How to write a thesis

Writing a thesis is a complex task

Writing a thesis is a complex task. You need to find related literature, take notes, draft the thesis, and eventually write the final document and create the bibliography. Many books explain how to perform a literature survey and how to write scholarly literature in general and a thesis in particular (e.g. [1-9]). However, these books barely, if at all, cover software tools that help in performing these tasks. This is surprising, because great software tools that can facilitate the daily work of students and researchers are available and many of them for free.

In this tutorial

In this tutorial, we present a new method to reviewing scholarly literature and drafting a thesis using mind mapping software, PDF readers, and reference managers. This tutorial focuses on writing a PhD thesis. However, the presented methods are likewise applicable to planning and writing a bachelor thesis or master thesis. This tutorial is special, because it integrates the management of PDF files, the relevant content in PDFs (bookmarks), and references with mind mapping and word processing software. To make the tutorial better understandable, we provide many examples in which we assume that you want to write a PhD thesis about academic search engines. Please note that

  • All tools recommended in this tutorial are free and open source (except Microsoft Word)
  • All tools presented in this tutorial are based on Java and run on Windows, Linux and MacOS (again, except Microsoft Word)
  • All tools used in this tutorial may be substituted:
    • Docear may be substituted with FreeMind, MindManager, XMIND and most other mind mapping tools allowing to link PDF files
    • Foxit Reader may be substituted with Adobe Acrobat Reader or PDF XChange Viewer.
    • JabRef may be substituted with any other reference manager supporting BibTeX, e.g. BibDesk, Referencer and Mendeley
    • Microsoft Word may be substituted with OpenOffice, LaTeX or any other word processor that supports BibTeX out of the box or through plugins

As a bachelor or master student

As a bachelor or master student, completing your senior thesis will dominate your life for months. As a PhD student, you will spend years on compiling your PhD thesis. We highly recommend reading this and other tutorials to find the process that works best for you to organize your literature, to manage your references, and to write your thesis. Spending a few hours now will save you days, if not weeks later. This tutorial will be updated from time to time to consider the latest features of the tools presented here.

Before we start, we present some user feedback for our software Docear and this tutorial. We hope it motivates you to complete the entire tutorial :-).

  • You have read my mind. You have put into practice what I could envisage yet not even come close to develop.
  • You are helping to tackle the biggest obstacle to my research
  • I really like SciPlore’s approach. Connecting papers through a mindmap is genious!
  • I’m in the middle of my PhD and was becoming overwhelmed with the amount of information I need to manage. Nothing else was really cutting it for me and I stumbled on Sciplore.
  • Great software! Trying to get my adviser and all the graduate students in our lab to start using SciPlore. Keep up the efforts!
  • I very much enjoyed using Sciplore and was very impressed by its performance and options.
  • Congratulations on a great time saver and program to make PDF Bookmarks useful.
  • I’d like to thank you for the great work you’re doing.
  • Thank you very much for the excellent software. SciPlore has helped me organise my notes and research while undertaking my Masters degree.
  • I was greatly surprised to find SciPlore, and it seemed to be exactly what I needed for my work
  • Just wanted to say that SciPlore is a wonderful program. I use it to organize my thoughts and my research. Can’t wait to see what’s coming!
  • Thanks for making SciPlore!

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