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Credits to University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus - Graduate School. Sourced from Dr Tissa Chandesa.

Credits to University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus - Graduate School. Sourced from Dr Tissa Chandesa.

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    Finishing your thesis 2 Finishing your thesis 2 Document Transcript

    • Research Training Programme Finishing Your Thesis
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This course has been compiled using ideas and approaches from: Professor Claire O’Malley, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham Ms Catherine Haines, Educational and Staff Development Unit, Queen Mary, University of London Dr Kate Exley, Consultant in Higher Education Dr Joanna Channell, a written and spoken communication skills consultant from Channell and Associates Writing Skills.The Open Teaching Toolkit. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1992 Phillips, E, and Pugh, D, How to get a PhD. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1994 Leeds, D, Marketing Yourself. London: Piatkus, 1992 Cutts, M, The Plain English Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996 Brown, G, Smallwood, A, and Bragan-Turner, D, Introducing Arts and Humanities Postgraduates to Research. Sheffield: The Universities’ and Colleges’ Staff Development Agency, 1996 Seifert, L, Training for Assertiveness. Aldershot: Gower, 1995 Forsyth, P, The Negotiator’s Pocketbook. London: Melrose, 1993 The Graduate School is a section within the University’s Research Innovation Services department.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 3 CONTENTS THE STRUCTURE OF AN ARGUMENT................................................. 7 Tips on structure…...................................................................... 9 WHAT IS A THESIS FOR?.............................................................. 11 CONTENT OF THESIS................................................................... 12 DEVELOPING YOUR ARGUMENT..................................................... 13 The Argument Structure of My Thesis.......................................... 14 ORIGINALITY IN RESEARCH.......................................................... 15 GETTING GOING WITH WRITING YOUR THESIS............................... 19 If you are finding it difficult to write anything at all… ..................... 19 If you are finding it difficult to ‘stand back’… ................................ 20 If you are finding it difficult to get your ideas down on paper… ....... 21 Mind map example (technology)................................................. 22 FREEWRITING: A WRITER’S TOOL ................................................. 23 PLANNING THE WRITING UP......................................................... 25 Getting started ........................................................................ 25 First and last steps ................................................................... 26 Key strategies of writing up ....................................................... 27 Suggested timetable for writing up ............................................. 28 KEY FORMATTING TIPS ................................................................ 29 TIPS FOR USING WORD TO PREPARE LONG DOCUMENTS ................. 30 EFFECTIVE WRITING ................................................................... 31 Good practice for writing skills ................................................... 33 Checklist of good practice in writing skills .................................... 34
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 5 Finishing Your Thesis 0930 Start Welcome and Introduction The thesis as an argument Developing your argument ---------------------- Break ---------------------- Planning your submission Formatting tips Round up
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 7 THE STRUCTURE OF AN ARGUMENT ((FFrroomm TToouullmmiinn,, 11995588)) DDaattaa QQuuaalliiffiieerr CCllaaiimm//ccoonncclluussiioonnSSoo,, SSiinnccee UUnnlleessss OOnn aaccccoouunntt ooff BBaacckkiinngg RReebbuuttttaall ,, WWaarrrraanntt
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School8 THE STRUCTURE OF AN ARGUMENT ((FFrroomm TToouullmmiinn,, 11995588)) DDaattaa,, evidence QQuuaalliiffiieerr –– lliimmiittaattiioonnss oonn yyoouurr ccllaaiimmss eegg ccoonnddiittiioonnss uunnddeerr wwhhiicchh tthheeyy hhoolldd,, pprroobbaabbiilliittyy,, ttiimmee ppeerriioodd tthhee rreellaattee ttoo CCllaaiimm//ccoonncclluussiioonnSSoo,, SSiinnccee UUnnlleessss OOnn aaccccoouunntt ooff BBaacckkiinngg –– eexxiissttiinngg tthheeoorryy,, rreesseeaarrcchh,, ppiilloott ssttuuddiieess RReebbuuttttaall –– ccoouunntteerr aarrgguummeennttss,, ootthheerr iinntteerrpprreettaattiioonnss,, ddiiffffeerreenntt pprreemmiisseess aanndd aassssuummppttiioonnss.. HHooww wwoouulldd yyoouu ddeeaall wwiitthh tthheemm?? WWhhaatt ootthheerr rreesseeaarrcchh mmaayy tthheeyy ssuuggggeesstt?? WWhhyy ddiiddnn’’tt//ccoouullddnn’’tt yyoouu ssttaarrtt tthheerree?? eettcc ,, WWaarrrraanntt Why that particular data allows you to make your claims eg its validity, the methodology or sample used
