How do I write a thesis?
April 1, 2006 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I find out last night that I have 18 months to complete (read: start AND finish) my M.A. thesis in Media Studies. What do I write about and how do I do it?

1. I have spent the last three years in law school and am far removed from Media Studies. How do I decide on a topic NOW?

2. How does one actually write a thesis? I am particularly confused about the quantitative side of things. Any good websites or books that can guide me?
posted by delosic to Education (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The University of Minnesota Library Dissertation Calculator might help break down the steps involved in writing a thesis.

Have you tried searching Dissertation Abstracts to get a sense of the topics of recent dissertations and theses in Media Studies? That might be a good thing to do.

Voice of the Shuttle collects links to web sites that may be useful for your research.
posted by gnat at 12:47 PM on April 1, 2006

Do something that's at least partially related to what you're doing now. A legal issue in media?
posted by jimmythefish at 1:06 PM on April 1, 2006

First: Meet with a few professors that you are comfortable working with and find a good advisor. That person should help you define the research and provide valuable feedback throughout the process.

Second: Find something that you're passionate about or, failing that, something that you're at least very interested in. You want to keep your focus as narrow (and manageable) as possible.

Third: Read through some previous theses to get a feel for what they entail. Your department should have everything written by previous students on file.

Fourth: Relax. 18 months is plenty of time. A MA thesis is not a dissertation and shouldn't be a project designed to change the world. It's more like an extended research paper.

Post Script: If quantitative research isn't your bag, there's no reason you can't take a qualitative approach. My thesis is based primarily on interviews with people. While I'll be counting a few things, my research is based far more on non-quantitative findings.
posted by aladfar at 1:15 PM on April 1, 2006

All of the above are very practical comments; particularly, take advantage of your situation and write about an intersection of law and media studies. There are huge burgeoning issues about defamation law and copyright law in web publishing, in particular; you could make a media studies department very happy by bringing your legal experience to bear in this field.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:21 PM on April 1, 2006

Second: Find something that you're passionate about or, failing that, something that you're at least very interested in. You want to keep your focus as narrow (and manageable) as possible.

This is of the utmost importance. Between a topic that seems easy but boring, and one that seems really interesting but really hard, go with the interesting one. Always.
posted by maxreax at 1:23 PM on April 1, 2006

a) You can do an entire M.A. degree in 18 months if you absolutely had to. A thesis will be snap.

b) The best people to pose this question to are your advisors for said degree (in the appropriately politik manner of course).

c) Ask yourself, what are the issues that either I can't leave alone, or what has 3 years of law taught me the most about. You might end up doing a thesis of love, or a thesis of expediency. The good news is that you have time for either.

posted by mrmojoflying at 1:34 PM on April 1, 2006

Thanks gnat for that link - I'm going to send it to my MA department!
posted by k8t at 2:13 PM on April 1, 2006

I'm currently wrapping up my MA, it's a 12 month program, no one even bothered to discuss the thesis with us until month 5, and you're not expected to start until month 8 or so. So I don't think you really should worry.

Ours is what I considered extremely short at 15,000 words (in undergrad polisci I wrote papers in the 12k range, and my 'thesis' for honours was longer than 15k).

I'll second the University of Minnesota Library Dissertation Calculator, above, it seems to have just about everything I've been told/read about or been advised, although the terms may differ here and there.
posted by tiamat at 3:28 PM on April 1, 2006

Response by poster: Great advice all. I agree that 18 months is a long time for the final deadline. I also have to pass two bar exams in the interim, however. I am relieved to know that some have written a thesis in much shorter time.

The links were terrific. I appreciate the advice.
posted by delosic at 5:30 PM on April 1, 2006

Write about something of present relevance, for example (yes it's somewhat morbid) I found the topic of my M.A. thesis the day Lady Di died and wrote about the media career of Lady Di.
Regarding you are also studying law you should try to connect the two.
posted by ollsen at 6:03 AM on April 2, 2006

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