Winning PhD thesis writing strategies

Phd thesis

Any thesis is a scientific paper that must adhere to strictstandards and fulfill specific criteria. For example,universities require a PhD thesis to be publicly acceptableeither through the Internet or by getting its copy. This academicassignment takes a lot of time and effort to complete and itssuccessful submission requires a set of skills. The good news isthat you can simplify this important task by getting the rightknowledge and understanding of its basics.

Important thesis sections

Although there are certain exceptions, this important academicpaper should consist of the following sections:

  • The author and the title;
  • Methods and materials;
  • The opening paragraph;
  • Results, including tablets, figures, legends, and others;
  • The discussion section;
  • The summary or abstract;
  • Acknowledgments;
  • References;
  • Appendices, supplemental materials, and list of abbreviationswhen needed.

Besides, your thesis must meet specific formal requirementsoutlined in university regulations.

Writing an opening paragraph of your thesis

The purpose of any introduction part is to guide readers fromtheir knowledge level towards specific questions that you want toaddress. Ideally, it should be written systematically andlogically, just like a special funnel where your focus becomesnarrow until the issue that you address is almost inevitable.

Including a literature review

It’s a mandatory for any thesis to quote the literature relevantto the chosen field. You can resort to important reviews in thefirst part of your opening paragraph. However, it’s necessary todiscuss particular publications and you need to ensure thatthey’re relevant to a given topic. If you have any doubts, talkto supervisors about the sources that you want to include in yourthesis.

Formatting appropriate citations

Each statement made by you and going beyond the basic knowledgeprovided by textbooks must be supported by appropriatereferences. Verbal quotations are quite unusual for this academicpaper, and some supervisors even strongly discourage their use.Your basic task is to rethink interesting ideas or phrases andput them in your own words. It’s not allowed to use the verbalcopies of sentences and paragraphs if you don’t clearly indicatethem as verbal quotes with relevant sources. That’s because yourisk ending up with plagiarism and serious academic violations.When students copy text from other sources without providing thenecessary references, and if it becomes evident when their thesesare completed and degrees are conferred, they will end up withharsh academic consequences. In severe cases, their degree can bede-recognized formally.

Another common problem faced by students is deciding what paperto quote for discussing findings to which many groups of peoplehave contributed. Many professional think that it’s a matter oftaste, but you need to identify important papers instead ofquoting people who contributed to findings in a minor manner.Avoid quoting any sources that you didn’t read because thismethod is highly non-scholar. Don’t use any wrong references thatdon’t contain any data relevant to your statements.

Determining the right scope and extent

There are different ways to address the extent and scope of yourPhD thesis. Discuss with supervisors how extensive yourliterature review must be. Any aspects that result in importantfindings should be integrated in this paper without losing asight of the main focus. Incorporate a few diagrams or schemesthat can be taken or adapted from publications and reference themaccurately.

The opening paragraph of your thesis is not a random textbookchapter. The knowledge level expected from the audience is quitehigh and specific. That’s why any expansion into the topics thataren’t related to your work should be avoided, especially if theydon’t reproduce textbook proofs, pictures, derivations, and soon. Cover them by references to relevant literature and explaineverything beyond readers’ level of knowledge.

In a physics-oriented thesis, it’s crucial to explain the conceptnecessary for the right appreciation and understanding of thequestions addressed in it in addition to the results obtained andthe techniques used. Your assignment prompts may require you towrite a special theory section after a general introduction. Whenwriting it, you need to choose specific explanations instead ofyour formalistic language because it’s more precise. Besides,it’s a helpful practice if the opening paragraph of your thesisends with a special section where you succinctly summarize thekey goals of your work.

Taking timeliness into account

In your introduction, you should think about the latest availablepapers. In most cases, some relevant knowledge becomes availablewhen your thesis isn’t published, and you need to mention suchfacts. For example, it’s possible to state that when you startedworking, a particular problem wasn’t addressed, but it becameavailable during the course of thesis writing. If such factsaffect any details of your results, not the entire scope of yourproject, relevant arguments are better fitted into the discussionsection.

Sharing methods and materials

The main thesis writing principle is that any experimentalprocedure included in methods and materials should be discussedin detail to let professionals or other trained students toreproduce it. Unfortunately, many students often violate itbecause they hate this part and prefer to omit obvious details.You need to write a comprehensive description of any experimentincluded in your thesis or include a reference to a specificpublication that has it. Discuss with supervisors how detailedyour description of methods should be. Scientifically, you aren’trequired to provide readers with all details if you quote andgive appropriate references. It’s worth mentioning that this typeof paper is often used as a helpful source for future students.That’s why many supervisors prefer the full descriptions ofmethods even if they contain standard and clear procedures.

