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Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know

Is a custom thesis really needed?

❶It would be nice if clear, precise prose leapt easily from the keyboard, but it usually does not. Relatively often a researcher requests a thesis in order to obtain more detail about how a study was performed.

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Or you may think of something interesting or relevant for that chapter. When you come to work on Chapter m, the more such notes you have accumulated, the easier it will be to write. Make a back-up of these files and do so every day at least depending on the reliability of your computer and the age of your disk drive. If you thesis file is not too large, a simple way of making a remote back-up is to send it as an email attachment to a consenting email correspondent; you could also send it to yourself.

In either case, be careful to dispose of superseded versions so that you don't waste disk space, especially if you have bitmap images or other large files. Or you could use a drop-box or other more sophisticated system.

You should also have a physical filing system: This will make you feel good about getting started and also help clean up your desk. Your files will contain not just the plots of results and pages of calculations, but all sorts of old notes, references, calibration curves, suppliers' addresses, specifications, speculations, notes from colleagues etc.

Stick them in that folder. Then put all the folders in a box or a filing cabinet. As you write bits and pieces of text, place the hard copy, the figures etc in these folders as well. Touch them and feel their thickness from time to time — ah, the thesis is taking shape. If any of your data exist only on paper, copy them and keep the copy in a different location.

Consider making a copy of your lab book. This has another purpose beyond security: Further, scientific ethics require you to keep lab books and original data for at least ten years, and a copy is more likely to be found if two copies exist.

If you haven't already done so, you should archive your electronic data, in an appropriate format. Spreadsheet and word processor files are not suitable for long term storage. Archiving data by Joseph Slater is a good guide. While you are getting organised, you should deal with any university paperwork. Examiners have to be nominated and they have to agree to serve. Various forms are required by your department and by the university administration. Make sure that the rate limiting step is your production of the thesis, and not some minor bureaucratic problem.

A note about word processors One of the big FAQs for scientists: One solution is LaTeX, which is powerful, elegant, reliable, fast and free from http: The standard equation editor for MS Word is point and click, so extremely slow and awkward. A timetable I strongly recommend sitting down with the adviser and making up a timetable for writing it: This structures your time and provides intermediate targets.

If you merely aim "to have the whole thing done by [some distant date]", you can deceive yourself and procrastinate more easily. If you have told your adviser that you will deliver a first draft of chapter 3 on Wednesday, it focuses your attention. You may want to make your timetable into a chart with items that you can check off as you have finished them. This is particularly useful towards the end of the thesis when you find there will be quite a few loose ends here and there.

Iterative solution Whenever you sit down to write, it is very important to write something. So write something, even if it is just a set of notes or a few paragraphs of text that you would never show to anyone else.

It would be nice if clear, precise prose leapt easily from the keyboard, but it usually does not. Most of us find it easier, however, to improve something that is already written than to produce text from nothing. So put down a draft as rough as you like for your own purposes, then clean it up for your adviser to read.

Word-processors are wonderful in this regard: Your adviser will expect to read each chapter in draft form. Do not be upset if a chapter — especially the first one you write — returns covered in red ink or its electronic equivalent. Scientific writing is a difficult art, and it takes a while to learn. As a consequence, there will be many ways in which your first draft can be improved.

So take a positive attitude to all the scribbles with which your adviser decorates your text: As you write your thesis, your scientific writing is almost certain to improve. Even for native speakers of English who write very well in other styles, one notices an enormous improvement in the first drafts from the first to the last chapter written. The process of writing the thesis is like a course in scientific writing, and in that sense each chapter is like an assignment in which you are taught, but not assessed.

Remember, only the final draft is assessed: If you have any characteristic grammatical failings, check for them. What is a thesis? Your thesis is a research report. The report concerns a problem or series of problems in your area of research and it should describe what was known about it previously, what you did towards solving it, what you think your results mean, and where or how further progress in the field can be made.

Do not carry over your ideas from undergraduate assessment: One important difference is this: The readers of a thesis do not know what the "answer" is. If the thesis is for a PhD, the university requires that it make an original contribution to human knowledge: Obviously your examiners will read the thesis. They will be experts in the general field of your thesis but, on the exact topic of your thesis, you are the world expert. Keep this in mind: Your thesis will also be used as a scientific report and consulted by future workers in your laboratory who will want to know, in detail, what you did.

Theses are occasionally consulted by people from other institutions, and the library sends microfilm versions if requested yes, still. More commonly theses are now stored in an entirely digital form. These may be stored as. The advantage is that your thesis can be consulted much more easily by researchers around the world. Australian digital thesis project for the digital availability of research theses. Write with these possibilities in mind.

