Winning PhD thesis writing strategies

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Any thesis is a scientific paper that must adhere to strict standards and fulfill specific criteria. For example, universities require a PhD thesis to be publicly acceptable either through the Internet or by getting its copy. This academic assignment takes a lot of time and effort to complete and its successful submission requires a set of skills. The good news is that you can simplify this important task by getting the right knowledge and understanding of its basics.

Important thesis sections

Although there are certain exceptions, this important academic paper 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 abbreviations when needed.

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

Writing an opening paragraph of your thesis

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

Including a literature review

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

Formatting appropriate citations

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

Another common problem faced by students is deciding what paper to quote for discussing findings to which many groups of people have contributed. Many professional think that it’s a matter of taste, but you need to identify important papers instead of quoting people who contributed to findings in a minor manner. Avoid quoting any sources that you didn’t read because this method is highly non-scholar. Don’t use any wrong references that don’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 your PhD thesis. Discuss with supervisors how extensive your literature review must be. Any aspects that result in important findings should be integrated in this paper without losing a sight of the main focus. Incorporate a few diagrams or schemes that can be taken or adapted from publications and reference them accurately.

The opening paragraph of your thesis is not a random textbook chapter. The knowledge level expected from the audience is quite high and specific. That’s why any expansion into the topics that aren’t related to your work should be avoided, especially if they don’t reproduce textbook proofs, pictures, derivations, and so on. Cover them by references to relevant literature and explain everything beyond readers’ level of knowledge.

In a physics-oriented thesis, it’s crucial to explain the concept necessary for the right appreciation and understanding of the questions addressed in it in addition to the results obtained and the techniques used. Your assignment prompts may require you to write a special theory section after a general introduction. When writing it, you need to choose specific explanations instead of your formalistic language because it’s more precise. Besides, it’s a helpful practice if the opening paragraph of your thesis ends with a special section where you succinctly summarize the key goals of your work.

Taking timeliness into account

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In your introduction, you should think about the latest available papers. In most cases, some relevant knowledge becomes available when your thesis isn’t published, and you need to mention such facts. For example, it’s possible to state that when you started working, a particular problem wasn’t addressed, but it became available during the course of thesis writing. If such facts affect any details of your results, not the entire scope of your project, relevant arguments are better fitted into the discussion section.

Sharing methods and materials

The main thesis writing principle is that any experimental procedure included in methods and materials should be discussed in detail to let professionals or other trained students to reproduce it. Unfortunately, many students often violate it because they hate this part and prefer to omit obvious details. You need to write a comprehensive description of any experiment included in your thesis or include a reference to a specific publication that has it. Discuss with supervisors how detailed your description of methods should be. Scientifically, you aren’t required to provide readers with all details if you quote and give appropriate references. It’s worth mentioning that this type of paper is often used as a helpful source for future students. That’s why many supervisors prefer the full descriptions of methods even if they contain standard and clear procedures.

Referencing appropriately

Your full description of any method doesn’t obviate a requirement to provide readers with appropriate references. For examples, if you fail to give them, they may have an impression that you invent 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 methods will get lower grades.

What are appropriate references? They can be any methods originally described by one person and changed in different details by other people. When using standard procedures, you can quote lab manuals. However, if any minor details are changed, you need to state that. You’re also allowed to quote any method, if it’s not a standard procedure. Check all references in your thesis because students make a mistake by copying them from previous words even without checking.

Discussing results

This part of your PhD thesis should be divided in logical and clear chapter because it contains the information obtained during your project and research. There are certain differences in styling when writing this section and preparing or labeling figures. Talk to supervisors to agree on the right structure and display the necessary items.

Outlining your thesis

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

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

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

Using different display items

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

Avoid using different lettering fonts and sizes because they should be as simple as possible. Adjust your thesis lettering to make all symbols and letters readable and of a similar size. Each figure used in your paper must correspond to data in a lab notebook, and everything should be intelligible and accessible to others. If you include any extensive calculations of original data or your information comes from multiple experiments and used for one figure, keep a folder with copies. You also need to record every step of your calculations to let readers easily trace a specific figure to original data. Basic thesis writing rules require any data used for tables and figures to be easily traceable to original protocols, and all calculations must be on record. Talk to supervisors to decide how to index your data and whether you can store everything electronically.