Referencing appropriately

Your full description of any method doesn’t obviate a requirementto provide readers with appropriate references. For examples, ifyou fail to give them, they may have an impression that youinvent a new method during your project. This practice is common,but it’s not in compliance with high academic writing standards.Any thesis that doesn’t contain correct references in its methodswill get lower grades.

What are appropriate references? They can be any methodsoriginally described by one person and changed in differentdetails by other people. When using standard procedures, you canquote lab manuals. However, if any minor details are changed, youneed to state that. You’re also allowed to quote any method, ifit’s not a standard procedure. Check all references in yourthesis because students make a mistake by copying them fromprevious words even without checking.

Discussing results

This part of your PhD thesis should be divided in logical andclear chapter because it contains the information obtained duringyour project and research. There are certain differences instyling when writing this section and preparing or labelingfigures. Talk to supervisors to agree on the right structure anddisplay the necessary items.

Outlining your thesis

Phd thesis

Before writing the first draft, it’s advisable to outline allsections, chapters, and subheadings of your thesis. To submit aperfect paper, you need to complete a few crucial tasks, such asthe following:

  • Deciding on the figures that will go into specificparagraphs;
  • Clarifying a logical flow of your arguments.

Creating an outline can save you a lot of frustration and workwhen writing a thesis.

Using different display items

Before getting started, prepare the necessary tables, figures,and other display items. When completing this task, make themclearly labelled and easy to understand even without referring toa complex and long-winded figure legend. For example, if you showmultiple lanes or panels, label them all to indicate theirmeaning instead of coding them with letters or numbers. In thiscase, readers don’t have to go back and forth between images andlegends to understand what a single figure is supposed to showthem. However, it doesn’t mean that you can clutter figures withthe text.

Avoid using different lettering fonts and sizes because theyshould be as simple as possible. Adjust your thesis lettering tomake all symbols and letters readable and of a similar size. Eachfigure used in your paper must correspond to data in a labnotebook, and everything should be intelligible and accessible toothers. If you include any extensive calculations of originaldata or your information comes from multiple experiments and usedfor one figure, keep a folder with copies. You also need torecord every step of your calculations to let readers easilytrace a specific figure to original data. Basic thesis writingrules require any data used for tables and figures to be easilytraceable to original protocols, and all calculations must be onrecord. Talk to supervisors to decide how to index your data andwhether you can store everything electronically.

Choosing between data interpretations and descriptions

A specific section in your thesis is reserved to results anddescribing experimental data. It shouldn’t contain any extensiveinterpretations, but a logical flow and backbone of yourarguments must be evident to the audience. For example, whenformulating a hypothesis and sharing the experiments proving it,you should state everything clearly. Any conclusions drawn fromresults must be stated if they form a basis for futureexperiments. This writing strategy allows readers follow yourline of major arguments.

If all results are clear, it’s not necessary to return to them inthe discussion section. Deal with fewer arguments when discussingresults because this technique will let you focus on major issuesinstead of addressing minor details. State your data succinctlyand avoid getting lost in numerous details that don’t contributeto the right understanding of your experiments and results.

Recognizing other people’s contributions

In every winning PhD thesis, it’s formally certified that thework is completed by yourself, so there isn’t any assistanceinvolved. However, scientific and other experiments often requirea team effort, so it’s normal to collaborate with other people toachieve the necessary results. How to address this issue in yourthesis? It’s not a complicated matter because all you need to dois to state a direct contribution of others at the right place.

If this contribution is important to your data set, it’s notsufficient to relegate its acknowledgement to the special thankyou section. You need to state it in the text or a legend to arelevant figure. Use the data contributed by other people tominimum, and the same rule applied if your experiments arecarried out together with colleagues.

Writing the discussion section

The main purpose of your discussion section is to interpret andevaluate your results against a background of suitableliterature. For newcomers or inexperienced students, writing itis the hardest part. To make everything easier, write thissection after others. When preparing to drafting your discussion,college all arguments and ideas in their unstructured mannerwhile working on other thesis paragraphs. Next, you need tostructure them and define their logical order. This task may takesome time, and it’s necessary to discuss all ideas withsupervisors to get their valuable feedbacks before gettingstarted.

Discussing or repeating results

In the discussion section, you will inevitable return to results.One common mistake made by students is writing their lengthy andboring repetitions of data when they only need to interpret theirdetails. For example, if you succeeded to prove a protein-proteininteraction by a few complementary methods and your data areclear and consistent, you don’t have to repeat each experiment indetail to support important findings. It’s sufficient to refer torelevant figures in results. Focus on discussing the significanceof your data and findings.

It doesn’t hurt to start the discussion section with a briefparagraph that sums up the main conclusions and findings. Don’tforget that readers are familiar with results and data at thisstage, so they can get bored with detailed repetitions. Incertain cases, discussing methods can be important, but you needto put them in a separate section. There are some exceptions,including the cases where the method development constitutes abig part of your thesis project.