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 9 Tips on structure…  Logical structure (not necessarily chronological order)  Make it clear why and how your results/design/analysis etc. solves the problem you set out to solve  Provide a concise outline and summary of the thesis  Tell them what you’ve discovered and why it’s important, original etc. o at the beginning o and at the end
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 11 WHAT IS A THESIS FOR?  To establish the grounds for believing a claim or conclusion  The grounds should be based on  evidence (i.e. your results)  plus (usually) other evidence or accepted claims warranting you to draw the conclusion from your evidence So…  Make it clear what your central claim/conclusion is  Make it clear how your research supports the claim/conclusion  Keep the background (e.g. literature review) relevant to your argument linking data with conclusions
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School12 CONTENT OF THESIS A typical thesis will contain: Title page Title, name, affiliation & date (see University Guidelines) Table of contents This should show page numbering of chapters and appendices. It is also sometimes helpful to have lists of tables and figures. Abstract Approx. 300 words. Acknowledgements Remember to acknowledge your funding body. Introduction It is often helpful to have one introductory chapter which outlines the thesis as a whole and indicates relevant sections where key elements of your arguments may be found. You may then want a separate introduction which contains the background, literature review, etc. Substantive chapters This is the main body of the thesis, typically a chapter for each study, but this will vary depending on the type of work you are presenting. Discussion You may want a separate major discussion chapter, which puts the argument together and relates it back to the introduction. Your conclusions may be stated here or in a separate chapter. Don’t forget to include some discussion of the wider implications and future work. References/ Bibliography Appendices Your supervisor will give you guidance on what to include here but this may contain materials used in studies, full tables of means and standard deviations, code listing, etc. 1. Read other theses to get a better idea of what’s required. 2. Don’t make the thesis any longer than is necessary to present your argument. Waffle and padding do not impress! 3. Write in plain English and in a readable style. Aim to make your thesis an enjoyable read!
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 13 DEVELOPING YOUR ARGUMENT Individually complete the following: 1. Write one sentence that summarises your reseach The aim of my research is… 2. List your most interesting, valuable or timely elements, findings or conclusions The most interesting things in my thesis are…      Don’t be limited or put off by the number of bullet points: more or less interesting things are fine! Then, briefly discuss the above with a partner, highlighting why they are interesting or important and how you can support this position. Once you have both completed this, turn over and fill in the argument model for your thesis.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School14 The Argument Structure of My Thesis SSoo,, SSiinnccee UUnnlleessss OOnn aaccccoouunntt ooff ,,
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 15 ORIGINALITY IN RESEARCH This exercise will help you to focus on the ‘originality’ in your research and how it is has contributed to knowledge in your discipline. Take five minutes to write down, on the following pages, your thoughts on the subject below. “What do I need to write to convince my examiners that my thesis has made a distinct addition to knowledge?” For a discussion of what constitutes ‘originality’, see Dunleavy (2003), pp. 26-42.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School16 NOTES
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 17 NOTES
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School18 NOTES
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 19 GETTING GOING WITH WRITING YOUR THESIS If you are finding it difficult to write anything at all… The following exercises may help clear your writer’s block:  making a rough plan (which you need not necessarily adhere to)  planning to spend a set number of hours a week writing  finding somewhere quiet and undisturbed to write and, if possible, always write in the same place  setting goals and targets for yourself  collaborating with long-standing colleagues and trusted friends  setting up a writers’ group: see Murray (2002), pp. 140-7  try ‘free writing’ (see page 21 for further information). Possible prompts might include: o My research excites me because… or What excites me about my research? o The things that prevent me from writing are… or What prevents me from writing? o The most interesting thing I have done in my research is… or What is the most interesting thing I have done in my research? o My life after I have submitted and been examined will be… or What will I do with my life after I have submitted and been examined?
