In all academic programs, you will eventually write a thesis. In some subjects, you will write a B- and C-thesis and degree project and in other subjects, you will only write a degree project. When you write your thesis, you will implement the knowledge that you have learned in your university studies, i.e. academic writing and critical thinking, by conducting your own independent study. At first, it might feel overwhelming to write a thesis but remember that each course you have taken has contained different elements where you have practiced your abilities to do this.
Writing a thesis
When writing a thesis, you have to formulate a purpose- a question or a problem that you have to answer by doing your own research. The survey must follow the requirements for the method used and be reported carefully. The same goes for the theoretical perspective you apply to your material. Throughout the thesis, the reader should be able to follow how you reasoned in order to arrive at your results.
If you have written a paper or a report during your previous studies, you will recognize certain components- as papers and reports often have a similar structure to a thesis.
If this is the first time you are writing a thesis, it is good to familiarize yourself with the thesis structure by looking at older theses in different databases. The University Library also has a large selection of books about writing a thesis. You can search for them in the search system OneSearch.
What am I expected to do?
The first step is to read the instructions that you receive at the start of the course; this will help you get an overview of the requirements and expectations for your thesis.
A thesis has a clear structure, although it may vary slightly between the subjects.
The film Structuring a text around the three-part essay provides an overall introduction to the different parts of the essay.
Linnaeus University offers an essay template that you can use in essay writing. It also gives you an overview of the structure. Of course, if your department provides its own essay template, you should always use it.
You also need to familiarize yourself with the special language and structure of the academic text. In the following films, you will get an overview of this.
It can also be good to know what distinguishes an academic text and distinguishes it from other texts.
Plan the thesis work
An essay is a big job, so do not wait until the last minute even if it feels like you have a lot of time. Divide the work into intermediate goals and decide when these should be completed. Keep a logbook of what you should do each day and what you have actually done.
How do I find a topic to write about?
As mentioned previously, it can be helpful to look at older theses in different databases to get inspiration for your own subject choice, but also to get an overview of what topics have been researched. During your studies, you may have encountered a subject area you want to research further. Your supervisor is an important sounding board for choosing a thesis topic.
It is also helpful to use a mind map to clarify your subject area. A mind map can help you gain clarity of the topic you are working on, the terms and concepts associated with it and how they are connected to each other.
How do I formulate a purpose?
Once you have chosen your topic and have an idea of what type of research you want to do, it is time to narrow down the field and write down your purpose. The purpose tells you what it is you want to investigate.
When you have an idea of a purpose, you can try a test search:
- to get an idea of whether there is material on the subject
- to get ideas on how you can narrow down the purpose
Formulate your question
A research question should be clear, focused and concise. Under "How do I formulate a clear question?" in the Writing Guide you will find more information about this.
Once you know what you want to investigate, the process of searching and writing begins. It is rare that you first search for all the material and then start writing. Often, you will notice during the writing process that you need more material, requiring you to go back and refine your search.
Do I need books on method?
General research methodology
Example: research method*
Subject-specific research methodology
Example: “research method*” AND psychology
Specific method or methodological approach
Example: "case stud*", interview*, “Qualitative method*”
Each subject discipline has different writing conventions. You may need to look for method books to guide you in the process.
You can find books about research methodology mainly in Onesearch. Limit your search to books only.
Do I need books on theory?
Theories within a subject
Example: theor* AND psychology
A specific theory
Exampel: "Evolution theory"
A specific theorists
Example: "Charles Darwin"
In many subjects, you are also expected to apply theories when analyzing your material requiring you to search for different theory books.
If you are unsure of which theories are used in your subject, you can look at older student theses in the field to get clues. To get an overview of different theories in general and in specific subject areas, you can use encyclopedias and dictionaries.
You can find books about theories mainly in Onesearch. Please limit your search to books only.
How do I find previous research?
The search process consists of several different steps. It is important that you start from your research question when you start searching for previous research. One mistake that many people make is to start searching immediately without formulating their question, finding good search words or thinking about which database is most suitable. A well-planned and structured search strategy will save time and be more effective in the long-run. The search words you use in your search are essential in finding relevant material to work with in your thesis.
Throughout the search process, you should adjust your search to improve and refine your search strategy (ie which search words you use and how to combine them). You should do this to get relevant hits on your search.
Look at the model - where are you in your information retrieval process?
Start by getting an overview of the different steps in the search process and what you need to think through before you start searching. The following film goes through the different steps and gives more tips and advice.
Film - Searching for information - advanced search (35:31)
Find good search words
The first step in a good search strategy is finding keywords that cover your chosen subject area. You need to start with your research question to find relevant keywords. Collect words throughout your search and writing process, in articles you read, keywords used to index relevant articles, web pages you visit, and so on, so that you cover the entire issue.
At this stage of the information search process, it is important to find as many keywords as possible! You can start with one of the words. Try to find all variants of the words- synonyms and similar words that are both used in everyday language and academic expressions.
You are considering exploring how teachers can work to meet the needs of students with special talents in mathematics. Your purpose could be formulated as follows:
What teaching methods do teachers use to meet the needs of gifted students in mathematics?
Start by picking out the supporting words- the keywords for your purpose:
Mathematics - Gifted students - Teaching methods
Making a table can help you structure and collect keywords you find which gives you an overview and structure. Based on your table, you can pick out two or three concepts at a time and construct a search string to see which combinations of keywords give you the most relevant hits to answer the purpose of your search. In the table, you can collect both free text terms and subject words, ie words that you retrieve from the thesaurus that the subject databases use to index the articles in the databases.
Translate your search words
Almost all research results are published in English, including results from for example Swedish researchers. You should therefore always translate your search words into English.
