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History homework question asked by my small bro

Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:26 am by student2012

Between Germany and japan who was the last to surrender during the second world war

Comments: 0

Need Help in writing a Research proposal

Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:31 am by The Students Forum(TSF)

How Do You Write a Research Proposal for Academic Writing
If you are in college then one of the many questions on your mind may be, how do you write a research proposal for academic writing. To write an academic research proposal is most likened to writing a proposal that addresses a project. The only difference is that the research proposal has either academic or scientific research at the …

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How to write your Thesis

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default How to write your Thesis

Post by Admin on Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:27 am

How to Write Your Thesis

compiled by Kim Kastens, Stephanie Pfirman, Martin Stute, Bill Hahn,
Dallas Abbott, and Chris Scholz

I. Thesis structure

II. Crosscutting Issues

III. Editing Your

Title Page What We Are
Looking For
Copy Editing
Abstract Planning
Ahead for Your Thesis


Avoiding Ambiguity
List of
vs. Reading
Thesis Length
List of
Order of

an International Audience
Introduction Figures

and Tables
Methods Tying the Text
to the Data
Results Giving Credit
Discussion Final
Conclusions Resources


I. Thesis structure

Title Page

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


  • 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.
  • Absrtracts 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

    1. What did you do?
    2. Why did you do it? What question were you trying to
    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
  • it will look something like this:

Page #
List of Figures xxx
List of Tables
subheads ...?
subheads ...?
subheads ...?
subheads ...?

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.

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")

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.

What belongs in the "methods" section of a scientific

  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. Desciption of your analystical methods, including
    reference to any specialized statistical

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
  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.

  • 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
  • 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
  • Break up your results into logical segments by using
  • 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
  2. Don't overlay interpretation on top of data in
  3. Careful use of phrases such as "We infer that ".
  4. Don't worry if "results" seem short.


  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.


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
  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.

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


  • Include when appropriate (most of the time)
  • Remedial action to solve the problem.
  • Further research to fill in gaps in our
  • Directions for future investigations on this or
    related topics.


Advisor(s) and anyone who helped you:

  1. technically (including materials, supplies)
  2. intellectually (assistance, advice)
  3. financially (for example, departmental support, travel


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

    • ... 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

    • 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

    • 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.,
    • 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 ......


  • Include all your data in the appendix.
  • Reference data/materials not easily available (theses
    are used as a resource by the department and other
  • Tables (where more than 1-2 pages).
  • Calculations (where more than 1-2 pages).
  • You may include a key article as appendix.
  • 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.

II. Crosscutting Issues

What Are We Looking For?

We are looking for a critical analysis. We want you to answer a
scientific question or hypothesis. We would like you to gather
evidence -- from various sources -- to allow you to make
interpretations and judgments. Your approach/methods should be
carefully designed to come to closure. Your results should be
clearly defined and discussed in the context of your topic. Relevant
literature should be cited. You should place your analysis in a
broader context, and highlight the implications (regional, global,
etc.) of your work. We are looking for a well-reasoned line of
argument, from your initial question, compilation of relevant
evidence, setting data in a general/universal context, and finally
making a judgment based on your analysis. Your thesis should be
clearly written and in the format described below.
Planning Ahead for Your Thesis

If at all possible, start your thesis research during the summer
between your junior and senior year - or even earlier - with an
internship, etc. ... then work on filling in background material and
lab work during the fall so that you're prepared to write and
present your research during the spring . The best strategy is to
pick a project that you are interested in, but also that a faculty
member or other professional is working on. This person will become
your research mentor and this gives you someone to talk with and get
background material from. If you're unsure about the selection of a
project, let us know and we'll try to connect you with someone.

Writing for an Audience

Who is your audience?

  1. Researchers working in analogous field areas
    elsewhere in the world (i.e. other strike-slip faults,
    other deep sea fans).
  2. Researchers working in your field area, but with
    different techniques.
  3. Researchers working on the same interval of geologic
    time elsewhere in the world.
  4. All other researchers using the same technique you
    have used .
  5. If your study encompasses an active process,
    researchers working on the same process in the ancient
  6. Conversely, if your study is based on the rock
    record, people studying modem analogs.
  7. People writing a synthesis paper on important new
    developments in your field.
  8. People applying earth science to societal problems
    (i.e. earthquake hazard reduction, climate warming)
    who will try to understand your paper.
  9. Potential reviewers of your manuscript or your
    thesis committee.

Skimming vs. Reading

Because of the literature explosion, papers more skimmed than read.
Skimming involves reading the abstract, and looking at the figures
and figure captions. Therefore, you should construct your paper so
that it can be understood by skimming, i.e., the conclusions, as
written in your abstract, can be understood by study of the figures
and captions. The text fills out the details for the more interested

Order of Writing

Your thesis is not written in the same order as it is
presented in. The following gives you one idea how to

  1. first organize your paper as a logical argument before
    you begin writing
  2. make your figures to illustrate your argument (think
  3. the main sections are: background to the argument
    (intro); describing the information to be used in the
    argument, and making points about them (observations),
    connecting the points regarding the info (analysis),
    summing up (conclusions).
  4. outline the main elements: sections, and subsections
  5. begin writing, choosing options in the following
    hierarchy - paragraphs, sentences, and words.

