, but it is hard to understand how to structure it correctly so that each part flows naturally. The second headache I faced for my graduate work was writing a thesis in English. My thesis, in fact, is based on the articles I have already published with my co-authors. It turned out that in order to avoid plagiarism, I need to rewrite my own words – it was a very tedious process.

Kseniia Tereshchenko, second-year Master’s student at the Institute of International Development and Partnership

When it comes to writing your thesis, I think choosing the right topic is the key to success. It might sound like it’s too late to hear this tip in March, but ITMO students actually still have a couple more weeks to edit the title of their thesis, so do that if necessary. First and foremost, it should be something you are really interested in – I wouldn’t recommend going with options suggested by others or with those that seem like they require less effort. It may not turn out to be true. Secondly, it should be quite specific, not too vague or too general. This will allow you to see clearly if what you’re writing matches your topic.

However, at some point, you might still feel burnt out. Especially if you’ve been working on your research for a while now, presenting your results at multiple conferences, etc. In this case, I recommend taking a break – don’t think about your paper for some time, or maybe try to come up with a new perspective to supplement it with. Then, figure out the structure of your future text and work on it part by part. The number of pages you need to complete seems overwhelming only while they are all blank – later on you’ll realize how much space all the technicalities take up. You’ll figure it out!

Credit: Trent Erwin (unsplash.com/@tjerwin)
Credit: Trent Erwin (unsplash.com/@tjerwin)

Svetlana Kirilova, first-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Infocommunication Technologies

Spring has come, which means the advice to start writing your thesis in the fall is not relevant anymore. But even if you are sitting in front of a blank MS Word page, fussily blaming yourself for not starting your work earlier, relax – most of my friends wrote their thesis in a month or two, so you can do it, too. Of course, this is not the best practice, but you should know that you are not alone and can learn a lot from this unique student experience. Thus my main advice is – don't panic!

However, whether you’re starting in advance or performing the most difficult trick of preparing your thesis right before deadlines, you may like the following tips:

  • Respect your sleep schedule. You won't be able to stay productive for a long time if you sleep five hours a day. This schedule may be handy when you need to write a short report in one night, but is rather harmful for long-term tasks like your thesis.

  • Change your routine. You can set aside at least half an hour for other activities – walking in the park, talking to friends, doing sports. It will help your brain to relax better than spontaneously watching a YouTube video during your productive hours.

  • Store a backup of all your work in the cloud! This habit will save your nerves in the future.

Karina Mavletbaeva, first-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Biotechnologies

Along with writing the thesis itself, you also need to consider the presentation. It’s your seven minutes in the spotlight and you want to make the best of it! Don’t hesitate to go to some lecture about efficient public presentation. If possible, have your own style for visuals and don’t use a serif font.

Prepare your speech properly and film it while rehearsing. With every new try you should enjoy your voice, pace and body posture more and more to the point where you feel yourself as confident as a stand-up comedian.

Credit: Daria Nepriakhina (unsplash.com/@epicantus)
Credit: Daria Nepriakhina (unsplash.com/@epicantus)

Julia Alentieva, second-year Master’s student at the Institute of International Development and Partnership

I am not pursuing the idea that there is a sole way to write a thesis without any pain. You have to accept that there will be difficulties anyway, but it is better to work out a schedule that will be convenient for you. For example, I am not a fan of the very common idea that we have to write every day even if it takes 10-30 minutes. As for me, I like to go deep into the process and could write for a few hours. So, try to think about what would be better for you.

No matter how you feel about the thesis, you will have to write it in any case. Therefore, it is no secret that it is better to start as early as possible and not wait until the last week before the deadline. Moreover, it often happens that when you search for literature for your review, you find much more interesting sources. Your research expands and it takes time to analyze new information.

In order to deal with anxiety, it is worth dividing a large goal into several tasks. Then you will not think about it as something large-scale and which, as it seems, is impossible to do. You will focus on the doable parts of your work. And every time you complete one of them, you will come closer to the main goal – to write a good thesis.

Writing your research paper in English? To develop your academic voice and writing abilities, book a consultation with the Academic Writing Lab.

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