Research students may find that an intensive schedule of consultations with the supervisor is necessary in the initial stages. Supervisors may take a more dominant role at this point (usually because they feel they have to help you get things started). If you feel that you are losing a sense of this being your work, think carefully about the direction you would like it to take and discuss this as soon as possible with your supervisor.
You should meet your supervisor on average at least once a fortnight. Plan small, achievable tasks to do between meetings, rather than huge assignments. Research students often feel disappointed with the amount of work they achieve in a given time, because their aims are overambitious, or because they do not realise how complicated a task is (Phillips and Pugh, 1994). If you want to discuss something you have written with your supervisor, provide a copy of it at least three or four days prior to the meeting if it is a short piece, more for a longer piece.
Get to know the software available to help you
For all students, it will be very important to know how to use a computer for accessing information and writing the thesis. Courses on the use of software are available in the University, and support (not courses) is available in the Faculty. Endnote is a very useful program available to you. Find out how the software can help you to do tasks like fill in citations, maintain a consistent style, create a Table of Contents, and import work done on other software.
You must also get to know how to use the systems in the library and the LMR/Faculty library (on-line on students' computers) which provide information needed to find publications. Courses are available for these. Ask the Faculty library (LMR) or the Education librarian(s) in the main library.
Decide on the set of writing conventions you will follow
Conventions are the rules you need to follow in writing regarding citations, bibliographies, style (eg, language free of gender bias), page setup, punctuation, spelling, figures and tables, and the presentation of graphics. Note that computer programs such as EndNote are available on Faculty computers, so you may like to find out which systems of conventions they employ and choose accordingly. Programs such as Word for Windows include templates for dissertations (and other kinds of writing); these help you to maintain a consistent use of conventions throughout your thesis.
You should discuss conventions with your supervisor at the beginning stages. If you need any help understanding how the conventions work, you may consult Rosemary Viete. Manuals are available in the LMR and the bookshop.
Look at other theses in the field
Hundreds of theses are available for your perusal in the LMR. Look at ones in your field to get ideas about the main features of their:
- language use
- use of subsections and styles for the heirarchy of headings/subheadings
- page numbering and font