There are lots of tools that can make writing your thesis or other large research project more doable. I’m telling you about these up front so that you can start using them now, because—trust me—they make a huge difference!
- Endnote or another citation software
I’m no expert on the differences between citation softwares, but they are worth the investment. I used Endnote because it was what a friend recommended to me (thank you Adrienne G.). Endnote allowed me to connect PDFs of articles to the bibliographic information and to import the citations in a variety of writing styles (e.g. APA) as you write. A bonus, the software will build your bibliography as you go. You’ll need to do some editing, but the software does the heavy lifting. You can even export the citations from academic databases and import directly to Endnote so that you capture the data in a matter of seconds.
- Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud based storage solution
This may or may not be a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Save your data, your drafts and all of your files in one manageable place (stay organized) that is backed up to the cloud or an external drive, or both. I used Dropbox which was convenient for switching between computers, accessing files if I was on someone else’s machine and ensuring that my data was backed up in real-time. I have no scary, I lost my files story, but I do have about 35 saved iterations of my thesis, each one a few pages longer than the last.
- Note Taking System (for random notes)
Have you ever had thoughts pop into your head in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning or while just hanging out? You were unconsciously thinking about research! Make sure to have a notepad near your bed, in your purse or backpack or use your phone’s note app to jot down ideas. I regularly scanned through my phone’s note pad to find research notes that popped up out of the ether. Writing doesn’t just appear, but ideas do.
- Support Network
We all need support, but the most meaningful support comes from those who know what we are experiencing. Connect with other graduate students, professional colleagues, and friends from outside of the University who’ve completed similar research projects. These people will provide perspective when you’re stuck, laughs when you are grumpy and encouragement to see you through the end. Plus, you’ll have a team of fans waiting to celebrate with you when you are done. Let them know how you’re progressing, share your successes – the right people will want to know.
- Formatting Rules
Regardless of your discipline’s formatting standards, the University has additional standards for completing your final thesis. Do yourself a favor, find them before your defense and see if you can’t just incorporate the ProQuest requirements before you send it off to your advisor and committee. This is sure to save you some headache later as you won’t be trying to reformat page margins and tables during finals week.
Many graduate students will at some point encounter or experience a bout of what has been termed imposter syndrome. Do yourself a favor now, look it up, read a few articles and know that you are not an imposter. If you’ve come this far, you’re right where you are supposed to be and you are smart enough to complete and take full credit for your awesome research.
Read more in this series:
Graduate Research: Committing to a Thesis or Dissertation
Graduate Research: Organizing and Planning
Graduate Research: Writing and Editing
Maria Kuntz is the Marketing and Events Manager at University Career Services at DU. She just defended her Master’s thesis, How the Greek Press Constructed the “Greek Economic Crisis,” and graduates in June 2016 with a master’s degree in International and Intercultural Communication from Media, Film & Journalism Studies and the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She’s been working in marketing, communications, community relations and development for nearly 14 years and began working at University of Denver in August 2010.