How to ace your written assignments

We all have to go through it in our academic life: the thesis-writing process. It may be more tempting to go out with friends or watch another Netflix series, but at some point, you have to start and get going. To help you face this challenge, we have listed five tips below.

1. Start early

Yes, it’s a cliché, but the sooner you start, the more time you will have and the less stress you will encounter along the way. The semester has just started, so your deadline may feel far away, but it will arrive before you know it. In other words: get started!

2. Make a plan

“Staring at the blank page before you,” Natasha Bedingfield sings in Unwritten. When it comes to your thesis, this is not going to help, because the thesis is not going to write itself. Before you start writing, it is useful to make an actual plan. Per chapter, you could identify the number of steps that the chapter must follow to be complete. For example, suppose you have to write a theory chapter. Before you start writing it, you could write down the following bullet points to help you go about it:

  • Origin / Founding scholars of the theory
  • Its main claim(s)
  • The arguments for its claim(s)
  • Critics of the theory + rebuttals of this criticism
  • Explanation of how the theory helps you prove your hypothesis

If you make such a plan for each chapter, you will find this is much better than beginning to write out of the blue.

3. Structure

The plan above relates to another key point: make sure your thesis has a solid structure. In the introduction, you can already make a good start by including a final paragraph along the lines of “In the first chapter, I will… The second chapter will address…” It is also useful to include such an introduction at the start of each chapter, for instance “This chapter will first explain… Then, it will… etc.”

If you do that, the readers knows exactly what they can expect from your thesis and will not be surprised at any point by an unexpected turn of the topic, which you want to avoid. To put a finishing touch on your structure, it also makes sense to end each chapter with a summarizing/concluding paragraph to recap the main points for the reader. Make sure to use a great variety of words and sentence structures to avoid unnecessary repetitions of your point, however.

4. Break it down

This step is a result of the second and third tip (plan and structure). Let’s suppose your thesis addresses the relationship between the US Congress and the American President. You have to write a case study chapter of about 2,500 words about Trump’s second impeachment. 2,500 sure feels like a lot of words, right? If you break this number of words down per item that you want to address, however, you will see it becomes much more doable. Just look at the example below. Much easier to write the chapter, right?

  • Introductory paragraph (100 words)
  • Background information about the 2020 US presidential election (250 words)
  • Trigger of the impeachment: Trump’s speech and the Capitol storming incident on 6 January (250 words)
  • Impeachment process in the House of Representatives (700 words)
    • Introduction of articles of impeachment
    • Why the Democrats voted in favour
    • Why 10 Republicans joined the Democrats
    • Why the other Republicans voted against
  • Trial in the Senate (700 words)
    • Initial motion to dismiss impeachment charge
    • Why the Democrats voted in favour
    • Why 7 Republicans joined the Democrats
    • Why the other Republicans voted against
  • Aftermath of the impeachment, e.g. the continuing split between pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans (300 words)
  • Concluding paragraph (200 words)

  • 5. Get a proofreading

Finally, a great way to improve your thesis is to ask someone to proofread it for you. When you’ve been writing for a long time, you no longer see your own errors at some point. A fresh look at your thesis helps filter out remaining mistakes.

As a member of ESN Rotterdam, you’ve got an advantage here, because your ESNcard gives you a 10% discount on the services of Your Proofreading. If you want to make use of this discount and get a thorough proofreading of your thesis, feel free to reach out to Your Proofreading to discuss your options.

Written by Mark van Kranenburg from Your Proofreading

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