3 The Writing Process

The written report of a bachelor’s or master’s thesis is a demonstration of the writer’s skill and ability to process and present information. It is also a demonstration of how well the writer masters the use of the language of his/her own field.

To write is to think

The writing of a report can also be considered to be an exercise in learning to think. During the writing process, the writer tries to organise the explication of information and ideas surrounding the goal of the work, while also trying to convey the results of his/her own thinking process to the reading audience. The process of editing this information not only develops one’s writing skills, but also promotes and enhances his/her actual learning of the subject matter in question. When setting out on a writing assignment, the writer should define the goal of the report and analyse the task and its requirements. Additional writing tips and resources are available on the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) site.

Text has a purpose

Learning the principles of reporting takes time, and a report generally has to be altered many times, since its structure is subject to change while the writer’s ideas become clearer over the course of time. It is worthwhile to get used to taking systematic notes, for example when reading books or having discussions with people. One can write summaries of the research materials he/she has read and of the conversations he/she has had. The basic details concerning the sources of information one uses in the course of conducting research and preparing a report should be noted (author, year, book title, etc.). (See Use of Sources).

The outline should reflect the full scope of the report

When compiling an outline, the writer finds out whether or not the topic is actually clear in his/her own mind: when he/she knows exactly what the research goal is, it will be possible to write a preliminary table of contents. When constructing the table of contents, one essentially lays the foundation for the overall presentation of the project. For those who find writing to be difficult, it is advisable to concentrate primarily on producing text; stylistic matters can be addressed and corrected after the draft copy has been written.

What should the reader expect to gain from reading the report?

A writer should always write for a specific audience. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis is written for one’s equals who understand what and why something has been done. The report discloses what was studied and why, how the study was carried out, and what the results and the final conclusions were. However, information about all the hardships, background problems and personal experiences related to the research and writing processes should not be included in the report. The extent of the report is determined by the characteristics and objectives of the work.

A writer’s use of language is a sign of his/her subject matter expertise

In addition to mastery of the subject matter, the bachelor’s or master’s thesis also demonstrates the student’s command of language. It is important to present the facts to the reader in a clear and intelligible manner. The writer should pay attention to the basic principles of writing: the division of contents into paragraphs and chapters, the formation of sentences and clauses, the choice of words, as well as matters of form and orthography.

Written reports should be composed in good prose style, of which the hallmarks are smooth progression, clarity, readability and compactness, as well as grammatical correctness (Hirsjärvi, Remes, & Sajavaara 2009, 291). The use of trite metaphors and vogue expressions should be avoided. A report can be said to have good prose style when the language itself draws minimal attention, yet the information presented is conveyed as clearly and precisely as possible.