Skip to Main Content

Writing your Thesis

Undergraduate Thesis Support

How can this guide help me?

This section of the guide is designed to help and support students undertaking an undergraduate thesis by providing them with guidance, information and resources that will help them to successfully complete their thesis. Undertaking a large piece of writing can be daunting, but it also presents a great opportunity for students to contribute to their field of study and share their recommendations and findings to the wider academic community. 

Take a look at our suggested sources for finding high quality academic information, our tools for organising and managing your information, and our top tips for successfully writing your thesis!

Finding Academic Information and Quality Sources

No matter what you are searching for, the ability to distinguish between primary and secondary source material is essential.

Primary sources are documents, images or items that provide a first-hand account or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. Primary sources allow you to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.

Secondary sources are documents written after an event has happened. They provide second-hand accounts of that event, person, or topic. Secondary sources offer different perspectives, analysis, and conclusions of those primary accounts.

Examples of Primary v Secondary Sources


Primary Source

Secondary Source


Diary, Letter, Census data

Book about an historical event that explores it.


Legislative or Case Law

Law Reviews, Journal articles


Novel, Poem

Book about the novel, poem or a critical review article about either.


Article in an academic journal reporting research and methodology

Articles or books analysing and commenting on the results of the original research.  

Primary Source Databases

Examples of Primary Source Database

ARTstor - A digital library of approximately 700,000 images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences with a set of tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes.

British Periodicals I - IV - Access to the searchable full text of hundreds of periodicals from the late seventeenth century to the early twentieth, comprising millions of high-resolution facsimile page images. Topics covered include literature, philosophy, history, science, the social sciences, music, art, drama, archaeology and architecture.

Gale Primary SourcesSearch together, any combination of: British Library Newspapers, Dublin Castle Records, Economist Historical Archive, 1843- , Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises, 1800-1926, Northern Ireland: A Divided Community, Times Digital Archive.

Proquest Primary Sources Collections The areas covered include Anthropology; Film and Media Studies; Global Studies; History; Philosophy and Religion; and Women and Gender Studies.

Use this link to see a list of all of our databases. Use the dropdown menu labelled "All Subjects" to sort by a specific subject. 

Secondary Source Databases

Secondary Source Database Examples

Academic Search Complete - Multidisciplinary database covering a large range of material in the social sciences and humanities. It includes over 21,000 journals and other publications.

JSTOR - Journal Storage Database - full text archival database covering over 2,500 scholarly journals in the areas of arts & humanities, social sciences and scienceAccess to the following collections: Ireland Collection, Arts and Sciences I to VIII, and the Life Sciences Collection.

Taylor & Francis Journals - Full-text electronic access to over 1000 Taylor & Francis titles. This is a multidisciplinary resource including arts, humanities, science and social sciences.

Use this link to see a list of all of our databases. Use the dropdown menu labelled "All Subjects" to sort by a specific subject. 

The Writing Process: Our Top Tips!


Setting Writing Deadlines

When beginning a lengthy piece of writing, it can be difficult to manage your time and stay on track. Therefore, it can be helpful to set small deadlines throughout the writing process and focus on individual sections. Deadlines can provide you with a sense of reassurance by allowing you to plan your level of productivity and manage your time efficiently. Setting deadlines also ensures that you spend an equal amount of time on each section as opposed to dedicating too much time to one over another. 

Using headings / Sub-headings in a logical format

As your thesis is a much longer piece of writing than a standard essay, it is recommended that you use headings and sub-headings to help structure and organise your writing and make your arguments clear and coherent for the reader. Headings can be anything from a theme you identified in the literature, to a pattern of results recognised in your own research. Sub-themes are used to elaborate or broaden the scope of a particular topic, but it is recommended that you refrain from using too many as it can become confusing for both the reader and writer. 

