Advice for someone just beginning the write up


Hello all,

I have just started my write up of the thesis and I am terrified! I feel completely overwhelmed and like I will never get through it! I have two chapters already written (but these were done at the end of my first year and will need significant revision to be of a standard to go into the final thesis).

I've written a chapter structure and a rough synopsis of every chapter, and timetabled roughly a month per chapter, with the theoretical chapters being written before their counterpart analysis chapters so it's all fresh so to speak.

I just wondered if any of you out there who have just finished or have been writing for a while have any other advice you can give me before I spiral into a flurried panic? My thesis is predominantly qualitative with some mixed methods for triangulation so the word count is 80,000.



Work on it regularly and consistently. Make sure your supervisor has agreed the whole structure of the thesis in advance as you don't want to disagree further down the line. Approach it with a plan and regularly review the plan and goals and just keep chipping away at it. Good luck!


Having a chapter structure and break down is a good start, break everything down is to as small a chunk as you can and deal with each one of these chunks one at a time, thinking about the thesis as a whole or even just a chapter is daunting and you'll not do anything.

Find a time and place that you can work effectively and comfortably without distractions. If you are like me you will find that you work in patches if you are being productive keep going, if you are being unproductive take a break rather than forcing yourself to write.

I was doing a science based PhD and my chapter could stand alone somwhat so I was working on two different things in parallel, so when I got stuck on one I could make progress on the other. Also in results chapters I largely followed a cycle that was driven by my figures: Insert figure, talk about figure, lead into next figure and repeat...

The final thing I would say is don't expect to stick to your timetable, things often don't take the amount of time you expect. Don't shut yourself off from the world or you'll go crazy, try and do some social stuff so you're not thinking about the thesis 24/7.


Hi there,

I'm writing up at the moment but have probably done it the 'wrong' way. I spent the summer analysing and getting to grips with Nvivo and the writing I've been doing has been based on huge coloured mind maps of themes which are stuck to my kitchen walls. I've broken down quotes into themes on nvivo so I can find them and I'm just trying to tell a story. I've not meticulously planned any analysis chapter. The structure is a problem but I feel that if the content is on the right track, then the structure will need re-worked, as well as all the previous chapters I've written earlier on anyway. I'm giving myself til Christmas to have a draft (barring intro) of the whole thing. I will be pleased with this but under no illusion that's it finished. I plan on taking another 2 months to re-write/edit everything then that is it! I will have had enough. But this is by far the hardest part I think. The sheer mental challenge of pulling it together is tough which is why I'm just trying to write. It's hard to start but easier to keep going when you have started. Good luck. It's true, chipping away helps as does regular rewards, however small. One needs to keep ones sanity and turning into Mr or Mrs Hermit is not the way to do that. :-)


Thank you all for your advice! Blackbyrd, it was really good to read your post as it seems like you're kind of feeling the same as me - I have a mountain of data which says something different every time I go through it! But we'll keep chipping away and we'll get there in the end! :-) Thank you Delta and Laney too for some great advice (up)


apparently it's a good idea to start your Method and Results sections first and then when you've got that done you'll be (hopefully!) in a 'writing' mode which will make your Lit Review a bit easier to tackle.
ive also found it helpful to produce a table that contains all the main content of the individual chapters of my thesis. that facilitates the process of identifying what literature needs to go where (if you have a number of empirical chapters) and also allows you to see when your underlying narrative throughout the thesis is.