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THESIS STRUCTURE AND REFERENCING

 

Prof. Dr. Md. Akram Hossain, MBBS, M Phil (Micro), FRCP Edin

Head of the Dept. of Microbiology, Mymensingh Medical College

 


 

Thesis structure

 

Title Page

Title (including subtitle), author, institution, department, date of delivery, research mentor(s) and advisor, their institutions and email addresses

 

Acknowledgments

Advisor(s) and anyone who helped you: 

  1. technically (including materials, supplies)

  2. intellectually (assistance, advice)

  3. financially (for example, departmental support, travel grants)

 

Abstract

A good abstract explains in one line why the paper is important. It then goes on to give a summary of your major results, preferably couched in numbers with error limits. The final sentences explain the major implications of your work. A good abstract is concise, readable, and quantitative.

·         Length should be ~ 1-2 paragraphs, approx. 400 words.

·         Abstracts generally do not have citations.

·         Information in title should not be repeated.

·         Be explicit.

·         Use numbers where appropriate.

·         Answers to these questions should be found in the abstract:

  1. What did you do?

  2. Why did you do it? What question were you trying to answer?

  3. How did you do it? State methods.

  4. What did you learn? State major results.

  5. Why does it matter? Point out at least one significant implication.

 

Table of Contents

  • list all headings and subheadings with page numbers

  • indent subheadings

 

List of Figures

List page numbers of all figures.

The list should include a short title for each figure but not the whole caption. 

 

List of Tables

List page numbers of all tables.

The list should include a short title for each table but not the whole caption. 

 

Introduction

You can't write a good introduction until you know what the body of the paper says. Consider writing the introductory section(s) after you have completed the rest of the paper, rather than before.

Be sure to include a hook at the beginning of the introduction. This is a statement of something sufficiently interesting to motivate your reader to read the rest of the paper, it is an important/interesting scientific problem that your paper either solves or addresses. You should draw the reader in and make them want to read the rest of the paper.

The next paragraphs in the introduction should cite previous research in this area. It should cite those who had the idea or ideas first, and should also cite those who have done the most recent and relevant work. You should then go on to explain why more work was necessary (your work, of course.)

 

What else belongs in the introductory section(s) of your paper? 

  1. A statement of the goal of the paper: why the study was undertaken, or why the paper was written. Do not repeat the abstract.

  2. Sufficient background information to allow the reader to understand the context and significance of the question you are trying to address.

  3. Proper acknowledgement of the previous work on which you are building. Sufficient references such that a reader could, by going to the library, achieve a sophisticated understanding of the context and significance of the question.

  4. The introduction should be focused on the thesis question(s).  All cited work should be directly relevent to the goals of the thesis.  This is not a place to summarize everything you have ever read on a subject.

  5. Explain the scope of your work, what will and will not be included.

  6. A verbal "road map" or verbal "table of contents" guiding the reader to what lies ahead.

  7. Is it obvious where introductory material ("old stuff") ends and your contribution ("new stuff") begins?

Remember that this is not a review paper. We are looking for original work and interpretation/analysis by you. Break up the introduction section into logical segments by using subheads.

 

Methods

What belongs in the "methods" section of a scientific paper?

  1. Information to allow the reader to assess the believability of your results.

  2. Information needed by another researcher to replicate your experiment.

  3. Description of your materials, procedure, theory.

  4. Calculations, technique, procedure, equipment, and calibration plots.

  5. Limitations, assumptions, and range of validity.

  6. Description of your analytical methods, including reference to any specialized statistical software. 

The methods section should answering the following questions and caveats: 

  1. Could one accurately replicate the study (for example, all of the optional and adjustable parameters on any sensors or instruments that were used to acquire the data)?

  2. Could another researcher accurately find and reoccupy the sampling stations or track lines?

  3. Is there enough information provided about any instruments used so that a functionally equivalent instrument could be used to repeat the experiment?

  4. If the data are in the public domain, could another researcher lay his or her hands on the identical data set?

  5. Could one replicate any laboratory analyses that were used?

  6. Could one replicate any statistical analyses?

  7. Could another researcher approximately replicate the key algorithms of any computer software?

Citations in this section should be limited to data sources and references of where to find more complete descriptions of procedures.

Do not include descriptions of results.

 

Results

  • The results are actual statements of observations, including statistics, tables and graphs.

  • Indicate information on range of variation.

  • Mention negative results as well as positive. Do not interpret results - save that for the discussion.

  • Lay out the case as for a jury. Present sufficient details so that others can draw their own inferences and construct their own explanations.

  • Use S.I. units (m, s, kg, W, etc.) throughout the thesis.

