Biology Paper Guide Tips
Abbreviations have to be used consistently throughout the whole document. When using an abbreviation for the first time, it has to be defined in the text. If a large number of abbreviations is used, an abbreviation list in alphabetical order is required. Only generally accepted or known abbreviations like “USA” do not have to be defined. Symbols also need to be defined. A definition should be given in the according chapter before the symbol is used for the first time, and all symbols should also be presented in an alphabetically ordered list of symbols at the beginning of the document. It is of particular importance to use variables and parameters consistently, also throughout different chapters. Furthermore, every symbol has to be given a unique meaning (no double usage of the same symbol for different things, but also not two different symbols for the same thing), and hence should be used only for one specific content. This document provides a guideline for writing an academic thesis or coursework at the Institute for Operations Research and Information Systems (ORIS). It can also serve as an example of accurate formatting. In general, scientific writing means to deal with a clearly defined subject in a detailed and self-contained way. The current state of the art should be analysed and presented and, if required, the student’s work then has to continue from this point of knowledge.
OK, that seems like a pretty reasonable timeline…. so what went wrong? Well, everything went well up to a point. One thing that I did right was to start the literature review early. As it turned out, I worked on the literature review right up till the last draft. This, I found out later, is typical. You should therefore plan on it. Another smart thing that I did was build in time to learn about a type of morphological data that I really hadn’t spent much time on before (the ASU dental traits). This took a lot longer than I really thought it would. In most cases you are going to be learning a new technique, methodology, etc. for your thesis research. You need to factor this in to your time allocation. The last smart things that I did were to take some time to prepare a systematic form to record data and perform a “pilot study” to really learn how to collect the ASU trait information and “hone” my data collection techniques. I was quite pessimistic with my time (notice I gave myself 9 months to do this), but as it turned out, I needed all of that time. I found out about half-way through the pilot study that I was actually collecting the data incorrectly. I had to go back and redo everything that I had done up to that point. I encountered a similar problem during the actual data collection. So instead of finishing data collection in January, I actually finished in early March.
So what else went wrong? The first serious problem was that I didn’t build in any time for statistical analysis. I thought that I was pretty well versed in statistics (after all, I aced both myundergraduate statistics courses… how hard could it be?). After I had collected all of my data, I realized that I had no idea how to work through the statistics. So I threw myself on the mercy of the statistics department. Nine times out of ten, I left the statistics department more confused and frustrated than when I went in. After nearly four months of wrangling with the statistics, I finally got it pretty well ironed out. My major breakthrough came after I wrote to a fellow graduate student at another university that I had met at the physical anthropology meetings. Without his extensive help, I would have been sunk. So instead of finishing this phase in April, I finally got it done in mid-August. Notice I was already three months behind.
The second serious error that I made was not allowing enough time for writing. Writing up the materials section and the results section took a lot of time… a lot longer than I ever could have imagined. When I finally finished the first draft of my thesis, it was already mid-September. I had begun doctoral school before finishing the M.A. against the advice of my committee and was beginning to understand why I had been advised not to do this. And then came the real shock. The first draft came back from my committee drowning in a sea of red. Reanalysis, rewriting, and reworking ensued. One of the stipulations of my admittance to the doctoral program was that I be finished with the M.A. by the beginning of my second semester. So the heat was on. After weeks of eighteen hour days, I did get the second, and third drafts in. And I did get my final draft in with about two days to spare.
Once you have talked with your committee members and established a topic the very first thing to do is start library research. One of your goals from the outset should be to track down and read every reference that you possibly can. Ideally you should start this task in your first year in the MA program. You will be working on this aspect of your thesis right up to the final draft, so get an early start. The way to start this process is to find several recent articles or books that pertain to your study. Read them thoroughly and take notes. Then turn to their literature cited. Cull through and find the references that are pertinent to your research. Get those references, read them, take notes, and mine their references. Continue this process until you have amassed all of the references that you can find.
It is important that you start this process as soon as possible because interlibrary loan can take a long time in the case of hard to find books or articles.You should familiarize yourself with the journals that are available through the electronic resources at the library. This will make the research phase of your project much easier.
- + Check if the project objectives have been achieved and if not, explain why.
