How to Write Your Thesis: Advice from Someone Who’s Done it (and Survived!)


Don’t be like me when it comes to writing your thesis. Trust me, I made all of the rookie mistakes: procrastinating until the very end, check; computer crashing and losing my thesis, check; getting extremely sick, check. Here are my top four tips when it comes to the thesis writing process, aka all the things I wish I had done at the time:

Be proactive

So you’ve just started the thesis process; maybe you’ve been assigned an advisor, have ideas for research topics or a curriculum design…what do you do now? Now is the time to be proactive and jump in! Take responsibility for your thesis: email your advisor and create a writing schedule for yourself.

When it comes to advisors, each one is different. Maybe you’ll have a super hands-on advisor who emails you every week to check in, but maybe you will only hear from them twice in the span of several months. If you have a question or concern, the responsibility is yours to reach out to them. If you want to meet in person, ask to schedule an appointment. If you want to have them read a draft to see if you’re on track, email them with that request!

Another tip is to create a writing schedule for yourself. You’ll receive a schedule with deadlines (thesis proposal, drafts, etc.) from Instituto Franklin-UAH, but I suggest creating your own. Set small weekly goals (such as writing a section each week, or a certain number of words each day) that align with the official deadline schedule. It’s much easier to knock out 500 words a day for several weeks than to cram 15 pages of writing into two days.

Find a relaxing workspace

There are only so many hours you can spend writing in the confines of your tiny piso without losing your sanity completely. I lost mine a few weeks into writing my first draft; the dullness of searching through the European Union’s Common European Framework for standards, combined with my windowless room the size of a closet…well, let’s just say that I got a lot of sleep and not a lot of work done. Eventually, I had to find a space to work that wasn’t my apartment. As you most likely know, finding a spot in Madrid with free Wi-Fi, outlets for charging, and that allows laptops is not the easiest place to find. Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite spots that meet these requirements!

  • Federal Café (La Latina & Malasaña): sit at the “big” table that is laptop friendly and order an iced coffee – personally, I believe it’s the best in Madrid!
  • La Casa Encendida (Embajadores): a social and cultural center with a bomb café, operated by Pum Pum, and lots of workspaces.
  • La Bicicleta (Malasaña): order a beer or a coffee and head to the basement for a cozy spot to knock out some thesis writing.
  • Monkee Koffee (Chamberí): good coffee, great avocado toast, and an amazing atmosphere to keep you fueled and on track.
  • Tim Hortons (various locations): if you’re craving a donut and unlimited wifi, check out this Canadian franchise now that it has popped up all over the city.
  • Public libraries: each neighborhood has one, and you don’t have to worry about purchasing anything! My personal favorites include Pedro Salinas near Puerta de Toledo, Eugenio Trías inside Retiro park, and Iván de Vargas in La Latina

Other honorable mentions: HanSo Café, Toma Café, La China Mandarina, 1000 Cups, La Doña, Pum Pum Café, Café de la Luz, La Infinito, and Faborit.

And if you’re located in Alcalá de Henares, hunker down in the CRAI-Biblioteca (open 24 hours) or grab a sweet treat at Bamby Pastelería!

Caption: Motivation at HanSo Café. Photo courtesy of the author.

Back up your work

This is so important. Write or upload your thesis to Google Drive, put it on a USB, email yourself copies, do anything you can think of to have your thesis available in more than one spot (so that you don’t end up like me). A week and a half before my final thesis was due, my computer decided to crash: sixty pages of blood, sweat, and tears gone in an instant. Appointments at the Apple Store in Sol were booked a month out. Hysterical, and thinking I had to rewrite my entire thesis in a week, I went to my evening salsa dancing class in tears to try and relax a bit. Lucky for me, it turns out my salsa instructor was an IT whiz with a computer repair business on the side. He was able to fix my computer and recover my thesis in a few days, and I managed to make the deadline. I’m still not sure how the stars managed to align for me at that moment, but please don’t take that chance yourself. Back up your work!

Stay healthy

When working as a teacher, it is inevitable that at some point you will get sick. Although I adored my infantil children, their grubby little hands and snotty noses passed on a whole host of illnesses: head lice, the flu, stomach viruses…You name it, I got it. Except for scarlet fever (which yes, does still exist, as it went around my 1st grade classroom)! Thesis writing is hard enough without being sick, so try to stay as healthy as possible. Hit the gym, go for a walk, eat your fruits and veggies, wash your hands (a lot!), take some multivitamins, get a good night’s sleep, whatever you need to do in order to maintain your health.

Caption: Take a walk around campus to de-stress and smell the roses! Photo courtesy of the author

And don’t forget about your mental health as well. Schedule yourself some time away from thesis writing; grab that drink at Macera with friends, take a book to Retiro to unwind, grab those tacos from Tako al Pastor you’ve been craving all week. In short, take care of and treat yo’ self!

I hope you’ve learned something from my mistakes, now go and kick that thesis’ butt!

Abbey Fox is a twenty-something, aspiring travel writer and avid foodie. With a Master’s degree in International Education (2017-2018), she has been traveling the world teaching English for the past several years. When she’s not sipping gin & tonics on terrazas in Spain, you can find her exploring other locations: bargaining for mangos in Uganda or devouring kimchi in South Korea.

Check out her Instagram @afoxeats for yummy food pics!


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