Writing a thesis is not a business but it is not even a walk, starting from the research and the choice of sources: it may seem like nothing, but, to make a good thesis, you really need to find the right readings and references right, otherwise you risk presenting a work that may be original but not based on relevant documents and necessary to support the thesis (books, essays, magazine articles and so on).
The first thing to do to write a good thesis is to look for the right sources: obviously, you have to have a clear understanding of the topic you want to deal with, at least in general terms, whether the thesis is an experimental one (and therefore concerns a topic) not or little studied) whether the thesis is of a compilative type (and therefore consists essentially in re-elaborating things already said, perhaps in a particular way and with attention to certain aspects: I could speak of a literary author, for example, and arrange all his opinions of criticism, giving, finally, my judgment).
Search for sources in the source
In general, the starting texts are indicated by the supervisor who follows the thesis: from this text it will be very easy to reach all the others; in fact, it will be enough for you not only to read between the notes of the book or the essay, but also in the final bibliography to have specific references on the subject treated. Remember, however, that different types of documents need to be considered: if I want to do a linguistic investigation of nineteenth-century texts, for example, I will not only analyze nineteenth-century grammars but also texts that speak of nineteenth-century authors, perhaps of miscellanies. You have to learn, in short, to know how to read the source you have, and to exploit it in the best way: should I do a thesis on Dante Alighieri? Very well: I will not just choose essays and texts about his life and works; I could also decide, for example, to read a text that concerns an author who commented on Dante’s Comedy: this is not because we are interested in what that author says – it could be something not relevant to our path – but because his bibliography could hide important bibliographical references. A source in the source, in short!
Always cite the sources on time
If you are clear that choosing sources means combing through the bibliography of the texts you have on hand, you are already at a good point: a further step to write a good thesis is to learn how to use the sources you have, to build a good text. This means that everything you say as a matter of fact, and therefore as something known and almost taken for granted, must be supported by one or more sources: to say, if I write that it is known that Alessandro Manzoni has replaced the type ‘I loved’ with the type ‘I loved’ in the passage to Quarantana, I will have to insert a superscript referring to a source that illustrates well the subject in question (this source, obviously, must be cited as precisely as possible, therefore with reference to author, title , year of publication and page: this last element is very important).
Do not read the chosen sources in full
You have chosen your sources and identified a starting bibliography; you know that the sources must always be cited when you take something for granted, and we have come to another council to write a thesis well: you don’t have to read the sources in full, but trace the part that interests you most, in order to build the your speech, to be integrated into the first or last paragraph of the work. Very often there will be sources that will say the same thing, and you can also mention them all, provided that you understand, in the footnotes, what is the reason why you are quoting them: remember that the reader must understand everything of what you write.
The bibliographic apparatus must be full of different sources
A good bibliographic apparatus must not be poor; wealth, however, should not be understood as the inclusion of so many sources in the bibliography, but the inclusion of many different sources: I cannot cite ten nineteenth-century grammars, to give an example, and not even mention an essay on nineteenth-century punctuation or on the lexicon of the nineteenth century, if what I want to do is a linguistic analysis. Always act with criteria: quantity is appreciated if it is synonymous with quality.
How to look for books for the thesis
Finally, a technical indication to look for the sources you want to read: an indication from a former university, in short. The first place to look – as I said – is the book you start from; then take a look at the Web, which is an inexhaustible source of resources: think about how many books you can find on Google Books, and I’m not just talking about covers; I speak of entire texts, which you may not find in your municipal library or in that of your university. In the library, of course, you will have to go there, and here you can refer to librarians or software installed on various computers, which will allow you to search not only by title but also by author, by theme and by keywords and so on.
How to choose and find the sources for the thesis: a summary
Let us summarize how the sources for the graduation thesis are used:
- Search for sources in the main source, and then identify the books that are useful for your speech in the text suggested by your supervisor;
- Consult Google Books and the tools provided by the Web, before going to the library;
- Choose relevant and varied sources: even a source that may not seem useful to you may turn out to be more useful than those chosen at the beginning;
- Cite the sources you choose, even strategically, to show that you have really done a good job of research.
With these four tips, you can start writing a thesis with flakes: good luck!