Note: One semester is four months at Waseda University. Since there is always a two-month holiday after each semester, three semesters at this university technically means 1.5 years. Also, in Waseda, each student who chooses to write a thesis in English need to write a minimum of 8,000 words.
It seems like I’m talking too much about my graduation thesis these days, just like the seniors did last year. I need to submit my semi-final draft of it within the next 50 days, and to be honest, it’s freaking me out. Right now, I have important tasks other than the thesis to complete too, and I’m trying what I can to manage all those. I know I procrastinated too much on this thesis-writing journey, and I regret that. So, to my dearest kohais (in this case, students who entered university after I did) who will be writing a thesis, here is some advice from your sempai (in this case, a student who entered university before they did). By following every step (listed below), I’m sure you’ll be able to write a coherent graduation thesis.
Step 1: Choose a seminar that fits you the most.
I think in most universities in the United States, Canada, etc. you stick to a certain professor who will help you write a graduation thesis. In a Japanese university, however, you need to choose a seminar, which is a three-semester class that would help you develop and complete your thesis (with some exceptions, some students only join a seminar for two semesters, and finish their thesis at the end of their second semester). Make sure to choose the seminar based on what you want to study, and don’t just choose it because your close friends are there. Since I’m interested in the field of culture and gender, I chose a seminar based on a mixture of those fields.
Step 2: Have the topic of your thesis decided in the first semester of your seminar.
Choosing a topic seems easy, but it actually isn’t for many people, when it comes to writing a thesis. In order to write a thesis that satisfies you the most, it is strongly recommended to do a self-analysis. You can do this by considering your personal background, interests, and passions. It is also important to realize what kind of changes you are interested in contributing to society. As I have been desperate to help incline the popularity of girls’ schools, I chose to write a thesis based on this topic.
Step 3: Have most of the pre-writing of your thesis done on the second semester of your seminar.
Once you decide your topic, it is time for you to come up with an outline and search for sources. A literature review is a collection of sources, describing the abstract, and the significance of using each publication. As much as it is important to carefully read each publication for your literature review, it is essential to create a bibliography section, that lists the sources with proper citations. While expanding your knowledge on your thesis topic, it is also necessary for you to write a detailed outline based on what you have learned by reading the sources. The more detailed the outline and literature review, the easier it will be for you to write the actual graduation thesis. It is also strongly recommended that you write a detailed proposal of your thesis, which introduces your thesis topic. This proposal can later be converted into the introduction chapter of your thesis, although of course, some editing might be needed.
Step 4: Literally focus on writing your graduation thesis in the third semester of your seminar.
Ideally, at this point, you should spend at least an hour a day on your thesis. Although it depends on how many chapters you choose to write, it is ideal for you to try to finish writing one chapter within a week or two. Make sure you get feedback from your seminar professor and constantly follow his/her feedback when making each change to your thesis. Since I’m on this step right now, it is difficult for me to explain it with solid advice. I hope I can explain more of this in my future Her Campus articles (since I’m on my last semester of the seminar, but still have one more semester left before I graduate).
Step 5: Have your graduation thesis completed and submitted before you graduate!
Reread, edit, and make sure your thesis is error-free. Mistakes are especially forbidden in the citation part, as it gives credit to the writers, photographers, etc. The submission process of your thesis depends on the seminar, so make sure you have it confirmed with your professor. By the way, in my seminar, we submit our final draft of our graduation thesis in Dropbox, and then the professor will send it to the office of my faculty department. Once you receive the credit for your thesis (and all the required credits from your faculty), you can graduate from your university!
As you have probably realized, a graduation thesis is more than a long essay. That is why your senior sempais always talk about this with anxiety. If you’re still a freshman, senior, or even a junior in your university, please don’t get tired of listening to your seniors who always think about their graduation thesis. It’ll be your turn too, sooner or later.