Let’s not mince words, writing a master’s thesis in Sweden can be tough. Here are some tips to help you along!
Plan ahead, start early
Start thinking about the direction of your thesis as early as you can. If you have an idea, you can often pick courses that’ll benefit you later. For example, some thesis jobs require certain experience (e.g. computational fluid dynamics modelling), or certain prerequisite courses! My master’s thesis position usually requires having studied at least 1 out of 2 particular courses offered. I’m really glad I ended up taking the course!
Once you’ve landed a thesis, start the writing process early as possible. You could perhaps set a preliminary timeline for when you’d like to do what. Do you need to do experiments? Hold interviews? Analyse the data? Set aside time for final report writing?
You could also start off with reading articles, writing notes, making summaries, and keeping track of all you’ve read. This can make the literature review (and bibliography!) a lot easier later. Also, reading a wide range of literature early on can help you identify relevant theories, methods, and tools that could be useful for your work.
Personally, I find the hardest part of the thesis process to be maintaining consistency. Some days, I’m motivated and don’t mind putting in the time. Other days, it’s a struggle. So, I think finding ways of holding yourself accountable is a good idea.
Some ways I recommend:
Set deadlines for certain pieces of work with your thesis partner (or supervisor!). We set goals for ourselves and hold each other to them. Some examples of what we do include:
- Set times for when we should work together: We work in the same thesis lab, so we see each other almost daily. However, some parts of the work are better done together, while others are more suited to be done individually. So, we generally agree on when we need to specifically dedicate time to sit down and discuss things or work on something together. Having somebody waiting for you at the office makes early mornings much easier to stick to!
- Holding literature “seminars” together: We set out articles to read, set a date, and then summarise and discuss them together. Not only does this keep us productive, but it also helps us understand our readings better than if we had just done them alone.
- Schedule regular meetings or updates with your supervisor and/or examiner: we write to our supervisors about once a week, updating them on our current status. We also have more formal meetings every week or two, with more in-depth discussions, and advice or feedback.
- Have a digital / physical calendar with important dates: Things just feel more real when they’re on-screen, or even better, in big red letters on a whiteboard!
Use your professional network
You might need access to data, or to conduct interviews. Ask your friends, classmates and supervisor if they know anyone who could help you. My thesis partner and I have managed to secure a number of interviews through our network. If you email potentially-useful contacts, be sure to mention who gave you their contact details. People are a lot more receptive to emails from people connected to them, rather than through total strangers!
When in doubt, fika
Take time to have a coffee with your department or colleagues. So many useful things come up unexpectedly during Fika breaks. It’s also just useful to top up on coffee, or blow off some steam. I mean, which master’s student doesn’t want to take 15 minutes off to talk (or complain!) about their thesis?
Whether you have a thesis partner or not, collaboration is great. If you have a partner, it’s often a lot more productive to divide up the work. This is especially useful if there’s just too much work to do alone. It’s also great if you and your partner have different strengths or skills. You can divide up work to suit your backgrounds and competencies.
Thesis can be intense, so it’s important to strike a balance. Take time out to have some fun. At my office, we often take time to play games (ping pong! juggling!) or go for walks during lunch. It’s nice to punctuate the day with some light, fun activities. We often also have after-work together on Fridays, it’s a nice way to decompress at the end off the week.
Are you writing your thesis? What tips would you give? Leave them in the comments below!