How to Write Your Thesis

Title: How to Write Your Thesis

Authors: Kim Kastens, Stephanie Pfirman, Martin Stute, Bill Hahn, Dallas Abbott, and Chris Scholz

Full Text & Source: http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~martins/sen_sem/thesis_org.html

The Internet, Online, 12/10/2015

Sample Text:

Abstract

  • A good abstract explains in one line why the paper is important. It then goes on to give a summary of your major results, preferably couched in numbers with error limits. The final sentences explain the major implications of your work. A good abstract is concise, readable, and quantitative.
  • Length should be ~ 1-2 paragraphs, approx. 400 words.
  • Absrtracts generally do not have citations.
  • Information in title should not be repeated.
  • Be explicit.
  • Use numbers where appropriate.
  • Answers to these questions should be found in the abstract:
    1. What did you do?
    2. Why did you do it? What question were you trying to answer?
    3. How did you do it? State methods.
    4. What did you learn? State major results.
    5. Why does it matter? Point out at least one significant implication.

Table of Contents

  • list all headings and subheadings with page numbers
  • indent subheadings

Introduction

You can’t write a good introduction until you know what the body of the paper says. Consider writing the introductory section(s) after you have completed the rest of the paper, rather than before.

Be sure to include a hook at the beginning of the introduction. This is a statement of something sufficiently interesting to motivate your reader to read the rest of the paper, it is an important/interesting scientific problem that your paper either solves or addresses. You should draw the reader in and make them want to read the rest of the paper.

The next paragraphs in the introduction should cite previous research in this area. It should cite those who had the idea or ideas first, and should also cite those who have done the most recent and relevant work. You should then go on to explain why more work was necessary (your work, of course.)

What else belongs in the introductory section(s) of your paper?

  1. A statement of the goal of the paper: why the study was undertaken, or why the paper was written. Do not repeat the abstract.
  2. Sufficient background information to allow the reader to understand the context and significance of the question you are trying to address.
  3. Proper acknowledgement of the previous work on which you are building. Sufficient references such that a reader could, by going to the library, achieve a sophisticated understanding of the context and significance of the question.
  4. The introduction should be focused on the thesis question(s).  All cited work should be directly relevent to the goals of the thesis.  This is not a place to summarize everything you have ever read on a subject.
  5. Explain the scope of your work, what will and will not be included.
  6. A verbal “road map” or verbal “table of contents” guiding the reader to what lies ahead.
  7. Is it obvious where introductory material (“old stuff”) ends and your contribution (“new stuff”) begins?

Remember that this is not a review paper. We are looking for original work and interpretation/analysis by you. Break up the introduction section into logical segments by using subheads.

Methods

What belongs in the “methods” section of a scientific paper?

  1. Information to allow the reader to assess the believability of your results.
  2. Information needed by another researcher to replicate your experiment.
  3. Description of your materials, procedure, theory.
  4. Calculations, technique, procedure, equipment, and calibration plots.
  5. Limitations, assumptions, and range of validity.
  6. Desciption of your analystical methods, including reference to any specialized statistical software.

The methods section should answering the following questions and caveats:

  1. Could one accurately replicate the study (for example, all of the optional and adjustable parameters on any sensors or instruments that were used to acquire the data)?
  2. Could another researcher accurately find and reoccupy the sampling stations or track lines?
  3. Is there enough information provided about any instruments used so that a functionally equivalent instrument could be used to repeat the experiment?
  4. If the data are in the public domain, could another researcher lay his or her hands on the identical data set?
  5. Could one replicate any laboratory analyses that were used?
  6. Could one replicate any statistical analyses?
  7. Could another researcher approximately replicate the key algorithms of any computer software?

Citations in this section should be limited to data sources and references of where to find more complete descriptions of procedures.
Do not include descriptions of results.

Results

  • The results are actual statements of observations, including statistics, tables and graphs.
  • Indicate information on range of variation.
  • Mention negative results as well as positive. Do not interpret results – save that for the discussion.
  • Lay out the case as for a jury. Present sufficient details so that others can draw their own inferences and construct their own explanations.
  • Use S.I. units (m, s, kg, W, etc.) throughout the thesis.
  • Break up your results into logical segments by using subheadings
  • Key results should be stated in clear sentences at the beginning of paragraphs.  It is far better to say “X had significant positive relationship with Y (linear regression p<0.01, r^2=0.79)” then to start with a less informative like “There is a significant relationship between X and Y”.  Describe the nature of the findings; do not just tell the reader whether or not they are significant.

This is very informative but a very long article. read the full article online…

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