Topic Roulette

For many, the process for choosing a thesis topic looks like this:

  1. Browse open topics (e.g. on faculty pages)
  2. Choose the one that reads best (and is still available)

This process reminds me of ordering food in a restaurant:

  1. Browse food menu
  2. Choose the one that reads best (and is on offer)

If I am familiar with the restaurant, this process works great.

Things are different, however, if I try a new type of food for the first time. Say Afghan food. How hot is “hot” in this restaurant? What should I expect in terms of quantity—can I order starters, or will that ruin my chances for a desert? What is palau anyway? Continue reading “Topic Roulette”


Questions that are better served with a short answer than with a post.

What should I do, if I don’t know a topic?

This is the default state, so don’t feel bad about it. Read advice on how to discover topics and how to choose your topic from them.

How many thesis topics get proposed by students, how many by supervisors?

I have no empirical data on this. My personal estimate, however, is that the fraction proposed by students is small, however. Why? Because it is much harder to get a motivated supervisor for a topic that you proposed. Continue reading “FAQ”

Which Tools to Use to Write your Thesis?

If you program a new application, choosing the right programming language is critical. Choose Java or C#, for example, and you have free access to state-of-the-art IDEs and thousands of frameworks and libraries. Choose Clou or Panter, and you are on your own.

For a thesis, the choice of tools is far less important. For my own writing and research projects, the big bottleneck is my thinking speed. When choosing tools for your thesis, the goal is thus mostly to avoid waste. Continue reading “Which Tools to Use to Write your Thesis?”

How to Get Great Supervision?

Good versus bad supervision makes a large difference to your thesis project; both in terms of the outcome and how you feel along the way.

The single most important factor is how much time your supervisor dedicates to you. In general, many other factors influence how much useful advice you get from your supervisor (including your personal working styles, prior supervision experience, …). However, even great supervision experience is no use if the time to apply it to your thesis is lacking. Perceived “good” and “bad” supervisor performance in the eyes of their students is primarily determined by the amount of time the supervisors invest.

However, supervisor dedication varies drastically. Continue reading “How to Get Great Supervision?”

When to Write What?

When you write your thesis, your of level of knowledge of its chapters changes. It increases as you read, implement and experiment. It also decreases, however, as you move on to new parts and your brain throws out old stuff to make room for new stuff.

If you write a part too early, you have to rework later to accommodate for the new knowledge; or delete pages, as you learn that the topic is far less important that you thought two months ago. If you write too late, on the other hand, you need effort to rediscover the forgotten information.

Both rework and rediscovery waste time. Choosing when to write in which form is key to minimize waste. Continue reading “When to Write What?”