What I Wish I Had Known Before Starting My Master’s Seminar

The academic year is coming to an end and summer is right around the corner, so the last thing you probably want to think about is your master’s thesis looming somewhere in the future. What a scary, exhausting process, right? Think again! As I have now survived the first half of my master’s seminar – and actually kind of enjoyed it – I would like to share what I have learned so far, so that you don’t have to stress about it beforehand as much as I did.

It’s good to have some sort of idea of your topic when you start the seminar – but it’s fine if you don’t

I spent the semester before the beginning of my master's seminar vaguely stressing about my topic. In my imagination, I’d go to the first class and everyone would have a perfect topic and probably about half of their thesis already written. Well, surprise – that was not the case. People tend to be in very different phases as they start their seminar: some already have a clear idea of what they want to do, some have ten different ideas they cannot choose between, and some have no idea what they are going to do. No matter which of these describes you, as long as you go to the seminar with an open mind, you will most likely be ok.

When you have your topic and a plan, they will probably change in some ways during the process – let them

Once you know your topic and maybe have even chosen how you want to approach it, like certain theories and research methods, nothing is still set in stone in the thesis writing process. While it’s good to have a clear direction, it’s also extremely important to acknowledge that you are constantly exploring and learning, and thus may have to make changes to your plans if you find out that something does not work out as you'd intended. Learning from your own mistakes is not always fun, but after you acknowledge that that’s what the research process, just like life in general, is all about, making mistakes is no longer that scary.

The thesis is not that big of a deal

Like our instructor kindly reminded us, our thesis will most likely be read by about two people - the ones reviewing it. The rest of the population on this planet probably will not care about it, as devastating as that sounds. In other words: it is not meant to change the world. It is meant to be an opportunity for you to put into practice the stuff you have learned during your studies. So, as long as you do your (somewhat) best, everything will be just fine.

If you choose the right topic for you, writing the thesis can actually be a lot of fun

I knew from the beginning that my number one requirement for my topic was simply that it was interesting to me. So, now I get to dive into theories concerning different areas of a topic very close to my heart, and even create a tiny bit of new information about it into the world myself, and it’s actually extremely fascinating and rewarding. As you are mainly writing your thesis for you, I warmly recommend choosing the topic you are most fascinated about. It will make the writing process so much more fun, and you will be much more likely to be able to utilize your thesis in some way in your future, too.

Photos from Death to The Stock Photo