6 tips against your thesis dip

You are just not getting anywhere with your thesis. You wanted to get on with it last summer holiday, but that didn’t happen.
Reddingsboei Photo: Shutterstock

You are not alone: more than a quarter of the thesis writers get behind with their work. Resource collected tips for picking up steam again.

1. Identify the problem

You can tackle your thesis dip more effectively if you know what’s causing it. Are you getting stuck on technical points, are you suffering from a fear of failure, or does your part-time job take up too much out of you to work on your thesis energetically? Student Dean Marc Uijland: ‘There are often several factors that lead to thesis problems, and they influence each other too. It’s complex. Sometimes you need help to clarify what the problem is, exactly.’

2. Get help

See asking for help as an important life skill that is worth practising; the more you do it, and the faster you do it, the better. So cast off your thesis shame and go and see a friend, fellow student or housemate, family member, dean, advisor or student psychologist. Can’t bring yourself to ask for help? Then take the first step by at least talking about your thesis dip. Whatever you do, don’t go on suffering in silence. Writing a thesis is a lonely enough task as it is.

3. Make it worthwhile

Have a good think about why you actually want to write a thesis. Student psychologist Roeland Cloïn: ‘Students often give externally driven motives: they want a good grade or to finish their thesis so they can graduate. But you can’t motivate yourself for months with that. Look for your internal motivation: think how writing your thesis expresses your values and interests.’

4. Arrange for some pressure

Look for someone to discuss your progress with on a regular basis. Did you meet your targets and why/ why not? Having someone you can write with can help too. ‘Social connectedness is a very important factor for success. It is stimulating if you go for it together and you feel some peer pressure,’ says Jet Vervoort, a study advisor in Plant Sciences who launched ‘thesis rings’. These are small groups of fellow students who discuss each other’s theses under the supervision of a member of staff. They have proven to shorten the time it takes to write a thesis, and to improve the quality, says education director Arnold Bregt.

5. Relax

Don’t obsess about perfecting the content of your thesis, but concentrate on the academic process instead. Jet Vervoort: ‘Your thesis is not all about your data, but about your academic training.’ Dean Marc Uijland agrees: ‘Many students focus on the end result, but the process is more important. You don’t have to be able to do it already; that’s why you are still at university.’

6. Structure is security

A routine you stick to like clockwork is not a bad idea. You thrive on a fixed daily schedule, and you don’t waste any thinking capacity making decisions about it. Do plan time for relaxation and recharging the batteries: breaks, meeting friends, sport, and ‘playing out’.  Being out of doors restores your mental functions, ‘down time’ helps your creative progress, and exercise is the antidote to all that sitting and thinking – plus it helps get rid of thesis kilos!

Other help to get your thesis done
– WUR student psychologists have a course on procrastination. They assess whether you qualify after an intake interview.
– The Wageningen Writing Lab offers help with the thesis-writing process.
– There are books, like Dissertations for Dummies. If you read Dutch,there’s Grip op je scriptiedip: a book that changes your thesis mentality in seven steps and gets you going again

The number of delayed theses has been hovering around the same level for years, show final thesis evaluations by students. In 2018-2019, 25% reported unwelcome delays in submitting.

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