Survive your Thesis Writing: Choosing a Topic – By Fausia

At the time of writing this blog, the first month of 2021 has come to an end. The holidays are now really behind us – the world has said goodbye to 2020 and ‘normal’ life has started again. Here at Uppsala University we have said hello to a whole new semester. That is, if we do not consider the poor suckers who had a month-course over the holidays which was their beginning of semester 2… a.k.a. me.

Since the end of the last course, which was only half of Januarys, I have found myself finally in the luxury position that I only need to write our thesis to complete the master’s in Religion in Peace and Conflict. There is a bit of a rush, because I would like to graduate with the rest of our group in May.

However, I am determined to graduate in the famous halls of Uppsala University so graduation will be depending on the pandemic. So, there is thesis stress. A thesis should be the crowning glory of your programme.

In fact, it is probably the single somewhat important part of your curriculum and with most of us doing this programme being professionals having different reasons of why to do this master’s it requires a little bit more thought. You cannot be the so-and-so of a renowned organisation and publish a crappy thesis, right? Nor will it help you make a career switch. 

It must be done well.

The thesis stress starts long before a possible deadline comes in sight, even well before the actual writing. Why? You have to choose a topic! In principle any subject is allowed in the master’s phase, for us it means as long as you bring in an element connected to religion.

As most RPC students have very different academic backgrounds, shaped over the years by personal and professional experience, the topics chosen are also very broad. The idea that as many options as possible promotes creativity is strongly felt… and strongly increases the insecurity and stress. 

Any topic with a religious element offers an infinite number of areas and issues that can be investigated, an infinite number of spaces that can be entered. Is the student now expected to inexorably slam the door of an infinite number of spaces minus one? Yes, apparently.

However, it gives the opportunity to choose something exactly fitting your goals. A wrongly chosen topic that must be changed later on leads to a waste of time and should therefore be avoided. The subject must be good, but what criteria must a subject meet to be good? 

First of all, the subject must of course be interesting, which is completely subjective and certainly not enough. The subject must not be milked out, but there must be something to be found about it. It must be specific, but comprehensive enough to transcribe a full thesis.

Preferably, the subject also has some practical or current value to show your academic skills as a specialist in whatever field. For a really good thesis, your research topic has an interdisciplinary dimension which is exactly what our entire program is focused on.

Add a possibility for some self-conducted original research material, and you have the perfect thesis topic. Sounds simple, does it not? As stress was adding, I proposed a weekly zoom thesis meeting to the group to keep each other sane and on track. Apparently, it was not that simple.

In my case I was not even sure if I would be allowed to write my 30 ects thesis as I waited for my last grades to trickle in. An ulcer and confirmation later, I was sure what to write about. I think. Bringing together all my interests, previous programmes, personal and professional experiences just pushed out a readymade topic.

For me, the trick for fine tuning the topic was to be current so just put on the news and zapped through till my topic came up and adapted it. And, to choose something not entirely done before which it turned out to be, so it has some value in the near future. Will it be accepted, however?

February will switch the thesis development to full gear and, of course, I will hear from my brilliant supervisor if my proposal will be approved. Or not. I have now made peace with my own subject, which felt like a big bump. Thesis stress has been averted for now, but undoubtedly not definitively.


1 Comment

  1. Suzanne Visschedijk

    Keep me posted Fausia.

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