Effective Thesis Writing. Jo-Anne Andre & Audrey Habke University of Calgary Faculty Technology Days May 6, 2009. Effective Writing Program http://efwr.ucalgary.ca. Overview. Common problems in theses Getting started & your writing process Conceptualizing your audience
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Effective Thesis Writing
Jo-Anne Andre & Audrey Habke
University of Calgary
Faculty Technology Days
May 6, 2009
Effective Writing Program http://efwr.ucalgary.ca
Common problems in theses
Getting started & your writing process
Conceptualizing your audience
Structuring your thesis -- The abstract
The literature review
Discussion and Conclusion
End matter: References & Appendices
From an informal survey of U of C CPSC professors ~
Conceptualization of research into thesis structure
Conceptualization of audience
Structuring the thesis
Coherence & paragraph structure
Development of strong arguments
Definitions & use of specialized terminology
Clarity and precision in sentences & grammar
Presenting math effectively
Editing - spelling, punctuation, word use, citations
Effective Writing resources for grad students: http://efwr.ucalgary.ca/gradstudents
Thesis template (& guidelines):http://www.ucalgary.ca/it/mswordthesisstylefiles/
For U of C theses, see https://dspace.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/281
For Canadian theses, see http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/thesescanada/index-e.html
Find other theses online or in specialized databases. See the UofC library website.
Some theses may be freely available online. E.g, from computer science:
Brygg Ullmer dissertation (MIT):http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~ullmer/dissertation/
George Fitzmaurice dissertation (U of T):http://www.dgp.toronto.edu/~gf/papers/PhD%20-%20Graspable%20UIs/Thesis.gf.html
Cory Kidd thesis (MIT):http://web.media.mit.edu/~coryk/papers/Kidd_MS_thesis.pdf
1. Focus on factual information
2. Add evaluative and critical material
3. Write integrative material (section previews, comparisons of studies, summaries)
You, your supervisor, and researchers focusing on topics similar to yours
+ Specialists in your field working on other topics
++ Professionals in related fields, who might have an interest in your research.
TARGET THIS RING
Evidence & Support: e.g., data, technical information,equations, examples, reasoning
General(link to familiar information, context)
From Ullmer, B. A. (2002). MIT. Dissertation
2 Conceptual foundations
Humans are clearly no newcomers to interaction with the physical world, or to the process of associating symbolic functions and relationships with physical artifacts. This chapter considers the broad conceptual background underlying tangible interfaces. The chapter begins by considering several historical examples that have been inspirations for this thesis—the abacus, board games, and early token-based accounting systems. Next, an overview will be provided for related areas of study from the social sciences . . . . Several per-spectives from the design community will also be considered. The chapter then turns to the discipline of human-computer interaction, reviewing several principles and models that broadly relate totangible interface design. Finally, the chapter discusses several models that are specific to graspable and tangible interfaces, . . . .
There are two representative ways to form a passivation layer, namely, vacuum deposition [7–9] and solution deposition [10,11]. To date, vacuum deposition processes, such as atomic layer deposition  and chemical vapor deposition [8,9], have been predominantly used to produce passivation layers. However, these processes have many drawbacks, including long processing times and high costs. Solution-deposition processes, by contrast, have the advantages of allowing simple and low-cost processing in short times.
Example from Nam et al. (2009)
Body chapters may vary depending on the thesis; e.g., chapters may present new work or report on testing or case studies. In some cases, body chapters will resemble research articles.
