CSA PAKISTAN

The Art of Thesis Writing

ABRAR HUSSAIN

International Center for Chemical and biological sciences

HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry.

University of Karachi, Pakistan.

Introduction

Thesis writing is the last step in academic research which is required for the achievement of a university degree. Thesis writing is a steady process that required deep thoughts and full attention [1]. The origin of the term thesis come from Greek meaning “something put forth” and was first described by Aristotle. It refers to the documents which are necessary to obtain the university degree after the completion of the author’s research [2]. It is also considered a long piece of writing on a particular subject.

A dissertation is synonymous with a thesis which basically means “discussion”, but there are some differences exist in terms of reading, purpose, knowledge they contain, and the way of its displayed [3][4][2]. Some differences are stated here;

ThesisPropertiesDissertation
GreekOriginLatin
It contains new ideas and new conclusions about a specific topic.DefinitionIt shows the new knowledge, theories, and practices obtained during the doctoral degree.
Documents are written for claiming of doctorate (Ph.D.) degreeLengthMostly 100 or fewer pages
It is long as it has more background and has 200-300 pages.Topic coverageIt is mostly written for an explanation and to make conclusion about topic.
It shows the knowledge about information that is learn during the whole courseReflectionIt shows the knowledge about information that is learned during the whole course
Shorter oral presentationOral presentationLonger oral presentation

Open mind, good critical thinking ability, confidence, determined, resilient, disciplined, focus, responsibility, good relationship and enjoying the science are some of the properties which are required to be present in the author while writing their thesis [5].

Properties of thesis/dissertation

Parts of thesis:

Generally, the thesis has four major sections, these are an introduction, a literature review, results, and a discussion or conclusion [3].

 The detailed components of the thesis are described as follows;

1-Abstract:

It is a tiny, concise, and inclusive summary of the research work which covers the research packages in the envelope of 250 words [6]. During abstract writing, the motivation and attention of the reader must be kept in mind  [7].

Parts of abstracts [7][8][6][9]

  • Motivation: it reflects the problem, purpose, and the gap of the research
  • Methodology: it shows what and how actually the research gap will be filled.
  • Finding: what results were obtained by following the given procedure
  • Summary: it summarizes all the materials, implications and benefits, etc.

2-Thesis introduction

The thesis introduction can provide the outline of the research question and the way how to achieve the target  [3]. The contents of the introduction include current observations, views, experiences, etc. which reflect the status of the problem. It also provides scientifically proven evidence for the given problem of the research. This part of the thesis can capture the reader’s attention and put them understand the importance of the research [7]. During writing clearly state the research hypothesis and follow the rule of ‘General to Specific to General’

3-Literature review

A literature review is a critical, analytical, selective, and inclusive outline of previous research concerning a specific topic. A details understanding of what is known and what is lifting can help the researcher to formulate the rationales of their studies [2][7][10]. The part included in the literature review is the current knowledge, theories, themes, and the lifted area in that specific topic [3][7]. The literature review is strongly influenced by whether our research is qualitative or quantitative [10]. 

Why do we write a Literature review? (Writing purpose) [2][9][10]

The start of the literature review writing seems very difficult but it is necessary for the following purposes.

  • Familiarity with the topic: It helps us to know about the chosen topic
  • Theoretical framework: it enhances the theoretical background of the researcher
  • Set rational: it set the rational of the work.
  • Identify the research gap: critical review can accurately identify the research gap
  • Authenticity: it also authenticates the research work by describing the existing method used for similar work.  

Skills required for literature review

The following skills can enhance the researcher’s ability to write a critical literature review[7]

  • Analytical skills
  • Synthesis skills
  • Comprehension skills
  • Strong knowledge-absorbing ability

4- Methodology

It is the detailed research steps that are used to support the outcomes and describe the methods and generate a roadmap to reach the conclusions. It also emphasizes the selection of the method. The proper methodology can reflect the validity and reliability of the research work and also convince the reader by selecting that specific method [7][9].

How to write methodology/ tips for writing [7][9]

  • Very clearly explain the study design and the choice of method
  • Properly explain the population size of the study
  • Explain the sample collection with the proper method used
  • State the instrument used and describe the level of the sample
  • Clearly state the demographic and geographic limits of the method
  • Also, state the ethical consideration of the research

5- Results or data

In this section, the collected data were analyzed to find out the extent of reliability, accuracy, convergence, and relationships with variables [7]. It should be presented in a clear and concise way and the usage of different writing styles should be avoided [2][9].

Results section Includes

  • simply state the findings, without bias or interpretation, and arranged in a logical sequence [3]
  • Condition in which the data were collected
  • What special instruments were used during data processing [7]
  • Include all results, even if they do not support your hypothesis

Organization of data

  • First, explain on what basis the data were analyzed
  • Logically organization of data is mostly recommended
  • Summarize the finding in one or two paragraph
  • Every table or figure must have a proper title that explain its outcome [9].

6- Discussion

This section discusses each of the findings thoroughly according to the research topic, with properly stating the limitation of the study. The discussion mainly focuses on the relatedness or divergence from the finding with the current literature. It is considered the most complex, as it is integrative and critically evaluates the researcher’s creativity and finding [7][11]. Repetition in the discussion gives a very bad impression [12].

