This blog post was written by Blessing, a Communications Management Ma student at Tallinn University.
As I approach my graduation on the 15th of June, 2023, I am excited to share my experiences and insights from writing and defending my thesis. I hope my journey can provide valuable lessons and inspire others facing similar challenges in their academic pursuits.
Choosing a Topic and Starting Early
Writing a thesis can be incredibly daunting, especially when trying to find a topic that is both interesting and manageable. In my case, I chose a topic that intrigued me, but I didn’t realise just how complex it would become. Adding to the complexity, I included several intricate components that made the process even more challenging. The thesis writing process was even more complicated because I started my research late. There were days when I felt wearied and felt like crying.
1. Start thinking about your thesis topic early, even during the summer break before your final year. Then reach out to potential supervisors and discuss your ideas.
- 2. Try not to choose an overly complicated research topic. Remember, the goal is to conduct original research and add value to your field, not to dig a hole you cannot climb out of.
The Importance of a Supportive Supervisor
One of the most crucial aspects of my thesis journey was the guidance and support provided by my supervisor. For instance, when I fell ill with chickenpox three weeks before the submission deadline, my supervisor’s understanding and assistance were invaluable. She told me to focus on my health and recovery and assured me that she would be there when I was ready to resume work on my thesis. Unfortunately, I was down for about two weeks and by the time I had partially regained my strength, I had just a week until the submission deadline.
True to her word, my supervisor went above and beyond to help me get back on track. She provided thorough reviews swiftly and guided me through difficult sections like the literature review and data analysis (that was both before and after my illness). Without her steadfast support, I may not have been able to meet the submission deadline let alone achieve the A grade that I did. Shout out to Professor Ulrike Rohn!
Having a supportive supervisor can make a world of difference in your thesis journey. Be proactive in building a solid relationship with your supervisor, communicate regularly (I didn’t do this initially, and it was my loss), and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.
Overcoming Challenges and Staying Determined
My thesis defence started on a rocky note. The tool I used to create my presentation slides malfunctioned, forcing me to present without the full view I had intended. This setback rattled me, and I momentarily went blank, struggling to recall the points I wanted to discuss. I was close to tears… in fact, our programme coordinator had to say, “Don’t cry. You got this.” I did breeze through the presentation rambling on.
After the presentation, the reviewer provided comments and asked questions. This time, things went smoothly, and I was able to address the reviewer’s concerns effectively. I should note that my supervisor had reached out to me the night before for us to have an online meeting. She had provided tips to help me prepare for the defense and answer the reviewer’s questions well. This went a long way!
I am grateful because it worked out in the end; I received an A grade for my thesis and will be graduating cum laude (with honours).
It’s okay even if some things don’t go smoothly; everything will be fine in the end. Of course, I was downhearted because I thought my defence was a disaster, and maybe it was. However, I got an A in the thesis. I still don’t know how…
Building a Support System
Throughout my thesis journey, I leaned on my family, friends, and colleagues for support. My family became my human alarm clock, helping me wake up for early morning research sessions despite living in a different timezone. My friends became my progress keeper, constantly asking to know if my research was moving along nicely. They also helped with proofreading the thesis.
My workplace and colleagues were understanding and accommodating as well. Likewise, those outside my close circle were there for me. For instance, our dorm manager had to help me out multiple times when I needed a vacant space in order to concentrate on my studies.
Your support system can play a crucial role in your thesis journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; lean on those around you when you need a boost.
My thesis experience was filled with challenges, but it was also a time of growth and learning. From choosing a topic and working with a supportive supervisor to overcoming setbacks and building a strong support system, I hope my journey can offer valuable insights and inspiration to current and prospective students. Remember, with determination, your own effort and the right support, you can achieve your academic goals and graduate with flying colours. Good luck!
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