Here is another approach.

  1. Write up a preliminary version of the background
    section first. This will serve as the basis for the
    introduction in your final paper.
  2. As you collect data, write up the methods section. It
    is much easier to do this right after you have collected
    the data. Be sure to include a description of the
    research equipment and relevant calibration plots.
  3. When you have some data, start making plots and tables
    of the data. These will help you to visualize the data
    and to see gaps in your data collection. If time
    permits, you should go back and fill in the gaps. You
    are finished when you have a set of plots that show a
    definite trend (or lack of a trend). Be sure to make
    adequate statistical tests of your results.
  4. Once you have a complete set of plots and statistical
    tests, arrange the plots and tables in a logical order.
    Write figure captions for the plots and tables. As much
    as possible, the captions should stand alone in
    explaining the plots and tables. Many scientists read
    only the abstract, figures, figure captions, tables,
    table captions, and conclusions of a paper. Be sure that
    your figures, tables and captions are well labeled and
    well documented.
  5. Once your plots and tables are complete, write the
    results section. Writing this section requires extreme
    discipline. You must describe your results, but you must
    NOT interpret them. (If good ideas occur to you at this
    time, save them at the bottom of the page for the
    discussion section.) Be factual and orderly in this
    section, but try not to be too dry.
  6. Once you have written the results section, you can
    move on to the discussion section. This is usually fun
    to write, because now you can talk about your ideas
    about the data. If you can come up with a good
    cartoon/schematic showing your ideas, do so. Many papers
    are cited in the literature because they have a good
    cartoon that subsequent authors would like to use or
  7. In writing the discussion session, be sure to
    adequately discuss the work of other authors who
    collected data on the same or related scientific
    questions. Be sure to discuss how their work is relevant
    to your work. If there were flaws in their methodology,
    this is the place to discuss it.
  8. After you have discussed the data, you can write the
    conclusions section. In this section, you take the ideas
    that were mentioned in the discussion section and try to
    come to some closure. If some hypothesis can be ruled
    out as a result of your work, say so. If more work is
    needed for a definitive answer, say that.
  9. The final section in the paper is a recommendation
    section. This is really the end of the conclusion
    section in a scientific paper. Make recommendations for
    further research or policy actions in this section. If
    you can make predictions about what will be found if X
    is true, then do so. You will get credit from later
    researchers for this.
  10. After you have finished the recommendation section,
    look back at your original introduction. Your
    introduction should set the stage for the conclusions of
    the paper by laying out the ideas that you will test in
    the paper. Now that you know where the paper is leading,
    you will probably need to rewrite the
  11. You must write your abstract last.

Figures and Tables

  • The actual figures and tables should be
    embedded/inserted in the text, generally on the page
    following the page where the figure/table is first cited
    in the text.
  • All figures and tables should be numbered and cited
    consecutively in the text as figure 1, figure 2, table
    1, table 2, etc.
  • Include a caption for each figure and table, citing
    how it was constructed (reference citations, data
    sources, etc.) and highlighting the key findings (think
    skimming). Include an index figure (map) showing and
    naming all locations discussed in paper.
  • You are encouraged to make your own figures, including
    cartoons, schematics or sketches that illustrate the
    processes that you discuss. Examine your figures with
    these questions in mind:

    1. Is the figure self-explanatory?
    2. Are your axes labeled and are the units
    3. Show the uncertainty in your data with error
    4. If the data are fit by a curve, indicate the
      goodness of fit.
    5. Could chart junk be eliminated?
    6. Could non-data ink be eliminated?
    7. Could redundant data ink be eliminated?
    8. Could data density be increased by eliminating
      non-data bearing space?
    9. Is this a sparse data set that could better be
      expressed as a table?
    10. Does the figure distort the data in any way?
    11. Are the data presented in context?
    12. Does the figure caption guide the reader's eye to
      the "take-home lesson" of the figure?

  • Figures should be oriented vertically, in portrait
    mode, wherever possible. If you must orient them
    horizontally, in landscape mode, orient them so that you
    can read them from the right, not from the left, where
    the binding will be.

Tying the Text to the Data

"Show them, don't just tell them…" Ideally, every result
claimed in the text should be documented with data, usually
data presented in tables or figures. If there are no data
provided to support a given statement of result or
observation, consider adding more data, or deleting the
unsupported "observation."
Examine figure(s) or table(s) pertaining to the
Assess whether:

  1. the data support the textual statement
  2. the data contradict the textual statement
  3. the data are insufficient to prove or refute the
    textual statement
  4. the data may support the textual statement, but are
    not presented in such a way that you can be sure you are
    seeing the same phenomenon in the data that the author
    claims to have seen.