- + Clearly distiguish your own from other people‘s work.
- + Present your conclusions and contributions concisely and factually.
- + Write in a „punchy“ style, but don‘t claim things you did not achieve.
- Flow of contents
- + Avoid long and complex sentences. The matter may be complex enough –
- describe it in simple terms
- + Apply punctuations correctly
- + Do not repeat certain words too often and too close together. Use a thesaurus
- to introduce variety in expressions. Avoid bombastic words. Avoid rarely used
- vocabulary and do not generate your own words
- + Writing in the „active voice“ improves the reading pace and dynamics.
- Active: Parameter (a) improves the performance of the algorithm
- Passive: The performance of the algorithm is improved by parameter (a)
- (Active expressions are more assertive!)
- + Illustrations and diagrams are very important. Use them in the right place and such that they are readable in terms of graphic style and explanations of variables Structure- Main text
- + Chapter introducing the research (motivation, objectives, methodology,
- + Chapter reviewing the work that has been done before
- + Chapter or two describing in detail the methodology adopted or proposed
- + Chapter or two presenting the main results of the work
- + Concluding chapter, summarizing the main findings, statements about the
- main contributions and recommendations for future work
- – References (list with refs cited in the thesis)
- – Appendices (parts which would disturb the flow of reading: Well-kwown facts,
- lengthy derivations, sample calculations, long tables, background information)
- + Spend enough time planning the structure
- + Get copies of other (good) theses. Talk to your advisors
- + Write abstract and introduction chapter last
This section tells reader what you would like to fi nd out in your research. State your research questions and hypotheses explicitly in this section. In most cases, the primary research question should be broad enough to cover your whole proposed research and the subsidiary research questions and hypotheses are more specifi c and each of them should focus on a certain aspect of your research. These hypotheses usually form chapters or sub-sections of your fi nal thesis. You should explain how these research questions and hypotheses are formulated. Before writing the thesis proposal, a student should have already taken most of coursework and done an extensive literature review. He/she should have a solid understanding on the background materials and previous research done by other researchers in the same fi eld. Most importantly, he/she should have identifi ed a research topic with his/her supervisor. In developing a research topic, it is advisable to develop two to three topics fi rst and then fi nally focus on a topic to develop further. You may like to ask the following questions in deciding on a research topic:
- – What is the contribution to knowledge in your fi eld of study?
- – Has it been done by others before?
- – What is the theoretical framework for the study?
- – What are the research hypotheses or questions?
- – Are data, if needed, available?
- – How to collect data?
- – What are the appropriate methods in analyzing the data?
- – What are the expected end results?
- – Can the thesis be done within the time period of study?
Writing a studenthelper thesis is the beginning of a scholarly work. You should write a thesis that you can manage within your present resource and time frame. Developing a research topic and writing a proposal cannot be done within a week. You must allow yourself enough time to develop your research topic and proposal well before the deadline. You need time for your library research and to make sure that you understand all the issues involved in your proposed research. You may also need time to learn about the particular research methodologies that you propose to use. You should consult your supervisor in the process and be open to any advice that he/she may be willing to give. It is helpful to look at some sample products, i.e. theses in your fi eld, before writing your proposal because at the end of the day, the fi nal product of your thesis proposal is the thesis. You need to know what it roughly looks like before you can propose what to do in order to produce it. If possible, ask for copies of pasttheses that your supervisor has approved. Having a sample of a successful thesis can make the preparation of your own much easier. Depositing a copy of the Thesis is a prerequisite for graduation. Upon deposit at the Library, the student receives a receipt to be submitted to the Registrar’s Office. During the semester in which a student expects to deposit her/his Thesis, the student must visit the Archives and Special Collections Department (ASC), Jafet Library, in person and as early as possible: please do not wait for your defense to contact us, especially if you plan to travel abroad, or have committee members who are abroad. Kindly arrange for a visit to ASC as soon as possible, and bring along a printed copy of the following: the preliminary pages, a chapter, and a bibliography of the thesis. A digital copy of these materials on a USB will not be accepted. These materials will be checked by the assigned Library staff, to ensure that all are properly formatted, and are ready for deposit.