1.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
Fail your PhD with confidence!
Martin Greenhow
http://www.brunel.ac.uk/~mastmmg/ssguide/sshome.htm
http://mcgraw-hill.co.uk/openup/studyskills/post.htm
Health Warning: Your supervisor will not writeHealth Warning: Your supervisor will not write
your PhD for you! YOU OWN IT.your PhD for you! YOU OWN IT.
2.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
7 ways of failing
Not wanting a PhD
Overestimating what’s needed – never getting
started (frozen)
Underestimating what’s needed – never getting
started
Having a crap supervisor (not really an excuse!)
Having a good supervisor, but thinking he/she is
crap
Not having a (testable) ‘thesis’
Taking a job before completion (not always fatal)
3.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
7 more ways of failing
Getting depressed
Getting sidetracked (teaching/other interests)
Changing topic/supervisor
Not looking after yourself (friends, sport,
interests)
Under-valuing your worth
Under-valuing the worth of your research
Guilt (no it’s an investment in yourself)
Others … ?
4.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
You should by end year 1:
have a good idea about what your project will involve. Sounds
obvious, doesn’t it?!
have read the backgound, some review/original papers in the same
area and related textbooks (not just Google!).
have attended courses
have started to make notes from these sources; keep this focussed and
don’t copy out sections from books, download chunks from the Web
or CDs - this is plagiarism! You will synthesise these notes into a
narrative later.
have written down exact references as you find them.
have started a week-by-week log book.
have completed a model problem and written it up.
have been appraised!
given a presentation to other PhD students/staff.
5.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
You should by start year 2:
have a good understanding of the theory and methods to be used.
have read most of the background material and made notes/references.
Tackled YOUR main problem
have made a start on any programming involved. It is not possible to
write a decent program without completely understanding what you
want/need to do, so ask your supervisor if anything is not clear. Then
draw a flow chart or write “pseudo code” to specify how the program
will work before getting bogged down in language syntax. Back-up
all programs and check them using TEST CASES.
have considered writing drafts as you go along to aid your thinking; in
mathematics this technique is perhaps less useful, but you must keep
very detailed notes and back them up with photocopies or notes on
your PC (AND Brunel network).
have seen your supervisor at least ? times.
6.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
Log book and Plans
Log Book
Make sure your log book is up to date and
include failures as well as successes
include how long it took you to do each item
write down ALL ideas you have as you work (they will be
useful for your Recommendations).
Regular Plan
Prepare a regular plans and ask your supervisor for
comments, especially on your plans & REALISTIC
timings for further work
7.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
Year 2 Giving a talk/conference
paper
Think about (interim) conclusions and how
you will communicate your results in
graphs, charts, flow charts, spray diagrams,
trees etc.
Prepare and practice your presentation,
asking friends to time each OHP slide.
Read the advice in the Study Skills Guide –
yes really do this!
8.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
You should by middle of year 3:
have finished all the actual project content.
have structured the main sections and typed them
up. This will take longer than you think!
have acted on your supervisor’s comments on
your draft chapters.
have produced all the graphs and diagrams.
Have career plans … de-stresses you/one less
thing to think about
9.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
You should near the end:
swap drafts with friends for comment. If your friends can’t
understand what you have done in broad terms, it’s YOUR
fault.
write the abstract, introduction, conclusions and
recommendations sections. Give these to your supervisor
for comment in good time.
finalise any appendices, references and program discs.
act on your supervisor’s comments.
put all sections together, check spelling and grammar,
include headers, footers and page numbers.
10.
The thesis itself
Your thesis should be a “narrative text” with a
coherent story line which flows logically from
one section to the next in a coherent manner.
See the REQUIREMENTS GUIDE; maximum length?
No padding - you’ll loose your thrust/reader.
11.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - general points.
The object of your thesis is to communicate, not
impress or blind with science!
Help your reader as much as possible.
Use ordinary plain English, free of jargon and slang.
Use diagrams, charts etc as much as possible.
Stick to conventional and consistent nomenclature.
12.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the start.
Title page - see the Requirements Guide.
Acknowledgements - keep it formal!
Table of contents (STRUCTURE).
List of figures.
Nomenclature, Definitions and Non-dimensionalisation.
