Getting Started with Your PhD Thesis

When you are about to begin, writing a thesis seems a long, difficult task. That is because it is a long, difficult task. Fortunately, it will seem less daunting once you have a couple of chapters done. Towards the end, you will even find yourself enjoying it—an enjoyment based on satisfaction in the achievement, pleasure in the improvement in your technical writing, and of course the approaching end. Like many tasks, thesis writing usually seems worst before you begin, so let us look at how you should make a start.

An outline

First make up a thesis outline: several pages containing chapter headings, sub-headings, some figure titles (to indicate which results go where) and perhaps some other notes and comments. There is a section on chapter order and thesis structure at the end of this text. Once you have a list of chapters and, under each chapter heading, a reasonably complete list of things to be reported or explained, you have struck a great blow against writer’s block. When you sit down to type, your aim is no longer a thesis—a daunting goal—but something simpler. Your new aim is just to write a paragraph or section about one of your subheadings. It helps to start with an easy one: this gets you into the habit of writing and gives you self-confidence. In an experimental thesis, the Materials and Methods chapter is often the easiest to write – just write down what you did; carefully, formally and in a logical order.

How do you make an outline of a chapter? For most of them, you might try the method that I use for writing papers, and which I learned from my thesis adviser (Stjepan Marcelja): Assemble all the figures that you will use in it and put them in the order that you would use if you were going to explain to someone what they all meant. You might as well rehearse explaining it to someone else—after all you will probably give several talks based on your thesis work. Once you have found the most logical order, note down the key words of your explanation. These key words provide a skeleton for much of your chapter outline.

Once you have an outline, discuss it with your adviser. This step is important: s/he will have useful suggestions, but it also serves notice that s/he can expect a steady flow of chapter drafts that will make high priority demands on his/her time. Once you and your adviser have agreed on a logical structure, s/he will need a copy of this outline for reference when reading the chapters which you will probably present out of order. If you have a co-adviser, discuss the outline with him/her as well, and present all chapters to both advisers for comments.

Organisation

It is encouraging and helpful to start a filing system. Open a word-processor file for each chapter and one for the references. You can put notes in these files, as well as text. While doing something for Chapter n, you will think “Oh I must refer back to/discuss this in Chapter m” and so you put a note to do so in the file for Chapter m. 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). Do not keep back-up close to the computer in case the hypothetical thief who fancies your computer decides that s/he could use some disks or membory as well.

A simple way of making a remote back-up is to send it as an email attachment to a consenting email correspondent, preferably one in a different location. 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.

You should also have a physical filing system: a collection of folders with chapter numbers on them. 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, letters from colleagues etc., which will suddenly strike you as relevant to one chapter or other. 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: usually the lab book stays in the lab, but you may want a copy for your own future use. 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.

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Common Errors in English Usage

What is an error in English?

The concept of language errors is a fuzzy one. I’ll leave to linguists the technical definitions. Here we’re concerned only with deviations from the standard use of English as judged by sophisticated users such as professional writers, editors, teachers, and literate executives and personnel officers. The aim of this site is to help you avoid low grades, lost employment opportunities, lost business, and titters of amusement at the way you write or speak.

But isn’t one person’s mistake another’s standard usage?

Often enough, but if your standard usage causes other people to consider you stupid or ignorant, you may want to consider changing it. You have the right to express yourself in any manner you please, but if you wish to communicate effectively, you should use nonstandard English only when you intend to, rather than fall into it because you don’t know any better.

What gives you the right to say what an error in English is?

I could take the easy way out and say I was a professor of English and did this sort of thing for a living. True, but my Ph.D. is in comparative literature, not composition or linguistics, and I taught courses in the history of ideas rather than language as such. But I admire good writing and tried to encourage it in my students.

I found a word you criticized in the dictionary!

You will find certain words or phrases criticized here listed in dictionaries. Note carefully labels like dial. (dialectical), nonstandard, and obsolete before assuming that the dictionary is endorsing them. The primary job of a dictionary is to track how people actually use language. Dictionaries differ among themselves on how much guidance to usage they provide; but the goal of a usage guide like this is substantially different: to protect you against patterns which are regarded by substantial numbers of well-educated people as nonstandard.

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How to plan your dissertation

Once you have your outline sorted and you’ve got a pile of research notes together, it’s time to knuckle down and start writing. You need not necessarily start at the beginning – in fact, introductions are often easier to write at the end when you know how your argument has developed.

