Developing a thesis research question

Generally there is little point in working on something nobody but you finds interesting. Your research question should be able to answer a relevant problem in the field and fill a gap in available knowledge. It is also more likely you will receive funding if you attempt to answer a pending academic or practical question, and the generated knowledge from your research is expected to bring some benefit. Why is answering this question important? You need to be able to clearly outline the purpose of your study and not be baffled if others question the relevance of your potential contribution.

That said, you should also answer a research question you too find interesting and exciting. After all, you will be working on this project for at least a year, so you better make it stimulating and fun. Good research questions need time to develop and mature. You might want to start with a research idea and then mold it into an answerable and focused question. Be factual and orderly in this section, but try not to be too dry. 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. Many papers are cited in the literature because they have a good cartoon that subsequent authors would like to use or modify. 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. 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. 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. After you have finished the recommendation section, look back at your original introduction.

How to Write a Research Question | Guides

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 introduction. You must write your abstract last. 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. 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.

Are your axes labeled and are the units indicated? Show the uncertainty in your data with error bars. If the data are fit by a curve, indicate the goodness of fit. Could chart junk be eliminated? Could non-data ink be eliminated? Could redundant data ink be eliminated? Could data density be increased by eliminating non-data bearing space? Is this a sparse data set that could better be expressed as a table?

Does the figure distort the data in any way? Are the data presented in context? 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. If there are no data provided to support a given statement of result or observation, consider adding more data, or deleting the unsupported "observation.

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 point font. Double-sided saves paper. Include page numbers. Resources 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.


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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 books listed as Resources.

Introduction

Copy Editing Proof read your thesis a few times. Check your spelling. Make sure that you use complete sentences Check your grammar: punctuation, sentence structure, subject-verb agreement plural or singular , tense consistency, etc. Give it to others to read and comment. Content Editing logic repetition, relevance style. Avoiding ambiguity Do not allow run-on sentences to sneak into your writing; try semicolons.

Avoid clauses or phrases with more than two ideas in them. Do not use double negatives. Do not use dangling participles i.

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. Ensure that subject and verb agree in number singular versus plural.

Q. What is the difference between a thesis statement and a research question?

Be especially careful with compound subjects. Avoid qualitative adjectives when describing concepts that are quantifiable "The water is deep. Do not use unexplained acronyms. Spell out all acronyms the first time that you use them.

Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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 interpretation. 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.

Include only sufficient background material to permit the reader to understand your story, not every paper ever written on the subject. Use figure captions effectively. Instead, use the text to point out the most significant patterns, items or trends in the figures and tables. Delete "observations" or "results" that are mentioned in the text for which you have not shown data.

Delete "conclusions" that are not directly supported by your observations or results. Delete "interpretation" or "discussion" sections that are inconclusive. Delete "interpretation" or "discussion" sections that are only peripherally related to your new results or observations. Scrutinize adjectives! 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 Audience Put as much information as possible into figures and tables. For example: How did the company successfully market its new product?

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