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How To Write Your Research Dissertation

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This presentation describes the standard structure of your research dissertation and suggests a methodology for its successful production using modern word processing tools.

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How To Write Your Research Dissertation

  1. 1. How to Write Your Research Dissertation Dr C. P. Jobling (C.P.Jobling@Swansea.ac.uk) (c) Swansea University. All Rights Reserved.
  2. 2. Abstract <ul><li>This presentation describes the standard structure of your research dissertation and suggests a methodology for its successful production using modern word processing tools. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Introduction <ul><li>How to write your research dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>The physical layout of the dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>The standard sections: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Abstract </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Introduction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design Materials and Methods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Introduction (Content) <ul><li>What’s in a dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Types of dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Writing a dissertation in MS Word </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Signposting and captioning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>References provided </li></ul>
  5. 5. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  6. 6. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  7. 7. Theoretical development/Analysis <ul><li>Theory theory </li></ul><ul><li>Physical restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>Generic structure of a dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Variations on the theme </li></ul><ul><li>The literature review section </li></ul>
  8. 8. Theory theory <ul><li>A Dissertation is a kind of Technical Report </li></ul><ul><li>Technical reports have a standard structure </li></ul><ul><li>Technical reports may not be read “cover to cover” </li></ul><ul><li>Different readers have different needs. </li></ul><ul><li>(some) Repetition and signposting is good. </li></ul><ul><li>Section labelling, figure and table captioning, equations, references and citations are standardized. </li></ul><ul><li>[Bonet and Towers] </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Physical Layout <ul><li>Physical constraints: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A4 paper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>12 point serif font (Times New Roman or similar) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1” margin all round (1.25” for bound [left] side) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Template will be provided </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Main body (from page 1 or chapter 1 to last page of references) 50 pages maximum. </li></ul><ul><li>Up to 10 pages of appendices allowed. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Submission <ul><li>Submitted to School reception by 4.30 pm, Monday 27 th April. </li></ul><ul><li>Must include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Title page, front matter, body and appendices. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plus 2 Page extended abstract (conference paper style, like the handout). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plus unaltered copies of the project plan and the progress report. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May include additional, non-assessed materials but these should be clearly marked as such. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All bound together with ring binding </li></ul>
  11. 11. Deadlines are deadlines! <ul><li>Zero tolerance policy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>if the dissertation is not submitted by deadline, it will not be marked! </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Generic Parts of a Dissertation <ul><li>Abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>Appendices (optional) </li></ul>
  13. 13. The Abstract <ul><li>Part of the “ front matter ” of the dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose, approach, main findings in brief ( ½ – 1 page) </li></ul><ul><li>Not a chapter! </li></ul><ul><li>Summarizing the abstract </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The whole dissertation in 1 page or less </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Chapter 1: Introduction <ul><li>Is an introduction to the dissertation itself </li></ul><ul><li>Describes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Purpose of study </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Methodology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Main findings & conclusions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Summary: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Introduce the dissertation as well as the subject of the dissertation. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Chapter 6: Conclusions <ul><li>Conclusion of the dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Contains </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reiteration of the purpose of study </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Summary of the methodology and results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defines the main findings & conclusions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gives suggestions for further work </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. References <ul><li>Not a Chapter </li></ul><ul><li>Part of the “ End Matter ” of the dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>All the sources used and cited in the body of the report. </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence of breadth of your reading and depth of your understanding. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Appendices <ul><li>Supplementary or more detailed information that supports or expands the report (possibly for reference). </li></ul><ul><li>Formatted as optional extra chapters but using Appendix A, Appendix B, etc rather than Chapter 1, Chapter 2. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Front and End Matter <ul><li>Give signposting information to the dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Should be automatically generated whenever possible </li></ul><ul><li>Front matter is not included in page count </li></ul><ul><li>End matter is! </li></ul>
  19. 19. Front matter <ul><li>Abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Table of Contents </li></ul><ul><li>Table of Figures </li></ul><ul><li>Table of Tables [if tables have been used] </li></ul><ul><li>[optional] List of Abbreviations, and/or Formulae and/or Glossary of terms used. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Should be provided if it will help the reader </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Acknowledgments </li></ul>
  20. 20. End matter <ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>Appendices </li></ul><ul><li>In published books there may be an index </li></ul>
  21. 21. Supplementary Materials <ul><li>Additional material that you or your supervisor wants to have included in the dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Copies of datasheets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Code listings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Detailed design drawings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CD-Roms </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Will not be assessed. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Variations on a Theme <ul><li>Different types of dissertation will have different structures: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimental project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Literature review </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design and implementation project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Software development project </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The extended abstract is a different format again. </li></ul><ul><li>Refer to references for general guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Follow your publisher’s or institution’s guidelines for specific cases </li></ul>
