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How to write a thesis

Umberto Eco’s rules and advice on how Italian university students of modest means should choose a relevant topic, conduct and organize research with limited resources, and format their final undergraduate thesis. Though created by and for someone in the humanities, much of it applies to all sciences — and the parts that don’t are at least entertaining.

It was written in 1977, revised in 1985, and revised again when translated to English for both cultural and temporal/technological adjustments. A translation to Serbian (which is, amazingly, freely available online) needed neither, as Serbia and Italy have similarly dysfunctional systems of higher education.

For a book whose most important section is the one on taking notes and organizing research, this edition has remarkably small margins and tight binding. No matter — it will feature prominently in the Acknowledgments section of my PhD thesis, if and when I finish it.

Written by Umberto Eco, 1977

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