The thesis discussion section includes

  • Briefly explain the finding of the study and its validation from the literature.
  • Relationship of the data with the research question, support or not the question.

7- Conclusion 

The conclusion is the comprehensive form of the thesis which is considered as the last words of the researcher’s findings. It covers very briefly the relationship between the research gap and the data obtained during research work [7]. It never states the finding again, just answers the questions [9][11]

The thesis conclusion section includes

  • How the findings have helped to solve a problem and contributed to the knowledge in the field of research.
  • An explanation of how the findings have contributed to a gap in knowledge
  • How the findings fall within existing theories or assumptions in our field of research.
  • A discussion on the limitations of the study
  • Recommendations for practical applications of the findings and future investigations

Steps to writing a thesis conclusion section

  • Restate and answer the thesis question
  • Summarize the findings.
  • Explain or suggest the reasons for your thesis findings.
  • Explain the contributions of your study to the field.
  • Explain the limitations of your study.
  • Mention recommendations for practical applications and further research

8- Referencing  

Every journal has its own reference style. The wrong format can reflect the researcher less attention. Generally, the reference is in the order of; list of authors, year of publication, article title, journal name, volume and page number [11]. Double and cross-checking of references are very good practices and make the writer adopt one steady style [9]. During referencing;

  • Cite all source which is not your own
  • In references all text-cited materials must be present
  • Single authors are cited by their surname followed by (in brackets) the date of publication. e.g. ……according to Ali (2021)…..
  • For two authors the surname of both authors followed by publication year is listed like  Ali and Hasan (2021)
  • More than two authors cite the last name of the first author followed by et al and the date of publication as, Rahman et al. (2021)

9- Appendices [13]

This section is placed at the end of the thesis and consists of supplementary materials which are not part of the internal text but can give additional information like figures, tables, raw data, and additional questions, etc.[9]. Each topic is considered as a separate appendix and has an explanatory title.  

Contents of appendices

The appendix section includes raw materials, charts, pictures, emails, letters, survey questions, observation reports, and data sheets.

Referring to an Appendix In-Text

Must refer to each appendix in the main body of the dissertation at least once to justify its inclusion; otherwise, the question arises as to whether they are really needed.

Ways of referring appendix in the text.

The appendix materials are referred by three ways;

  1. It is referred after a specific table or figure within the text like,
    “As shown in Table 2 of Appendix A, there is little correlation between X and Y”.
  2. Parentheses are used to specify a specific table or figure. e.g.
    “The results (refer to Table 2 of Appendix A) show that there is little correlation between X and Y”.
  3. The complete appendix is referred to. for example: “The output data can be found in Appendix A”

Selected References

[1]      O. H. Ylijoki, “Master’s Thesis Writing from a Narrative Approach,” Stud. High. Educ., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 21–34, 2001, doi: 10.1080/03075070020030698.

[2]      M. El-Serafy, “How to write a thesis,” Arab J. Gastroenterol., vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 73–77, 2009, doi: 10.1016/j.ajg.2009.07.200.

[3]      B. Paltridge, “Thesis and dissertation writing: An examination of published advice and actual practice,” English Specif. Purp., vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 125–143, 2002, doi: 10.1016/S0889-4906(00)00025-9.

[4]      O. Zuber-Skerritt and C. Perry, “Action research within organisations and university thesis writing,” Learn. Organ., vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 171–179, 2002, doi: 10.1108/09696470210428895.

[5]      N. Brennan, “100 PhD rules of the game to successfully complete a doctoral dissertation,” Accounting, Audit. Account. J., vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 364–376, 2019, doi: 10.1108/AAAJ-01-2019-030.

[6]      A. Drury et al., “How to Write a Comprehensive and Informative Research Abstract,” Semin. Oncol. Nurs., vol. 39, pp. 0–4, 2023, doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2023.151395.

[7]      H. J. Nenty, “Writing a Quantitative Research Thesis,” Int. J. Educ. Sci., vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 19–32, 2009, doi: 10.1080/09751122.2009.11889972.

[8]      C. A. Mack, “How to write a good scientific paper: title, abstract, and keywords,” J. Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, MOEMS, vol. 11, no. 2, p. 020101, 2012, doi: 10.1117/1.jmm.11.2.020101.

[9]      S. J. Cunningham, “Features section: How to write a thesis,” J. Orthod., vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 144–148, 2004, doi: 10.1179/146531204225020445.

[10]    A. S. Denney and R. Tewksbury, “How to Write a Literature Review,” J. Crim. Justice Educ., vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 218–234, 2013, doi: 10.1080/10511253.2012.730617.

[11]    F. A. Maiorana and H. F. Mayer, “How to avoid common errors in writing scientific manuscripts,” Eur. J. Plast. Surg., vol. 41, no. 5, pp. 489–494, 2018, doi: 10.1007/s00238-018-1418-z.

[12]    K. Pushparajah and S. A. Qureshi, “How to write a good scientific research paper and get it published,” Indian J. Thorac. Cardiovasc. Surg., vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 10–13, 2013, doi: 10.1007/s12055-013-0194-4.

[13]      https://www.discoverphds.com/blog/thesis-and-dissertation-appendix