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Writing up thesis

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 23 ✭✭✭ S_S116


    I'm in the middle of writing up my PhD thesis and lately I've been thinking about the Viva I have to do at the end so I was trying to think of ways of keeping track of everything I'm reading.
    I've started keeping a folder, divided in sections relevant to a specific topic then putting in notes when relevant but its feeling very time consuming. Any suggestions?


Comments



  • Visual imagery helps me to order such material. I am using a flowchart as a cover sheet.

    This PhD Viva link has some other helpful ideas.




  • I'd recommend two things. First, I;'d suggest that you write a short summary of each paper you read. Too often, graduate students get into the trap of reading too much without reflecting and writing. After you read something force yourself to write an evaluative summary - even a paragraph will help. Second, I'd recommend a referencing software, such as Endnote or refworks - these let you insert notes and comments.




  • I had my viva around a year ago and completed my PhD (entire process) in just over 26 months.

    From day one, any article that I read was summarised (like ulyssesfcohen said) - even if you don't actually write a few paragraphs on it, just go over it and underline the important points. Don't just skim over it like most people do - get into the article and critique the work.

    I think that you should also realise that, after you submit your first draft, you will have a fair idea about everything in your thesis and could reasonably pass the viva at that point. However, read through the thesis with a 'reviewer's' eyes and critique your own work, asking questions about what you did (and why you did it).

    Remember too that the viva isn't really an exam... ... it's more a conversation (albeit a lengthy one) about your work. They go through your thesis from start to end and ask questions.

    good luck!
    Kevin




  • Kevster wrote: »
    I think that you should also realise that, after you submit your first draft, you will have a fair idea about everything in your thesis and could reasonably pass the viva at that point.

    ....

    Remember too that the viva isn't really an exam... ... it's more a conversation (albeit a lengthy one) about your work.
    This really isn't very good advice - a viva can be a whole lot more difficult than it ought to be if the necessary work has not gone into the thesis. If you submit a poorly constructed thesis, you're handing your examiners a great big stick to beat you with.

    You completed your entire PhD, from start to viva, in 26 months? I find that incredibly hard to believe - it takes most people 12 months just to familiarise themselves with the territory and get up and running.




  • I think that it would be fair to say, djpbarry, that it also depends on the examiners...

    Also, I went into my viva knowing that my work was sound and I had publications to back up my data. So, perhaps, I'm not the best to comment as I know that the majority of PhD students don't have publications behind their work.


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  • djpbarry wrote: »
    You completed your entire PhD, from start to viva, in 26 months? I find that incredibly hard to believe - it takes most people 12 months just to familiarise themselves with the territory and get up and running.

    I'm not a normal case. My work became part of my OCD, so please, believe what I say.




  • Kevster wrote: »
    I think that it would be fair to say, djpbarry, that it also depends on the examiners...
    Of course, but few students have any idea what their examiners are going to be like before their viva!
    Kevster wrote: »
    Also, I went into my viva knowing that my work was sound and I had publications to back up my data. So, perhaps, I'm not the best to comment as I know that the majority of PhD students don't have publications behind their work.
    Plenty of students have at least one publication behind them going into their viva, but that's really not the point. I know of at least one student who had five publications, but their viva still took over six hours and resulted in an extensive rewrite of their thesis.

    The point is you can't take anything for granted and it is best to treat the viva as though it is going to be an exam, because it can often turn out to be if the student is ill-prepared.




  • djpbarry wrote: »
    Of course, but few students have any idea what their examiners are going to be like before their viva!
    Plenty of students have at least one publication behind them going into their viva, but that's really not the point. I know of at least one student who had five publications, but their viva still took over six hours and resulted in an extensive rewrite of their thesis.

    The point is you can't take anything for granted and it is best to treat the viva as though it is going to be an exam, because it can often turn out to be if the student is ill-prepared.