It is often helpful to have someone other than your adviser s read some sections of the thesis, particularly the introduction and conclusion chapters.

It may also be appropriate to ask other members of staff to read some sections of the thesis which they may find relevant or of interest, as they may be able to make valuable contributions.

In either case, only give them revised versions, so that they do not waste time correcting your grammar, spelling, poor construction or presentation.

The short answer is: Once your thesis has been assessed and your friends have read the first three pages, the only further readers are likely to be people who are seriously doing research in just that area. For example, a future research student might be pursuing the same research and be interested to find out exactly what you did. Where's the circuit diagram? I'll look up her thesis. I'll have to look up his thesis. I'll order a microfilm of that thesis they cited in their paper.

By the way, the intelligible annotation of programs is about as frequent as porcine aviation, but it is far more desirable. You wrote that line of code for a reason: Make it clear what is yours If you use a result, observation or generalisation that is not your own, you must usually state where in the scientific literature that result is reported.

The only exceptions are cases where every researcher in the field already knows it: The importance of this practice in science is that it allows the reader to verify your starting position. Physics in particular is said to be a vertical science: Good referencing allows us to check the foundations of your additions to the structure of knowledge in the discipline, or at least to trace them back to a level which we judge to be reliable.

Good referencing also tells the reader which parts of the thesis are descriptions of previous knowledge and which parts are your additions to that knowledge.

In a thesis, written for the general reader who has little familiarity with the literature of the field, this should be especially clear. It may seem tempting to leave out a reference in the hope that a reader will think that a nice idea or an nice bit of analysis is yours. I advise against this gamble. The reader will probably think: The reader can probably find out via the net or the library.

If you are writing in the passive voice, you must be more careful about attribution than if you are writing in the active voice. Style The text must be clear. Good grammar and thoughtful writing will make the thesis easier to read. Scientific writing has to be a little formal — more formal than this text. Native English speakers should remember that scientific English is an international language. Slang and informal writing will be harder for a non-native speaker to understand. Short, simple phrases and words are often better than long ones.

Some politicians use "at this point in time" instead of "now" precisely because it takes longer to convey the same meaning. They do not care about elegance or efficient communication.

On the other hand, there will be times when you need a complicated sentence because the idea is complicated. If your primary statement requires several qualifications, each of these may need a subordinate clause: Some lengthy technical words will also be necessary in many theses, particularly in fields like biochemistry.

Do not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of brevity. An advertising copy writer would love it. The longer example would be fine in a physics thesis because English speaking physicists will not have trouble with the words. A physicist who did not know all of those words would probably be glad to remedy the lacuna either from the context or by consulting a dictionary. Sometimes it is easier to present information and arguments as a series of numbered points, rather than as one or more long and awkward paragraphs.

A list of points is usually easier to write. You should be careful not to use this presentation too much: One important stylistic choice is between the active voice and passive voice. The active voice "I measured the frequency The passive voice "The frequency was measured If you use the passive voice, be especially wary of dangling participles.

For example, the sentence "After considering all of these possible materials, plutonium was selected" implicitly attributes consciousness to plutonium. This choice is a question of taste: I prefer the active because it is clearer, more logical and makes attribution simple. The only arguments I have ever heard for avoiding the active voice in a thesis are i many theses are written in the passive voice, and ii some very polite people find the use of "I" immodest.

Use the first person singular, not plural, when reporting work that you did yourself: On the other hand, retain plural verbs for "data": Just say to yourself "one datum is.. Presentation There is no need for a thesis to be a masterpiece of desk-top publishing.

Your time can be more productively spent improving the content than the appearance. In many cases, a reasonably neat diagram can be drawn by hand faster than with a graphics package, and you can scan it if you want an electronic version.

Either is usually satisfactory. A one bit i. While talking about the size of files, we should mention that photographs look pretty but take up a lot of memory. There's another important difference, too.

The photographer thought about the camera angle and the focus etc. The person who drew the schematic diagram thought about what components ought to be depicted and the way in which the components of the system interacted with each other. So the numerically small information content of the line drawing may be much more useful information than that in a photograph.

Another note about figures and photographs. In the digital version of your thesis, do not save ordinary photographs or other illustrations as bitmaps, because these take up a lot of memory and are therefore very slow to transfer. Nearly all graphics packages allow you to save in compressed format as. In vector graphics as used for drawings , compression is usually unnecessary. Second, since the thesis supervisor and the other members of the advisory committee will normally have reviewed the thesis extensively before recommending the student proceed to the defense, such an outcome would be regarded as a major failure not only on the part of the candidate but also by the candidate's supervisor who should have recognized the substandard quality of the dissertation long before the defense was allowed to take place.

