Writing a thesis is a daunting task, and you might have some uncertainty or questions around how to get started. This post will share some ideas and tips to help you.
Choosing your thesis topic
Your course leader may provide you with ideas for topics or give you a specific project or research question to answer. If you are completing your studies whilst in the workplace, your employer might have specified a topic for you to examine. In some cases, however, you may need to think of and refine the topic yourself. Have a think about the following points to help you focus:
- Look back at what you have been taught during your Cranfield course and consider if there is a particular topic or assignment that you found interesting or had questions about. It really helps to pick a topic that is of genuine interest to you.
- Are there any topics that might benefit your future employment plans? Will it add anything to your CV? Will you be able to talk about it in job applications?
- Examine the research interests of the academics in SOM, particularly those in your course area. Could you build on this?
- Is there a hot topic in the news that relates to your subject area?
- Is there anything you experienced on a work placement, or study abroad, that would make an interesting research subject?
- Are there any potential topic areas which fit with your wider interests or future study plans?
Look at what others have done
It’s a good idea to have a look at what has already been done, especially by previous students on your course. Previous theses and projects can be a source of subject information, or an inspiration for a research topic, but also they are a guide to the layout and the approach so you know what is expected of you. Visit our Theses page on our library website to search for Cranfield theses and for theses published nationally and internationally. You may also contact your SAS lead for previous examples.
If you cannot find a specific thesis, it may be subject to an embargo or security restriction. Please contact us for more advice.
Plan your research – what are you looking for?
Outline your topic and any sub-areas for research. Think about what you already know, or previous research – there might be core texts from your modules, for example, that you could revisit. For many, your focus will be on searching for literature in our journal databases. However, it might be relevant to look at a wider range of resources, such as company and industry reports, or market research, depending on your topic. Try to structure your research and have a plan of what you need to find. For support with searching, you might like to visit our search tips page, or the resources in the Study Skills Hub. If you are struggling to find useful information, or would like a refresher in using our specialist databases, please get in touch.
Keep track of references
For larger written projects, reference management software can be really useful. We offer training on how to use Mendeley – free online software which allows you to store, group and annotate articles. It can also be used to help format your references and reference list in a specific format – including APA7, which is used in SOM.
Use the annotation and notes tools to record your thoughts on each article – you can then review them when it comes to writing up Use the tags and collections functions to organise your articles – perhaps by topic or research area? Mendeley is not just for PDFs! Use the manual importer to add the bibliographic details for books, and ensure you have the web importer installed to enable you to add online content including journal articles, videos and webpages really easily. Remember to check the data for each item in Mendeley. If the software has missed a piece of vital information, such as the author’s name, then the reference it gives you will be incomplete. You can edit this data manually to correct any errors.
Read our advice on referencing and Mendeley.
Formatting and submitting
You can find a range of guidance on the University intranet explaining how to format and submit your thesis: Guidance on the layout of your thesis Thesis templates (from the IT department) Thesis formatting and submission guidance (from Education Services).
Always check with your thesis supervisor if you need specific advice and to check you are meeting School requirements.
Please remember we are always here to help you as much as we can. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions, or if you just need to see a friendly face.
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