How to Write a Thesis has become a classic. Even sections such as that recommending the combinatory system of handwritten index cards, while outdated in the digital age, can propose a helpful exercise in critical thinking, and add a certain vintage appeal to the book. Instead, it's about what, in Eco's rhapsodic and often funny book, the thesis represents: a magical process of self-realization, a kind of careful, curious engagement with the world that need not end in one's early twenties. It is witty but sober, genial but demanding-and remarkably uncynical about the rewards of the thesis, both for the person writing it and for the enterprise of scholarship itself Some of Eco's advice is, if anything, even more valuable now, given the ubiquity and seeming omniscience of our digital tools Eco's humor never detracts from his serious intent.
How to Write a Thesis, by Umberto Eco
How to Create an Outline: Umberto Eco's Advice for Writers
For centuries in Italy, a university degree was only for the elite. Until recently, Italian undergraduates needed to write a thesis: a page typewritten manuscript of original research, defended in front of a panel of professors. It was the only way into many careers. Many of them had little time and no access to the big libraries necessary for humanities research. Overwhelmed professors could barely supervise. Umberto Eco was one of these professors. In , just before he became famous for The Name of the Rose , he wrote a small handbook to help struggling students.
Foreword to: Umberto Eco, How to Write a Thesis
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 , 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.
A s a young scholar, Umberto Eco trained himself to complete everyday and academic tasks at speed; he quickened his pace between appointments, devoured pages at a glance, treated each tiny interstice of the working day as a chance to judge, reflect or compose. One imagines even his beard was a timesaving outgrowth of impatient ambition. Such deliberate habits in a writer suggest a sort of performance, and Eco has enjoyed showing interviewers around the three studies where he works: one each devoted to reading, typing and writing by hand. Such is his finicky pleasure in his own process that belated Anglophone readers should not be surprised that Eco once published a guide to researching and writing a dissertation.