Thesis Solutions

Thesis Solutions-48
Background is necessary to orientate the reader to what you are doing, but it is possible to give too much detail so that the reader starts to wonder why they need to know all of what they are being told.

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The abstract is a short version of the entire thesis which should answer the following five questions (not necessarily in this order or separately): The most common mistake with abstracts is to write them as though they are just another form of introduction, or perhaps as "advanced advertising" where the writer doesn't want to give too much away.

But think about why you read abstracts and what you hope to get out of them, and ask if you're happy just getting "promotional material" or whether you'd rather get the whole story, including key results, in a nutshell.

Finally, as a summary of the entire thesis, the abstract is the often the last thing to get finalised, but it shouldn't necessarily be the last thing to get written.

If you're drowning in data or literature and feel you're not sure where you're going anymore, writing a "working abstract" might help you to get a "big-picture" view of what you're trying to do and, therefore, help you to get focussed again.

Note also that abstracts play a critical role in determining whether someone reads on, and so deserve to be well written.

In fact, some journals try to "force" authors to write them well by requiring that they put responses against a series of prompts, typically something like: It has to be acknowledged, though, that the word limit that some journals put on abstracts means that it is not possible to answer all five of the above questions in your abstract, but in such cases key findings should not be something that gets sacrificed.

explaining why the literature review is scattered throughout the "papers for publication" chapters rather than being in a separate chapter as is common.

The Introduction in Lewis Wolpert's book, The Unnatural Nature of Science (Biol Sc and Ipswich: Q175 .

W737), gives a good example of what a useful outline looks like.) These three questions can be used to broadly analyse the structure of other people's writing so that you can get an overview of what they have done and how they have organised things.

Another way of analysing your writing and the writing of others is to consider which of the following three "moves" are being made in each paragraph or section of a paragraph (see Paltridge and Starfield, 2007, Ch.

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