    Ok. but the example you cite is hardly the typical case - it is clearly an outlier. Nonetheless, I agree with the sentiment - the viva can be an unpredictable affair; certainly not a formality




  • I don't want to do another viva ... lol




  • To the OP,
    Firstly, do you know your stuff? If so then you'll be fine.
    I've had PhD students who could recite papers back to their examiners and often this level of confidence will stop a potential hostile examiner from showboating.
    I've had external examiners try to tear students apart just to see how they can defend themselves. I've also seen examiners who love the work and it ends up being a chat!
    I've had a student who had 3 published papers and a patent being examined on the fundamentals of their topic. Not one paper was examined in the Viva, just the Introduction and the Experimental. It was to make sure that the student did the work and see how they went about it. What controls did they take, how did they deal with errors, what's significant and what's just noise!

    In summary, can you explain why you did each step? Can you justify your work?
    Reciting papers and discussing references is fine, since you bring them into the viva if you need to (or have them on a PC/tablet for explanation.)


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  • Thanks for that advice bduffy.
    I think I know my stuff! I mean I've been reading about it for the past 3 years but I'm finding it hard to convince myself I know anything right now. I certainly don't feel like I could recite papers back to people but that's where I want to be. That's were organizing my reading material comes in, how best do I get to that really confident level, Is there a "reading formula" somewhere that I haven't discovered yet!!?

    I know I lack the confidence. Non of my papers have been published and thesis deadline is this May. I'm a second author on two published high impact journal articles and will be second author on two more that have been submitted. The work in these papers is almost directly related to the type of work surrounding my thesis. I'm just worried about not having any first author publications and maybe a way of defense might be to show that at least I know the literature inside out, that the experiments findings just weren't that interesting but the reasons for doing them were good.




  • It would be nice to have the 1st Author status, but 2nd of a small author number is good too.
    When it comes to papers, and this is the last thing you might want to hear, but you should have a digital copy of them and number them in sequence (Paper001, 002 etc.) in a dedicated sofware package (Mendeley etc.).
    Endnote is handy as you can just find the paper from the publisher and import all the details into a local file.
    The export citation tool allows you to use the RIS format.
    Then you can go to endnote and add in key words or points for particular papers.
    A search tool can be used then to find papers with keywords from the list, or you identifier columns (Theory or Experimental or Competitive Techniques or Commercialised Products).
    It's a bit of work, but you get to bring it with you when you finish :-)




  • I've got endnote up and running. It's a great tool. I'd recommend it to anyone reading this who doen't already have it.
    It's probably a case of organizing that a little better. Thanks for all the advice:) Hopefully I'll get out the other end.




  • S_S116 wrote: »
    I certainly don't feel like I could recite papers back to people but that's where I want to be.

    I don't think there's any value in this - the viva isn't a test of your memory, rather an examination of your thesis and your competence in your field. The thesis should explicitly analyse the papers you reference with respect to your own work and objectives, so the examiners can see you train of thought, rather than a long list of vaguely-related stuff. You could be asked fundamental questions that anyone in your field should know, but at this stage you'll probably know the answers 100 times over!

    I'd agree with djpbarry's comment on structuring the thesis correctly. I've read some drafts of these where, although the author had done some good work, I wasn't convinced they really understood what they were doing overall. Whether that's because their thesis was poorly structured, or because they really didn't understand the work, wasn't clear to me, but either way I'm sure the examiners picked up on it.




  • Following-on from what Turbulent Bill said, the thesis (and PhD) has to have a specific set of aims and objectives and follow a path like that of a story. We know the reality, in that a thesis and PhD can be pieced together from numerous different failed and successful experiments and that only then is data all collated and something useful produced. However, the final 'polished' version must be clear and the student must fully understand what exactly they were trying to do and how they did [or did not, in some cases], do it.




  • Kevster wrote: »
    Following-on from what Turbulent Bill said, the thesis (and PhD) has to have a specific set of aims and objectives and follow a path like that of a story. We know the reality, in that a thesis and PhD can be pieced together from numerous different failed and successful experiments and that only then is data all collated and something useful produced. However, the final 'polished' version must be clear and the student must fully understand what exactly they were trying to do and how they did [or did not, in some cases], do it.

    That of course depends on the format. NUIG for example are now allowing for the Eurpean style whereby the thesis is a collection of published papers with a separate introduction, results and discussion and conclusion. My papers had very little in common and so my thesis was very disjointed and really had no narrative (I had some difficulty, both in terms of funding and supervisors!). Though when writing a monograph, the above is certainly the case.


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