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School20 If you are finding it difficult to ‘stand back’… If you are struggling to design the structure your thesis, to write the conclusion and/or to ‘stand back’ and see your research as a whole, the following suggestions may help:  write down what you did  write down why you did it in the way that you did  write a two-page summary of the most important things that you did (if it helps, imagine that you are required to design a poster advertising/marketing your research - what are the main images, words and plus points that you would use?)  try writing your literature review and Introduction later rather than sooner, and try writing the conclusion first (you do not have to write the thesis in the same order in which it will be read!)  If you are finding the order of the thesis difficult to sort out then try brainstorming headings. These headings may be obvious from the two- page summary (see above).  Try writing in layers: for each heading write a 200- to 300-word summary. Then analyse these summaries to look for sub-headings. Repeat the summary writing for each sub-heading.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 21 If you are finding it difficult to get your ideas down on paper… If you are having problems ‘unpacking’ your ideas, getting them down on paper, sorting out an appropriate order or grouping of ideas, findings, etc., then using the ‘mind map’ approach may help. For those unfamiliar with this style of working, here are some basics (you will need to develop a particular style which works for you):  Start in the middle of the page and work outwards  Write the main idea/topic in a box or bubble in the centre of a plain sheet of A4 (landscape - i.e. turned sideways)  Work in a clockwise direction writing major points/themes which occur to you, on branches which radiate out from the centre  Write down subsidiary points branching off from the main branches  Write down key words or phrases (which will “trigger off” your memory)  Add in colour, pictures, dotted lines, arrows etc. to denote links between words Advantages of this technique:  the main idea is clearly identified  the relative importance of each point is denoted by its proximity to the centre  links between points are readily apparent  recall and review are more rapid and effective with this method  new information can easily be added  it aids creativity in that new links and connections can be made more readily and it is easier to view the “whole picture” The idea of mind-mapping follows on from Tony Buzan’s work (Use Your Head, Ariel Books),
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School22 Mind map example (technology) Discuss the factors of importance in the recycling of finite resources Recycling of Finite Resources Economics Government Action TechnologyFacts + Figures - Example of Improve prospects of recycling Encourage through sponsorship of U.K. EEC., encourage No enforcement of recycling Prevent Pollution in Disposal Legal Present Position potential Copper, Paper, etc. Increase Costs Transport, sorting Save Money Save Fuel Reduce Cost of Disposal Produce Fuel Source of map: Preparing for Living With Technology. Open University Press. 1988 p.40)
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 23 FREEWRITING: A WRITER’S TOOL Freewriting is a technique developed by Peter Elbow1 in response to his own inability to write during the course of his PhD.2 The essential idea behind freewriting is that we must separate the writing and editing processes. Thus, freewriting is writing at full speed without the time to read or change what has just appeared on the paper. To be successful in developing you as a writer the technique should be used regularly; Elbow suggests every day over a three- to six-month period. To try this system for yourself, you should:  Come up with a prompt that you would like to write about. This could be, “What am I trying to achieve in this chapter?” or, “What is really interesting or important about this part of the thesis?”  Write in complete sentences, not bullet points. However, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation, structure or even making sense.  Write non-stop for five minutes. As you become comfortable with the technique you could increase this to ten minutes. The key is that you do NOT re-read what you have just written: you can do that after you finish. So why does Elbow think this will help? Essentially, he believes that thinking of words and worrying whether they are the right (or best) ones are two complex tasks that compete with each if we let them. Freewriting breaks this link. Elbow studied many undergraduates and postgraduates learning to write in the academic context: students who used the technique over a prolonged period of time were able to write more (in the five minutes available) at the end of the programme and the quality of the pieces produced also increased. The following quotation sums up Elbow’s views: The most effective way I know to improve your writing is to do freewriting exercises regularly… It isn’t just therapeutic garbage. It is a way to produce bits of text that are better than usual: less random, more coherent, more highly organised. 