By the time Umberto Eco published his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose, he was one of Italy's most celebrated intellectuals, a distinguished academic and the author of influential works on semiotics. Some years before that, in 1977, Eco published a little book for his students, How to Write a Thesis, in which he offered useful advice on all the steps involved in researching and writing a thesis -- from choosing a topic to organizing a work schedule to writing the final draft. Now in its twenty-third edition in Italy and translated into seventeen languages, How to Write a Thesis has become a classic. Remarkably, this is its first, long overdue publication in English. Eco's approach is anything but dry and academic. He not only offers practical advice but also considers larger questions about the value of the thesis-writing exercise. How to Write a Thesis is unlike any other writing manual. It reads like a novel. It is opinionated. It is frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious. Eco advises students how to avoid "thesis neurosis" and he answers the important question "Must You Read Books?" He reminds students "You are not Proust" and "Write everything that comes into your head, but only in the first draft." Of course, there was no Internet in 1977, but Eco's index card research system offers important lessons about critical thinking and information curating for students of today who may be burdened by Big Data.How to Write a Thesis belongs on the bookshelves of students, teachers, writers, and Eco fans everywhere. Already a classic, it would fit nicely between two other classics: Strunk and White and The Name of the Rose.
The Definition and Purpose of a Thesis
Choosing the Topic
The Work Plan and the Index Cards
Writing the Thesis
The Final Draft
Although first published in Italian in 1977, before Eco (The Name of the Rose) became an internationally renowned novelist, this guide to writing a thesis originally aimed at Italian humanities undergraduates brims with practical advice useful for writing research papers. Stating up front that "the topic is secondary to the research method and the actual experience of writing a thesis," Eco walks the reader through the process of starting and completing a thesis, including selecting a topic, conducting research from primary and secondary sources, compiling a reference bibliography, and drafting and revising the final paper. He doles out his dollops of advice in chapters whose numbered sections and subsections themselves approximate the structure of a thesis, and he often enlivens his potentially dry subject matter with impish humor for example, Eco describes photocopies that students make but fail to read as "a neocapitalism of information." His advocacy of index card files to organize data seems quaintly nostalgic in the age of laptops and online databases, but it only underscores the importance of applying these more sophisticated tools to achieve the thoroughness of the results that he advocates.