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current trends in dissertation by Dr. Mercado
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  1. 1. • Terminal paper requirement of graduate students pursuing a doctorate • A document that demonstrates one’s professional proficiency in a discipline or subject
  2. 2. • Demonstration of an understanding of the state of the art – Critical appreciation of existing work • A novel contribution – Evaluated systematically • The final and usually the most challenging hurdle that stands between students and their being awarded a doctoral degree.
  3. 3. • Opens a new area • Provides unifying framework • Resolves long-standing question • Thoroughly explores area • Contradicts existing knowledge • Experimentally validates theory • Produces ambitious system • Provides empirical data • Derives superior algorithms (problemsolving procedures) • Develops new methodology • Develops new tool • Produces negative result
  4. 4. • Useful contribution to knowledge ! • Readers will ask – what is the question here ? – is it a good question ? – is it adequately answered ? – is there a contribution to previous knowledge?
  5. 5. • Abstract – general introduction – summary of the question – justification for question – Bird eye view of the result • Background information – particularly if you span two or more traditional areas (dissertations/theses often do)
  6. 6. • Literature review (print and online) – state of the art – organized by ideas, not time/author/geography • The research question (core/foundation) – concise statement of question – justification, refer closely to review (analysis) – explain why question is worthwhile (applicability)
  7. 7. • Description -Design/methods/methodology – Possibly many sections to some chapters balance – Aim to show that question has been fully answered – Show relevance of work to solution – Avoid detailing blind alleys unless they contribute to showing that question is answered
  8. 8. • Conclusions, generally in three sections – conclusions • short concise statements of inferences made as a result of the work done • conclusions must be directly related to the research question/problem raised previously – summary of contribution • examiners will scrutinize this section – future research • useful to people following in your tracks
  9. 9. • References – closely tied to the review done early in the dissertation – examiners usually check out this section early on and will form preliminary assessment notions early, so pay attention – references must appear in the main body – use the guidelines prescribed by your university
  10. 10. • Comprehensive and in correct form • Citing and Referencing - APA; Harvard scientific format; MLA; or your University may have its own prescribed format
  11. 11. • Appendices – material which casts light on the work done but which would impede the clear delivery of ideas • mathematical proofs unless prime focus • program listings • huge tables of data
  12. 12. Chapter by Chapter Organization of the Dissertation
  13. 13. • Introduce the subject area (Overview and definition) and explain the research topic. • State your research question(s) or research objective(s). • Scope and limitations of the study. • Importance of the topic you have selected. • This Chapter should be revised after writing Chapter 2 (Literature Review) • Keep introduction shorts and focused
  14. 14. • It is a review of what has been published on that topic so that you do not duplicate someone else’s work. • Conduct a thorough literature search before designing your methodology and collecting your data. • The literature review should provide context and clarify the relationship between your topic and previous work in that area. • When writing the literature review, present major themes, theories, and ideas that have been published in the area, and the findings of related studies. • Conclude the review of the literature with a short section that describes your topic, highlighting why it is important to address the problem you have investigated.
  15. 15. • This chapter describes exactly the steps that you took to investigate your research problem. • Explains your research design • the methodology that you selected (survey, interviews, historical research, document analysis or extended literature review for example) • the instruments that you used and how they were developed, the sample that you selected, and the description of your data collection process. • Copies of correspondence, instruments if you used any (questionnaires or interview scripts), raw data if appropriate and other items relating to the methodology are included as appendices, with references from the appropriate place in this chapter.
  16. 16. • It describes what you found in your research, without discussion, interpretation or reference to the literature. • Just the facts, presented as tables, figures, interview summaries and/or descriptions of what you found that is important and noteworthy. • The objective is to present a simple, clear and complete account of the results of your research.
  17. 17. • Relate your findings to your original statement of the problem and your literature review. • Begin by briefly summarizing the previous chapters, then discuss what you found. • Ask yourself why the results were what they were, and then try to provide meaningful answers to the question. • Feel free to interpret objectively and subjectively and to make references to what others have said on the subject. • Make sure that every conclusion you draw is defensible and not just your own personal opinion.
  18. 18. • Summarize your conclusions from the discussion chapter. • Note the limitations of your study. • Show that you are aware of the methodological limitations of your study, for example the small size of your sample, or the fact that you set out to examine only one part of a bigger problem. Make recommendations relating to the problem that you investigated, for example by making practical suggestions on how to improve the situation in the organization in which your research took place. • Make recommendations for areas that require further study.