1 Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (retired). 2 In fact Peter had to have two attempts at getting his PhD due to his problems with writing and it was this which led to his career-long interest in researching the writing process.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School24 His views are endorsed by others in the field of teaching writing:  Boice recommends a daily regime to be more productive. (Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing. Stillwater, OK: New Forums)  Emig suggests that writing is a mode of learning; i.e. we understand an idea by writing it. (Have you ever tried to explain something you thought you knew to someone and realised there is something in the explanation that you aren’t sure about?) (College Composition and Communication, 28: 122-8)  Murray recommends that a writer needs a range of tools and strategies to remain productive. (Thesis Writing and Writing for Publication. Videos produced for the University of Glasgow)  Torrance et al. recommends text generation strategies rather than learning about the technical aspects of writing or developing cognitive strategies to write. (British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63: 170-84) To learn more about the technique, try the following references:  Murray, 2002, pp. 80-94  Elbow, 1973, 1981
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School 25 PLANNING THE WRITING UP Getting started You should normally allow at least six months to write up your thesis. If that’s not possible for you, plan on the basis of what time you do have. Below is a blank six-month timetable. Imagine you were starting from tomorrow and planning right up to the day of submission. For each month, state:  your concrete objectives  any constraints or dependencies which may affect your plan Then compare your plan with a colleague on the course. Do you need to make any changes? Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School26 First and last steps Now plan in more detail what you will need to do each week during the first and last month! This coming month Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Last month prior to submission Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
    • Finishing Your Thesis and Preparing for the Viva © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 27 Key strategies of writing up  Work out how much time you have  Be realistic: what are your constraints?  Set yourself concrete objectives  Establish milestones and allow for slippage  Work backwards! o plan from the end up to now o start with your results: leave the introduction until last  Allow time for feedback on drafts, proofing, formatting, copying, binding, etc.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School28 Suggested timetable for writing up Weeks 1 Plan timetable & review with supervisor; organise materials (data files, references, etc); set up Word files & formatting styles, etc., 2-7 First draft of substantive chapters (e.g. 1 week for each) and pass to supervisor as they’re done. Provide short abstract for each chapter, which could serve as a basis for structuring the argument. At the end of this period you should meet with your supervisor to discuss the overall shape of the thesis and any revisions to be made to chapters. 8-9 First draft of introduction & conclusions chapters, plus overall abstract. Pass to supervisor for review. 10-15 Revise substantive chapters (remember you may need to do further analyses, for example). 16 Deadline for submission of Notification of Submission of Thesis for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Master of Philosophy (MPhil)* 16-17 Revise introduction and conclusion chapters. 18-19 Major review with supervisor; compile whole document and revise as necessary. 20 Proof-reading, formatting, spell checking etc. Compile table of contents, references & appendices. 21-22 Final draft to supervisor for checking; modifications if necessary. 23 Final formatting & printing; send off for reproduction. 24 Check copies & submit to appropriate Student Registry. This schedule assumes: 1 You have already written up your experiments or fieldwork in draft form (at least method and results). 2 You have been compiling your bibliography as you go along, and your literature review is up to date. 3 Raw materials for appendices are readily accessible. All data have been analysed! * This form should be submitted at least two months before your intended submission date; an example of this form is given in the Appendices, and further details are available on page 24.