Get going on the bits you know you’ll find easy, then use your outline to put them together in the right order. You’ll find areas that need further research, so be prepared to revisit the library as you’re going along.

Your style of writing is crucial to communicating your ideas effectively. A well-planned and researched dissertation can be let down by poorly expressed ideas or unclear phrasing. Allowing plenty of time for writing will avoid this.

Be prepared to work through two or three drafts, refining your work each time, before you are happy with the end result.

Finding your style

During your research you will have read a number of scholarly articles. Select a recommended academic text that you find easy and enjoyable to read. Study the structures and work out how arguments are presented. Collect good examples of vocabulary and punctuation.

Consider how techniques used by the author convince the reader of their argument and see if you can apply them in your own writing.

In an essay of this length, sub-headings are a useful way of breaking up the text and signalling to the reader what stage you have reached. Tweak these sub-headings as you move through each draft to ensure they still provide a useful overview of the section.

Avoid repetition. Look out for any words or phrases that have already been stated or implied elsewhere in the sentence – and cut them out.

For example, if you’ve written “Many countries were reluctant to declare war while others on the other hand did not hesitate”, you may like to change it to “Many countries were reluctant to declare war; others did not hesitate”. Reading your work aloud will help you spot clumsy sentence structure.

Structuring sentences

As you write your essay, it is worth distinguishing the key points in your discussion from less important supporting ideas. Aim to give full weight to your key points by giving them each a sentence of their own. Elaborations and detail can be added in subsequent sentences.

It is a common mistake to think that the longer the sentence, the cleverer it sounds. It is important to remember that every word conveys a unit of meaning on its own, however small, so the more words there are in a sentence, the harder it will be for the reader to grasp the meaning within it.

Instead of adding on clauses, introduce the next point in a new sentence. Connective words and phrases – however, consequently, but, so – can be placed at the start of the new sentence if necessary, to indicate its relationship to the previous one and make your work flow.

Acknowledging ideas

Although your dissertation should contain your own original thought, you will also want to refer to the ideas of other writers on the topic.

Your dissertation should critically evaluate those ideas and identify what problems remain in your area of research and what has not yet been explored.

You can also use the work of others as evidence to back up your own argument – when doing this, ensure you add a footnote to signpost clearly to the reader the original source of the point you are making.

Perfect your bibliography

Make sure you have a sufficient number of references to books, articles and sources you have used – check with your tutor what is expected.

Some should be primary sources, which means non-academic material such as newspapers, interviews, cave paintings, train timetables, statistics. You will also quote secondary sources, which are usually academic articles that analyse primary sources.

There are lots of different referencing style guides such as those put out by the AHRC, MHRA and Harvard. Your academic department will tell you which one they use, and you will need to follow instructions to the letter. Consistency is critical, and you’ll have to pay close attention to details such as punctuation.

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3 essential steps to a good academic essay writing

There are 3 really useful steps that you can take before writing your essay. They’re designed to prevent writer’s block, at the three places where it usually occurs.

Step 1: Don’t decide what you’re going to write until you see what information you’ve got.

Your essay, like all essays, is going to prove some point. But you can’t prove that point before you have something to prove it with. Sound reasonable? You’d be amazed how often we start our essay with the point first, and then go looking for ways to prove it. That’s disaster. See what you gather first – that’s the first of my secrets on essay writing a good essay.

Step 2: Don’t go hunting for information until you’re sure about what question you’re going to answer.

Let’s be clear about this. An essay can’t be about airplanes in World War Two. An essay can be about how airplanes affected the course of World War Two. One of these is a general title. The other points to an unknown answer, which your essay will furnish. There is no going forward with your essay until it’s got a specific question to answer (like, ‘how did airplanes affect the course of World War Two?’). It can’t be a meander. That’s murder to write. This is the second of my secrets on essay writing.

Step 3: Don’t write differently from the way you talk.

You do have to talk in complete sentences, and it’s good practice not to use any slang. But with these two cautions, don’t write differently from the way you talk. Read over what you’ve just read here. Isn’t this tone fine for talking? Sure it is. Clear and easy on the page is the same as clear and easy in your ear. Want to know why else you should write the way you talk? Because your spoken English is very good (or you wouldn’t be reading this). And if your spoken English is good, your written English has to be good. And you can throw out any worries you may have about not being able write well because you have poor ‘English’ skills. I hear this worry all the time from students, who don’t notice that the very words they’re saying are in perfectly good English. This is the third of my secrets on essay writing.

