Month: March 2012

Step 1 of your Literature Review – Finding Stuff

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There’s nothing more embarrassing that writing an entire report on a topic, then finding out that someone has already done it all.  Multiply that sentiment by a factor of about a thousand if you’re writing a Master’s thesis – start a new project from scratch if this happens during your PhD.  Whatever you’re writing or researching – the first step is always to conduct a thorough literature review.  For a Master’s thesis you might get away with knowing just some of the relevant literature – depending upon your university’s academic requirements – but for a PhD you have to find absolutely everything and that’s a huge job.  How do you tackle it?  Well, like everything else we’ve been talking about in this blog – I suggest you go about it methodically and that means having a plan. There are four key steps in the typical Literature Review: 1) finding stuff, 2) organizing and screening, 3) normalizing and 4) writing.  Today we’ll deal with the first step…   Read the rest of this entry »


How to Write your Introduction, Abstract and Summary

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These are the most important components of your thesis or report.  Put your biggest effort into getting them perfect.  Most professors read the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusions chapters of a thesis first, then they dive into the main body text afterwards.  This means that you have to be particularly careful in wording these sections, since there is some content overlap.  If you just copy and paste text between them, people will notice and it won’t leave them with a very favourable impression.  Many people read technical reports in the same order – in fact, some people actually never read anything but the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusions!   Read the rest of this entry »

Using figures and tables effectively…

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You may be wondering why I’m devoting a post to such an apparently trivial aspect of technical writing, but the truth is, it’s really important and most people do not do it particularly well.  There are three key aspects to consider when it comes to using figures and tables effectively: relevance, citing and formatting.  We’ll discuss all three.

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