How to Survive Your Master Thesis?


Written by Hazal

01 Mar 2020

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. As a student in the middle of the intensive 6-month period of the master thesis, I might have some tips but not all the answers. In this post, I am going to tell you all about the master thesis process, challenges, my story, and lastly you will find some survival advice based on my own experience.

When we had the first thesis seminar, our teacher asked the class “How is the thesis going? How do you feel?” I remember that almost everyone in the class replied: “I feel stressed.” Then, our teacher said to us “I hope this stress includes a bit of excitement too!” Well, he was right. The thesis is not only about stress. It is an opportunity to do in-depth research, read, write, and discuss a topic that interests you. Don’t forget to enjoy the process as much as you can.

A man looking at a computer, the caption reads '"I really enjoy writing my master thesis" said no one ever.'
Photo: Someecards

First of all, if you have a friend or family member who is writing a thesis treat them nicely! If you are writing a thesis treat yourself well! The thesis is a big task. The pressure is huge. Here is a blog post that I wrote last year on how to deal with the study stress, which is now more relevant ever. Similarly, in this post, I will focus on the thesis survival tips.

Now, I’ll start by telling you how the thesis process works based on my experience. After that, I’ll tell you how to survive during the process.

I study the two-year master programme. I had 4 different courses (2 of them was elective) during the autumn semester. At the same time, I was thinking about the possible topics for my thesis. Usually, the thesis process starts in January. Hence, students have a few months to find a topic starting from October to January. During the thesis process, there are no classes. You are responsible for your own time. That means you need to plan your schedule. It is important to create your own structure and stick to it.

In some programmes, it is possible to write your thesis in collaboration with a company or organization, which you may end up with a job offer. Who knows? Check out Usisipho’s blog post about finding a master thesis in Sweden. The second option is to have a master thesis partner. This is more applicable for one-year master programmes, which the thesis often has 15 credits that is conducted for 3 months. Read more of Concillier’s blog post on how to choose a Master thesis partner.

Four students sitting at a round table. They're writing in notebooks and drinking coffee.
Photo: Simon Paulin/

In my programme, writing a thesis is an individual task. On the one side, this brings isolation and therefore it might be challenging, on the other side, it means I am in charge of my own work and I can decide how and when to do it. However, I am not completely alone. I have a supervisor helping and supporting me. I have regular meetings with my supervisor to discuss my topic and to ask questions. Moreover, there are monthly meetings where students present their work and share their process.

Here are useful tips to survive your master thesis;

Start thinking about your topic early, choose a topic that interests you.

I can’t stress this enough: start thinking about your topic early. Finding a topic is harder than it sounds. You will spend a lot of time and effort on your research. Therefore, it is important to find a topic that will make you curious, motivated and passionate. You don’t have to come up with the most creative ideas. Write down your interests and ideas. Do Google research. Discuss it with your teachers. Try to find a thesis topic that something you like and doable.

Photo: Giphy

 Find a good study spot.

You need to concentrate. Yes, you. First, find an inspiring and relaxed place. It could be a library or a common study space at the university. Coffee shops are also nice places to study with a piece of cake, coffee and maybe a company.  Second, put the phone away. Instagram is always there. You are not missing out on anything. Stay focused. If you have trouble focusing on one thing for a long time like me, you can divide your study time into smaller sessions.  Guess how many tabs do I have open in my browser right now? 10? 20?  Dozens of tabs. Similarly, Andrés wrote that he had difficulty focusing too. Check out his solution to work more productive; Pomodoro Technique. What is it, and why you should use it!

Photo: Giphy

Meet with friends, talk to your classmates.

Humans are social beings. You can be happily introvert, extrovert, both or none. Social connection is necessary for our health and well-being. Working hard is good but it is very essential to have a balanced study-social life to avoid ending up hopeless, burnt, and exhausted. So, meet with friends for fika, a beer or lunch. Another way is to organize study groups. Talking to your classmates is helpful. You may realize that everyone is facing many difficulties and you are not alone. You may even inspire each other. A study buddy is also a good idea to stay motivated together on the thesis!

Two women sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and eating semlor - traditional Swedish pastries eaten on Shrove Tuesday.
Photo: Emelie Asplund/

Set deadlines, plan your time.

It may seem that you have plenty of time to write a thesis. However, one of the most common mistakes people make is to leave it until the last minute. This is definitely not a good idea for your thesis. During the thesis process, you manage your own time. So, to be productive you can set deadlines for yourself or discuss it with your supervisor to find out what works best for you. One way is to establish a daily routine. Consider weekdays as if you had an actual job from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. If you are a night owl, you can do the opposite. However, be flexible about those hours. Sometimes you just don’t want to do anything. That’s okay too! For instance, when I get tired of sitting in the library for hours I just hit the gym in the evening for an endorphin boost.

Photo: Giphy

Take time off, treat yourself.

YOU GOT THIS! There will be times that you feel you are going nowhere, stuck and lost. That is completely normal. We all have been there. Don’t be so harsh on yourself! Celebrate little things, even small achievements. Reward yourself with a cup of tea, a warm shower, your favorite TV show, a healthy meal or some extra sleep! You can take time off during the weekends to go for a walk, meet with friends or just stay at your cozy home.

Photo: Giphy

Ask feedback and support.

This is a process. This is a long journey. There are lots of hard work behind every master’s thesis. When I say you are on your own I don’t mean that there is no one to help you. Usually, every thesis student has a supervisor to help them with their research. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Ask a friend, ask a colleague, ask your teacher. For instance, my teachers are always helpful, supportive and responsive. I am sure yours are too.

Check out Sanjay and Daniel’s amazing video for more tips

One Last Tip

Be curious. Enjoy the process. Believe in yourself.

How about you? Are you writing your thesis? Do you have any tips? Share your suggestions and experiences in the comments.

Good luck to all with your thesis & exams!



Written by Hazal

01 Mar 2020