  • Break up your results into logical segments by using subheadings

  • Key results should be stated in clear sentences at the beginning of paragraphs.  It is far better to say "X had significant positive relationship with Y (linear regression p<0.01, r^2=0.79)" then to start with a less informative like "There is a significant relationship between X and Y".  Describe the nature of the findings; do not just tell the reader whether or not they are significant. 

 

Note: Results vs. Discussion Sections

 

Quarantine your observations from your interpretations. The writer must make it crystal clear to the reader which statements are observation and which are interpretation. In most circumstances, this is best accomplished by physically separating statements about new observations from statements about the meaning or significance of those observations. Alternatively, this goal can be accomplished by careful use of phrases such as "I infer ..." vast bodies of geological literature became obsolete with the advent of plate tectonics; the papers that survived are those in which observations were presented in stand-alone fashion, unmuddied by whatever ideas the author might have had about the processes that caused the observed phenomena.

 

How do you do this? 

  1. Physical separation into different sections or paragraphs.

  2. Don't overlay interpretation on top of data in figures.

  3. Careful use of phrases such as "We infer that ".

  4. Don't worry if "results" seem short.

Why? 

  1. Easier for your reader to absorb, frequent shifts of mental mode not required.

  2. Ensures that your work will endure in spite of shifting paradigms.

 

Discussion

Start with a few sentences that summarize the most important results. The discussion section should be a brief essay in itself, answering the following questions and caveats:  

  1. What are the major patterns in the observations? (Refer to spatial and temporal variations.)

  2. What are the relationships, trends and generalizations among the results?

  3. What are the exceptions to these patterns or generalizations?

  4. What are the likely causes (mechanisms) underlying these patterns resulting predictions?

  5. Is there agreement or disagreement with previous work?

  6. Interpret results in terms of background laid out in the introduction - what is the relationship of the present results to the original question?

  7. What is the implication of the present results for other unanswered questions in earth sciences, ecology, environmental policy, etc....?

  8. Multiple hypotheses: There are usually several possible explanations for results. Be careful to consider all of these rather than simply pushing your favorite one. If you can eliminate all but one, that is great, but often that is not possible with the data in hand. In that case you should give even treatment to the remaining possibilities, and try to indicate ways in which future work may lead to their discrimination.

  9. Avoid bandwagons: A special case of the above. Avoid jumping a currently fashionable point of view unless your results really do strongly support them.

  10. What are the things we now know or understand that we didn't know or understand before the present work?

  11. Include the evidence or line of reasoning supporting each interpretation.

  12. What is the significance of the present results: why should we care?

 

This section should be rich in references to similar work and background needed to interpret results. However, interpretation/discussion section(s) are often too long and verbose. Is there material that does not contribute to one of the elements listed above? If so, this may be material that you will want to consider deleting or moving. Break up the section into logical segments by using subheads.

 

Conclusions

  • What is the strongest and most important statement that you can make from your observations?

  • If you met the reader at a meeting six months from now, what do you want them to remember about your paper?

  • Refer back to problem posed, and describe the conclusions that you reached from carrying out this investigation, summarize new observations, new interpretations, and new insights that have resulted from the present work.

  • Include the broader implications of your results.

  • Do not repeat word for word the abstract, introduction or discussion.

 

Recommendations

  • Include when appropriate (most of the time)

  • Remedial action to solve the problem.

  • Further research to fill in gaps in our understanding.

  • Directions for future investigations on this or related topics.

 

References

  • cite all ideas, concepts, text, data that are not your own

  • if you make a statement, back it up with your own data or a reference

  • all references cited in the text must be listed

  • cite single-author references by the surname of the author (followed by date of the publication in parenthesis)

    • ... according to Hays (1994)

    • ... population growth is one of the greatest environmental concerns facing future generations (Hays, 1994).

  • cite double-author references by the surnames of both authors (followed by date of the publication in parenthesis)

    • e.g. Simpson and Hays (1994)

  • cite more than double-author references by the surname of the first author followed by et al. and then the date of the publication

    • e.g. Pfirman, Simpson and Hays would be:

    • Pfirman et al. (1994)

  • do not use footnotes

  • list all references cited in the text in alphabetical order using the following format for different types of material:

    • Hunt, S. (1966) Carbohydrate and amino acid composition of the egg capsules of the whelk. Nature, 210, 436-437.

    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (1997) Commonly asked questions about ozone. http://www.noaa.gov/public-affairs/grounders/ozo1.html, 9/27/97.

    • Pfirman, S.L., M. Stute, H.J. Simpson, and J. Hays (1996) Undergraduate research at Barnard and Columbia, Journal of Research, 11, 213-214.

    • Pechenik, J.A. (1987) A short guide to writing about biology. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 194pp.

    • Pitelka, D.R., and F.M. Child (1964) Review of ciliary structure and function. In: Biochemistry and Physiology of Protozoa, Vol. 3 (S.H. Hutner, editor), Academic Press, New York, 131-198.