It is also fairly rare for a thesis to be accepted without any revisions; the most common outcome of a defense is for the examiners to specify minor revisions which the candidate typically completes in a few days or weeks. At universities on the British pattern it is not uncommon for theses at the viva stage to be subject to major revisions in which a substantial rewrite is required, sometimes followed by a new viva. Very rarely, the thesis may be awarded the lesser degree of M.

Phil Master of Philosophy instead, preventing the candidate from resubmitting the thesis. In Australia, doctoral theses are usually examined by three examiners although some, like the Australian Catholic University and the University of New South Wales , have shifted to using only two examiners; without a live defense except in extremely rare exceptions. In the case of a master's degree by research the thesis is usually examined by only two examiners. Typically one of these examiners will be from within the candidate's own department; the other s will usually be from other universities and often from overseas.

Following submission of the thesis, copies are sent by mail to examiners and then reports sent back to the institution. Similar to a master's degree by research thesis, a thesis for the research component of a master's degree by coursework is also usually examined by two examiners, one from the candidate's department and one from another university. For an Honours year, which is a fourth year in addition to the usual three-year bachelor's degree, the thesis is also examined by two examiners, though both are usually from the candidate's own department.

Honours and Master's theses sometimes require an oral defense before they are accepted. In Germany, a thesis is usually examined with an oral examination. This applies to almost all Diplom , Magister , master's and doctoral degrees as well as to most bachelor's degrees. However, a process that allows for revisions of the thesis is usually only implemented for doctoral degrees.

There are several different kinds of oral examinations used in practice. The Disputation , also called Verteidigung "defense" , is usually public at least to members of the university and is focused on the topic of the thesis. In contrast, the Rigorosum is not held in public and also encompasses fields in addition to the topic of the thesis. The Rigorosum is only common for doctoral degrees. Another term for an oral examination is Kolloquium , which generally refers to a usually public scientific discussion and is often used synonymously with Verteidigung.

In each case, what exactly is expected differs between universities and between faculties. Some universities also demand a combination of several of these forms. Like the British model, the PHD or MPhil student is required to submit their theses or dissertation for examination by two or three examiners. The first examiner is from the university concerned, the second examiner is from another local university and the third examiner is from a suitable foreign university usually from Commonwealth countries.

The choice of examiners must be approved by the university senate. In some public universities, a PhD or MPhil candidate may also have to show a number publications in peer reviewed academic journals as part of the requirement. An oral viva is conducted after the examiners have submitted their reports to the university. The oral viva session is attended by the Oral Viva chairman, a rapporteur with a PhD qualification, the first examiner, the second examiner and sometimes the third examiner.

Branch campuses of British, Australian and Middle East universities in Malaysia use the respective models of the home campuses to examine their PhD or MPhil candidates. In the Philippines, a thesis is followed by an oral defense.

In most universities, this applies to all bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees. However, the oral defense is held in once per semester usually in the middle or by the end with a presentation of revisions so-called "plenary presentation" at the end of each semester.

The oral defense is typically not held in public for bachelor and master oral defenses, however a colloquium is held for doctorate degrees. Typical duration for the total exam is 1 hour 30 minutes for the MSc and 3 hours for the PhD. In North America, the thesis defense or oral defense is the final examination for doctoral candidates, and sometimes for master's candidates. The examining committee normally consists of the thesis committee, usually a given number of professors mainly from the student's university plus his or her primary supervisor, an external examiner someone not otherwise connected to the university , and a chair person.

Each committee member will have been given a completed copy of the dissertation prior to the defense, and will come prepared to ask questions about the thesis itself and the subject matter. In many schools, master's thesis defenses are restricted to the examinee and the examiners, but doctoral defenses are open to the public. The typical format will see the candidate giving a short 20—minute presentation of his or her research, followed by one to two hours of questions.

A student in Ukraine or Russia has to complete a thesis and then defend it in front of their department. Sometimes the defense meeting is made up of the learning institute's professionals and sometimes the students peers are allowed to view or join in. After the presentation and defense of the thesis, the final conclusion of the department should be that none of them have reservations on the content and quality of the thesis. A conclusion on the thesis has to be approved by the rector of the educational institute.

The Diploma de estudios avanzados DEA can last two years and candidates must complete coursework and demonstrate their ability to research the specific topics they have studied. After completing this part of the PhD, students begin a dissertation on a set topic.

The dissertation must reach a minimum length depending on the subject and it is valued more highly if it contains field research. Once candidates have finished their written dissertations, they must present them before a committee.