    • Finishing Your Thesis and Preparing for the Viva © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 29 KEY FORMATTING TIPS  Follow the guidelines for the presentation of your thesis from your appropriate Student Registry, or, look at some recently completed theses in the library  Make sure you are familiar with the language and type- setting conventions of your discipline (check out with your Supervisor, look at previous PhDs in the library etc.)  Keep records of individual data so that you can go back to it if necessary, both when writing up, and in preparing for the viva  Keep backup disks  Be careful about recording the sequence of any changes to the data  Keep control over different versions  Buy or borrow a good dictionary and thesaurus  Number your pages, figures and tables. It is also a good idea to number sections for cross-referencing  Consider providing a brief summary at the end of each chapter  Define styles if using “Word”
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School30 TIPS FOR USING WORD TO PREPARE LONG DOCUMENTS  Word is usually most efficient if the document you are working with is less than 20 pages, so it’s a good idea to work with smaller documents (eg. one per chapter) and connect them together in a series, using the Document command.  In order to ensure a consistent style throughout your documents, set up a master file as Stationery. Whenever you open this, it creates a new file with standard formatting and styles.  Set up your headings and subheadings in Outline mode. Use Outlining to reorganise sections as you go along.  Use Style Sheets to create consistent formats for headings, paragraphs, tables and figures etc.  You can compile a table of contents for the whole series of files by using the Table of Contents command. This will automatically produce page numbering for you.
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 31 EFFECTIVE WRITING WRITING SKILLS STRUCTURE EDITING CHOICE OF WORDS SELECTION OF CONTENT One main point per paragraph Vary sentence length and complexity Don’t use too many words Choose a storyline Arrange paragraphs logically Read text several times over to look for: Clarity of meaning Buy a good dictionary! Decide on key “Take Home” points Strong introduction Strong conclusion Check conventions in your field Appropriate to your readers Avoid unnecessary jargon Don’t use too many portmanteaux terms, e.g. “1-CM-path-length cell” Clear structure and layout (Subheadings, etc.) Grammar and Spelling
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 33 Good practice for writing skills Ask yourself the following questions:  Why am I writing this paragraph?  Why is it important?  Will my audience know why it is important?  What is (are) the key point(s) in this paragraph?  How will I highlight the key point(s) to my readers?  How much detail do I need to include?  Could I be more concise?  Could I be more direct?  Why is this sentence so long?  How many ideas have I got in this paragraph?  How does this paragraph fit in with the overall direction and structure of the writing?
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School34 Checklist of good practice in writing skills Answer the following questions about your own writing: AREA YES N0: so what I need to do is … 1. Is the writing appealing to the eye and laid-out effectively? 2. Is the writing free from spelling and typographical errors? 3. Is the writing structured well? 4. Is the writing signposted? i.e. is the reader clear about ordering and what is coming next? 5. Does each chapter and section have a strong beginning and a strong ending? 6. Are any diagrams, tables etc. clear and explained effectively? 7. Is there a variety in the pace and choice of words to keep the reader’s attention? 8. Are the key points clear and explicit? 9. Is the writing concise? 10. Does the author sound confident and knowledgeable about the topic?
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 35 READING LIST Booth, W, Colomb, G and Williams, J, The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995 Cutts, M, The Plain English Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995 Day, R, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 Dunleavy, P, Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003 Elbow, P, Writing Without Teachers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973 Elbow, P, Writing with Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981 Murray, R, How to Write a Thesis. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2002 Phillips, EM and Pugh, DS, How to get a PhD (4th edition). Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2005 Tichy, HJ and Fourdrinier, S, Effective Writing for Engineers, Managers, Scientists (2nd edition). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 1988. Available in the George Green Library: T11 TIC Turabian, KL, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations (British edition). London: Heinemann for the University of Chicago Press, 1982 Available in the George Green Library: T11 TUR Turk, C and Kirkman, J, Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical and Business Communication (2nd edition). London: E & F N Spon, 1989. Available in the George Green Library: T11 TUR
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 37 NOTES
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School38 NOTES
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School (June 13) 39 NOTES
    • Finishing Your Thesis © The University of Nottingham Graduate School40 NOTES