  23. 23. Experimental Project <ul><li>Generic parts + </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Theory chapter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Method or experimental procedure chapter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Results chapter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion of results chapter </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Literature review <ul><li>Generic parts + </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research method and sources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The literature review itself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion and suggestions for further enquiry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Very detailed references with evidence of wide reading </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Design and development project <ul><li>Generic parts + </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implementation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Testing </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Software development project <ul><li>Generic parts + </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>High-level design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low level design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implementation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acceptance test results </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Literature Review <ul><li>Purpose is to define what was known about the subject covered in the report before the work was done </li></ul><ul><li>“ If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” </li></ul><ul><li>[Newton, 1675] </li></ul>
  28. 28. Chapter 2: Literature Review <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Basic “textbook” knowledge of the field </li></ul><ul><li>State of the art prior to the work </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed discussion of the available technical literature </li></ul><ul><ul><li>text books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>journal articles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>conference proceedings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>web sites </li></ul></ul><ul><li>More on citing in the next briefing </li></ul>
  29. 29. Theory (Review) <ul><li>Theory theory </li></ul><ul><li>Physical restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>Generic structure of a dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Variations on the theme </li></ul><ul><li>The literature review section </li></ul>
  30. 30. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  31. 31. Chapter 3: Design, Materials and Methods <ul><li>Method of writing a report </li></ul><ul><li>Repetition is good! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to repeat yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Signposting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Numbering </li></ul><ul><li>Using your word processor </li></ul><ul><li>Writing the “methods” chapter </li></ul><ul><li>Citations and references [next briefing] </li></ul>
  32. 32. How to write a dissertation <ul><li>Start in the middle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You have done the work so you know what your approach was. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You have the results so you just have to write them up! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure that you understand the background, write it up and use it to evaluate the results. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gather your references and ensure that they are cited in the background sections and other sections as appropriate. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write the conclusions and the introduction (in that order) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write the summary </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Summarise the whole dissertation in the extended abstract </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. Repetition is Good! <ul><li>Form of technical report has developed to allow different classes of readers to make use of the materials in different ways: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only summary may be read by a researcher looking for information or a manager seeking an “executive summary”. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only conclusions or introduction may be read by someone interested in the subject but only wanting to adopt the main findings. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The whole document may be read by someone wishing to follow-up on the work published. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It is important that each part tells the same story at the appropriate level of detail. </li></ul><ul><li>Repetition and signposts help the reader who is not reading the document sequentially. </li></ul>
  34. 34. How to Repeat Yourself <ul><li>Say what you will say ( in brief ) in the Abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Say what you will say ( in more detail ) in the introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Say what you have to say ( in full in the body ) with signposting </li></ul><ul><li>Say what you have said ( in the conclusions ) </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasise the good bits in the extended abstract </li></ul>
  35. 35. How to Signpost <ul><li>Open each section with a statement of context: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In the [last section] we …. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In [this section] we now … </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Close each section with a statement of context: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In this [section] we …. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In the [next section] we will … </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Provide cross references </li></ul><ul><ul><li>As we saw in [a previous section] … </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As we will show in [a later section] … </li></ul></ul>
  36. 36. Numbering <ul><li>Numbering important parts of the report helps with signposting </li></ul><ul><li>“ Figure 2 shows” …. is better than “the figure on page 3 shows” </li></ul>
  37. 37. Things that should usually be numbered <ul><li>Parts, Chapters, Sections, Subsections, Appendices </li></ul><ul><li>Pages </li></ul><ul><li>Figures and Tables </li></ul><ul><li>Equations </li></ul>
  38. 38. Things that can be numbered <ul><li>Citations </li></ul>
  39. 39. Things that aren’t usually numbered <ul><li>Sub-sub-sections </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1.1.2.3 is ugly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>rearrange to avoid deep nesting of sections </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Front and end matter sections (exception appendices) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Note appendices normally numbered A, B, C rather than 1, 2, 3 </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. Number Sections <ul><li>It is easier to use signposting if you label your sections and subsections. </li></ul><ul><li>Dissertation or larger document </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chapter 1. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1.1 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1.1.1 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Extended abstract </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1.1 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1.1.1 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Local rules often override general guidelines </li></ul>