Following this presentation, the examiners will ask questions. In Hong Kong, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the thesis defense is called a viva voce Latin for "by live voice" examination viva for short.

A typical viva lasts for approximately 3 hours, though there is no formal time limit. Usually, one examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department but not one of the candidate's supervisors and the other is an external examiner from a different university.

Increasingly, the examination may involve a third academic, the 'chair'; this person, from the candidate's institution, acts as an impartial observer with oversight of the examination process to ensure that the examination is fair. The 'chair' does not ask academic questions of the candidate. In the United Kingdom, there are only two or at most three examiners, and in many universities the examination is held in private.

The candidate's primary supervisor is not permitted to ask or answer questions during the viva, and their presence is not necessary. However, some universities permit members of the faculty or the university to attend. At the University of Oxford, for instance, any member of the University may attend a DPhil viva the University's regulations require that details of the examination and its time and place be published formally in advance provided he or she attends in full academic dress.

A submission of the thesis is the last formal requirement for most students after the defense. By the final deadline , the student must submit a complete copy of the thesis to the appropriate body within the accepting institution, along with the appropriate forms, bearing the signatures of the primary supervisor, the examiners, and, in some cases, the head of the student's department.

Other required forms may include library authorizations giving the university library permission to make the thesis available as part of its collection and copyright permissions in the event that the student has incorporated copyrighted materials in the thesis. Many large scientific publishing houses e. Failure to submit the thesis by the deadline may result in graduation and granting of the degree being delayed. Once all the paperwork is in order, copies of the thesis may be made available in one or more university libraries.

Specialist abstracting services exist to publicize the content of these beyond the institutions in which they are produced. Many institutions now insist on submission of digitized as well as printed copies of theses; the digitized versions of successful theses are often made available online.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 12 September For other uses, see Thesis disambiguation. For the novel, see The Dissertation. This section's factual accuracy is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on Talk: Please help to ensure that disputed statements are reliably sourced. February Learn how and when to remove this template message. This section does not cite any sources.

Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. September Learn how and when to remove this template message. Since the early s, British funding councils have adopted a policy of penalising departments where large proportions of students fail to submit their theses in four years after achieving Ph.

Furthermore, supervising staff are encouraged in their career progression to ensure that the Ph. These issues contribute to an overall discrepancy between supervisors and Ph.

There has recently been an increase in the number of Integrated Ph. These courses include a Master of Research MRes in the first year, which consists of a taught component as well as laboratory rotation projects. As this includes the MRes all deadlines and timeframes are brought forward to encourage completion of both MRes and Ph.

These programs are designed to provide students with a greater range of skills than a standard Ph. In the United Kingdom, Ph. Doctor of Letters or D.

Doctor of Science , which may be granted on the recommendation of a committee of examiners on the basis of a substantial portfolio of submitted and usually published research.

However, some UK universities still maintain the option of submitting a thesis for the award of a higher doctorate. Recent years have seen the introduction of professional doctorates D. Prof or ProfD , which are the same level as Ph.

These are most notably in the fields of engineering Eng. Psych , occupational psychology D. These typically have a more formal taught component consisting of smaller research projects, as well as a 40,—60,word thesis component, which together are officially considered equivalent to a Ph. In the United States, the Ph. There are universities in the United States that award the Ph. The first phase consists of coursework in the student's field of study and requires one to three years to complete. This often is followed by a preliminary , a comprehensive examination, or a series of cumulative examinations where the emphasis is on breadth rather than depth of knowledge.

The student is often later required to pass oral and written examinations in the field of specialization within the discipline, and here, depth is emphasized. Another two to eight years are usually required for the composition of a substantial and original contribution to human knowledge in the form of a written dissertation , which in the social sciences and humanities typically ranges from 50 to pages. In many cases, depending on the discipline, a dissertation consists of a comprehensive literature review, an outline of methodology, and several chapters of scientific, social, historical, philosophical, or literary analysis.

Typically, upon completion, the candidate undergoes an oral examination, sometimes public, by his or her supervisory committee with expertise in the given discipline. Depending on the specific field of study, completion of a Ph.

The number of Ph. In , US universities awarded 8, Ph. Graduate schools increasingly [ citation needed ] encourage their students to seek outside funding; many are supported by fellowships they obtain for themselves or by their advisers' research grants from government agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Many Ivy League and other well-endowed universities provide funding for the entire duration of the degree program if it is short or for most of it. At some universities, there may be training for those wishing to supervise Ph. There is now a lot of literature published for academics who wish to do this, such as Delamont, Atkinson, and Parry Indeed, Dinham and Scott have argued that the worldwide growth in research students has been matched by increase in a number of what they term "how-to" texts for both students and supervisors, citing examples such as Pugh and Phillips These authors report empirical data on the benefits that a Ph.

