International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

What Helps and What Hinders Thesis Completion: A Critical Incident Study

Jane C. W. Ho

Trinity Western University

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D.

Meaning Centered Counselling Institute

Lilian C. J. Wong

Meaning Centered Counselling Institute


The purpose of this study was to discover what helped and what hindered thesis completion in order to provide helpful guidelines for graduate students and supervisors. The methodology used was based on Flanagan’s (1954) critical incident technique. The participants were Master’s and Ph.D. students (N=20) who either were in the process of completing their theses or had just completed their theses. The semi-structured interviews were audio tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim for content analysis. The results yielded 435 meaning units, from which19 facilitating and 17 hindering themes were extracted. At least 50% of the participants stated the following facilitating themes: students’ positive qualities; support from supervisor, family and friends; access to resources; a supportive and stimulating climate for thesis work; and supervisors’ positive qualities. The main hindering themes included: distractions from thesis research; difficult data related processes; lack of understanding of the thesis writing process; and students’ and supervisors’ personal qualities. Counselling implications for these findings were discussed.

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