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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. Overview. Common problems in theses Getting started & your writing process Conceptualizing your audience

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Effective thesis writing

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

Overview

Common problems in theses

Getting started & your writing process

Conceptualizing your audience

Structuring your thesis -- The abstract

The introduction

The literature review

Methods

Results

Discussion and Conclusion

End matter: References & Appendices


Common problems in theses

Common Problems in Theses

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


Getting started

Getting Started

  • Familiarize yourself with requirements & resources:

    Effective Writing resources for grad students: http://efwr.ucalgary.ca/gradstudents

    Thesis template (& guidelines):http://www.ucalgary.ca/it/mswordthesisstylefiles/

  • Review several theses in your field:

    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


The writing process

THE WRITING PROCESS


Writing process

Writing Process

  • Work from an outline

  • Expect to do multiple drafts

  • Write first, edit later; edit in waves(move from large issues to small issues)

  • Consider the “layered approach” to draftinga lit review (Thomas, 2000, p. 21):

    1. Focus on factual information

    2. Add evaluative and critical material

    3. Write integrative material (section previews, comparisons of studies, summaries)

  • Get feedback on your drafts


Conceptualizing your audience

Conceptualizing Your Audience

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


Basic structuring strategies

Basic Structuring Strategies

Background  Claim

General

Evidence & Support: e.g., data, technical information,equations, examples, reasoning

Specific

  • Provide section overviews / previews & closing summaries

  • Provide background for readers

  • Start paragraphs with topic sentences

  • Provide context for your work and for formulas, examples, etc.

  • Use visualsto show the scope of your research

General(link to familiar information, context)


Example opening overview

Example: opening overview

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, . . . .


Example paragraph structure

Example: paragraph structure

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 [7] 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)

General point

supporting discussion


Structuring your thesis traditional

Structuring your Thesis: Traditional

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


Structuring your thesis compilation

Structuring your Thesis: Compilation

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)


Structuring sections

Structuring Sections

  • Table of Contents

  • Approval Page.......................................................................................... ii

  • Abstract................................................................................................... iii

  • Acknowledgements................................................................................. iv

  • Table of Contents......................................................................................v

  • CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION.............................................................1

    • 1.1 Research Objectives......................................................................1

    • 1.2 Background....................................................................................2

      • 1.2.1 The Oil and Gas Economy .................................................2

      • 1.2.2 Environmental Legislation ................................................3

      • 1.2.3 Environmental Impact of Salts .........................................4

      • 1.2.4 Salt Remediation ..............................................................5

      • 1.2.5 Tile Drainage Systems.......................................................7

      • 1.2.6 Solute Transport ...............................................................7

  • CHAPTER TWO: STUDY AREA.................................................................9

    • 2.1 Site Description..............................................................................9

    • 2.2 Previous Site Investigations...........................................................9

    • 2.3 Regional Setting...........................................................................11

      • 2.3.1 Physiography and Climate...............................................11

      • 2.3.2 Geology ...........................................................................13

        • 2.3.2.1 Tectonic Setting and Bedrock..............................13

        • 2.3.2.2 Surficial Sediments and Soils ..............................15

Use informative (& grammatically parallel) subheadings

Restrict the number of heading levelsto 3 or 4


Front matter

FRONT MATTER


Writing the abstract

Writing the Abstract

Example showing kinds of information to include

  • A brief summary of your project

  • One or more paragraphs

    • Master’s thesis: 150 words max.

    • Doctoral dissertation: 350 words max.

  • Abstract should be informative


Effective thesis writing

Example

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

Method

Consider how the opening sentences help to make the abstract clear and readable

Findings

Significance


The introduction

THE INTRODUCTION


Writing the introduction ch 1

Writing the Introduction (Ch. 1)

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


Example objectives

Example: Objectives

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.


Considering the significance of your thesis research friedland folt 2000

Considering the Significanceof your Thesis Research(Friedland & Folt, 2000)

Methodological/technological contributions

How others mightuse your research

Empiricalcontributions(information)

Potentialsignificance ofthe research

Consider

elementsseparately

Theoreticalcontributions(understanding)

Consideranalogoussystems

Contributionsto other fields

Educational orsocietal benefits

Short- vs long-term importance


The literature review review of research

THE LITERATURE REVIEW (REVIEW OF RESEARCH)


Reviewing the literature what

Reviewing the Literature: What

A literature review situates your research intothe larger research context by

  • Reviewing previous research

  • Synthesizing it into a summary of “what is and isn’t known”

  • Relating it to your research question

  • Identifying points of controversy

  • Suggesting questions for further research(Taylor, 2008, p. 1)


Level of detail

Level of Detail

(Hart,1998)


Common criticisms of lit reviews

Common Criticisms of Lit Reviews

(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


Reviewing the literature how

Reviewing the Literature: How

  • Organize your review thematically

    • look at key concepts in your research

    • use subsections with informative headings

    • group related pieces of research

  • Move from broad to highly relevant work, from theoretical to empirical, from known to unknown (Tornquist, 1986)

  • Describe highly relevant work in more detail


Literature review planning

Literature Review – planning

Define concepts

Researchon gender &learning

Researchon onlinelearning

theory

Gender

Learningstyles

Learningstyles

Deliverymodes

  • Try mapping your key concepts& bodies of research

    • e.g., study on gender differences in online learning for students enrolled in a distance nursing program