Front matter: Title page, approval page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, list of tables, list of figures, list of abbreviations
Ch. 1: Introduction
Ch. 2: Conceptual Foundations
Ch. 3: Related Research (Literature Review)
Ch. 3: Methods
Ch. 4: Results
Ch. 5: Discussion
Ch. 6: Conclusion
End matter: References, appendices
Sometimes including the review of research
Each presented like a research article, with an introduction (review of related research), methods, findings and discussion sections
Essential, if university requirements are to be met
Front Matter (as with the traditional style theses)
Ch. 1: Introduction
Ch. 2: Study 1
Ch. 3: Study 2
Ch. 4: Study 3
Ch. 5: Integrated discussion
Ch. 6: Conclusion
End Matter (as with traditional style theses)
Use informative (& grammatically parallel) subheadings
Restrict the number of heading levelsto 3 or 4
Example showing kinds of information to include
Global gene expression of cellsattached to a tissue engineering scaffoldKlapperich, C. M. & Bertozzi, C. in Biomaterials; Nov2004, Vol. 25 Issue 25, p5631-A goal of tissue engineering is to produce a scaffold material that will guide cells to differentiate and regenerate functional replacement tissue at the site of injury. Little is known about how cells respond on a molecular level to tissue engineering scaffold materials.In this work we used oligonucleotide micro-arrays to interrogate gene expression profiles associated with cell–biomaterial interactions.We seeded collagen–glycosa-minoglycan meshes, a widely used tissue engineering scaffold material, with human IMR-90 fibroblasts and compared transcript levels with control cells grown on tissue culture polystyrene.Genes involved in cell signaling, extracellular matrix remodeling, inflammation, angiogenesis and hypoxia were all activated in cells on the collagen–GAG mesh.Understanding the impact of a scaffold on attached cells will facilitate the design of improved tissue engineering materials.[128 words]
Context / problem
Purpose / focus of study
Consider how the opening sentences help to make the abstract clear and readable
Introduce the broad research area & topic
State the research problem or question
Establish its significance
Mention existing solutions & their limitations
Outline the proposed new solution
Indicate the purpose and objectives of the study (e.g. to identify…; to determine…; to measure…; to evaluate…; to develop…)
Include hypotheses (if applicable)
Indicate the study’s scope and limitations
Peate, I. U. (2003). Phd Thesis. U of London
1.4.1 Objectives of this study
The main focus of this study is to examine the volcanic stratigraphy and lateral distribution, eruption and emplacement mechanisms, and petrogenetic evolution of large-volume silicic eruptions associated with Oligocene flood volcanism in Yemen. . . . [goes on to present the rationale for the location, Yemen, and approach]. This study seeks to establish a volcanic stratigraphy, and a chrono-logical and geochemical database for Cenozoic silicic flood volcanism in Afro-Arabia. The results of this are used to:
1. Construct a regional stratigraphyof Yemen silicic flood volcanic products and examine eruption and emplacement mechanisms of silicic pyroclastic volcanism.
2. Compare and contrast thechrono- and volcano-stratigraphies of Yemen and Ethiopia in an attempt to link the conjugate rifted margins, and to evaluate any spatial variation in timing of volcanic activity across the Afro-Arabian flood volcanic province.
3. Evaluate the origin and evolutionof silicic volcanism in Yemen and its genetic relationship to basaltic flood volcanism.
4. Evaluate the impact of silicic floodvolcanism on global climate change, specifically the Oi2 global cooling event, by examining the relationship between Indian Ocean tephras and Afro-Arabian silicic pyroclastic eruptions.
How others mightuse your research
Potentialsignificance ofthe research
Contributionsto other fields
Educational orsocietal benefits
Short- vs long-term importance
A literature review situates your research intothe larger research context by
(adapted from Swales & Feak, 2000, p.149)
The review is a chronology of work done in the area; the writer has not organized the review thematically
The writer separates research from different disciplines, rather than reviewing across disciplines
Some sections sound too much like the original author
The writer accurately summarizes the research, but fails to take a stand on the research or come to conclusions about the contributions and limitations of the research
The writer fails to shape the lit review to demonstrate the need for his or her research
Researchon gender &learning
Literature Review – notetaking
Original (Barlman & Trey, 2001):The impact of viruses has become a major issue in many large organizations, but most still rely on individual users maintaining virus definitions, with no internal firewalls to protect one user from another.
Unacceptable paraphrase:Viruses have become a major issue in many large organizations, but mostorganizationsstill rely on users maintaining virus definitionson their individual computers, with no internal firewalls to protect onecomputerfrom another(Barlman & Trey, 2001).
“A methodology is not just a list of research tasks but an argument as to why these tasks add up to the best attack on the problem” (Przeworski & Salomon, 2004, p. 1)
“The methodology section serves to convince the examiner that you really knew what you were doing and that you knew how to do it properly” (Parsons & Knight, 2005, p.128).
Overall purpose: to argue that your chosen methodology was the best approach to your particular research question.
5.1 Multi-Method Charcoal Analysis
In order to maximise the amount of information gained from the charcoal record, three separate methods of preparation have been used: 1) polished blocks were collected, 2) demineralised sediment samples were captured, and 3) these sediment samples were sieved into two separate fraction sizes, macroscopic and microscopic. Studying charcoal in polished blocks is essential in order to establish the exact stratigraphic location of any charcoal. They will, however, only represent a "snapshot" of the section’s charcoal content. Residues from demineralised sediment have a lower spatial resolution but will reveal the sizes and shapes of particles and the overall charcoal content of each horizon (e.g. particles of charcoal per gram of sediment).
