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Humak's Thesis Manual, Bachelor's degree

Writing a thesis

The thesis shall be written in accordance with good practices of academic writing. Even though this objective may sound intimidating, do not be put off, as the good practices of academic writing apply to the production of any expert-level text. The text of a good thesis is clear, reflective and easy to read: a text which is written clearly is also thoroughly thought through. Stylistically, the thesis should represent good, formal writing rich in nuances; however, no colloquial language is allowed. The objective, sober style does not mean dry and boring, but rather those interested in the subject should find the text very interesting and convincing. 

When writing the thesis, consider the text from the reader’s point of view. The thesis is not written only to the commissioner, and especially not to the supervising teacher, but ultimately to a broader readership. The development tasks carried out in one’s own long-term workplace may easily become very insider-like, making it difficult for both the supervisor and any outside reader to follow the thread of the text. One way to avoid such a near-sighted approach is to imagine the reader being a cultivated specialist of your professional field, living far away in another city, and then writing as if to that reader. In the same vein, it is a good idea for students to let someone outside the organisation read the thesis. 

A thesis should not be thought of as a report. The word report is in many ways problematic in connection with the thesis. However, the final project is too extensive a work to be reported in this way. Writing is not just a method of putting your thoughts on paper, but also one of the most efficient methods of thinking and producing ideas. This is why it is a good idea to keep continuously writing your thesis. If a thesis is heavily based upon development practices, it’s easy to forget writing. Keeping a thesis journal is a good way to keep track of the project’s phases, and it can be applied to every type of project. It’s important to remember that the actual thesis is not a journal-like product. 

Stiffness or rigid formality are not virtues in a thesis. Overtly long sentences made up of chains of dependent and subordinate clauses, or opaque jargon, have no place in a thesis. Avoid the heavy noun-based style characteristic to bureaucratic texts, such as “carry out an examination”, “perform an analysis”, or “execute an interview”, etc, which can be expressed simply with verbs such as to examine, analyse and Interview. Use abbreviations sparingly. In general, a good text contains abbreviations only within parentheses. Introductory phrases such as “However, it is important to consider that...”, are often unnecessary. A good guideline for writing is to get straight to the point and keep the text simple. 

Beware of using the passive voice too much, as it may confuse the reader as to who did what. Expressions such as “the material was collected” and “the material was analysed” evoke the impression that the author has a mysterious data collection and analysis group working in the background. The thesis can usually be written in the active voice, and even prolific references to the author as I are not forbidden. However, expressing the author’s subjectivity does not mean that the thesis is just a neatly expressed personal opinion, in the sense of a letter to the editor. The reader has the right to know what the author’s views are based on. 

Careful references to the sources and the bibliography will make the thesis more convincing, as will neat and consistent layout and formatting in accordance with the applicable instructions. The references must be made in accordance with the instructions approved by Humak and discussed with the supervising teacher. It is a good idea to mark the references in the correct way from the start, because finding missing sources afterwards can be a laborious task. It important also to make sure that the questions raised at the beginning of thesis have been answered in the conclusion chapter at the latest. In addition, the thesis should be grammatically correct and not include anything that the student does not fully understand. 

The abstract is usually written last, which does not mean that it should be given any less attention. The reader often decides whether or not to read the rest of the thesis based on the abstract. A good way to structure a good abstract is to follow the same model of four key areas as in the plan: for example, to write one paragraph about the need for the work, one about the objectives, a couple of paragraphs about the measures taken, and a couple of the results and outputs. Many students forget to write about the results and outputs in the abstract, which is why particular attention should be paid to them. In addition, a summary of the assessment of whether or not the objectives of the project were met should be included in the abstract. The abstract shall therefore answer the following questions: 

  • Why did the commissioner’s operations need development?  
  • What were the objectives of the project?  
  • How was the development work done?  
  • What new information was discovered and what kind of new knowledge did the project bring to the whole professional field? 
  • What concrete outputs did the work generate for the commissioner? 
  • How were the objectives met?