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1 Enjoy Writing your Science Thesis or Dissertation! 2nd Edition A step-by-step guide to planning and writing a thesis or dissertation for undergraduate and graduate science students

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3 Enjoy Writing your Science Thesis or Dissertation! A step-by-step guide to planning and writing a thesis or dissertation for undergraduate and graduate science students Elizabeth Fisher University College London, UK Richard Thompson Imperial College London, UK 2nd Edition ICP Imperial College Press

4 Published by Imperial College Press 57 Shelton Street Covent Garden London WC2H 9HE Distributed by Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Downloaded from World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. 5 Toh Tuck Link, Singapore USA office: 27 Warren Street, Suite , Hackensack, NJ UK office: 57 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9HE Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Fisher, Elizabeth. Enjoy writing your science thesis or dissertation! : a step-by-step guide to planning and writing a thesis or dissertation for undergraduate and graduate science students / Elizabeth Fisher, University College London, UK, Richard Thompson, Imperial College London, UK. -- 2nd edition. pages cm. Previous edition by Daniel Holtom. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN (hardcover : alk. paper) -- ISBN (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Technical writing. 2. Dissertations, Academic. I. Thompson, Richard (Richard Charles), 1955 II. Holtom, Daniel. Enjoy writing your science thesis or dissertation! III. Title. T11.H '65--dc British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Copyright 2014 by Imperial College Press All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission from the Publisher. For photocopying of material in this volume, please pay a copying fee through the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. In this case permission to photocopy is not required from the publisher. Typeset by Stallion Press Printed in Singapore

5 Acknowledgements This book is based on a previous version by Daniel Holtom and Elizabeth Fisher and we wish to thank Dan for generously giving us a free hand in updating this second edition. We thank Kellye Curtis from Imperial College Press for encouraging Elizabeth to agree to revise the book and persuading Richard to join her. In addition we thank Tom Stottor for his patience, advice and professionalism during the editing process. We also wish to thank Zara Holtom for creating a much better set of illustrations than were in the first edition... We thank Frances Wiseman and Rosie Bunton-Stasyshyn for scientific input to the book and Rohit Jaggi for advice about the use of English. Elizabeth would also like to thank Edith Sim, Clare Stanford, Alan Kingsman while at Oxford University and David Page of MIT for teaching her about scientific writing. She would like to thank her colleagues at Imperial College for input while writing the first edition of this book and at UCL for the second edition, and David Housman at MIT and Peter Jackson at Stanford University for hosting her sabbatical during which part of this book was produced. Richard would like to thank his wife Margaret for all her support while writing this book and his colleagues at Imperial College for their encouragement and advice. We would both like to thank all the graduate and undergraduate students who have been through our groups for all their patience and everything they have taught us. Finally, we are also indebted to our own supervisors (Steve Brown, Mary Lyon and Derek Stacey) who set us excellent examples of effective research supervision. v

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7 Contents Chapter 1 provides basic information and summarises how to organise, plan and write a thesis or dissertation. The remaining chapters go into much greater detail on each topic; because each chapter can be read independently of the main text you will find repetition between them. Use what is helpful to you. We recommend that you read Chapter 1 as a whole, and then use the rest of the book as a reference section. Acknowledgements Chapter 1 Overview Preliminaries Creating a Plan for Your Thesis or Dissertation Overview of this Book 8 Common Mistakes 25 Key Points 25 v Chapter 2 Getting Organised Organise Yourself Organise Your Information Sources of Information Copyright Your Friendly Computer Word Processing 39 vii

8 viii Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! 2.7 Other Useful Software Packages 42 Common Mistakes 45 Key Points 45 Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Downloaded from Chapter 3 Your References or Bibliography References and Citations Using References Collect and Store Your References from Day One of Your Project The Final Text Formats for Citations and References How to Write the Full-Length Reference 56 Common Mistakes 61 Key Points 63 Chapter 4 Planning and Writing Your Literature Review Read Around Your Subject from Day One Keep Notes from Your Reading Planning Your Literature Review Writing Your Literature Review 69 Common Mistakes 70 Key Points 70 Chapter 5 Planning and Writing Your Materials and Methods/Experimental Techniques Planning Materials and Methods/Experimental Techniques Writing the Methods Section Writing the Materials Section Writing Conventions What to Include 83 Common Mistakes 88 Key Points 89

