5 Tips for finishing your graduate Thesis on time

I just graduated my MLIS (Master in Library and Information Science) degree this month. It took me more than a year to finish my thesis, a requirement for graduation. There were many revisions and overhauls before the final product. It was also one of the most challenging things I have written. I took my MLIS in Central Philippine University, Iloilo City, where I also had my bachelor's degree in LIS in 2014. I started in June 2016, so it took me more than three years to complete it.

In the Philippines, an MLIS is often a requirement for librarian jobs especially for state universities and colleges or SUCs. A graduate degree may be necessary for promotions, school accreditations, and career advancement. Having an MLIS degree opens more opportunities for librarians. Many who work in libraries and may not have studied Library Science as an undergraduate may opt to take a Master's degree to qualify to take the licensure examination to become an official registered librarian in the country.

A research project or a thesis is often a requirement for obtaining an MLIS. Many graduate students find the prospect of producing a thesis intimidating. A lot of students get stuck in the process or get burned out. Trust me, I know! If you're not motivated to finish it, it's easy to fall off the wagon or procrastinate on it. But I learned that while a thesis is indeed challenging, we don't have to suffer if we know the right people and resources to tap when we need them.

One thing I've realized is that a thesis is not just your own individual effort. I was blessed to have  people who helped me - a good adviser, supportive panelists, editors, and other librarians that I could ask when I needed advice or support. It's okay to not know everything and ask for help!

Though my methods will not work for everyone working on their MLIS thesis, here are 5 tips to make the process less daunting.

Work closely with your Adviser. The key is having a good adviser who is familiar with your topic, can support your work, and  someone who pushes and inspires you. Sometimes, you don't choose your adviser but one is assigned to you. Have a good working relationship with your adviser, and know how to keep in touch. But also, don't just rely on your adviser. The adviser is there to guide you but don't expect them to do all the work for you.

I am very thankful for my adviser. She encouraged me when I wasn't motivated, and was always available when I needed it. I also had a good group of panelists - the kind whose criticisms and suggestions I take to heart.

Have a Timeline. Writing a thesis is not just 'writing' - there are many tasks involved. You may have to create a questionnaire, distribute to respondents, wait for their answers, following-up, etc. You also have to set aside time to meet with your adviser, interview key people for your study, and of course the time you actually sit down and write. Edits also take time. Having a timeline is a good tool to keep track of your thesis goals and make sure you're on the right track.

I also had a special thesis journal to keep track of my tasks and deadlines. It could be on your phone but I had a little notebook where I can list reminders and things I have to do.

Your timeline is a tool, and it doesn't have to be rigid. Be flexible for unexpected delays. This was my tentative timeline:
February: Concept Defense
February to May: Writing the Thesis Proposal (Chapters 1-3 and the research instrument)
May: Proposal defense
May to June: Editing the Thesis Proposal, Refining and validating the instrument
July to August: Conducting the Study
August-September: Analyzing the data and writing Chapters 4-5
September: Final Defense
September-October: Editing, Submission of hardbound copy
November: Graduation!

Your Panelists are there to help you. It's natural to feel nervous when presenting your study to your thesis committee. After all, they are there to critique your work. Your panel might be composed of experienced academics and researchers, and it can feel intimidating. However, remember that they are not there to terrorize you and even if their criticisms of your work may sting, it's for the good of your research! There will always be things that you will miss no matter how thorough you are at checking your own work. It's better to have other pairs of eyes to catch any mistakes.

Get organized! A Thesis requires a lot of paperwork. Have a system for organizing both your paper and online files. Also, don't forget to back up your work. Imagine the horror of working on something for hours, only to have it disappear! Constantly save your work. Other than the laptop I was working on, I also e-mailed myself files, saved them on Google Drive, saved them on a flash drive, all this just to make sure I don't lose my work.

Explore citation managers like Zotero and Mendeley. Personally, I used Mendeley to store all my related literature. These tools take the stress off technical things like citations. Some software can automatically generate your bibliography so you can have more time to focus on your actual research and writing.

Set aside time for writing and minimize distractions. Everytime I'm doing something long and difficult, I always deactivate my social media, especially Facebook. I know how much time and emotion I could waste just browsing social media. Even if I could only squeeze in half an hour a day for writing, I tried to. It's good to schedule the time you allot for your thesis.

Consider the thesis a good challenge. Even if it was stressful while working on it, there's a wonderful sense of accomplishment after having finished it.

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