  19. 19. • Writing a dissertation is hard, painful work – You’ve already done the fun part (the research) • It’s unlike any other document – Dissertation writing is not a marketable skill
  20. 20. • Some people never manage to write one – 99% perspiration – 1% inspiration? • If you’re lucky, your dissertation will be read by: – Your supervisor – Your committee
  21. 21. • It’s the union card for academia – You all have to suffer like we did! • In the process, you will learn – How to research – How to write
  22. 22. • You get to add “Dr” to your name – Great aunts, etc. are most impressed • It will introduce you/your research to a wider audience – Dissertation committee –…
  23. 23. • It will make you famous – Unlikely – Look at the statistics • It will radically change science – Unlikely – Look at the statistics
  24. 24. • It will advance our knowledge – Just a little – Main benefit is in teaching you to research • It will be read by others – Your dissertation committee – If unlucky, it will suffer the same fate as many other dissertations did!
  25. 25. • So I’m motivated • When do I actually start writing? – 6 months before the end of my grant? – No, the day you start your PhD – Write it all down! • Don’t worry, it’s never too late to start
  26. 26. • Timetable • “Your dissertation is your baby” P. Prosser – Give it 9 months • Write it up • Fill in gaps, expts … • “You have to know when to let it go” – Put a fence around what you’ve done • How many units? (12) –how many do you enroll? – Depends on the course policy of the program
  27. 27. • How long is a piece of string ? • Writing up is one of the MAJOR activities of doing research • Organization of ideas is the hard bit • You will find weaknesses/flaws only when you start to write up, - state them! • Allow approx. 30% of time for writing up
  28. 28. • Dissertation committee • Who should be on your committee? – Ideally you and your supervisor/advisor/mentor will come to a mutual decision • Important, well-known researchers – – – – People notice if your committee was “tough” You’ll get good feedback They may employ you They may recommend you to others • Why decide your committee before you start writing? You can target your thesis at them They’re busy people Even busy people have open dates in their diaries a year ahead They’ll still manage to schedule other events on the day of your viva
  29. 29. • Supervision - i.e. guidance and suggestion, not marking, teaching, correction, auxiliary worker input /analysis. • Realisation of research and quality- student. • Supervisor - decide work plan with student, try to keep on-track and to time. Available to discuss ideas, problems and queries as these arise, but not to lay out a blueprint.
  30. 30. • You’re not in this on your own • Your supervisor is on your side – Your success is their success • Smiles – If draft chapters contain simple spelling mistakes and typos • Mind-reading skills – Motivation dipping – Absence = illness
  31. 31. • Set up regular meetings with your advisor. • Come prepared with a work plan/questions: Be open, honest, and forthcoming about any difficulties you may be experiencing. • Be professional: there is no need to hide if you’ve struggled to meet a deadline, have questions, etc. • Your dissertation supervisor is your ally, not your adversary.
  32. 32. • Writing each chapter • Don’t start with the Introduction or Conclusion • Start where you feel happiest – Typically a middle chapter – Write outwards – Finally Conclusions and end with the Introduction • Write everything with your dissertation message in mind • You’ll discover holes in your research Theorems you haven’t proved Experiments you didn’t run Different problems or parameters • Mix writing with more research
  33. 33. RULE OF THREE • Within each chapter, repeat yourself 3 times – Intro. We will show .. – Body. Show them .. – Concl. We have shown .. • Within thesis, repeat your contributions 3 times – Intro chapter – Main chapters – Conclusion chapter • But don’t bore reader – E.g. in introduction be brief, in conclusions be broader
  34. 34. • Informal text – Examiners will jump on imprecision • Opinions “.. The main problem in CP is modelling ..” – A thesis is an argument! “.. A major bottleneck preventing the uptake of CP is modelling [Freuder, AAAI-98] • Complex sentences full of long words – A dissertation should be a simple, convincing argument! • Entertainment or humor – Joke footnote
  35. 35. • "bad", "good", "nice", "terrible", "stupid" A scientific dissertation does not make moral judgments • "perfect" Nothing is perfect. • "an ideal solution" You're judging again • "lots of, kind of, type of, something like” vague & colloquial • "actually, really" define terms precisely to eliminate the need to clarify
  36. 36. • Avoid prove. • Use show, demonstrate, indicate, support, suggest, imply, appear, etc. • Hedging terms such as may be, might be, could be, probably, possibly may be used as needed, but avoid using too many hedges in one sentence and/or overall.
  37. 37. • It is recommended that you follow certain convention to facilitate the writing process and make your dissertation readable. • It is useful to look at other dissertation and get an idea about the approach that people adopt to present their findings and arguments. • Do not wait for your supervisor to tell you what fonts, size and spacing you should use. That is a waste of time and it shows that you did not do your homework. • Sample dissertations are available from the Internet and your library, you can check them out.