Why do I have to translate my search words into English?
Where should I look?
When you write an thesis, you are expected to be thoroughly acquainted with previous research in the field and be able to relate your own research to this. You therefore need to search several databases and get as comprehensive a picture as possible of what has been produced in your research area.
Start by going to the databases and subject resources, where you can get tips on suitable databases and how to search them.
Keep the following in mind when choosing a database:
Different databases contain different types of material, so think about what kind of material you want to find and choose a database based on this.
A subject database often gives you fewer but more relevant hits, than a general database or a search engine like Google Scholar.
The following film shows the advantages and disadvantages of each search service.
When using a general database that contains several topics, it is important that you try to limit yourself to your topic area. Always investigate the possibilities for filtering the hit list.
Search techniques for good results
There are three common and basic search techniques that you can use: truncation, phrase search and search with Boolean operators (also called combination search). The search techniques work in most databases, but always look in the database's help section if you are unsure how to search in it.
Film - Truncation (02:23)
Film - Phrase search (00:58)
Film - combination search (03:12)
On our website Search tips, you get advice on how to improve your searches.
Free text search vs. Search with subject headings
Doing a free text search means that you use keywords that you think fit well on the topic. In a keyword search, you instead use the database's own predetermined keywords. Subject words, so-called subject terms / headings, are used in the databases to describe what the material is about and have approximately the same function as tags in social media.
In the picture below you can see the advantages and disadvantages of each search method. The combination of the two search methods is important for you to get a comprehensive picture of the research that exists on a topic.
Film - Keyword search (03:16)
Film - Searching with subject headings (05:35)
There are several different ways you can apply when searching the databases. Two common ways are those that are usually called snowballing and block search.
Snowball search (citation pearl growing) means that you start from a known relevant article and through it find more articles. You look up the reference in a database and see which search words have been used to describe the content of that article and then you search further with them. Also check the references of the relevant article to see if there is anything there that you can use. You can also start from a relevant researcher. Search for the researcher in a database and find out what the researcher has published more.
Building-block strategy means that you perform your search with different blocks of search words. Within a block, search words that are related to each other are combined with the OR operator. A block can consist of several different synonyms, abbreviations or variations of a, search words such as free text or subject words. To combine your different blocks in one search, use the AND operator.
If you are going to do a literature study where your search history is to be reported, block search is usually a useful search method.
Manage your hit list
When searching a database, you can usually filter the hit list in different ways. Common filtering options are peer review, year of publication and topic, which means that the number of hits decreases while their relevance increases.
When you search for scientific material, it is easier if you limit yourself to "Peer Reviewed", ie to articles that are published in scientific journals.
If the first 15-20 hits in the list do not seem relevant - try adjusting your search and try again.
How do I get the material?
Many of our databases are reference databases, which means that you will only find information about the article, but not the full article. You can then search further and see if Linnaeus University has access to the publication via another site.
- If you can’t find the full article - try the following steps:
- If there is a button in the article entry called "Fulltext/PDF" Always start by clicking on it.
- If the button is missing, try searching for the article title in OneSearch.
- If the full article is missing in OneSearch, go to Google Scholar and search for the article title again.
- If the steps above do not result in showing the article in full, you can borrow the material from another university library. Borrowing books from other libraries is free in the Nordic countries, while articles cost money. The time it takes for you to receive the material depends on the type of material and where it is coming from.
You can also download the Library Access plugin to your browser on your computer. It helps easily see if Linnaeus University has access to the full text or e-book, regardless of where you search online and if you are on or off campus. On the following page, you can download Library Access.
How and where can I use the material?
Non-scientific material can be used in the introduction and / or the general background, while the scientific material is used in the other parts of an paper or report. There are often requirements that you should use scientific material, eg scientific articles in your study such as a thesis.
On the Libray’s webpage, Evaluating information you can learn about different scientific publication types.
It can be difficult knowing when you have identified all the relevant research in a field. If you have searched with several different terms in multiple databases and notice that the same material reappears, this may be a sign that you have captured the relevant material in the area.
You need to be critical of the sources you find. On the following page Source criticism, you will find what to look for when reviewing your material.
How do I get started writing?
The writing process is often a very fluid process. It is not linear, meaning you will probably go back and forth between the different stages of the writing process. You may write in several sections of the paper simultaneously, creating a skeleton draft first.
Write an academic text
A thesis is an academic text that places high demands on structure, language and style. At the webpage Writing and referencing you will find a description and examples of the different parts of the academic text.
The following films give general advice on what you should think about when you are writing a thesis so readers can easily follow your reasoning, follow the different steps in the research process and be able to navigate your text easily.
Academic language should be objective and concise. The Manchester Phrasebank is a resource that gives you some examples of how to write when you want to show different language functions such as when you want to show: comparison, contrast, transitions etc.
The following films introduce academic writing with some examples of how to write an academic text.
How do I reference?
A thesis requires you to reference properly in-text and in the reference list.
You need to reference when you use someone else’s words, theories, ideas, methods, data, pictures, diagrams or tables.
In the anti-plagiarism guide Refero, you can learn more about how to reference correctly and avoid plagiarism. On our website Writing references you will find more information and links to different reference guides.
You also have access to Zotero reference management system. On the page Writing references you will find more information about the program.
How do I defend my defend ?
When you have finished your thesis, you will have a seminar where you will present your thesis. You will review someone else's thesis and someone will review yours. This is called an opposition. The following video provide tips on giving and receiving feedback during an opposition.
What can I do if I feel stuck in my studies?
Don’t hesitate to contact the University Library if you have any questions.
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