9 Contents ix Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Downloaded from Chapter 6 Planning and Writing Your Results Planning Your Results Chapter Which Results to Include The Order in Which to Present Your Results How Many Results Chapters, What Titles and in Which Order? Writing Your Results Chapter Writing Style Figures, Tables and Appendices 100 Common Mistakes 100 Key Points 101 Chapter 7 Planning and Writing Your Discussion and Conclusion Planning the Discussion Writing Your Discussion Writing the Conclusion 108 Common Mistakes 109 Key Points 109 Chapter 8 Planning and Writing Your Introduction Planning the Introduction The Beginning The Middle The End Theory Section Writing Your Introduction 118 Common Mistakes 120 Key Points 121 Chapter 9 Deciding on Your Title and Writing Your Abstract The Title of Your Thesis or Dissertation The Abstract of Your Thesis or Dissertation 125 Common Mistakes 127 Key Points 128

10 x Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Downloaded from Chapter 10 The Other Bits Title Page Abstract Acknowledgements/Dedication Table of Contents Lists of Figures and Tables List of Abbreviations Glossary Appendices Published Papers 136 Common Mistakes 136 Key Points 137 Chapter 11 Other People s Work Being Part of a Team Plagiarism Copyright 143 Common Mistakes 144 Key Points 144 Chapter 12 Layout Fonts and Line Spacing Layout of Text on the Page Titles and Headings Additional Features Mathematical Equations 157 Common Mistakes 159 Key Points 160 Chapter 13 Numbers, Errors and Statistics Writing Numbers and Quantities Errors and Uncertainties Statistics 167 Common Mistakes 172 Key Points 172

11 Contents xi Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Downloaded from Chapter 14 Figures and Tables Basic Principles Figures: Illustrations Annotating Figures Figures: Graphs Tables Inserting Figures and Tables into a Thesis or Dissertation 198 Common Mistakes 200 Key Points 200 Chapter 15 Proofreading, Printing, Binding and Submission Getting Ready Proofreading Printing Your Dissertation or Thesis Submitting Your Thesis 209 Common Mistakes 210 Key Points 211 Chapter 16 The Viva and Thereafter or And you Thought it was All Over Oral Examinations Preparing for Your Viva The Day of the Viva After the Viva 221 Common Mistakes 222 Key Points 223 Chapter 17 Supervision Roles and Responsibilities Reviewing Drafts of Your Thesis or Dissertation Problems with Supervisors Changing Supervisor 231 Common Mistakes 231 Key Points 232

12 xii Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis or Dissertation! Downloaded from Chapter 18 The Use of English in Scientific Writing Scientific Writing Style Important Conventions for Writing a Scientific Document The Use of English in a Scientific Thesis or Dissertation Common Problems with Writing Punctuation Common Errors with Punctuation 281 Common Mistakes 282 Key Points 283 Appendices Appendix 1: Easily Confused Words 285 Appendix 2: Prefixes and Suffixes 301 Appendix 3: Wordy Words and Phrases 305 Appendix 4: Words that Cause Vagueness 313 Appendix 5: Latin Words and Abbreviations 317 Appendix 6: The Greek Alphabet 325 Appendix 7: SI Units 327 Index 333

13 Crest of the University of West Cheam (which may, or may not, exist), where the undergraduate and postgraduate students depicted in the illustrations throughout this book are based. The university, formerly the West Cheam Institute of Technologickal Arts, boasts some unconventional academic staff including Dr Karloff, Dean of Alternative Physics, and it carries out research on exotic subjects such as the mating behaviour of landfish. As described in this book, students at the university have encountered many problems, such as failed experiments, crashed computers, lost references, broken printers and errant supervisors. However, despite this, all the people mentioned managed to finish writing their dissertations and theses on time and successfully completed their degrees.

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