Justification of method
Participants completed a 30-minute driving course, where they drove around a simulated city. The course was designed at a 90% degree of difficulty in order to assure that the driving task was physically and cognitively demanding. The degree of difficulty of the selected driving course was determined by the simulator software based on various programmed factors, such as the amount of congestion, movement of surrounding vehicles, number of obstacles, behaviour of pedestrians, and complexity of intersections. To determine driving performance, we measured the number of incidents (e.g., speeding, running a stop sign, failing to yield, and following too close) and number of crashes (i.e., circumstances where the car hits a person, object, or automobile).
Link methods to research purpose
4.2.2 Major Element Geochemistry
Three tuffs were sampled from the area and analysed for their geochemistry. Based on their silica contents (62.54-74.39 wt% SiO2) they are evolved andesites to rhyolites and have lower K2O contents (0.9-1.73 wt%) than similarly evolved Cenozoic igneous rocks from elsewhere in Sabah (Fig. 4.3).
18.104.22.168 Major Elements
The major element concentrations of the samples from Sandakan are listed in Table 4.1, and plotted on Fig. 4.4 where they are compared with those from SE Sabah (Tawau I and Tawau II).
As only 3 samples were analysed, the data are insufficient to interpret clear correlations in some of the Harker plots: e.g. Al2O3 (13-15.9 wt%) and Fe2O3 (3.9-7.2 wt%). Some major elements show no correlation with increasing SiO2 content: e.g. TiO2 (0.403-0.721wt %), MgO (0.71-2.65), Na2O (1.8-4.7 wt%) and MnO (0.155-0.2.73 wt%). A positive trend exists for K2O (0.9-1.73 wt%) with negative trends for P2O5 (0.097-0.291 wt %) and CaO (0.92-6.3 wt %) versus silica. Compared with the Tawau I samples with similar SiO2 contents, the Sandakan rocks have lower Al2O3, MgO and K2O and higher TiO2, Fe2O3, Na2O, CaO, MnO and P2O5. The three samples have high LOI from 7.41-9.32 wt%.
(Chiang, 2002, p.205)
Link to research design
Evidence building toward your claim
It is a common belief that in general women are more polite than men and that female language contains more hedges than male language (see for instance Holmes, 1995). For the present analysis, this would mean that the percentages of hedged negative evaluative statements should be significantly higher in Book Review in Linguistics Corpus (BRILC) female than in BRILC male. However, if we determine the shares of hedging in the subcorpora of BRILC, we do not find any significant differences between the numbers of [hedge + negative adjective] combinations in reviews written by women and men, but almost equal percentages. In BRILC female, hedging devices (like rather, somewhat, it seems, I think) were found in 83 out of 150 examined concordance lines (53.3%). With 53.7% (79 out of 147 instances), the relative number of hedged critical state-ments in texts written by male reviewers is only slightly lower.Thus, concerning the shares of hedging of all analysed adjectives as a group, no significant gender-related differences were found.
Use appendices for detailed information related to research methods or results
Label as Appendix A, B, C,… & title each
List by name in your Table of Contents
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Parsons A.J., & Knight, P.G. (2005). How to do your dissertation in geography and related disciplines (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
Przeworski, A., & Salomon F. (2004). The art of writing proposals: Some candid suggestions for applicants to Social Science Research Council competitions. Retrieved April 10, 2004, from http://www.ssrc.org/ publications/for-fellows/art_of_writing_proposals.page.
Swales, J.M. & Feak, C.B. (2007). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills. Second edition. Ann Arbor:U of Michigan P.
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Belcher, C. (2005). Assessing the evidence for extensive wildfires at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. PhD dissertation: Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London.
Chiang, K.K., (2002). Geochemistry of the Cenozoic igneous rocks of Borneo and tectonic implications. PhD dissertation: Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London.
Hunton, J. &, Rose, J. (2005) Cellular telephones and driving performance: The effects of attentional demands on motor vehicle crash risk. Risk Analysis, 25, No. 4, 855-866.
Klapperich, C. M. & Bertozzi. (2004) Global gene expression of cells attached to a tissue engineering scaffold, C. Biomaterials, 25, No. 25, p5631.
Nam, S. et al. (2009). An inkjet-printed passivization layer based on a photocrosslinkable polymer for long-term stable pentacene field-effect transistors. Organic Chemistry. 10, 67–72.
Peat, I. U. (2003). Volcanostratigraphy, geochronology and geochemistry of silicic volcanism in the Afro-Arabian flood volcanic province (Yemen and Ethiopia). PhD Thesis. University of London.
Romer, U. (2005). “This seems somewhat counterintuitive, though...” Negative evaluation in book reviews by male and female authors. In Tognini-Bonelli, E. & Camiciotti, G. (eds.) Strategies in academic discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.
Ullmer, B. A. (2002). Tangible interfaces for manipulating aggregates of digital information. Retrieved September 14, 2007, from http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~ullmer/dissertation/