Writing Your Thesis: Suggested Strategy

First, consider this:  

Overview of the suggested strategy: 

Don't write a thesis. Write a paper (or papers) for conference or journal submission that you turn into a thesis by adding an extensive set of appendices. Why? 

A good paper will very clearly explain what about your work...

A good paper will also concisely argue how your work compares to other work that came before it, specifically answering the following questions:

So, step by step, here is what I recommend (learned the hard way!) 

Part 1:  Figure out who will care

Part 2: Identify what will make your work stand out in the research community

You should have a good idea what these points are from your extensive background reading and literature search. At this point you should write an extended abstract, following your outline (in the format of the targeted submission). Make sure your key idea and supporting ideas come through crystal clear in that abstract. What differentiates what you are doing from prior work, and how will you evaluate your results?  This step will require a back and forth between you and your advisor, with you making extensive revisions to this extended abstract. This will also likely cause you to revise your research plan somewhat.

Part 2.5: Finish your research! (or make significant progress)

Part 3: Write an outstanding conference/journal submission

This will turn into your thesis, but do not think about "thesis" writing yet! Stick to the guidelines for the submission and target the deadline if it is prior to the completion of your thesis (the best case scenario if it works out).

Part 3a: Things your paper will need to have

Part 3b: Distribute your paper to as many people as you can get to read it and get their feedback on

Hopefully the timing works out so you submit this paper 1-2 months before you these is actually due. Then you can move onto completing your MIT thesis document requirements.

Part 4: Quickly finish off your thesis

Stephen Intille's Thesis Development and Writing Tips

Last updated: 04/22/06