Do you know how many days you have left until your thesis deadline?

Do you know when the deadline is

Do you know what you need to finish?

In this post, I will show you how to break down your thesis into smaller goals and help you think about your time management. For more advice about getting your thesis done from a successful graduate’s perspective, also read Kota’s post on how to keep motivated and making progress.

Whatever stage you’re at with your research project: the middle, near the end, or even the start, it’s a good idea to know what the final product will look like. 

If you’ve been having worries like

  • “I’m never going to finish!” 
  • “I can’t write well/ my topic isn’t interesting/ I’m not good at XXX,”

knowing the reality can make it feel less scary because then you can start breaking down the big goal into smaller, manageable chunks. You can do it!

If you’ve been thinking

  • “I’ve still got loads of time left. Right now, I need to focus on job hunting/ my homework from other classes,”
  • “I’m a fast writer, I can do it later,” 

being more aware of what you need to do now will make the last few months/ weeks/ days and hours go more smoothly. Don’t give yourself extra stress!

Big goal: What does the final product look like?

Check with your teacher or in the student handbook – what do the submission guidelines say?  For my thesis class, students must submit 20 pages.

  • double-spaced
  • usual margins
  • size 12 font
  • images/ tables/ graphs can take up a MAXIMUM of 2 pages
  • does NOT include the title page, Japanese summary, contents page, or reference list

So, you should be aiming to write about 5,000 words.

Small goals: What are the sections and their word targets?

Check with your teacher and the submission guidelines again, what sections must your thesis contain? For my thesis class, the thesis must have these sections. In red are the recommended word count targets. If you go over in one section, you will need to write less in another, and vice-versa.

  • Introduction 500 – 600 words
  • Literature review 1500 – 1800 words
  • Research methods 600 – 800 words
  • Results and discussion 1500 – 1800 words
  • Conclusion 500 – 600 words

** STOP! If you are in the middle or near the end of your thesis, get your latest report and make a table like this one. Check how much you have written for each section.

Progress table

In the last column ‘NOTES’ make a memo of what you need to do next for each section. Check your teacher’s feedback too.

How should I manage my time?

Do you know when the deadline is? How much time do you have left?

Breaking down your time into weeks is an excellent way to start organising your time. Giving yourself a weekly goal will help you to keep making progress little-by-little. If you only give yourself a monthly goal, you might end up delaying work until the end of the month and not get much done, or, you will have too much to do.

How many weeks do you have left? Let’s say you have 8 months – that’s about 36 weeks. That sounds like a lot of time. If you wrote 1 page a week, you’d still have 16 weeks left for editing. Great! 

But! Don’t forget all the other things you need to do to be able to write 1 page. You need to leave time for reading, collecting and analysing data, editing etc. It’s not just writing! 

What do I need to do for each section?

Here are 2 example to-do lists for a thesis in my class:

Literature review: You need to cite 10 or more resources. 

  • You have to find 10 or more useful resources that connect to your topic (not everything you read will be useful).
  • You need time to read them, make notes, understand them, find useful parts that you want to connect to your topic.
  • Then writing time!

Results and discussion: You need to collect original data – questionnaire x 10+ people AND/ OR interview x 3+ people

  • You need to make your instrument (questionnaire or interview questions)
  • You need to find people to ask
  • You need to collect the data (1 interview can take 1 hour)
  • You need to organise your data – put it into Excel, or transcribe it (a one-hour interview can take 4 hours to transcribe)
  • You need to analyse the data
  • If you didn’t get useful data, repeat the above steps
  • Then writing time!

So, there is a lot to do, but, if you give yourself a small goal each week – read one resource, do one interview, write one page -you can make plenty of progress and glide smoothly to the end of your project. Have a reality check – you’ve achieved more than you think! Or, if you haven’t, you can make a solid plan and get going now!

**Make a table now to check your progress and make a plan!