How to Write a Thesis

Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Length: 8 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (63 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

By the time Umberto Eco published his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose, he was one of Italy's most celebrated intellectuals, a distinguished academic and the author of influential works on semiotics. Some years before that, in 1977, Eco published a little book for his students, How to Write a Thesis, in which he offered useful advice on all the steps involved in researching and writing a thesis - from choosing a topic to organizing a work schedule to writing the final draft. Now in its 23rd edition in Italy and translated into 17 languages, How to Write a Thesis has become a classic. Remarkably, this is its first, long overdue publication in English.

Eco's approach is anything but dry and academic. He not only offers practical advice, but also considers larger questions about the value of the thesis-writing exercise. How to Write a Thesis is unlike any other writing manual. It sounds like a novel. It is opinionated. It is frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious. Eco advises students how to avoid "thesis neurosis", and he answers the important question "Must You Read Books?" He reminds students "You are not Proust" and "Write everything that comes into your head, but only in the first draft". Of course, there was no Internet in 1977, but Eco's index card research system offers important lessons about critical thinking and information curating for students of today who may be burdened by Big Data.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2015 Massachusetts Institue of Technology (P)2015 Gildan Media LLC
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very nice work from Eco.

very nice work from Umberto Eco. A must for everybody posting a degree. good commentator

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Not applicable

Very old tricks
Didn't cover the big picture
Rather bragged about Italian history knowledge
Maybe good for humanities topics. Much info not applicable to 21st century

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Practical and funny

“How to write a thesis” is filled with practical advice. The pacing of the book is easy to follow and the content is easy to grasp. I definitely recommend it. The physical book is useful for referring to the many examples so I ended up buying that as well though this audio version does come with a PDF of those images.

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  • Sa.Jo
  • 03-15-16

For humanities only

This book might be suitable for Research in humanities but not science or social science.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Desi
  • 03-22-19

Not too useful for science theses

I am a PhD student in the life sciences. I knew that this book was written for students of the Humanities (particularly literature, art history, etc.), but I felt that there might still be something useful in here for me, so I gave it a try. Unfortunately, I did not find much in this book that was applicable or even new to me.

One key caveat is that the book is not about PhD theses/dissertations. I think the thesis Eco is writing about is more like an Honours thesis, or perhaps a small Masters thesis.

- Section 1 is about why a thesis is a worthwhile thing to write.
- Section 2 is about choosing a thesis topic. There is some good advice about choosing a topic based on the amount of literature there is for it, but this information is not relevant to science since hundreds of new papers come out every month. The best take-away is: Define your thesis topic well so that you know where to start and stop.
- Section 3 is about doing bibliographic research in meatspace libraries and collections. You may find value in adopting some aspects of Eco's index card bibliography system, but now we have Zotero with subfolders, recursive collections, notes, keywords, and full-text search. Eco had one good point, paraphrased to something like: "Students with access to only small libraries may not have many sources, but they own every word." That's something that's very hard for science students to do nowadays.
- Section 4 is more about the index card system and how to use it to construct a work plan/thesis outline. This is good advice, but not new.

- Section 5 is, finally, about writing the thesis. But this section is not really about structuring a thesis, making ideas flow, producing a convincing argument, etc. Instead, Eco spends a lot of time going over basic things like how to quote, how to cite, how to avoid plagiarising. Remember that this book is for undergrads/Masters students.
- Section 6 is about formatting the thesis. Margins, underlining, capitalisation, foreign accents, appendices. These are things that your institution will specifically request anyway.

Overall, I got very little from the book that was relevant to my needs. If you're a science PhD looking for something helpful, I instead strongly recommend:

1. 'Scientific Writing = Thinking in Words' by David Lindsay
2. 'Scientific Writing: A Reader and Writer's Guide' by Jean-Luc Lebrun
3. O’Connor, Timothy R., and Gerald P. Holmquist. “Algorithm for Writing a Scientific Manuscript.” Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 37, no. 6 (2009): 344–48. https://doi.org/10.1002/bmb.20329.

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