Writing for Your Thesis or Dissertation Supervisor for the First Time
There is no universal rule regarding when a thesis or dissertation student should submit the first piece of formal writing to his or her supervisor or primary mentor, or what that first piece of writing should be, but this initial stage in the writing process is almost universally crucial. It is therefore essential to write exactly what you are asked to write and to do so to the best of your ability, including carefully proofreading and editing your work to make it as perfect as possible. You have only one chance, after all, to make a good first impression with your text.
Your supervisor may want to see a piece of your writing immediately, especially if your first language is not English, to ensure that any writing problems that might hinder the successful completion of your thesis or dissertation are identified and resolved at once. You may be able to share some of your earlier writing with your supervisor to satisfy this requirement, but often it is a new piece of writing associated directly with the work you plan to do that your supervisor will be interested in reading. You may be asked to write out some of your initial ideas about your research or perhaps express your preliminary thoughts about published scholarship in your subject area. Both provide excellent means for your supervisor to assess your plans for your thesis or dissertation as well as your writing skills, and they will also open the door to productive discussion of either or both.
How to Achieve Academic Success
On the other hand, your supervisor may want you to do a little research before drafting a chapter of your thesis or dissertation, very likely its introduction, formal literature review or description of research methodology. Sharing the first draft of a chapter will allow your supervisor to assess your research procedures as well as your writing skills and determine whether you are on what he or she considers a productive path to completion of a successful thesis or dissertation. A chapter of this kind will also provide an excellent opportunity to decide on various aspects of style and format. Universities, disciplines and departments differ in their editorial requirements, so do check to see if a particular set of guidelines or a specific style guide is recommended for your work, and if so, be sure to pay special attention to the type of references preferred. It is always best to begin formatting citations correctly as you start to write, because altering the format of references in a long text can be extremely time-consuming. The feedback you receive on this initial chapter and the discussion it generates will therefore help you in various ways, and not only when you are revising that chapter, but also when you are composing future chapters.
Whatever you write first, make sure that you set up a meeting with your supervisor after he or she has read your work and you have had an opportunity to digest his or her feedback. Ask about any comments that are not clear. Address problems and establish solutions. Determine, if possible, which issues are essential, requiring immediate attention, and which are optional, necessitating further thought. Raise concerns that you have about your research or the directions your supervisor would like you to take. Test the waters, so to speak, in which the two of you will be swimming in close coordination for some time by trying to learn as much about your supervisor and his or her expectations as he or she is hoping to learn about you and your approach to your thesis or dissertation.
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