Notes from Draper’s Recent MA Thesis Workshop

Draper student, Chris Iverson, took some detailed notes at Draper’s recent MA Thesis Workshop that he was kind enough to share. We hope they will be helpful to many of you.

You’ll see that both Steve and Theresa, who led the workshop, mention that Draper has a collection of award-winning and -nominated theses. It’s true! We do! If you haven’t heard of or seen it yet, please feel free to come take a look. The theses are housed in rm 107 and are available to browse during office hours (M-F, 9-5). You can read them at Draper or check a couple out for a week or so. As Steve and Theresa point out, this can be a great resource when it comes to writing/formulating your own thesis.

If anyone has additional notes from this workshop that they’d be willing to share, we’d love to post them to the listserv in addition to Chris’s excellent overview, below.

Please email notes to


Draper Thesis Workshop 2/24/12

·Draper has a collection of award-winning and -nominated theses to read.

oThis might help with format.

·A thesis topic should relate to where you’ve been and/or where you are going.

oDraw on previous research or design the thesis to help in future work.

·Three starting points might help when considering a topic:


oData/types of sources


Steve Moga’s Talking Points

·Pick something that motivates you.

oIf your topic does not interest you, this will be painful.

·Write all the way through.

oDo not collect data and wait to write. You may forget some context or lose steam.

·Be in communication with your advisor.

·Think about the thesis in the simplest possible way (elevator speech). It helps to think about a title to keep on track.

·In the planning stages, it helps to set a deadline and work backwards. This is a way to get an vision of what the finished thesis should look like and break it up into more doable parts.

Theresa MacPhail’s Talking Points

·Writing is thinking.

oFreewriting is a valuable parctice when “stuck.”

oIdea mapping gives the material a physical dimension.

·Reverse outlining can help organize

oTaking a written passage and notating the margins can help find the stucture hidden in a written text. This allows for organizing at a basic level .

·Do not start at the beginning!

oThe thesis or topic may not become clear until the bulk of the paper is written and organized.

·Look at other papers and “steal” the format.

oLike, for example, see Draper’s collection of award-winning and -nominated theses.

·Have a friend or other educated reader take a look at the text to make sure that it does what you want it to do. If another intelligent reader cannot follow the logic, then it may not be organized properly.

·Write a one-sentence thesis statement to help simplify the idea that will make the core of the argument.

·Don’t be afraid to “kill your babies.” In other words, you may have to delete blocks of great text if they prove tangential and do not return to your topic.

oA way to make this less painful is to cut and paste “outtakes” into another file so thay are not lost forever. They may even prove helpful for a future project.

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