  • Develop an outline

  • Write first, edit later


Effective thesis writing

Literature Review – notetaking

  • Use charts to help synthesize information while note-taking


Use appropriate tenses

Use Appropriate Tenses:

  • Researcher actions - past tense

    • Smith (2003) studied…; Pell (2004) found…

  • Research in general – present perfect

    • Research has shown…;…has been studied

  • Conclusions drawn - present tense

    • Response time depends on…(Pell, 2004)


Using sources effectively

Using Sources Effectively

  • Don’t paraphrase by using the original sentence structure and changing words here and there; that is plagiarism even if you cite the source

  • Use quotation marks around wording taken from a source

  • Quote only when the original wording—not just the idea— is important

  • Use sources to support your points—not to make them

  • Whether you paraphrase or quote, always cite the source


Paraphrasing too closely example from zobel 2004 p 217 218

Paraphrasing too Closely(Example from Zobel, 2004, p. 217-218)

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).


Methods experimental

METHODS(EXPERIMENTAL)

“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)


Writing the methods section

Writing the Methods Section

“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.


Describing methods what

Describing Methods: What

  • Summarize the research design

    • Approach, research questions & hypotheses

    • Link to background, review of literature

    • Explain philosophical basis for your approach

  • Describe the research setting & sample

    • Population, sampling method, sample size, ethics considerations

  • Explain (& justify) the intervention, procedures and tools for data collection and analysis

    • Address variables, measurement, sources of bias, etc.

    • Establish scope and limitations


Describing methods how

Describing Methods: How

  • Use headings to organize information

  • Be as specific as possible; provide enough detail to allow replication

  • For novel approaches, justify methods in detail

  • Include references


Language and presentation

Language and Presentation

Verbs

  • Use past tense for research actions (occasionally shifting to present tense for other purposes)

  • Use active when possible, switching to passive voice to downplay researcher role as required

  • Aim for precision

    Visual design

  • Use informative headings

  • Include useful visuals (e.g., photos or illustrations of samples, equipment and procedures)


Example modified from belcher 2005 p 94

Example(modified from Belcher, 2005, p.94)

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).

generalto specificdescription

Justification of method


Example hunton rose 2005

Example(Hunton & Rose, 2005)

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


Results

RESULTS


Presenting the results

Presenting the Results

  • Separate results from methods and discussion

  • Summarize the research, reminding readers of key aspects; describe the sample

  • Present the results first and analyze them later in the chapter (or section)

  • Provide detailed data in labelled tables / figures; use appendices if necessary for raw data or detailed results

  • Refer to visuals and appendices explicitly (e.g., Figure 2; Appendix A) where appropriate in the discussion.

  • Provide conceptual links between results and the research design: connect findings to your research question, objectives, hypotheses, and methods


Effective thesis writing

Example

4.2.2 Major Element Geochemistry

4.2.2.1 Classification

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).

4.2.2.2 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)

Results

Analysis

Link to research design


Discussion and conclusion

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION


Discussing results inductive logic

Discussing Results: Inductive Logic

Evidence building toward your claim

Specific

Claim

General

  • Developing a new claim (Evidence Claim)

  • Presenting contested claims

  • Justifying decisions; discussing weaknesses


Example romer 2005 p107

Example (Romer, 2005, p107)

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.

claim


Discussing results concluding

Discussing Results & Concluding

  • Summarize major findings

  • Connect findings to your research questions, objectives, and hypotheses

  • Highlight the meaning of the findings andrelate the findings to the literature

    • Do they support previous research or theory?

  • Discuss limitations of the research

  • Discuss contributions to knowledge in your field, applications to theory development, and implications for practice

  • Indicate directions for future research


End matter

END MATTER


References citation resources

References: Citation Resources

  • UofC Effective Writing Program writing resources:http://efwr.ucalgary.ca/citationstyles

    Resources for

    • APA

    • Chicago

    • CSE

    • Harvard

    • IEEE

    • MLA

    • Vancouver


Appendices

Appendices

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


References resources

References & Resources

Friedland, A. J., & Folt, C. L. (2000). Writing successful science proposals. New Haven CT: Yale UP.

Hart, C. (1998.) Doing a literature review. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.

Matthews, J. R., Bowen, J. M., & Matthews, R. W. (2000). Successful scientific writing. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

North Dakota State University. (n.d.) Guidelines for M.S. Thesis/PhD Research Proposal. Retrieved May 3, 2005, from http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/HNES/Graduate%20Stuff/ms.thesis.guid…

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.

Taylor, D., & Proctor M. (2008). The literature review. Retrieved May 01, 2009 from http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/litrev.html

Thomas, S. A. (2000). How to write health sciences papers, dissertations and theses. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Tornquist, E. M. (1986). From proposal to publication: An informal guide to writing about nursing research. Menlo Park CA: Addison-Wesley.

Verhoef, M.J., & Hilsden, R.J. (2004). Writing an effective research proposal. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://www.clinicaltrials.ualberta.ca/downloads/protocol_writing_handout_2004.pdf

Zobel, J. (2004). Writing for computer science. London: Springer.


References samples

References (Samples)

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/


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