Wisker has noticed how research into this field has distinguished between two models of supervision: The technical-rationality model of supervision, emphasising technique; The negotiated order model, being less mechanistic and emphasising fluid and dynamic change in the Ph. These two models were first distinguished by Acker, Hill and Black ; cited in Wisker, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see PHD.

List of doctoral degrees awarded by country. Education in Australia and Australian Qualifications Framework. This section does not cite any sources.

Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. November Learn how and when to remove this template message. The examples and perspective in this article or section might have an extensive bias or disproportional coverage towards one or more specific regions. Please improve this article or discuss the issue on the talk page. Doctorates in the United Kingdom.

Graduate science education in the United States. Doctorat Bosnia and Herzegovina: Doctor of Philosophy PhD China: Licentiate , Magister , Ph. Filosofian tohtori and any degree of tohtori France: Dottorato di ricerca Japan: Doctor of Philosophy PhD Mexico: Doctor of Philosophy Ph.

Magister , Licentiate , doctorates traditionally considered higher degrees , Ph. Doktora United Arab Emirates: Doctor of Philosophy PhD Ukraine: Journal of Further and Higher Education. Retrieved 27 January The History of the University of Oxford: Very few persons had received even an honorary DLitt by when the Reverend E.

Walker, Senior Tutor of Queen's, proposed, as the Oxford Magazine put it, that the University 'should divert the stream' of American aspirants to the German universities' degree of philosophiae doctor by opening the DLitt to persons offering a suitable dissertation nine terms after graduation.

Studies in Higher Education. Studium generale and the origins of university education in Europe. A history of the university in Europe: Universities in the Middle Ages. The universities of Europe in the Middle Ages. The Higher Education Academy, p.

A History of the University in Europe: Steven Turner, "The growth of professorial research in Prussia, to A Theory Concerning the Dissertation". The Journal of Higher Education. UK Council for Graduate Education. Historical Notes for the Mathematics Genealogy Projec".

How the PhD came to Britain: A Century of Struggle for Postgraduate Education. German influences on education in the United States to A Centennial Salute to Yale, —". Journal of Higher Education.

Higher Education in Transition: A History of American Colleges and Universities. Geiger, "Research, graduate education, and the ecology of American universities: Goodchild and Harold S.

Veysey, The emergence of the American university is the standard history; see pp — Doctorates in the 20th Century. Archived from the original on 10 February The academic revolution ch 1. This is called the 'New Route Ph. For a list of programmes and institutions offering the 'new route' see http: These doctoral degrees, however, are sometimes identified in English as Ph. Categories , Wageningen University; Ph. Agreement reached with Glasgow for 'sandwich' Ph.

Retrieved 25 December The Chronicle of Higher Education. News , 2 October No longer a guaranteed ticket to an academic career, the Ph. The Foreigner's Guide to German Universities: Archived from the original on 7 May Archived from the original PDF on Archived from the original on 25 August Information about requirements and procedures for higher education and VET providers".

Retrieved 20 July Trends in diversification of post-secondary education IIEP research papers. Study on the organisation of doctoral programmes in EU neighbouring countries Archived 13 May at the Wayback Machine..

Archived from the original on 4 November Archived from the original on 29 September Traditionally, this degree, which was considered a prerequisite for obtaining top positions within academia, was earned rather late in life, often after one had passed 50 years of age. Rapporter, evalueringer og anbefalinger — Archived 19 July at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 13 March Protocolo y Etiqueta" in Spanish.

Retrieved 16 September Retrieved 12 April How much does it cost? Conceptual considerations, and socio-economic patterns in Hong Kong". Economics of Education Review. Archived from the original on 13 April US Department of Education. Archived from the original on Doctoral Recipients from U.

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How to Write a PhD Thesis. How to write a thesis? This guide gives simple and practical advice on the problems of getting started, getting organised, dividing the huge task into less formidable pieces and working on those pieces. Your dissertation is part of the requirements for a PhD. The research, theory, experimentation, et al. also contribute. One does not attempt to capture everything in one's dissertation. The dissertation is a technical work used to document and set forth proof of one's thesis.

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What Is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation? Seeking a PhD is different in that your dissertation must contribute something completely new and undiscovered to your field. In other words, you have to contribute original knowledge to the subject. So the main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the depth of. A thesis is a hypothesis or conjecture. A PhD dissertation is a lengthy, formal document that argues in defense of a particular thesis. (So many people use the term ``thesis'' to refer to the document that a current dictionary now .