Masters Essay - Getting Started
Where to begin?
When you get your masters essay assignments, you may feel good about what you want to do. In fact, you might even have the topic and some of the points in your head. However, when you sit down at your computer to begin, the mind goes blank. Suddenly, you hear the clock ticking but you don't feel the keys on the keyboard typing.
Maybe you know what to say but not how to say it because English isn't your first language or you don't think writing is something you are good at. It could be that you think you have to write the perfect essay the first time and in the right order with the exact phrasing down before you put it in the final masters essay. Let this guide be your strategy for getting started on a masters essay so you make the project a lot easier and less stressful.
Step 1: Start with the Masters Essay Instructions
There is a good reason why your professor or advisor gave you instructions for your masters essay. It's because they want to help you as best they can to do the project correctly. While all classes and universities differ, usually you receive instructions on length, topic, citation style and preferred formatting. When you begin your document, enter in these requirements first by starting with the font size and spacing and examples of the formatting so you are sure to not forget any part of the instructions.
If you are unsure about any of the masters essay instructions, ask for clarification. Assuming you think you know what it means is usually a recipe for disaster. It is important to ensure you understand the assignment before you start writing whether that means looking at a sample masters essay that fits what the professor is looking for or having them help by approving your topic or thesis statement.
Step 2: Collect Your Research
Your masters essay will need a strong thesis but it will need plenty of source material or references to convince the reader that your thesis makes sense and offers a credible argument. This is similar to the approach you should have taken with your undergraduate essays, but now you may be expected to deepen your research sources and utilise more scholarly sources.
You will be able to still find many of these online thanks to databases like Highbeam, Questia, and Google's resources. Some require a fee but other journal databases may be accessed through your university. Books are a vital source of reference material at the masters level as are articles and reports. Some online articles and blogs are acceptable, depending on the topic, but you should stay far away from sites like Wikipedia or sites that offer articles not from scholars.
While primary research is best used for masters dissertations, there may be some masters essays that require you to gather opinions or primary evidence through interviews or surveys. All of this can enrich your argument and interest in your topic, offering a more compelling masters essay.
Step 3: Read, Reflect, Write
Once you have collected all your source material, you should make sure you read everything. That doesn't mean scan all the sources for the main points or just read the abstracts or conclusions. You will need to have a good understanding of the material so you can apply it to your topic rather than just state the material in your masters essay. This will help elevate the level of sophistication of your masters essay and illustrate that you can critically think and apply the research to your thesis as well as draw your own conclusions from the evidence presented. After reading and reflecting, you will need to start the writing process.
Nearly every article you will ever find on academic writing will tell you to start with an outline. There is good reason for this: it keeps you organised and helps you connect your points into an argument that flows from one idea into the next. This allows you to slot in all the ideas you have found and start weaving them together. Each paragraph should start with a main sentence followed by some supporting sentences and then a concluding sentence. Following this structure throughout will help your masters essay take shape.
Step 4: Get Feedback and Revise
Someone not connected to your masters essay is a good place to get constructive criticism. Since they are not involved, they can tell you if what you are saying makes sense and be more objective in their interpretation. This will help you see things you can fix, especially in terms of what makes sense and how the paragraphs connect, that you might not have seen yourself after reading and focusing on the topic for so long. If there is time, seek more opinions to get a well-rounded sense of what could be improved. Then, revise it and spend time making sure all your grammar, spelling, and formatting are correct. Review the original instructions and check off each point as you see that you have covered those things. In looking for top marks, everything counts!
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