Thematic structuring: Identifying key themes or patterns within the literature 

Throughout the literature review process, various themes, patterns, and concepts emerge from the literature around your specific research topic. Themes can also emerge from your findings if you have used a methodology to investigate your topic further. In either case, reoccurring themes can help you to structure the body of your thesis and formulate logical and cohesive arguments when writing. 

Compare & contrast: Illustrate critical analysis and avoid summarising

One of the most important elements of a thesis is to synthesise your arguments as opposed to summarising them. To synthesise is to compare and contrast the various views evident within the body of literature in order to formulate your own opinions or stance on a particular subject. If opposing views and arguments are evident in your writing, it shows that a broad scope of literature has been consulted and an in-depth and critical analysis has been carried out on your research topic. Making strong comparisons between studies and findings illustrates to the reader that you have evaluated the literature thoroughly to develop your own findings or conclusions on the research topic. 

Using your voice: Supporting your arguments with evidence / references

While your thesis is compromised of past and current literature, it should also contain your our own voice and views with supported evidence and references. As your ideas can often develop from reading an extensive amount of literature on your research topic, if can become unclear whether an idea or view is one of your own or one presented in the literature. In this case, we recommend that you cite when you are in doubt! 

Concluding; Your contributions, findings and recommendations

When writing the concluding section of your thesis, make sure you re-visit the key points discussed in the introductory section, the observations you have made throughout the thesis, and outline clearly your own assessment of the literature, research and findings. 

  • What you intended to find out / investigate 
  • Your findings / results 
  • Your own assessment of the findings and literature (Your contribution & recommendations)

Your concluding paragraph also offers you a great opportunity to share your knowledge of the field with the academic community and contribute to the current body of research. Presenting your own findings and proposing recommendations on your research topic means that you are taking part in the 'scholarly debate' and participating in the ongoing scholarly conversation within the field. 

References & appendices 

While bibliographies and references are not usually included as part of the word count of your thesis, in-text citations are included. It is extremely important that all references (in-text and within the bibliography) are cited correctly and in the correct format/style of your department. If you are including live links or doi's, it is important that each one works correctly in case the reader would like to locate a particular reference. See Saving and Managing your Sources section for additional information. 

Lastly, the appendices can be used to share additional work or supplementary information that supports your overall thesis. This can be interview transcripts, maps, photographs or any kind of content carried out throughout the research process. 

Saving and Managing your References

Reasons to reference

Referencing is a crucial aspect of your thesis and therefore an essential part of the writing process. Your thesis should reflect that you can conduct research, locate suitable sources, analyse and critically review the findings and reference them appropriately. 

Academic writing & referencing

Good academic writing requires students to use their own voice to critically analyse/argue their viewpoint, with supporting evidence from the literature and by using referencing. Referencing helps you to avoid plagiarism, shows your understanding of the topic, gives evidence for what you are saying in your writing and allows others to see what sources you used. Find more information here on academic writing and referencing.

Reference Management Tools

The Library provides tools and software products that can help you navigate the referencing process, by saving and managing your references. LibrarySearch offers the following "icons" in your list of results that help you to copy, cite, e-mail and save/manage references:  

Reference Management Software

Reference management software gathers, stores & formats your references, creates in-text citations/footnotes for you. The Library provides access to the following reference management software: Refworks, Endnote Online and Endnote Desktop. There are other software products freely available such as Zotero and Mendeley. Find out more about these products and others here. Find links to our training videos below:


Endnote Online

Endnote Desktop

Find a Thesis

Your objective in writing a thesis is to create a piece of original and scholarly research to add to the body of knowledge in your subject area. A good place to start, is to find out what has been written in other theses. You can see what has been written, the writing style, how it was structured, research methods, and which references were used.

You can do this by searching for theses like your proposed topic in several places. The Find a Thesis guide will advise on how to search theses from Maynooth University, UK & Ireland and International sites.

Do you need further support?

If you are looking for further help or support with your undergraduate thesis, you can contact one of our Teaching Librarians from the Teaching & Research Development Team Guide here