- Whimsical – online mapping tool
Once you’ve established a structure for your thesis, it should be easier to work out how much you’ve done and what’s left to do. A good way to do this is by creating a map.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- An empty wall or other blank space.
- Some oblong sticky notes.
- Lots of square sticky notes.
- Marker pens
You could do this with mindmapping software, but I think the physical movement help get the synapses firing. It’s often easier to be creative when you’re not stuck in front of a screen.
Now refer back to the previous video and also your research plan to start mapping your thesis. Your research might have shifted since you made your original plan, so assess that plan critically.
Write each of your chapter titles, not the numbers on the oblong sticky notes and position them in a line at the top of your space. Now use the smaller sticky notes for jotting down the elements of each chapter – this might be sub-sections, themes, key ideas – and arrange them vertically under each chapter heading. You’re not going into too much detail right now – this is to give you an overview. Aim for a maximum of ten sticky notes per column.
Eventually, you’ll have a map of your thesis. Now you can scan through and see what’s happening. Here are some points to consider:
- Are the chapters proceeding in a logical sequence? If you need to reorder them, write the numbers on some extra sticky notes and position them above the chapter titles.
- Do any of the chapter elements belong elsewhere? Flag them on your plan.
- Can you spot any duplications across chapters?
With a pen, mark any sticky notes where you need to do some work. You might devise a colour-coding system. For example, green means you’ve got a full draft of that section, orange means you’ve got parts of it, red means you haven’t yet started.
When you’re mapping, keep these points in mind:
- Arrange material to suit your narrative, not the order in which you wrote it
- Remove anything superfluous – remember the Mininum Viable Thesis
- Eliminate duplications
- Keep your research questions and aims in front of you to avoid deviations
- Don’t get distracted by small details at this stage – you’re just looking at the overall structure.
If you have the space and can face looking at it every day, it might be helpful to leave your map on the wall. Once you have a structure you’re happy with, ideally leave it for a couple of days and come back to it. This will give you some perspective. If you can’t leave it there, you could use a tool like Whimsical to create a virtual version.
Once you have a map, it’s much easier to follow that path to completion.