Choosing between data interpretations and descriptions

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

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

Recognizing other people’s contributions

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

If this contribution is important to your data set, it’s not sufficient to relegate its acknowledgement to the special thank you section. You need to state it in the text or a legend to a relevant figure. Use the data contributed by other people to minimum, and the same rule applied if your experiments are carried out together with colleagues.

Writing the discussion section

The main purpose of your discussion section is to interpret and evaluate your results against a background of suitable literature. For newcomers or inexperienced students, writing it is the hardest part. To make everything easier, write this section after others. When preparing to drafting your discussion, college all arguments and ideas in their unstructured manner while working on other thesis paragraphs. Next, you need to structure them and define their logical order. This task may take some time, and it’s necessary to discuss all ideas with supervisors to get their valuable feedbacks before getting started.

Discussing or repeating results

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

It doesn’t hurt to start the discussion section with a brief paragraph that sums up the main conclusions and findings. Don’t forget that readers are familiar with results and data at this stage, so they can get bored with detailed repetitions. In certain cases, discussing methods can be important, but you need to put them in a separate section. There are some exceptions, including the cases where the method development constitutes a big part of your thesis project.

Reviewing relevant literature appropriately

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

Using helpful thesis writing tips

To earn high grades, use a few simple tips when writing your thesis, 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 you have a lot of work to do. Everything becomes easier if you break this task into small steps and understand what should be done.

How to simplify your thesis writing process

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

Cutting problems down to size

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

Determining the right format

Most universities have standard formats for thesis writing, so students can use such templates. If you don’t have them, save time and avoid frustrations by copying a format from any thesis that seems appealing and suitable for you. Ensure that it’s easy to use, but you can always upgrade your layout later. At this stage, your main goal is to use a suitable format in your thesis plan without making it your top concern. Use the right citation forma for a list of references, which can contain many points.

Transforming relevant published articles into chapters

Before writing all thesis chapters from scratch, transform your published articles and relevant manuscripts into them. It’s not only about using your papers in a thesis, but you also need to break them into pieces to transform into a cohesive narrative. Ensure that different parts fit together perfectly and they don’t contain any gaps in logic.

Rewrite or cut back the introductions of every article because there’s no need to repeat anything explained in a literature survey or an opening paragraph of your thesis. However, some parts of introductions can be helpful for it. Cut methods and materials to avoid repeating other chapters. Include any material cut from a final version because of strict space restrictions.

Updating literature citations

Rewrite the bulk of text using your own words if you use the publications of other authors in any section of your thesis. Even when experiments are made in collaborations, you are the only author of this paper, so all words should be yours.

Using a new material

After successfully transforming published articles into thesis chapter, you need to write a new material for the remaining ones. Start with easy sections because it’s an effective thesis writing strategy that provide you with enough confidence. The methodology section is quite straightforward, so you can start with it easily. A thesis has less strict space restrictions, and you’re provided with a great opportunity to describe different details of your project and avoid a risk of leaving out important information. Remember that a detailed description of your failures and progress will save a lot of time of future researchers. When the most of your thesis is ready, it’s the right time to write the last section, which is all about a set of experiments. It describes your project in detail and wraps up the entire paper.

Top tips for stress-free thesis writing

  • Plan everything ahead and don’t postpone any writing task until 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 avoid reinventing the wheel;
  • Find a calm place to write a thesis and ensure that it’s free from possible distractions;
  • Assign a specific number of pages to write on a daily basis to avoid spending a lot of time at once and agonizing over a thesis progress;
  • Take care of your health, have enough rest, eat well, and exercise regularly to stay concentrated;
  • Take enough breaks to refresh your mind;
  • Avoid working in complete solitude because there are many students faced with the same problems and they will be happy to cooperate.

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

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