Why it’s better to avoid back-references in your thesis


Introduction

In this post, I would like to discuss something which I have already discussed in a previous post. I might post this on the next page. But you should probably read the Introduction first.

Confusing? I hope so! Nonetheless, I sometimes encounter structures or sentences like these in dissertations. I call these: “back-references”, and they’re the topic of this post:

What are back-references
How to avoid using back-references
I’ve already used back-references. What can I do?

What are back-references

Academic writing is difficult, no doubt. You have to put an abstract idea into words, in a way such that others will understand exactly what you mean. Often you understand what you mean, since you have constructed your text in your own personal way: you know exactly where in your text you have said what, especially if you have been working on a manuscript for many months.

However, the people that will actually read your thesis (such as your supervisor) will often not have this intimate knowledge of your text. They will simply take it at face value, and they count on your ability to logically unpack your arguments. One at a time, each one building on the next. In short: your readers will expect that you have written the text for them.

Continue reading “Why it’s better to avoid back-references in your thesis”

Which sections should I include in my Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis


Contents

No matter whether you are writing a thesis for a Psychology, Business, Sociology or Medical Science program: a thesis largely looks the same across all disciplines. A typical thesis has 5 sections:

After the Conclusion your thesis usually is not finished: at the very least, you will have to include a Reference section or so-called ‘Bibliography’. But perhaps you also want to include one or more Appendices. These are discussed at the end of this post, together with a complete overview of the structure of a typical thesis.

1. Introduction

The Introduction section is the first and arguably the most important section of your thesis. Here, you introduce your topic and you discuss how you will study this topic: your research proposal.

Continue reading “Which sections should I include in my Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis”

Where and how should I include an Appendix in my thesis


Introduction

Many students include an Appendix section in their thesis where they post additional information about their study. A common question I get asked about including an Appendix is: “Where and how should I include it in my thesis?”. In this post, I’ll give you the answer:

Appendix: what is it?
Appendix always comes last
Numbering your Appendix
Cite your Appendix in the main text
I cited new material in my Appendix. What should I do?

Appendix: What is it?

In a dissertation or research paper, the Appendix-section usually contains additional materials that support the arguments made in the main text, but that are not necessary to understand them. Examples are additional tables and figures, an interview transcript or various statistical robustness checks.


How to format figures and plots in your thesis

How to format tables in your dissertation

Appendix always comes last

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter: A common mistake is to place the Appendix before the Bibliography, which is not correct! Appendix is a Latin word, which (roughly) translates to “added last”. It therefore is the very last part of a document, and should be placed after the Bibliography (References-section). If your Appendix is not the very last part of your thesis at the moment, it’s currently at the wrong position and you should move it to the end of your document.

Continue reading “Where and how should I include an Appendix in my thesis”

Using subsections and subsubsections in your thesis


Introduction

It’s difficult to explain science: ideas are inter-connected, topics flow from one to the other, and theories can get very extensive. Many students therefore include subsections (e.g. 2.2) and subsubsections (e.g. 2.2.1) to help structure their discussion. The question is: does this structure your story? Does it really improve the readability of your text? I’ll give you my perspective on this matter in this post:

The purpose of adding sections in your thesis
What’s the difference between sections, subsections and subsubsections?
Sections should help the reader, not the writer
Does this mean I can’t use subsections in my thesis?
Okay! Anything else I should know about subsections?

The purpose of adding sections in your thesis

Just to put your mind at ease: No, there’s nothing wrong with adding sections to your thesis! They’re a great way to structure your discussion, or to neatly isolate parts that deserve a more extensive discussion. This is true for ‘major parts’ of a dissertation (e.g. it doesn’t make sense to lump together your literature review with your introduction – that’s why we separate both into two sections), but also for smaller parts inside a discussion. For example, if you want to discuss multiple theories in your thesis, then it makes sense to properly introduce each one by assigning it to a separate subsection or subsubsection.

Continue reading “Using subsections and subsubsections in your thesis”

Thesis cover page – An example


Introduction

It’s one of the things most easily overlooked: including a cover page with your Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis! But what to include? How should it look? In this post, I will help you further:

What is a cover page
How should I design the cover page of my thesis
Design: Check your university
Design: Standard cover for a thesis

What is a cover page

The cover page or front page of your thesis literally is: the first page. It’s an unnumbered page with basic information about you, your university or your study program, and your thesis.

For most Bachelor’s and Master’s dissertations, it will not be very flashy: typically, it does not contain graphics, images or figures, and is printed in black-and-white. An example is posted below.

Continue reading “Thesis cover page – An example”

Should you include a DOI or URL in your scientific references


Introduction

In a previous post I discussed why I think it is absolutely necessary to use a citation manager when you are writing a thesis. In this post, I would like to discuss a very specific question on referencing: How to include a web address?

