Writing an MA thesis is not a lone endeavour

Julia Norta, who graduated from the MA programme in English Studies in January 2021, tells us about her Master’s thesis, entitled “The Writing Conference as a Medium for Teaching Academic Writing in English: Revising Cohesion with L2 Master’s Students”.

Julia’s interest in studying English at university was originally sparked by going to high school in the United States. Because she was also interested in teaching and psychology, she incorporated these interests into her studies and obtained teacher’s qualifications alongside her degree. Julia chose a topic related to English language teaching, as she aims for a career as an English teacher.

Landing on a thesis topic can come in many ways  

In her thesis, Julia researched how so-called writing conferences work as a medium for teaching academic English to master’s students. Writing conferences are interactive one on one feedback sessions, led by a professional writing teacher. They are typically used to revise students’ theses or other academic texts. In her research, Julia focused specifically on how cohesion is taught and revised in these sessions.

Although the topic matched her interest in teaching foreign languages, finding it was not all straightforward. She found that selecting a topic and narrowing it down can be a struggle - an experience familiar to many students. “I had no clue where to start,” she reflects.

Julia heard about an ongoing research project linked to the English programme, called Language Regulation in Academia, which steered her decision-making. By participating in the project, she was able to get access to the project’s research material. Her thesis ended up being supervised by a researcher involved in the project, and after discussing the alternatives together, the topic choice was finalized.

Comparing BA and MA theses

Julia estimates that though there are differences between BA and MA theses, they are challenging in their own ways. The BA thesis is shorter than the MA thesis. There was less reading material required for it, therefore it was easier to have the material under control. The expectations for BA thesis results are also lower. However, the BA thesis had its own challenges since it was her first actual academic text. She thinks it was great practice for the future though.

The writing process

Julia says that from outlining the research plan to submitting the thesis took approximately ten months in total. Polishing her thesis in the finishing stages was simple as she received a lot of feedback from her instructors. When asked about negative surprises, Julia only mentions practical difficulties relating to acquiring her research material on schedule, which turned out to be more difficult than expected.

Overall, Julia says that writing the thesis was easier than anticipated. She says that reaching the minimum page requirement is easy as long as you find an intriguing and well-focused topic. Julia mentions many useful skills she learned during the writing process, for example handling and processing data and collecting information from a broad range of source materials.

Julia was in a unique position as she got to work with two supervisors: one from her MA thesis seminar and the researcher who offered her the materials. They worked very closely together and revised her writing in detail. Julia says that support and instructions are always available in the MA programme, all you need to do is ask!

In the end, writing an MA thesis felt easier than Julia had expected. The advisors are there to help and support. “Don’t worry too much about it”, she advises, “it can be finished quite swiftly if you’re determined.”