Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.
Earlier this spring I learned of the publication of an English translation of Umberto Eco's How to Write a Thesis and was gratified to read it very quickly thereafter. I've always admired Eco from a distance, and this chance to dive into his academic thoughts was well rewarded.
Simply stated, if you need a guide to research, a how-to methodology for diving into an idea, this work provides it. Eco lays out principles and practice for research that will serve all students well, whether they write a thesis, dissertation, or something else. The book runs the gamut from developing the idea to writing the manuscript. Even though Eco wrote originally when the tools used for research were quite different from what we use presently, the genius of the book is in how the principles and methods translate to any situation. For example, he shows in short order one can find ample resources through proper detective work in a library. His own experiment involved a three-hour investigation in a public library of a moderately sized city. It forever shames those who argue they don't have resources available to them in our present, hyper-connected era, especially those who do have access to excellent libraries like the one at DTS. He helpfully analyzes when original-language research is necessary for a thesis idea. Although we no longer use note cards for organizing our research, his overview of how to do that provides helpful insight into recording of sources and attribution of ideas.
Perhaps what invigorated me most when I read this work, beyond geeking out on the research process, is the way Eco champions the inherent value of research and the valuable skills it conveys. Thinking is hard work, and thinking well often requires research. Research can be inspirational, as ideas found and properly organized can connect to form helpful insights. As an evangelical academic who has some very important things to think about, this message resonates with me. So if you are working on a thesis or research project, read this book to learn the craft. And if you want to write a thesis with me, be prepared to digest it well.