What not to do during your thesis | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 15, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:50 PM, February 24, 2020

What not to do during your thesis

I just graduated, hurrah. I managed to sail through my courses and internship pretty smoothly, but my thesis phase was nothing short of a terror. Thus, I have compiled some useful advices on what NOT to do during your thesis, which I wish I had gotten earlier.

Being unclear and uncertain about your topic: One advice I'd like to share is to not choose a topic in a hurry. I know its depressing spending hours in front of your laptop trying to find a suitable topic and then failing at it, but do take your time. If a thesis/research is mandatory in your curriculum, start thinking and researching about it as early as possible, preferably from your junior or third year. Every subject has layers to it, and every faculty member has a different field of expertise, choose what intrigues you and work on it. Be sure to be actually interested in your topic rather just fostering someone else's idea.

Moving forward without a skeleton: It's very important to narrow down your topic after choosing your subject of interest. Most times students are very confused on where to proceed and that's perfectly okay. Take help from your thesis supervisor to assist you on this and a make a rough skeleton. Every thesis has basically six chapters i.e. the Introduction; Literature Review; Methodology/ Material and Methods; Results and Discussion; Conclusion and Recommendations; and Bibliography. Each of these chapters may have a lot of sub-chapters and it's vital to jot as many points as you can. In order to compile all of your relevant information, it's key to maintain a journal throughout your thesis period.

Focusing on Literature Review over Methodology: This is the biggest mistake I've made during my thesis. I had a miscommunication with my supervisor and spent months focusing on studying literature instead of coming up with a method for my research. Of course it is important to organise and read the important text you'll be using later, but don't start dissertation writing before working. Work on your methodology in order to decide on the data collection processes. Writing should be kept for the very end.

Not keeping in touch with your supervisor: Your thesis writing isn't just your journey to glory – your supervisor too plays an equal part. It's crucial you let them know everything you're doing every step of the way and take feedback. It's also sensible if you choose an external supervisor who's young and has relevant knowledge on what you're doing. Young faculties are easier to talk to and can help you polish the trivialities you'd be otherwise too intimidated to share with your main supervisor.

Being unaware about the presence of the right resources: The very purpose of research is to solve a problem. Exactly why it's a norm to work with a topic that's novel and has never been done before. A lot of people prefer doing thesis solely with secondary information, but some topics require primary data collection. For primary data collection, you have to find your own data and then compile it with the external data (secondary data collection) to reach a suitable conclusion. Your thesis can be field-based, survey-based, experiment-based or a mixture of all three; you have to figure out your cup of tea. If you're doing a survey-based thesis, put extra emphasis on who you want your target population to be. If you're doing a field-based or experiment-based thesis, cross-check the budget and resources beforehand. As I did an experiment-based research at a laboratory, I would advice students to choose a workplace where supplies are abundant and you can work with co-operative professionals. Public universities like Jahangirnagar University and Dhaka University, and research organisations like BCSIR and ICDDR,B are the best choices in my opinion when it comes to scientific research.

Being isolated: Never ever try and be a know-it-all. Always remember no matter how brilliant you are there are going to be stages during your thesis when you'll need guidance. Whether it's the editing, the referencing or the statistical interpretations – it's highly likely you'll face problems. If so, don't hesitate to ask a friend for help. A different outlook can seriously facilitate you to push the envelope.

Losing hope: Science and thesis are not for the faint-hearted. Thus, be prepared for the nightmare awaiting. Cry if you need to, have plenty of biryani, sleep, spend hours on Facebook, re-watch all 10 seasons of Friends, and procrastinate to the point you hate yourself. It's all a part of the process. Just don't stop.


Rafidah Rahman is a teeny-tiny Hulk, she's always angry and she's always hungry. A cynical dreamer and a food enthusiast, she's your everyday entertainment. Correspond with her at rafidahrahman93@gmail.com  or https://web.facebook.com/rafidah.rahman.39

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