Giving Credit

How does one fairly and accurately indicate who has made what
contributions towards the results and interpretations presented in
your paper?: by referencing, authorship, and acknowledgements.
Different types of errors:

  1. direct quotes or illustrations without quotation marks,
    without attribution
  2. direct quotes without quotation marks, with attribution
  3. concepts/ideas without attribution
  4. concepts/ideas with sloppy attribution
  5. omitting or fabricating data or results

Check references carefully and reread reference works prior to
publication. The first time you read something, you will consciously
remember some things, but may subconsciously take in other aspects.
It is important to cross check your conscious memory against your
See also:
D. Kennedy, 1985, On Academic Authorship
Sigma Xi, 1984, Honor in Science
Yale University pamphlet on plagiarism

Final Thesis

  • Make 3 final copies: 1 to mentor and 2 to department,
    so that we can have 2 readers.
  • Final thesis should be bound.
  • Printed cleanly on white paper.
  • Double-spaced using 12-point font.
  • 1-inch margins.
  • Double-sided saves paper.
  • Include page numbers.


  • The Barnard Writing Room provides assistance on
    writing senior theses.
  • Look at other theses on file in the Environmental
    Science department, they will give you an idea of what
    we are looking for.
  • Of course do not hesitate to ask us, or your research
    advisor for help.
  • The Barnard Environmental Science Department has many
    books on scientific writing, ask the departmental
    administrator for assistance in locating them.
  • Also see additional

    as Resources.

III. Editing Your Thesis

Even a rough draft should be edited.

Copy Editing

  1. Proof read your thesis a few times.
  2. Check your spelling. spellcheckers are useful for
    initial checking, but don't catch homonyms (e.g. hear,
    here), so you need to do the final check by eye.
  3. Make sure that you use complete sentences
  4. Check your grammar: punctuation, sentence structure,
    subject-verb agreement (plural or singular), tense
    consistency, etc.
  5. Give it to others to read and comment.

Content Editing

  1. logic
  2. repetition, relevance
  3. style

Avoiding ambiguity

  1. Do not allow run-on sentences to sneak into your
    writing; try semicolons.
  2. Avoid nested clauses/phrases.
  3. Avoid clauses or phrases with more than two ideas in
  4. Do not use double negatives.
  5. Do not use dangling participles (i.e. phrases with an
    "-ing" verb, in sentences where the agent performing the
    action of the "-ing" verb is not specified: " After
    standing in boiling water for two hours, examine the
  6. Make sure that the antecedent for every pronoun (it,
    these, those, that, this, one) is crystal clear. If in
    doubt, use the noun rather than the pronoun, even if the
    resulting sentence seems a little bit redundant.
  7. Ensure that subject and verb agree in number (singular
    versus plural).
  8. Be especially careful with compound subjects. Be
    especially careful with subject/verb agreement within
  9. Avoid qualitative adjectives when describing concepts
    that are quantifiable ("The water is deep." "Plate
    convergence is fast." "Our algorithm is better.")
    Instead, quantify. ("Water depths exceed 5km.")
  10. Avoid noun strings ("acoustic noise source location
  11. Do not use unexplained acronyms. Spell out all
    acronyms the first time that you use them.

Thesis length

Write for brevity rather than length. The goal is the
shortest possible paper that contains all information
necessary to describe the work and support the
Avoid unnecessary repetition and irrelevant tangents.

Necessary repetition: the main theme should be developed in
the introduction as a motivation or working hypothesis. It
is then developed in the main body of the paper, and
mentioned again in the discussion section (and, of course,
in the abstract and conclusions).
Some suggestions on how to shorten your paper:

  1. Use tables for repetitive information.
  2. Include only sufficient background material to permit
    the reader to understand your story, not every paper
    ever written on the subject.
  3. Use figure captions effectively.
  4. Don't describe the contents of the figures and/or
    tables in the text item-by-item. Instead, use the text
    to point out the most significant patterns, items or
    trends in the figures and tables.
  5. Delete "observations" or "results" that are mentioned
    in the text for which you have not shown data.
  6. Delete "conclusions" that are not directly supported
    by your observations or results.
  7. Delete "interpretation" or "discussion" sections that
    are inconclusive.
  8. Delete "interpretation" or "discussion" sections that
    are only peripherally related to your new results or
  9. Scrutinize adjectives! adverbs and prepositional

Although it varies considerably from project to project,
average thesis length is about 40 pages of text plus
figures. This total page count includes all your text as
well as the list of references, but it does not include any
appendices. These generalizations should not be taken too
seriously, especially if you are working on a
labor-intensive lab project. If you have any questions about
whether your project is of sufficient scope, consult one of
us early on.

Writing for an International

  1. Put as much information as possible into figures and
    tables. In particular, try to find a way to put your
    conclusions into a figure, perhaps a flowchart or a
  2. Don't assume that readers are familiar with the
    geography or the stratigraphy of your field area.
  3. Every single place-name mentioned in the text should
    be shown on a map.
  4. Consider including a location map, either as a
    separate figure or as an inset to another figure. If
    your paper involves stratigraphy, consider including a
    summary stratigraphic column--in effect, a location map
    in time.
  5. Use shorter sentences. Avoid nested clauses or
  6. Avoid idioms. Favor usages that can be looked up in an
    ordinary dictionary. "Take the beaker out of the oven
    immediately..." rather than "Take the beaker out of the
    oven right away..."


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