Abstract of about 2-4 sides. The abstract is an important
guide to the reader and must describe the main area of the
work and your main results. Usually written last.
13.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the Introduction.
What the project is about.
A “map” of the work undertaken.
Why your work is interesting/important.
Possible applications.
A review of previous work.
A clear statement of how you have
extended the previous work.
The introduction is usually written at the end of the
project.
14.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the Method.
This can be very technical, so help your reader “navigate” through the
work by:
clearly stating your assumptions.
stressing what is most important. Move some material to
appendices.
using logical paragraph, section & chapter breaks.
using diagrams, charts, flow charts.
using equations with all terms defined; consider reminding the
reader of earlier definitions.
Think strategy, not detail.
The method section is often written early and goes through a few
drafts as the work progresses and the supervisor comments on it.
15.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the Results.
This can be very technical, so help your reader as before.
When presenting results you should:
state any limitations on the generality of your results.
state the accuracy of your results.
describe the sensitivity of your results to changes in assumptions
and parameter values.
Reconsider the model assumptions and refine them if possible (a
modeling cycle).
Explain your results; if you can’t/won’t do this, how do you expect
the reader to be able to?
The results section is often written early and goes through a few
drafts as the work progresses and the supervisor comments on it.
16.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the Conclusion.
This must not contain new ideas – NOT
AFTERTHOUGHTS!
This must contain only statements which are
supported by your work and follow naturally and
logically from it.
Draw some conclusions, probably taking several
pages of text; if you can’t/won’t do this, why do you expect the
reader to do it for you?
Conclusions MUST be defensible (in a court of
law) on the basis of ONLY what you have
presented – no unsupported conclusions.
NB The conclusion is worth a lot of attention !
17.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the Recommendations.
This should contain many of the ideas which will have occurred to
you as you worked, and which were written down in your log book …
weren’t they?
This must contain ideas for future work. Imagine yourself starting a
similar project … what would you want to read? Be as specific as
possible about:
new applications of the present theories/techniques.
application in areas with similar mathematical/programming
structures.
Extensions which avoid the limitations/weaknesses of your work.
Be honest - this is a sign that you know what you are doing and
will be rewarded rather that penalised!
NB The Recommendations are worth a lot of attention !
18.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the
Appendices.
Program listings - on a disc to help future students.
Data printouts - again on disc.
List of software used.
Logbook?
Instructions for reading data and/or running any programs
on the disc. Remember that the External Examiner may
well want to do this, so be specific and include everything
that is needed unless this infringes copyright laws.
Proofs and material which underpins, but is not part of, the
main narrative.
Include material here which will help future PhD students.
19.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The thesis itself - the References.
Books.
Greenhow M. (1982)“My life as a dog” Oxford Univ. Press 4th
ed.
Journals.
Greenhow M. (1937) “The mathematics of guinea pig sexing” J.
Math. Biol., 8, part 4, pp 1-59.
Electronic sources:
WWW - state exact URLs and date when accessed.
Graphics from web (or similar) needs to be referenced.
Remember: NO DOWNLOADING OF CHUNKS!
NB Read the Study Skills Guide – see the examples on plagarism.
20.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
Why talk about all this?
Note that students often get refereed because of
poor presentation and/or inadequate abstracts,
introductions, conclusions and, especially,
recommendations.
Students generally do not fail because of crap
content (assuming they have actually listened to
their supervisors!)
21.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
When you get stuck.
Can you define all your terms?
What are the dimensions of terms in your equations?
Can you non-dimensionalise your equations?
What are the important parameters?
Can you draw a flow chart for your program and check each
part separately?
Can you run simple test cases to compare your program
results against analytical results?
Write all variables to a file if your program gives
unexpected results, and check them carefully.
22.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
When you get stuck again!
Can you simplify your problem?
Can you exploit any symmetry in your problem?
Can you do sample calculations at e.g. x = 0, 1
etc?
Can you do any sort of asymptotic analysis as x
becomes small or big?
Can you plot your results in a different way?
Can you explain your problem to your supervisor
or another student? If you can, you are half way to
solving it!
23.
Dept of Mathematical Sciences,
Brunel University
The Viva.
Enjoyable or not? All depends on you/your work, but
examiners are not ‘out to get you!’
Good luck!
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