Reviewing relevant literature appropriately

Do your best to determine the sources that provide you with thedata related to your findings and discuss them all appropriately.It’s mandatory to determine everything novel in your findings andeverything either contradictory or confirmatory to publishedworks. Don’t overlook any sources important for your projectbecause you have easy access to searchable databases. If youdeliberately omit any source to hide that your findings aren’t sonovel, you’ll face negative consequences. If this omission is apart of any source that you use for your thesis, this mistake iseasy to find during a peer-review process.

Using helpful thesis writing tips

To earn high grades, use a few simple tips when writing yourthesis, including:

  • Write this paper succinctly and clearly;
  • Avoid complicated and long-winded sentences;
  • Avoid using non-standard abbreviations;
  • Have enough time for your continuous thesis writing.

Writing a winning thesis project is easier said than done, so youhave a lot of work to do. Everything becomes easier if you breakthis task into small steps and understand what should be done.

How to simplify your thesis writing process

Phd thesis

If you don’t have any effective plan of your PhD thesis, startwith making it first. Ensure that supervisors agree on your tableof contents. This writing stage seems obvious, but there are manystudents who avoid it and end up with tossed out thesis chaptersand wasted time.

Cutting problems down to size

Once your table of contents is confirmed, you need to expand itinto a helpful thesis outline. It should be a few pages long andcontains some keywords, valuable comments, figures, chapterheadings, table titles, subheadings, etc. Its basic task is tokeep you on track and giving the necessary text framework.Besides, a thesis outline helps you break up the entire writingprocess into smaller and manageable parts.

Determining the right format

Most universities have standard formats for thesis writing, sostudents can use such templates. If you don’t have them, savetime and avoid frustrations by copying a format from any thesisthat seems appealing and suitable for you. Ensure that it’s easyto use, but you can always upgrade your layout later. At thisstage, your main goal is to use a suitable format in your thesisplan without making it your top concern. Use the right citationforma for a list of references, which can contain many points.

Transforming relevant published articles into chapters

Before writing all thesis chapters from scratch, transform yourpublished articles and relevant manuscripts into them. It’s notonly about using your papers in a thesis, but you also need tobreak them into pieces to transform into a cohesive narrative.Ensure that different parts fit together perfectly and they don’tcontain any gaps in logic.

Rewrite or cut back the introductions of every article becausethere’s no need to repeat anything explained in a literaturesurvey or an opening paragraph of your thesis. However, someparts of introductions can be helpful for it. Cut methods andmaterials to avoid repeating other chapters. Include any materialcut from a final version because of strict space restrictions.

Updating literature citations

Rewrite the bulk of text using your own words if you use thepublications of other authors in any section of your thesis. Evenwhen experiments are made in collaborations, you are the onlyauthor of this paper, so all words should be yours.

Using a new material

After successfully transforming published articles into thesischapter, you need to write a new material for the remaining ones.Start with easy sections because it’s an effective thesis writingstrategy that provide you with enough confidence. The methodologysection is quite straightforward, so you can start with iteasily. A thesis has less strict space restrictions, and you’reprovided with a great opportunity to describe different detailsof your project and avoid a risk of leaving out importantinformation. Remember that a detailed description of yourfailures and progress will save a lot of time of futureresearchers. When the most of your thesis is ready, it’s theright time to write the last section, which is all about a set ofexperiments. It describes your project in detail and wraps up theentire paper.

Top tips for stress-free thesis writing

  • Plan everything ahead and don’t postpone any writing taskuntil the last minute;
  • Write a detailed thesis outline and stick to it;
  • Confirm a table of contents with professors;
  • Create realistic deadlines and stick to them;
  • Transform published articles into chapters and avoidreinventing the wheel;
  • Find a calm place to write a thesis and ensure that it’s freefrom possible distractions;
  • Assign a specific number of pages to write on a daily basisto avoid spending a lot of time at once and agonizing over athesis progress;
  • Take care of your health, have enough rest, eat well, andexercise regularly to stay concentrated;
  • Take enough breaks to refresh your mind;
  • Avoid working in complete solitude because there are manystudents faced with the same problems and they will be happy tocooperate.

A thesis is often written under strict time constraints, so it’shard to draft a good paper with no typos and other smallmistakes. Automatic spell checkers are helpful, but they fail tofind all errors in complex technical terms. They don’t alwayshighlight syntax and grammar mistakes, so you should get helpfrom other people when revising and proofreading your thesis. Afresh pair of eyes will help you improve its content and logicalflow. Finally, put it aside for a while before reading yourmanuscript again to find and fix all available flaws.

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