Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering off topic? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. Your thesis statement should be like a thread that is weaved in throughout your entire essay. Does my thesis answer “how” or “why”? If a reader’s first response is “how? ” your thesis may be too general. Answering these questions will help you be more specific and as a result will outline your main points to the reader. Suppose your topic is asking you to write an essay that makes an argument about the importance of one of the primary themes of the “Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin. This thesis simply summarizes the story without providing the theme. A reader might think, “How does she feel? And why does she feel that way? ” Ask yourself these same questions! As you think about these ‘hows’ and ‘whys,’ you should begin recalling specific examples from the text. The woman in “the Story of an Hour” feels relieved and liberated when she learns that her husband died, because she was in an unhappy marriage. Next, push your thesis towards an interpretation. Look for detailed, textual evidence to explain the how and the why. The theme of “The Story of an Hour” focuses on a woman’s freedom from a male-dominated relationship. Notice how the above statement still does not answer the ‘how’ question. Perhaps you would like to discuss how the language of the story indicates that the woman was indeed oppressed by her husband, and that as a result of this oppression she became ill. Compare the above thesis to the original working one. This final thesis presents a way of interpreting evidence that reflects the significance of the question. Keep in mind that this is just an example of many possibilities you can write about!

If you do this, you will no doubt be able to draw a variety of insights that link your research to other areas. I usually think of conclusions/implications as the “So what” statements. In other words, what are the key ideas that we can draw from your study to apply to my areas of concern. Potentially the silliest part of the dissertation is the Suggestions for Further Research section. This section is usually written at the very end when little energy is left to make it meaningful. The biggest problem with this section is that the suggestions are often ones that could have been made prior to conducting the work. Read and re-read this section until you are sure that you have made suggestions that emanate from your experiences and findings. Make sure that suggestions for further research link your project with future projects and provide a further opportunity for the reader to understand the significance of what you have done. Be judicious in your use of abbreviations.

Excessive use of abbreviations makes a thesis more difficult to read. Do not abbreviate terms only used a few times in the thesis. Provide a table of abbreviations used throughout the thesis so that the reader can quickly interpret an abbreviation they have forgotten. Do not include common abbreviations in this table. Abbreviate consistently throughout the thesis. Now it’s time to write the last chapter. But what chapter is the last one? My perception is that the last chapter should be the first chapter. I don’t really mean this in the literal sense. Certainly you wrote Chapter One at the beginning of this whole process. Now, at the end, it’s time to “rewrite” Chapter One. After you’ve had a chance to write all the way to the end, you should turn back to Chapter One and reread it carefully with the insight you now have. Does Chapter One clearly help the reader move in the direction of the final chapter? Are important concepts necessary for understanding the final conclusions presented in Chapter One? Adapted from S. Joseph LeVine, Ph.D. Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation.

4. List of problem statements, list of thesis statements, list of approaches/methodologies, list of open issues/problems. 5. Photocopies of papers that you have reviewed. It will be a great source of comfort to you when you see the size of this folder increasing. Does it contain the copies of all the papers that were selected? Does it contain all the summaries? Does it contain a bibliography? Does it contain a list of web-sites that you have found useful? Do you have the list of conferences, journals, magazines, discussion groups where topics relevant to your area are covered? Does it contain the topic of the area of research and any material that you have submitted to the supervisors? Please note that EndNote does all of this for you, however, it will not give you the psychological support of seeing physically the amount of work that you have done. [Initially written in 2005 and distributed to research students as Guidelines for MS Research.

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