  41. 41. Page Numbering <ul><li>Front matter use Roman: i, ii, iii, iv </li></ul><ul><li>Main body use Arabic: 1, 2, 3, 4 </li></ul><ul><li>Continue page numbering in end matter </li></ul><ul><li>Note page limits. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Start on page one of the main body (that is Chapter 1) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>End on last page of appendices. </li></ul></ul>
  42. 42. Use Your Word Processor (WP) <ul><li>Use the outliner to define and manipulate the structure of your document. </li></ul><ul><li>Use style settings to make section numbering automatic </li></ul><ul><li>Use the cross-referencing tools for signposting. </li></ul><ul><li>Let your word processor do the numbering for you! </li></ul><ul><li>Use section breaks in your word processor to change numbering style </li></ul><ul><li>Most WPs provide these features. Learn how to use them! </li></ul>
  43. 43. Figures <ul><li>Give all figures a numbered caption </li></ul><ul><li>Refer to figure in text. “Figure 1 shows a document.” </li></ul><ul><li>WP tip: Use auto-captioning and cross-referencing. </li></ul>Figure 1: A Document
  44. 44. Tables <ul><li>Give all tables a caption. </li></ul><ul><li>Caption goes above table. </li></ul>Table 1: Fee fie fo fum <ul><li>Refer to table in text. “Table 1 enumerates useful words beginning with ‘f.’” </li></ul><ul><li>WP tip: Use auto-captioning and cross-referencing. </li></ul>Fee Fie Fo Fum
  45. 45. Equations <ul><li>Give all equations a label </li></ul><ul><li>Refer to equation in text. “Equation (1) shows the formula for a quadratic.” </li></ul><ul><li>Use your WP’s equation editor to get auto-captioning and cross-referencing. </li></ul>(1)
  46. 46. Writing the “Design, Materials and Methods” chapter <ul><li>Simply report what you did! </li></ul><ul><li>How you: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Designed an experiment, carried out the measurements, recorded the results. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chose a research methodology, performed your literature search, selected your sources, summarised your findings. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysed the problem, designed a solution, implemented the solution, tested the solution. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As you are reporting what you did use the past tense! </li></ul>
  47. 47. Passive Voice? <ul><li>Some publishers prefer an objective tone and “passive voice” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Measurements were taken of x and the results were recorded in a lab book” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>You and your readers may find this a bit awkward. </li></ul><ul><li>But use it if you have to. </li></ul>
  48. 48. Design, Materials and Methods (Review) <ul><li>Method of writing a report </li></ul><ul><li>Repetition is good! </li></ul><ul><li>Numbering </li></ul><ul><li>Using your word processor </li></ul><ul><li>Writing the “methods” chapter </li></ul><ul><li>Citations and references [next briefing ] </li></ul>
  49. 49. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  50. 50. Chapter 4: Results <ul><li>Results section presents your findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Use tables, figures and equations as appropriate. </li></ul><ul><li>Textual commentary is needed to tie results to method. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide explanation if necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Usually easiest section to write (if you recorded the results carefully!) </li></ul>
  51. 51. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  52. 52. Chapter 5: Discussion <ul><li>Compare results to expected results </li></ul><ul><li>Account for any differences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimental procedure wrong </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accuracy of measurements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limitations of your implementation approach or tools </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Differences may point to inaccuracies in the background section and may point to future work. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ This result can be explained by experimental error” is not an explanation as you should be able to quantify the experimental error! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be honest, a result that does not match the expected outcome is itself a useful result! </li></ul>
  53. 53. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  54. 54. Chapter 6: Conclusions etc. <ul><li>Remind the reader of what you were trying to achieve. </li></ul><ul><li>Outline the theory, method, results and discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Attempt to tie together the theory, results and discussion. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Highlight the places where the theory was correct </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Highlight the places where the theory was incorrect </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Make suggestions for further work. </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that the conclusions stands alone because it may be the only part to be read! </li></ul>
  55. 55. Conclusions and further work <ul><li>In this presentation we have: </li></ul><ul><li>Described the structure of a dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Presented the main sections of a dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Provided a methodology for approaching the writing of a dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Given guidelines on topics such as numbering, sign posting, and use of the word processor. </li></ul><ul><li>In the next briefing we will cover referencing, quoting and citing. </li></ul>
  56. 56. Introduction (Contents) <ul><li>Theory </li></ul><ul><li>Method </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion of Results </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>
  57. 57. References <ul><li>Bonet, J. and M.S. Towers, Layout and Structure of an Honours Project Thesis , School of Engineering, Swansea University. Available on the Blackboard module site. </li></ul><ul><li>Newton, Sir Isaac, 1675. Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5. As quoted online at URL: http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Isaac_Newton/ (The Quotationspage.com) </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia, “Isaac Newton”, URL: http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton , last updated 28 Feb. 2009. </li></ul>
  58. 58. Further Reading <ul><li>Bonet, J. and M.S. Towers, Writing an Honours Thesis , School of Engineering, Swansea University. Available on the Blackboard module site. </li></ul><ul><li>Barrass, Robert 2002. Scientists Must Write: A Guide to Better Writing for Scientists and Engineers. Routlege Study Guides, Routledge Falmer. ISBN: 0415269962 . [In the Library T11>Bar] </li></ul><ul><li>Rosenberg, Barry 2005. Spring into Writing for Engineers and Scientists, Addison Wesley.ISBN: 0131498630. </li></ul><ul><li>Technical Writing, Library Call Number T11 . </li></ul><ul><li>University of Wales Swansea, Student Support Services Web Site, Study Skills Resources . </li></ul>
  59. 59. Summary <ul><li>Theoretical development/Analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Design, Materials and Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and suggestions for further work </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul>

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