cover image How to Write a Thesis

How to Write a Thesis

Umberto Eco, trans. from the Italian by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. MIT, $19.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-262-52713-2

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. (Mar.)