A manual for Ph.D dissertation


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How to develop ideas, how to evolve Ph.D research and how to complete Ph.D dissertations.

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A manual for Ph.D dissertation

  1. 1. A Manual for Ph.D Dissertation Yong Zheng DePaul University May 17, 2011 1
  2. 2. Outline1. Introduce Dissertation2. How to Write & Organize Dissertation3. Dissertation Style4. More About Dissertation5. Good habits for Dissertation 2
  3. 3. 1. Introduce Dissertation In view of the process and milestones:Course Credits Ph.D. Degree Directed Research Further ResearchPh.D. Exams Graduation Proposal Defense Dissertation DefenseGeneral Research Career 3
  4. 4. 1. Introduce DissertationIn view of the purpose and significance:To fulfill the promises in your dissertation proposals;To clearly document an original, substantial, innovative contributions to knowledge; 4
  5. 5. 1. Introduce Dissertation In view of the differences among papers and Master thesis: Paper Proposal MS Thesis/DissertationLength/Time Short/Depends Short/Depends Longer/Longer Examiner Reviewer Proposal Thesis Committee Committee Audience Researchers, Experts Proposal Thesis Committee Interested People Committee Generalist Focuses Specific problem Academic Systematized problems Purpose Quick publication; Recognition General and Thorough Academic communication & Supports Cover specific & trivial aspectsSignificance Targeted on specific A plan/direction MS Thesis: incremental improvementContribution smaller problems; for further Ph.D. Thesis: More difficult problems; research Original, Substantial, Innovative Contributions to prior knowledge Hypothesis (Problem+Solution) + Convincing Evidence + Organized Literature 5
  6. 6. 2. How to Write Dissertation1st Question: When to start writing Ph.D. thesis?Start as early as possible, do not wait you are fully ready.Write early, write often, writing is thinking! Assumption: successfully defend the proposal; At least start with an outline or skeleton; Do not have to start from the 1st section to the end; Start taking notes of problems, goals, brief descriptions, experimental designs and expected outcomes; The theories, algorithms or experiments, as well as the thesis may require numerous revisions to cover weaknesses/errors; Set deadline/due dates for each stages!! 6
  7. 7. 2. How to Write DissertationCommon Skeleton (formal structure depends on Universities): Abstract Introduction Background and Literature Review Research Questions/Problem Statement Solutions, Methodologies and Experiments Evaluations and Discussions Conclusions References Appendices Others: Table of Contents, Acknowledgements, etc 7
  8. 8. 2. How to Write DissertationPrinciples of Thesis Organizations: Take the readers’ views/focuses into account; Logically Clear, Sound, Thorough, Reasonable; Be honest and justified; Highlight the novel ideas and main contributions; For each section, ask yourself relevant questions to validate whether your writings have meet the requirements of each section Basic Routine: Goal->Writing->Question 8
  9. 9. 2. How to Write Dissertation1). Abstract General introduction of the background Briefly introduce the problem you want to address Summary of your solution and methodologies State a bird view of your results/conclusions Highlight your novel ideas and main contributions Is it concise? Is it clear and easy to learn the background and the targeted problem? Did you clearly indicate your solutions, conclusions and highlight your contributions? 9
  10. 10. 2. How to Write Dissertation2). Introductions General introduction to what the thesis is about Summarize the research questions/problems Indicate why this is a worthwhile problem Give an overview of your solution, experiment and main results/conclusions Can general readers easily understand the introduction? Did you explain some terms to avoid readers’ confusion? Did you briefly introduce your solutions and contributions? Did you highlight the novelty? 10
  11. 11. 2. How to Write Dissertation3). Background and Literature Review Give the background to let the readers know and understand your topic & the knowledge of this area The state of the art; related work, existing research Organize these by logical and reasonable ideas, not simply by time/author, etc Is the background clear enough? Is the literature review well organized? Is the literature review thorough enough? 11
  12. 12. 2. How to Write Dissertation4). Research Questions/Problem Statements Concise statement about the problems you want to address Justified, the problem should be unanswered/not well solved based on the previous literature review Thoroughly discuss why it is worthwhile to solve this problem Will readers be convinced to agree with your view on the problems, about the originality, novelty and applicability? Did you refer to some literature references to convince your points? 12
  13. 13. 2. How to Write Dissertation5). Solutions, Methodologies and Experiments Main purpose: to convince the examiners that you have answered the question or solved the problem by your own solutions It may require several sections to thoroughly explain the solutions, experiments and evaluations; here I simply split them into two. Show prior & current methodologies/work to your solution If there were blind alleys or dead ends, do not include them unless they can be used to serve that you have solved the problem Can readers clearly understand your solutions? Did all these parts have a logical basis and convinces? Did you mention the experimental conditions and limitations? 13
  14. 14. 2. How to Write Dissertation6). Evaluations and Discussions Analyze your experimental results and evaluate your assumptions/performance of solutions Focus on the positive contributions of the results, also explain the negative results Reasonably discuss the limitations of your solution, focus on the scale of the applicability Did you thoroughly evaluate the experimental results? Did you thoroughly discuss the relevant issues, such as limitations, flaws, etc? 14
  15. 15. 2. How to Write Dissertation7). Conclusions Conclusions: short concise statements about the results of work you have done; must be directly relevant to the problem you raised in this thesis; How you complete your promise? Summary of contributions: whether your results can contribute to the knowledge of your area; organize from most to least important. Original? Novel? Thorough? Meaningful? Future research: in order to let other researchers pick up relevant work and follow your tracks. Feasible? Reasonable? 15
  16. 16. 2. How to Write Dissertation8). References Closely tied to the literature reviews in previous sections Examiners usually scan this list looking for important works in the field, which may be considered as a preliminary assessment If your examiners are one of the experts in your topic, it may be necessary for you to read their relevant papers and put some into the references Do not just list them, make sure you have referred them in the main body! Organize them either alphabetically by author surname or order of citation in your thesis 16
  17. 17. 2. How to Write Dissertation9). Appendices This part may include materials impede the smooth development of your thesis but can contribute to justify the results of the thesis. For example: program listings, huge tables of data, mathematical proofs or derivations 17
  18. 18. 3. Dissertation StyleThe formal structure/format depends on the University;Be logically clear, sound, reasonable as academic literature style;Latex tool is recommended for writing; Grammar & logic written;Keep the figures and tables clear enough and well organized;Check spells, as well as missing chapter or figure references;Avoid simply use “obviously/clearly”, etc;Avoid simply use “XX is the most important …”;Avoid personal moral judgements and self-assessment;More: How to Write A Dissertation or Bedtime Reading for People Who Do not Have Time To Sleep 18
  19. 19. 4. More about Dissertation Results of your dissertation defense: Pass, Fail, Major Revision, Small Revision, etc Evaluate your thesis by yourself: Did you clearly and reasonably describe all? Did you logically demonstrate your solution? Were all questions well answered? Is there a significant contribution to previous knowledge? Ethical Issues: Original, Honest, Justified Thorough literature review Keep original, honest & justified about ideas & evidences Take references seriously (literature, figure, table, etc) 19
  20. 20. 5. Good Habits/Tips Write early, write often, do not wait all things to be ready; Grow your Ph.D. thesis from previous research; Keep notes about your ideas daily; Keep the reader’s backgrounds and views in mind; Predict examiners’ questions and answer them in thesis; Keep asking yourself questions about the thesis; Get feedbacks from others, especially advisors & committees; Submit early to committees in order to get feedbacks early; 20
  21. 21. Thanks!Any Questions? 21