References that include a web address such as a DOI or URL have become more common over the last couple of years. But why are they included? And perhaps more importantly: should you include them in your references as well? In this blog post, I will go over the following questions I often get from students:

What is a DOI or URL?
Do I have to include a DOI or URL?
I want to (or have to) include a DOI or URL. What should I do?
Which one do I have to include: a DOI or URL?
Where can I find the DOI of an article?

What is a DOI or URL?

Let’s start with the latter: URL stands for ‘uniform resource locator’, and is more commonly known as a ‘web address’: the location on the internet where a resource can be found. An example of a web address is https://www.thesiscore.com. The URL of an article, therefore, is the location on the Internet where the article is stored.

Continue reading “Should you include a DOI or URL in your scientific references”

Popular secondary data sources that you can use for your dissertation research


Introduction

Data. If you are writing a thesis or doing scientific research, and you want to perform some type of statistical analysis, then you will need data to answer your research question. However, it’s not always obvious where you can find the right data for the job. Therefore, a question that I am often asked by students is: “Where can I find data for my thesis?”. In this post, I have collected a list of secondary data sources that may help you to find the the right data for your own research. I have divided them in the following categories:

Surveys
Databases
Project data
Search engines
Journal data
Researcher data
Other lists

Not familiar with secondary data? Let’s start with a quick introduction!

Primary and secondary data

Let’s first make a distinction between two types of data. Primary data is data that you collect yourself, for example by doing an experiment or by administering surveys. Secondary data is data that has already been collected for you. For example, by a National Statistics Bureau of a certain country, or by an already existing survey such as the World Values Survey. Secondary data can also be data that is stored in an existing database, such as the Genetic Variation data from the European Variation Archive.

Continue reading “Popular secondary data sources that you can use for your dissertation research”

How to format tables in your dissertation


Introduction

Whether you want to give an overview of the literature you have reviewed, or you want to present (statistical) results: almost everyone that is writing a thesis will at some point need to include a table. It can be tricky to correctly include these in your report, as there are many (small) things you need to look out for. Especially when it comes to scientific tables.

In this blog post, I discuss some formatting rules that I personally follow whenever I include a table in my papers (in fact the examples posted here are sourced from one of my articles!). If you want to include a table in your thesis, pay attention to the following:

Tables in a thesis
Number tables
Caption
Position of your table
Table font
Table contents
Tip: APA and tables
Tip: Journal
Tip: software to generate tables

Looking for tips on figures and plots instead?

How to format figures and plots in your thesis

Tables in a thesis

A table is a rectangularly shaped container, in which information is arranged using columns and rows. Tables are a great tool to quickly and orderly present data, and therefore are perfectly suited for presenting numerical data such as statistical results. However, tables are also quite common in dissertations that do not use any numbers (at all)! For example, in a literature study a table is often included to show which articles have been included for review.

Continue reading “How to format tables in your dissertation”

How to format figures and plots in your thesis


Introduction

Whether you want to highlight your research with a nice info-graphic or flow-chart, or you want to visually present your (statistical) results: virtually everyone that is writing a thesis will at some point need to include a figure or plot. There are many (small) things you need to look out for when posting figures in your report, especially when it comes to scientific figures.

In this blog post, I discuss some formatting rules that I personally follow whenever I include a table or figure in my papers (in fact the examples posted here are sourced from one of my articles!). If you want to include a figure in your thesis, pay attention to the following:

Figures in a thesis
Number your figures
Caption
Position of your figure
Figure font
Plot: axis label
Color
Tip: Software
Tip: when best to use figures
Tip: number of figures
Tip: Journal

Looking for tips on scientific tables instead?

How to format tables in your dissertation

Figures in a thesis

Figures or plots are graphical presentations of data. However, instead of showing numbers (which often is the case with tables), figures visualize numbers. Most people are better at processing complex data when it is presented in a visual form, making figures a great communication tool to use in a thesis!

Continue reading “How to format figures and plots in your thesis”

How many times can I cite the same article in my dissertation


Introduction

Writing a thesis means citing other people’s work: scientific articles and books. But how many times can you cite the same article or book in your thesis? That’s the topic of this post:

Avoid overusing a reference
How many times can I cite the same article, then?

Avoid overusing a reference

A common styling pitfall when writing a thesis is referencing the same scientific article over and over again, sometimes even multiple times in the same paragraph. This usually is not necessary, and even frowned upon a little. Here’s a little example:

“In an article by Smith (2018), the author studies how school-performance may lead to depression within adolescents. The author reports that working towards a graduation is a big contributing factor. [..] This result is similar to previous studies such as Johnson (2015) or Greany (2016).

Smith (2018) also states that time-constraints, such as having a student-job, further impact the probability that school-performance is affected (Smith, 2018). [..]

Furthermore, previous research also shows that students that schedule their graduation well in advance, including planning the individual tasks it requires, have a lower probability of becoming depressed (Smith, 2018).[..]”

Continue reading “How many times can I cite the same article in my dissertation”