Bachelor Thesis Log 15

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This is an English translation of a blog post that was originally published in German.

October 13th, 2010

This week I welcome you again with some self-inflicted delay, for which I apologize. Hopefully the previous blog post on a more relaxed topic was able bridge the gap. Today, first of all, there's info on the latest developments, which are not major. After that, I'll go into some tips that I find important and that might have helped me if someone had told me them half a year ago. Maybe there's something useful in there for you.

Current Events

The allocated time for open feedback ends the day after tomorrow. Unfortunately, there is no feedback so far, now I'm still waiting to see if someone will come forward shortly before the end. Axel has agreed to discuss the work with me again at the beginning of next week. I am curious whether there is still much to improve.

After that there will be an editorial phase. When the content work is done, I will take care of things like correcting typos, improving wording and proper typesetting. Especially with the latter, LaTeX already takes a lot of work off my hands, but in some places I will certainly still have to correct by hand.

Leading a Bachelor Thesis to Success

Probably the most interesting question for someone who is about to write a bachelor thesis is how to manage the work well and get everything done within the set time frame. After all, no one is born with this ability. Hopefully you have already been practicing this during your studies on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, I would like to drop a few hints on how I approached the work and what helped me stay on schedule.

Have an up-to-date schedule at all times. I grabbed a calendar even before the topic was set and wrote down when I would have time for the bachelor thesis and when there would be other deadlines within the planned time frame. In addition, I considered early on when the “official” three months would best fit into my course and degree planning. Of course circumstances can change later and dates can shift, but that should not lead you to completely give up on planning from the start. To paraphrase Axel: changing a plan is the least of your problems once you have a plan.

Be flexible, but set priorities. The crux of time management is that new tasks and deadlines are usually heaped on you all the time. “I'll have more time next week” is almost always a fallacy. A degree of uncertainty cannot be avoided in scheduling, especially when you have to coordinate with other people. Nevertheless, it must be clear at all times how important the progress of the bachelor thesis is to you compared to other things. Since it is a considerable amount of work, cuts will certainly have to be made somewhere. In my case, I had other activities during the summer, which meant that the start of my bachelor thesis was rather slow. The topic had been set for a long time, but I barely worked on it because I had more urgent things to do. After that, the work really started and I had to put other things on hold for the time being, which unfortunately had an effect on the OE week, for example. Especially in August and September, I saw the bachelor thesis as my most important task and dropped many other activities.

Seek out and keep in contact with your supervisor. Their job is to give you all the help you need to write a good thesis. Also, let's not kid ourselves: your examiners will determine the grade that is most important for your bachelor's degree. Therefore, don't let yourself be fobbed off with half-baked information and future promises. You should maintain close contact with your first supervisor from the beginning and get regular feedback on your progress. Some people have a tendency to think that they can work quietly for weeks on something great and then show up as a superhero with the finished miracle work. Some supervisors encourage this notion by avoiding regular contact to save their own time. However, it is more likely that you will fall flat on your face if this is your first “real” academic work. Working on my thesis, I had the situation again and again that I didn't know whether I was doing something right or whether something would work the way I imagined it. This is exactly the kind of question your first supervisor is there for. Meet with them regularly, at least every two to three weeks, and keep in touch in between, e.g. via email. At each meeting with your supervisor, in addition to the content, the following questions should also be discussed:

If anyone wants to delve deeper into the topic: Axel has published a paper on this that I highly recommend. It is meant to be talked through with your supervisor to see which of the patterns you both want to implement. You can download it from SWT: Patterns for Supervising Thesis Projects (PDF)

Learn about the formal bureaucratic bits. Ask students from higher semesters how they wrote their bachelor thesis (ideally, find some who worked with the same supervisor as you). Read the examination regulations, which include deadlines and other formalities. Find out when you have to hand in which from and which signature. (Hint: registration of the thesis with signature of both supervisors at the beginning of the official duration, protocol of the colloquium presentation with your data pre-filled ready for the colloquium date, submission of the thesis when it is finished with the necessary written affirmations from you). Search for guidelines for articles and term papers for your supervisor's field of work.

Get motivated by getting others involved. Think about who might be interested in your thesis and involve them. You have to write it on your own, but that doesn't mean that ideas and feedback from as many people as possible are forbidden – on the contrary, it is encouraged. Think about how you can turn your thesis process into something helpful for other people too. Maybe you'll write reports like I did here. Especially in the heavier phases, a good part of my motivation came from the fact that I'm writing my thesis not only for myself, but also for all the people in the world who are interested in teachlets, and for the dozens of people who read these reports because they are interested in the creation of my bachelor thesis. Find out about Open Access. False modesty is not a good reason to let your work rot on your hard drive. Free access to science improves the world, so make your science freely available.


A few more days of waiting, then I'll get at least the feedback from Axel and maybe more. Next Tuesday I will sum up the feedback phase and tell you what I still want to work on in detail. Maybe there will be an updated schedule again. See you next Tuesday!


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