To recap, remember:

1. Get the information first
2. Get the question straight and
3. Talk normally.

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The Importance of Proofreading

Before submitting or printing an academic research paper, essay, email, memo, or any other written document, it is very important to carefully proofread it. Proofreading of written material is the final and essential step that must be taken before a document can be considered complete.

When proofreading a document, you should first read it slowly and carefully to determine whether or not it communicates its message. If the title or the introductory paragraph do not clearly signal the intent of the paper or if the paragraphs which follow do not naturally flow from that introduction, you might want to rewrite those parts of your paper. If the research does not seem to verify what you are attempting to communicate, you may wish to rethink your thesis or you may need to conduct further research.

Once that part of the proofreading process, the overview editing, has been completed, it is time to perform a more exacting analysis of the paper. During this part of the proofreading procedure, you should search for errors in spelling, word usage, grammar, and punctuation. After all, a poorly written paper cannot possibly communicate its message properly to the reader.

Before you can consider the proofreading process complete, you should verify your sources and make sure that the document adheres to the rules of the formatting style that you are using, whether it is MLA, APA, ASA, AMA, Chicago, CSE, Turabian, AP, or some other.

Professional editors can proofread your document so that the final product is well-written, precise, and easy to read. It is important to carefully proofread all written material. It is not just the icing on the cake.

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The Five-Paragraph Essay

A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.

Introduction:
Introductory Paragraph

See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional “hook” which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.
Body:
Body — First paragraph:

The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the “reverse hook” which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.
Body — Second paragraph:

The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.
Body — Third paragraph:

The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.
Conclusion:
Concluding paragraph:

#This paragraph should include the following:

  • an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  • a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that “echoes” the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  • a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
  • a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a “call to action” in an persuasive paper.)
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How to Start an Essay

How to Start an Essay. Writing the first sentence for your essay can be hard. Imagine having to start an essay without having anything in mind — definitely, you won’t be able to write the first paragraph. The secret, therefore, on how to start an essay is knowing what to write beforehand. If your topic is clear in your mind, writing the rest of the essay will be a breeze. Here are some tips on how to start an essay.

  • Write your topic as the first sentence for your first paragraph. For example, if your essay is about the benefits of legalizing same-sex marriage, start your essay with it. This is the traditional method, similar to the Toulmin method.
  • You can start your essay by writing down clear facts shared by many, or by both sides of the opposition. Put the necessary details. However, try to avoid revealing your opinion at this early stage. It is enough that the facts have been laid down. This approach of starting an essay is similar to the Rogerian argument method.
  • Another way is to begin your essay with a quote from a popular poem, a famous movie, or an iconic individual. You can also start with an idiom. This approach is said to be effective in terms of drawing the reader’s attention right at the start of the essay. It immediately raises the reader’s expectations. Be careful, however. Sustaining the reader’s interest throughout the essay is another matter altogether.

Having resolved the problem of starting an essay, finishing the rest of it is another challenge. You may also want to read about how to write an essay, how to write a thesis statement, or how to write body paragraphs.

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Dissertation Proposal: The Doctor of Laws program of UPH

The Doctor of Laws program of UPHis based on a semester and credit system and consists of basic skills, advanced skills and research. Students can complete this program within six to ten semesters.

The basic knowledge and skills for writing dissertation proposals according to http://www.a-mentor.co.uk/services/research-writing/dissertation-proposal/

Doctor of law research program produces the-art facility in a wide range of subjects and disciplines of administrative and constitutional law to legal and Economics.

Discussion and research processes and the introduction of quantitative research methods

The main discussion is based on features, principles and method of qualitative research in comparative quantitative research focuses. Philosophy of law (2 points) philosophy, a dissertation, so that in the study of law problems, each student not only understands them as phenomena in of society, but as an ideal principle in society. Comparative Legal Culture (2 points).

The discussion Indonesian legal culture

The main discussion is current legal culture, law enforcement and obedience to the law focuses on the development of legal culture of Indonesia. Comparative Legal System (2 points).

To understand the significance of the legal system to discuss. What are the influences of the legal systems of other countries, both in the area of civil law (codified version) or Common-Law in the direction of the Indonesian legal system.

Role of Law in Economic Development

It is in order to discuss fully the philosophy of law in economic development.