    • Sambrotto, R. (1997) lecture notes, Environmental Data Analysis, Barnard College, Oct 2, 1997.

    • Stute, M., J.F. Clark, P. Schlosser, W.S. Broecker, and G. Bonani (1995) A high altitude continental paleotemperature record derived from noble gases dissolved in groundwater from the San Juan Basin, New Mexico. Quat. Res., 43, 209-220.

    • New York Times (1/15/00) PCBs in the Hudson still an issue, A2.

  • it is acceptable to put the initials of the individual authors behind their last names, e.g. Pfirman, S.L., Stute, M., Simpson, H.J., and Hays, J (1996) Undergraduate research at ......

 

Appendices

  • Include all your data in the appendix.

  • Reference data/materials not easily available (theses are used as a resource by the department and other students).

  • Tables (where more than 1-2 pages).

  • Calculations (where more than 1-2 pages).

  • If you consulted a large number of references but did not cite all of them, you might want to include a list of additional resource material, etc.

  • List of equipment used for an experiment or details of complicated procedures.

  • Note: Figures and tables, including captions, should be embedded in the text and not in an appendix, unless they are more than 1-2 pages and are not critical to your argument.

 

 

Referencing

In-text referencing

 

What is referencing and why is it necessary?

Referencing is a standardized method of acknowledging the sources of information you have consulted. Anything - words, figures, theories, ideas, facts - originating from another source and used in your assignment must be referenced (i.e. acknowledged).

Referencing is done for the following reasons:

 

Let's look at an example:

You are writing an assignment about "Compiling a CV" and you consulted a book of J P Rendell, called "Getting that job: a guide to writing your own CV". In this book you have found a quotation that you want to include in your assignment. You do that as follows:

"Writing a CV is similar to writing a sales letter - you are, in fact, selling yourself - your skills and aptitudes." (Rendell, 1986: 36). The following is an example of the bibliographic entry when using the Harvard Referencing Style:

 

 

 

Referencing styles

Different organizations have developed different referencing styles. The style you have to use is prescribed by your academic department or faculty. A specific style is usually also prescribed by the publisher or the journal for which you are writing, if you intend publishing. Style manuals are published and updated by the originating organizations. They are available in printed format but also online on the Internet. Four examples of referencing styles are:

 

Style name

Developed by

APA Style

American Psychological Association

Harvard Style

Harvard University

Vancouver Style

"The Uniform Requirements style (the Vancouver style) is based largely on an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard style adapted by the US National Library of Medicine for MEDLINE and other databases. This style is referred to as the Vancouver style because it originated at a meeting of medical journal editors in Vancouver (British Columbia) in 1978."

(Source: http://www.libr.port.ac.uk/support/BR_Vancouver.html)

Chicago Style

What is different about the Chicago Style? - The Chicago style uses footnotes to provide information about where the reference came from. Full bibliographic details are given in a footnote the first time a publication is referred to, and then briefer references each subsequent time.
(Source:
http://www.lipa.ac.uk/LRonline/studyskills/bibsrefc.htm)

 

 

The most-used styles are the Harvard Referencing Style and the APA Referencing Style. Check with your lecturer which style you should use. Styles are never mixed - once you have decided on a style you follow that style only and you follow it to the letter. In other words you should follow it exactly.

 

 

How do I apply this reference technique?

 

There are different ways of referencing:

Paraphrasing (writing the ideas in your own words)

Harvard style

Anderson (1987:73-74) advances three arguments against the death penalty. He contends that the death penalty is inhuman and no society that purports to be civilised can condone it. It has never been proved that the death penalty acts as a deterrent, and, furthermore, many innocent people have died in vain for the crimes committed by others....

APA style

Anderson (1987, p.73-74) advances three arguments...

Notes

·         Harvard: The sentence starts with the surname of the author followed by the date and page reference in round brackets.

·         APA: Note the punctuation is different: the date is followed by a comma and the pages are preceded by p. (p full stop no space 73.)

 

OR

 

Quoting (writing the exact words of the author)

Harvard style

"My arguments against the death penalty are three-fold. To do away with any human being is uncivilised and inhuman. There is no proof that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to heinous criminal acts... and it's a documented fact that many innocent men and women have been wrongly sentenced for the crimes of others" (Anderson, 1987:73-74)

APA style

"My arguments...crimes of others" (Anderson, 1987, p.73-74)

Notes

·         the ellipsis (...), indicates that you have omitted certain words in the original.

·         The information copied from the original author is given in quotation marks ("...")

·         The sentence ends with the surname of the author, the date of the publication and the page references in round brackets.

·         APA style is different: the date is followed by a comma and the pages are preceded by p. (p full stop space 73.)

 

Two other forms of quoting:

Harvard

Anderson (1987:74) states: "The death penalty is no deterrent to crime."

