Thesis Writing

Topics: Academia, Thesis or dissertation, Doctor of Philosophy Pages: 14 (3588 words) Published: April 25, 2013
Thesis Writing
Prof. Dr. Armin Gruen Institute of Geodesy and Photogrammetry Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich,

1. Before you start writing 2. Guidelines and Tips 3. Nine steps in developing a draft manuscript 4. Checkpoints to consider 5. General advice 6. The best part of thesis writing Appendices: Literature, webpages, writing tips 1

Advice for students: How to do research Research: To know To know what to do To do it To make it known Department of Physics, Trinity College, Dublin


Before you start writing (1)
Defining your topic
+ Width of topic. Broad enough to address an important and interesting issue, but narrow enough to address the issue in the time allotted. Watch out: Your topic seems to get bigger once you are in it! + Understand the limitations of your situation (your capabilities, motivation, experiences, additional classes to be taken, supervision, required labwork, dependence on others, etc.) + Do some previous readings. Make sure you understand at least roughly what you are getting into. Study the state-of-the-art of the issue.


Before you start writing (2)
Creating a timetable
+ Coordinate with your other commitments. How many hours per time unit can you effort? Discuss the timetable early enough with your advisor. He/she may have experiments, travel or other activities on his/her mind which you should know.

Reading strategies
+ Understand that you are not going to know exactly what you are looking for in the beginning. Research is not fully planable. + First read to explore. Then read to focus. Finally read to understand all the details of previous relevant work. + Read critically. Research is not about believing, but about asking questions. Try to get to the primary sources. A topic may be misinterpreted by secondary sources. + Read always – you can never do enough reading! This holds especially for a PhD thesis: You should finally know more about your topic than anybody 4 else, including your advisor!

Before you start writing (3)
Writing as you research
+ As you read, take notes (summaries, short reactions). As you research and experiment, write things down. Keep a journal and list everything what you do related to the topic. Very often you will publish one or more papers before you complete a PhD thesis anyway. + Take advantage of other people‘s writing skills and experiences. If you have experienced co-authors - like your advisor(s)-, learn by doing! A good co-author is a very valuable teacher. + Writing helps focusing and clearing issues. You may have good ideas in your brain, but only when you write them down you will notice what is missing. Also, it is very helpful to explain things to others early in the process. This may lead to useful feedbacks.


Before you start writing (4)
Presenting as you research
+ Presentations are another means for shaping your thoughts and getting input from the outside world. This is part of the larger issue of communication. Doing good research is one thing – communicating it properly is another one. + Presentations should be started in your own group. Don‘t be afraid - your colleagues are in a similar situation. Together you will robustify your presentation and public discussion capabilities, before you encounter a larger, international audience and possibly some very critical „big-shots“. + In many places the defense of a Master or PhD thesis also includes a presentation and public discussion. Be prepared for that!


Guidelines and tips

(modified after Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Presentation format. Dictated by institutional guidelines. - Sizes of page margins and line spacings - Formats of title page, list of contents, appendices, list of references, illustrations, figures, tables - numbering system of chapters and sections, pages, figure and table captions, equations - font-styles...
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