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How to Write a Thesis

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  • 1. THESIS WRITING PROF. ABD KARIM ALIASThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 2. Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 3. What is a Thesis? “A written work resulting from original research, especially one submitted for higher degree in a university”Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 4. Why write a thesis? • Science aims to find pattern, trends, and structure in the experiment • Good scientific writing aims to bring forward in the text • structure • organization of scientific knowledgeThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 5. What’s in the thesis? • Addresses a problem or series of problems • Describes what was known about the problem(s) • What you did to solve the problemsThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 6. What’s in the thesis? • What you think the results means • How further progress can be madeThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 7. Structure of a ThesisThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 8. Getting started 1. Prepare a thesis outline • Break the thesis into chapters; list the major sections in each 2. Discuss with your supervisor 3. Prepare a chapter outline • Assemble all the data, tables, figures • Organise them into a sensible sequenceThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 9. Getting started (cont’) 4. Write • Do a section at a time • Start with something easyThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 10. Thesis title • Title reflects content of the thesis • Use concise but informative title Example Physicochemical and Functional Properties of Ozone-Oxidized StarchThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 11. Thesis title • Be specific & accurate • Avoid phrases such as “A study of...”, “An investigation of...” • Avoid jargon and acronymThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 12. Chapter 1 - Introduction "The purpose of the Introduction should be to supply sufficient background information to allow the reader to understand and evaluate the results of the present study without needing to refer to previous publications on the topic. The Introduction should also provide the rationale for the present study. Choose references carefully to provide the most salient background rather than an exhaustive review of the topic." (R.A. DAY)Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 13. Chapter 1 - Introduction • A description of the general problem followed by a statement of the specific problem and the motivation for the studyThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 14. What to write in the Introduction? • What do we know about the topic? • Provide comprehensive & critical review of the major findings in the area • What we don’t know (gap in knowledge) • Identifying what the gaps in our current understanding of the field are, and why it is important that these gaps be closed • What we are now showing • A clear statement summarizing what’s known, what needs to be learned, and what your paper aims to accomplishThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 15. Writing Good Introduction • The first paragraph should provide a brief background in present tense to establish context, relevance, or nature of the problem, question, or purpose (what is known) • The second paragraph may include the importance of the problem and unclear issues (what is un-known) • The last paragraph should state the ratio- nale, hypothesis, main objective, or purpose (why the study was done).Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 16. Writing Good Introduction Start by giving a general background ... Alkalising agents are important in the preparation of many traditional starch-based food products. Examples include the use of lime in the production of tortillas and kansui (a mixture of sodium and potassium carbonate) in the preparation of Chinese wheat noodles and waxy rice dumplings……Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 17. Writing Good Introduction Rational & problem statement …….Despite the age-old usage of alkalising agents, there is still much which is not known concerning the effects of these reagents on starch properties. Although the ability of aqueous alkali in inducing starch swelling is common knowledge, most of the work has been centred on NaOH in systems containing relatively low starch concentrations (<25%, w/w) …….Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 18. Writing Good Introduction Connecting the problem statement to the objective (reason for undertaking the study) ….. The influence of alkalising agents (especially kansui) on the thermal properties of starches has yet to be studied in any great detail. Therefore, the specific objectives of the present study were: •To differentiate the effects of sodium carbonate on the thermal profiles associated with gelatinisation of starch; •To quantify... •To characterize...Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 19. Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 20. What is literature review?‘…a systematic…method foridentifying, evaluating and interpretingthe…work produced by researchers,scholars and practitioners.’ Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 21. What is literature review? Literature is about telling a story…kind of a chain story where each writer starts with a partial story created previously by others and expand on it…the existing literature is the story so far… Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 22. What is literature review? Literature review is…‘an interpretation and synthesisof published work’- Merriam (1988:6) Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 23. See the wood for the trees… Filtering & sorting the essentials from the irrelevant… 5Image source: http:// sciencebhakta.wordpress.com Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 24. Skills for “digesting” the literature Select, differentiate, ANALYSIS Dissecting data into their constituent part. break up Integrate, combine, Rearranging the elements derived SYNTHESIS from analysis to identify relationship. formulate, reorganize Interpreting & distinguishing between Understand, distinguish, different types of data , theory &COMPREHENSION explain argument to describe the substance of an idea Describing the principles, uses, & KNOWLEDGE Define, classify, describe function of rules, method, etc. Adapted from Hart, 1998 Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 25. Any critical review should incorporate… An assessment of the strengths & weaknesses of some of the theories A clear understanding of the topic A citing of all key studies in the subject territory A clear indication of how the review links to your research questions Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 26. Any critical review should incorporate… A definition of the boundaries of your research A selection & synthesis of existing arguments to form a new perspective Through gradual refinement, a clear demarcation of the research problem Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 27. Scope & length of lit. review… Be selective State the current state of the theory How far back?(Master’s ~10 years; PhD – further back) Avoid verbosity Demonstrate ability to synthesise the body of literature – brief but focused. Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 28. Components of lit. review… Background information • Introduce topic • Describe scope & organization • Review past & present literature • Clarify purpose Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 29. Components of lit. review… Theory • All research has a precedent • Integrate key points & make appropriate inferences • Be aware of relationship to your topic Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 30. Components of lit. review… Critical appraisal/synthesis • Not jus a list of the work of others • Identify issues highlighted • Highlight differences & similarities • Identify consensus Abd Karim Alias@2010 [akarim@usm.my]
  • 31. Materials & Methods section • Provide detailed methodology used to conduct the experiment • Provide sufficient details but it is not expected to be written like a laboratory manual! • Describe control used • Highlight critical steps or precautionThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 32. Results section • It contains all of the data to support (or refute) the hypothesis that was proposed in the introduction section • It serves to weave a coherent story and must communicate the findings to the reader in a logical, transparent manner.Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 33. Results section Data presentation - Graph or Table? • Tables can be used to display precise numeric values • Figures are better for conveying trends or proportionsThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 34. Results section Data presentation Clear, succinct graphs, charts, photographs, and drawings can quickly convey the primary findings of researchThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 35. Results section Data presentation • The figure legends should provide a detailed description of the corresponding figure • Explain each symbol in the figure (typically arrow heads, arrows, asterisks) • Label should be clear (e.g., scale bar on SEM)Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 36. Results section Data presentation • Tables shoud be self-explanatory • Textual description should summarise & highlight table content (not to repeat)Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 37. Results section Data presentation • Arrange data in logical manner (in table) • Cross-check reference to figures/tables in the text • Give proper credit to figures/tables taken from other sources • All statistical analyses, where appropriate, should be describedThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 38. Describe results succintly Describe specific trends, significant effect, similarity/contrast, exception, limitation, etc. ...In higher moisture (1:4) systems, the presence of Na2CO3 appeared to significantly (p<0.05 or better) decrease ΔHG of all of the starches studied (with the exception of wheat and waxy rice starches, which showed no significant change in ΔHG), while NaOH had no effect on ΔHG of most of the starches studied. However, in the less hydrated (2:3) systems, Na2CO3 did not significantly (p >0.05) affect ΔHG except, ...Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 39. Results section - Common pitfalls • The same data are presented in figure (graph) and table • Data presented in the table are simply stated (without describing the trend, making comparison, highlighting anomaly, etc.) • Unusual trend in data is ignored (not highlighted)Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 40. Discussion section • To communicate the significance of your findings • To indicate how they support (or refute) the experimental hypothesis • To describe how these results advance the field of studyThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 41. How to Discuss? How thorough is your discussion & interpretation? • Have the main point to emerge from the results been picked for discussion? • Are there links made to the literature? • Is there enough evidence in your data to attempt at theory building or reconceptualization of the problems?Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 42. How to Discuss? How thorough is your discussion & interpretation? • Are there speculations? Are they well grounded (can be substantiated with your own data)?Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 43. Discuss results succintly …. The significant increases in gelatinisation transition temperatures in the presence of Na2CO3 or NaOH (Table 1 and Table 2) suggest an enhancement of starch granule stability, probably through electrostatic interactions between Na+ ions and hydroxyl groups of starch...Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 44. Discuss results succintly Give supporting evidence/information from previous works …. The significant increases in gelatinisation transition temperatures in the presence of Na2CO3 or NaOH (Table 1 and Table 2) suggest an enhancement of starch granule stability, probably through electrostatic interactions between Na+ ions and hydroxyl groups of starch...Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 45. Discuss results succintly Use phrases such as... …. One possible interpretation of the results shown in Figure...include the possibility that... ...The results shown in Figure 5 are in contradiction to the work of Karim et al. (2000)... These data suggest that... In contrast, Williams et al. (1998) reported that...Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 46. How to write a conclusion? Should include the followings: •What is the strongest and most important statement that you can make from your observations? •Refer back to problem posed, and describe the conclusions that you reached from carrying out this investigation •Summarize new observations, new interpretations, and new insights that have resulted from the present work.Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 47. How to write a conclusion? Should include the followings: • What are the contributions of new knowledge that your thesis makes • Does your work suggest any interesting further avenues? • Are there ways in which your work could be improved by future researchers? • What are the practical (broader) implications of your work?Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 48. How to write a conclusion? Example: In conclusion, gaseous ozone successfully oxidized the three types of starches studied, but the oxidation mechanism appeared to differ from that of chemical oxidation. Ozone oxidation introduced more carbonyl groups than carboxyl groups in the starch granules. Under identical conditions, the extent of starch oxidation varied among different types of starch...Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 49. How to write a conclusion? Example: Using ozone as an oxidizing agent offers several advantages over hypochlorite. During ozone oxidation, starch is oxidized in a dry state and in the “as is” moisture content condition, whereas hypochlorite oxidation requires use of organic solvents. The dry oxidation process using ozone is simpler than the hypochlorite oxidation process, and it offers 100% product recovery compared to hypochlorite oxidation.Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 50. Writing and effective abstract • Identify the major objectives and conclusions • Identify phrases with keywords in the methods section • Identify the major results from the discussion or results section • Assemble the above information into a single paragraphThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 51. Writing and effective abstract • State your hypothesis or method used in the first sentence • Omit background information, literature review, and detailed description of methods • Remove extra words and phrases • Revise the paragraph so that the abstract conveys only the essential informationThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 52. Writing and effective abstract • Check to see if it meets the guidelines • Make sure no grammar or spelling errors! • Give the abstract to a colleague (preferably one who is not familiar with your work) and ask him/her whether it makes senseThursday, February 24, 2011
  • 53. Writing and effective abstract Start out the Abstract by telling exactly  what you did and how you did it. Focus on the rationale and ideas of the study and why its important in the first two sentences Example: The effects of oxidation by ozone gas on some physicochemical and functional properties of starch (corn, sago, and tapioca) were investigated. Starch in dry powder form was exposed to ozone for 10 min at different ozone generation times (OGTs).Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 54. Writing and effective abstract In the next few lines, focus on the materials and methods, and the data generated from the study (results). Tell the reader how the data were collected, compiled, and state statistical significance(s). Example: Carboxyl and carbonyl contents increased markedly in all starches with increasing OGT. Oxidation significantly decreased the swelling power of oxidized sago and tapioca starches but increased that of oxidized corn starch.Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 55. Writing and effective abstract The end of the Abstract is just as important as the beginning! State the implications of your studies to the field of scholarship in which you are working. Some examples: These results show that under similar conditions of ozone treatment, the extent of starch oxidation varies among different types of starch.Thursday, February 24, 2011
  • 56. Writing and effective abstract State the implications of your studies... Some examples: …Binding of water to starch films influences their thermo-mechanical properties …In general, tortillas prepared with hydrocolloids had a lower tendency for retrogradation than control tortillas; it is important to consider this to obtain tortillas with better texture and lower RS content.Thursday, February 24, 2011

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