OR

Harvard

Anderson (1987:74) concludes that "the death penalty is no deterrent to crime".

 

 

APA

Anderson (1987, p.74) states: "The death penalty is no deterrent to crime."

OR

APA

Anderson (1987, p.74) concludes that "the death penalty is no deterrent to crime".

 

The above examples are from a book with a single author. Examples of other types of sources are given in the sections "Compiling the bibliography

 

Harvard Referencing

 

1. In-Text Citations

How to Cite ‘In-Text’

Citations may be placed at the end of a sentence (before the concluding punctuation) in brackets:

The theory was first developed by Browne (Gibbs 1981).

Another way of including a reference in your text is to integrate the author’s surname into your sentence, followed by the year of publication and page number, in parentheses:

Gibbs (1981, p. 89) states that Browne was the first to develop the theory of...

The following extract is an example of a paragraph using the Harvard system:

Criticisms aside, Durkheim’s work was an extraordinary contribution to the sociology of religion, perhaps more specifically to a greater understanding of the origins of collective morality. Gardner (1987, p. 74) makes an extremely important point about Durkheim when he writes “Durkheim had a lifelong interest in morality . . . For Durkheim morality was the centre and end of his work and society itself was the end and source of morality” . For Durkheim, the nature of morality was the nature of social solidarity. In The Elementary Forms Durkheim defined religion as the main expression of the deep moral sentiments inspired by society in individuals. His interest in the moral substratum of the modern social order expressed concern with the moral consequences of modernisation (Toles 1993).

 

To cite a direct quotation

Write the text word for word and place quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quotation. The author, date and page number must be included.

"Australia is a settler society" (Hudson & Bolton 1997, p. 9).

 

To cite a paraphrase or a short summary of an author’s words or ideas

Restate the original words/ idea in your own words. The author, date and page number(s) must be included.

Wartime textile rationing was imposed through a coupon system, which meant garments now had two costs: their value in monetary units and in coupons (McKernan 1995, p. 152).

 

To reference the overall content of a work

You do not need to include page numbers because it is the entire work you are referring to:

Larsen and Greene (1989) studied the effects of pollution in three major cities...

 

2: List of References

The List of References in the Harvard system is a single list of all the books, journal articles and other sources you have referred to throughout your assignment.

Each reference list item requires certain bibliographic details outlined in the tables below. For example, in in the case of a book, 'bibliographical details' refers to: author/editor, year of publication, title, edition, place of publication and publisher as found on the front and back of the title page. (some of these details may vary depending on the book).

  • A list of references should be laid out alphabetically by author surname.

  • If bibliographic information exceeds one line of text, then the following lines should have a hanging indent.

  • The title of a book should be in italics. Minimal capitalisation is recommended (e.g. only capitalise the first word of a title’s heading/subheading and any proper nouns).

 

Vancouver Referencing Style

 

Dissertation or Thesis

Author(s). Title [dissertation]. Place: Publisher. Date of publication

 

Van Couver:    Pearce MW, Schumann EH. The effect of land use on Gamtoos estuary water quality [dissertation]. Pretoria: Water Research Commission; 1997.

Notes:   

 

Use of et al.

 

By Grammarist On May 11, 2011 • 3 Comments • In Usage

 

et al. is an abbreviation of the Latin loanphrase et alii, meaning and others. It is similar to etc. (short for et cetera, meaning and the rest), but whereas etc. applies to things, et al. applies to people.

Et al. does not need to be italicized in normal use. It does require a period after the second word, even when it falls in the middle of a sentence. Et al. is best reserved for citations and other parenthetical remarks in academic or other types of formal writing. Because et al. sounds unnatural when read aloud, an unabbreviated English equivalent is often better in informal contexts.

The issue of whether to place a comma before et al. is complicated. Just treat it as you would the words and others. So when et al. follows a single name (e.g., Tate et al.), it doesn’t need a comma. When it follows more than one name, some publications set et al. apart with a comma, and some don’t. It depends on whether the publication uses serial commas (that is, the last comma in a list—e.g., the one after white in the phrase red, white, and blue).

There are differing ideas about the use of et al., however. So if you are writing a paper for a class, you might want to ask your teacher or professor what he or she prefers (if only for the sake of your grade).

 

Examples

These writers use et al. well:

As a child I disliked everything about Christopher Robin, from his nanny’s beautiful blue dressing gown on the door to his dim-witted friends Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger et al. [Guardian]

Even the recent Gartner report from star analyst Jane Disbrow et al. shows that 61% of their customers have been audited by at least one software vendor. [Forbes]

Slaying the goliath that is the Los Angeles Galaxy – David Beckham, Landon Donovan et al. – in the 2009 MLS Cup final proved that. [Globe and Mail]

 

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