The main discussion Focuses on principles of criminal law and teaching, Especially Those with public criticism: economic crime, corruption, cybercrime law, money laundering, the law of nation on crime (against the government and subversive), death penalty, life sentence, charged and punishment.

The result of the examination in writing selection is important to define who will continue to the next step (Research and Dissertation). The material for the understanding of research methodology, the specialization of science and critical thinking (including abstraction) are involved, and they are systematically defined. The students submit their dissertation proposal. The proposal must be continue as a dissertation or research.

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Dissertation writing: A dissertation on the legal topic, structured in depth

To write a dissertation that you need, take note of a few things, which you can find in more details on http://www.a-mentor.co.uk/services/research-writing/dissertation-writing/:

• Outline of the Problem
• What has been on this?
• Criticism (Legislative action; contradictions)
• What should be changed?
• Summary in short theses

Collate common positions, highlighting key similarities and bundling of methodological criteria (text, systematics, etc. …).

Normative analysis:

Show contradictions and shortcomings!

Especially in the evaluation of laws materials, it is easy to debunk unclear laws versions as unsatisfactory compromise.

Illustrative effects (consequences) of certain legal opinions

It is often of interest to the legal problems that arise in practice. Especially with the help of a control sequence, it can be difficulties of courts in applying the law, recognize different interpretation results, cost of implementation and application of the standard and acceptance of the standard by the population.

Tools are:

• Dogmatic investigation
• Theoretical study law
• Method of comparative law
• Economic Analysis of Law
• Exploration of legal facts

Introduction – Outline of Introduction:

Outline of the Problem

• The aim of the work
• Which method is used for standard analysis?
• Short course of representation

SAMPLE QUESTIONS:

• What is the importance of theory and practice?
• How current is it?
• What is the problem arose and how did it develop?
• What motives do the theme for the editor itself so important?
• What was the reason for the choice of the problem area?
• To what extent can the issue be distinguished from neighbouring topics?
• What kind of results are in the range to be processed before already?
• To what extent is closed with treatment of the topic a “gap”?

Basis of necessary definitions

Historical Outline

Brief overview of the legal field to edit

Performing parts must be kept as short as possible, because on the scientific results – contribute very little, except for the “revolutionary” restructuring of a problem.

To argumentation techniques:

It will be argued dialectically, that assertion – reason – Document

The profit outlook by illustrative examples is significant about using abbreviated facts of court decisions. Style
Just a few words to the style. The style of your dissertation writing should be easy to read.Stay away from cluttered speech and unintelligible sentences!

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Essay writing: Methods of creativity

When it comes to essay writing, it should be mentioned some methods of creativity. You can find more about the topic on http://www.a-mentor.co.uk/services/research-writing/essay-writing/. In the 1970s, two basic methods of creativity were developed almost at the same time. Thus, for example, in 1971, was developed Tony Buzan Mind Map concept. It was presented to a wider public in the early 80′s with “Use your brain“. Also at the beginning of the 80′s, was presented “Writing the natural way” by GABRIELE L. RICO.

Both concepts are often confused. In the centre of each one of them, is a core concept circled. From this line lead to further words. Thus, it can create a comprehensive system of lines. However, despite some similarities and there is already a certain relationship purely superficial differences. This can be attributed in part to differing objectives of the methods.The mind-map method is certainly good.

Probably each of you has heard of Mind maps. The strict variant Mind Map ® is a registered trademark.The cluster method hand may be unknown, but it is often used in everyday life. It comes to phone notes and other transcripts that often resemble clusters of mind maps.The basic idea of both methods is to break the usual linear thinking and to connect using graphic elements and figurative conceptual thinking together.

The mind map is more than a springboard for writing text.Clusters are also used in many ways, but can quickly become confusing and often after a short time, they are no longer readily understandable.The cluster is aimed at the immediate processing of recycled content. Thus, the cluster is also a good tool for excerpts especially if they open directly in the written report. Areas with associative links, also these with the discovery of new ideas are ideal for processing by the cluster.

Nevertheless, clusters and mind map can be combined well in practice:

• A cluster can be very well used as initial mind map. In the post-processing by creating a mind map, developed ideas are concentrated and systematized.
• The writing system of a mind map prepared by the cluster topic can be a first step towards the formulation of a mind-map keyword.

In summary, it can say:

The strengths lie in the conception of the mind map.
The strengths of the cluster are in the immediate preparation for writing.

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