  38. 38. • The preferred typeface is Times Roman (11 or 12 points). • Other typefaces are acceptable (check with your supervisor). • Use 1.5 or double-line spacing for the dissertation text. • Each page must have a left margin of 3.7 cm to allow for binding. • The top, bottom and right margin shall all be 2.5 cm. • Justify all your text in the dissertation body (except when you are using the 6th edition of the APA – flush left).
  39. 39. • The dissertation must not exceed _____ words (excluding tables, figures and appendices). • Most dissertations are between ___ and ____ pages (double spaced). • Figures inserted in the dissertation should appear close to where they are referenced in the text. • The usual convention of the figure followed by the figure title shall be followed. • Use the Chapter/Figure number convention to label the figures in the dissertation. For example, Figure 1.2 refers to the second figure of chapter 1. • A List of Figures and Tables must be included after the content page of dissertation
  40. 40. • Select documentation style and apply it consistently and carefully throughout your dissertation. • For simplicity and consistency, we recommend APA style. Recommended manuals include : • American Psychological Association. Publication Manual. 6th ed. Washington, D.C.: APA, 2010. • Modern Language Association. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. New York: MLA, 1995. • Turabian, Kate. A Manual For Writers Of Term Papers, Theses And Dissertations. 6th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. NTU Library Link
  41. 41. • It’s never possible to cover all issues – So you will never finish? – It’s sometimes enough to identify the issues – Examiners greatly appreciate you identifying limitations • Much of your dissertation is joint work – Identify some work that is yours alone – Include a statement at the start of your contributions: “Results from this dissertation appear in the following publications. Whilst much of this dissertation is joint work with my supervisor, I made significant contributions to Chapters 3-6. In particular, … . “
  42. 42. • Ideas become obvious to you – You stop writing to a sufficient level of detail – Especially hurts the opening chapters as they are often written last • At some point, your brain will surely become toast – Take a break – Eat properly, exercise, sleep … • Toasted brain is only temporary – Just look at me?
  43. 43. • Specific to the country – – – – Private or Public? 2 to 9 jury members? Talk or Questions? Corrections allowed or expected?
  44. 44. • Don’t panic – You’re probably the world’s expert on this topic by now! • Your examiners are human – They’ve sat in your seat – They will help you find what changes (if any) are needed to make this the required quality
  45. 45. • Enjoy it – You’ve the world’s experts in the room – They want to talk about your work – How often will that happen in the future? • If you want, have a practice – Get your supervisor to set up a “dummy” jury – Prepare your opening statement
  46. 46. • Presentation of results • Discussion and – Have the hypotheses in fact been tested? – Are the results shown to support the hypothesis? – Is the data properly analyzed? – Are the results presented clearly? – Are patterns identified and summarized? Conclusions – Are the limits of the research identified? – Are the main points to emerge identified? – Are links made to the literature? – Is there theoretical development? – Are the speculations well grounded?
  47. 47. • Important Tips: • Read with an ear toward varied sentence structures • Use outlines to track the flow of your ideas • Try to make explicit connections between your chapters • Imagine yourself as critical reader, rather than writer, and ask: • Does this make sense? • Have I defined all of the key theories and ideas I’ve used? • Are there any overt holes in my logic?
  48. 48. • You’ve finished writing & defending your dissertation • What do you do next? – Turn it into a book – Publish some journal articles around it – Make copies for your parents, … – Make a copy for yourself • Or end up like me!
  49. 49. • It is a good idea to submit to a conference/ write a Working Paper/ give a seminar • At worst you will get negative feedback • You may achieve publication or useful reviewer comments
  50. 50. • You’ve finished writing & defending your thesis • What do you do next? – Just think, you’ll never have to do it again!
  51. 51. Brause, R. S. (1999). Writing your doctoral dissertation (invisible rules for success). USA: Routledge. Lunenburg, F. C., & Irby, B. J. (2008). Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Miller, A. B. (2009). Finish your dissertation once and for all. USA: American Psychological Association. Rudestam, K.E. & Newton, R.R. (2007). Surviving your dissertation, 3rd ed. USA: Sage Publications. Silyn-Roberts, H. (2002). Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports. Oxford: Buttersworth-Heinemann. PPT presentations of Toby Walsh PPT presentations of Suliman Al-Hawamdeh , Division of Information Studies , Nanyang Technological University
  52. 52. I wish you many happy memories when you write your doctoral dissertation. Mercado, 2014