So, you’re thinking of taking on the thesis option. Hello, you brave person.
If you are new or incoming to the Faculty of Information’s (FIS) MI and MMSt programs, you may know that these are ‘professional degrees’, meaning, yes you do grad school, but no, you don’t need to write a thesis.
In lieu of a thesis, you complete course work, do a capstone project (MMSt), complete internships and practicums. Maybe you’ll even do a reading course. Of course, if you want to write a thesis, you can. Here is everything you need to know about writing a thesis.
Big picture vs finer details
You have an idea for a research project! Great. The earlier you decide on this the better. The most important thing to keep in mind as you begin to think through your idea is that a big picture is fine. The process of refinement comes over the months of research and eventually the writing you do. Keep the ideas big and flowy and don’t fret over the finer details yet. Work on formulating a base idea to present to a potential supervisor.
Finding your supervisor
You’ll want to find your supervisor as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to through the Faculty listings. Click through and read about the different Faculty’s research interests. The trick is to find a faculty member who’s ideas more or less align with the ideas you have for your paper. When I found a supervisor that fit my research areas, I wrote up a short (500 word) proposal and emailed it to him, asking to meet and talk more about the project. You could also book meetings with different professors to talk through the project and they may be able to recommend someone you didn’t think of.
Maintain a good relationship with your supervisor
Maintaining a good relationship is k e y for both your’s and your supervisor’s sake. Commit time to meet weekly or bi-weekly, keep a strong email rapport, share readings and coffees. Be open, honest and kind. The Graduate Conflict Resolution Centre offers support for potential or occurring conflicts – this can help if there is ever tension between you and your committee, or other areas of your graduate experience.
Take a research methods class
Taking a research methods class is a requirement for the thesis option. A research methods class is offered every year in the Faculty. However, if this class is offered in the fall, and you miss registration, you can negotiate a substitute. If you miss this window, talk to your supervisor, department head or contact student services.
Apply for scholarships
I cannot stress this one enough! Once you have an idea worked out, apply apply apply! There are lots of opportunities to receive funding for your project. Even if your ideas aren’t totally fleshed out yet, that’s okay. A rough idea for your paper will be adequate to apply. See SGS’s awards list and see if you qualify. Other scholarships to look into are the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
It may feel daunting to have to apply for large-scale research grants while trying to balance your course work and/or a job. I get it. Work within your means. When I applied for the SSHRC I was overwhelmed and defeated. But it was all worth it to receive that heart pounding email saying I’d been granted funding!
Make a plan
Setting a schedule, planning out your projects and research goals early on is a good step to take. I drew out a table that worked as a tentative timeline.
The above schedule did shift around slightly, but it was a good action plan that me and my supervisor could follow. Setting deadlines is key to keeping on track to finish your project in time.
Enjoy the process
I guess I also can’t stress this point enough either! Yes, writing a thesis is stressful, time consuming, gruelling… tiresome. Also, being a thesis student in the Faculty of Information is like being a unicorn (we are basically mythical, rare beings). You will have a never ending onslaught of people asking you: “sO wHat’s yOur tHeSis aBout?”, as you sip your fourth coffee of the day ….
BUT, I found ways to cherish the process. I would treat myself when I hit certain goals, I had wonderful conversations with my supervisor and second reader, and I tried to find fun in what I was doing. Staying positive is important.
My mantra was: “It’s not like I’m not going to get it done!”
The rest of your committee
Outside of finding your supervisor, you’ll need to find a second reader. Your second reader is basically your second hype-person, you’ll meet with them less frequently, but they will also guide, edit and consult on your project. Ask your supervisor who they think would act as a good second reader if you don’t have anyone in mind.
Research and writing tips
Organize your sources. I used Zotero to keep track of what I’d read.
Organize a meeting with the reference librarian for FIS students, Nalini Singh. She will show you how to successfully navigate the UTL catalog and search engine. She is amazing 🙂
Stick to your schedule the best you can. Write in steps, and your first drafts don’t have to be perfect. Just get your ideas out onto the page, the refinement comes with time.
Give yourself a break, and check in with yourself from time to time. Are you tired? Take a nap. Are you hungry? Eat something. Are you feeling restless? Go for a walk, or work out. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Call a close friend or family member. Are you sick? Let your supervisor know.
Your project isn’t going anywhere once you’ve buckled in for the ride, so remember that it is a process, and the only person responsible for completing the process is YOU! Take care of your brain and your body, then worry about getting in your word counts.
You are the champion of your own research, own it!
If you have any additional questions on this topic, feel free to contact us and we can answer any queries you may have!