Getting Going on your Thesis and Getting Your Work Published

Getting Going on your Thesis and
Getting Your Work Published
By the end of the course, participants will feel more
confident about starting, or continuing, to write their thesis
and about the process of getting their work published.
Specific Objectives
By the end of this course we will have
• identified the features of good writing in a thesis or journal article
• identified individual sections or building blocks of the thesis
• understood the content and writing style for each section
• practised writing an introduction and received feedback from a partner
on this draft
• understood the mechanics of getting published
• developed a structure for your thesis
Four Features for Assessing Writing
Academic writing includes a thesis, dissertation
or research article and must have good
• Content
• Selection
• Organisation
• Presentation
What Makes Academic Writing Good?
• Original, sound research, timely, valuable, justifiable, replicable
• (WHAT is included, and in how much detail.) Focused, in
sufficient detail that someone else could replicate
• Logical, following a conventional pattern for article or thesis
• Appropriate writing style/ choices of words and phrases.
Grammar, punctuation, spelling, all correct. Visually: does it
look nice on the page? Typography, layout, clear diagrams
Criteria for getting your PhD
General skills
Knowledge of the
general field of
scholarship to which
the particular subject
Content of thesis
Form of thesis
A work of substance,
Presented in a
representing not less
satisfactory manner
than 2 years (normally 3)
of full-time research
Critical judgement in Distinct addition to
a particular subject
Clearly and precisely
Competence in
designing and
executing a
theoretical or
empirical enquiry
Arguments logical and
Capacity to assume
responsibility for
research in the field
Originality (discovering
new facts, critical
examination of existing
facts or ideas; devising
and conducting
investigations into ideas
supplied by others)
Example language and their message
1 ‘This is original’
• While much effort has been directed towards the study of these genes in
the rat, relatively little is understood about them in the mouse.
2 ‘This is important and exciting’
• This study will be important for several reasons.
• A detailed understanding of the murine Cyp4a subfamily would be crucial
for understanding…
• Ventilation engineers are increasingly turning to analysis tools to assist
them in the design and operation of mine ventilation systems.
3 ‘This work is good quality’
• Nottingham is the perfect location to conduct research of this kind… the
localised nature is one of the strengths of the study.
4 ‘I know the relevant literature, and how my works fit in with it’
• Thus the issues of ‘captive’ and floater’ consumers raised by Moir (1990)
and discussed in Section 4.2 are included in the design of this study.
Research about writing
• Daily regime improves productivity – Boice 1990
• Writing is a thinking tool/mode of learning – Elbow 1973, Emig 1977
• Need a range of approaches and strategies – Murray 1995, 2000
• Text generation strategies better than cognitive strategies (learning about
how to write) – Torrance et al. 1993
• “To be a successful writer I know of only two methods; read a lot and
write a lot” – Stephen King (ok not really research)
How do you write?
Types of writer
 Needs all the answers
before starting to write
 Uses writing to ‘think’
– clarify the answers
 Wants clear
assessment criteria
 Happy with
 Writes to a document
 Structure falls out of
the writing
“There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If
I write rapidly I can keep up with my original
enthusiasm and at the same time outrun
the self-doubt that is always waiting to set
Stephen King
“The most effective way I know to improve
your writing is to do freewriting exercises
regularly … It isn’t just therapeutic garbage.
It is a way to produce bits of text that are
better than usual: less random, more
coherent, more highly organised”
Peter Elbow
One strategy: Freewriting
• Write for 5 minutes non-stop
 In complete sentences
 Don’t worry about grammar
• Topic what you want to write about next
• Today’s is
“What I already know about my thesis and what I still
need to find out”
Using Freewriting to find a structure
Freewrite to ‘What is this document about?’
Analyse for main headings
Freewrite to ‘What are the themes in this section?’
Analyse for sub-headings
Freewrite to ‘What are the ideas in this sub-section?’
Analyse for bullet points of key ideas
Freewrite to ‘What is this idea?’
How to Write The Introduction
Your introduction (to your thesis or paper)
needs to:
grab the reader’s attention
establish your credibility
set the scene
justify the work which is to be reported
tell the reader what is coming next
One way to achieve this is the Four Move Schema.
The Four-Move Schema
• Move 1 – Establish the general field of the research
• Move 2 – Briefly mention key previous work in the field
• Move 3 - Make a link between previous work and the
author’s present work
• Move 4 – Briefly describe the present work
An Example of an Introduction
‘Late presenters’ after paracetamol self poisoning
Bradley, M., Nguyen-Van-Tam, J.S. and J.C.G. Pearson 1998 in J. Epidemiology and Community
The popularity of paracetamol as a drug for self-poisoning has increased dramatically since the early
1980s [1, 2]; nowadays almost 50 percent of episodes of self-poisoning presenting to hospital
involve the ingestion of paracetamol or paracetamol-containing drugs [3-5].
It is estimated that about 70 000 episodes of paracetamol self-poisoning occur each year in Britain
6. Although serious morbidity and deaths are rare, [6, 7] these usually result from late presentation,
which reduces the effectiveness of available antidotes [8, 9].
The epidemiology of paracetamol self-poisoning has not previously been described in detail in
relation to recorded delays in presentation for treatment.
We studied, retrospectively, all episodes of paracetamol self-poisoning occurring at either of the two
acute hospital units in Nottingham during the first six months of 1996. These included patients seen
only in the accident and emergency department, as well as those admitted for in-patient care.
Hawton, K, Fagg J. Trends in deliberate self poisoning and self injury in Oxford, 1976-90,
BMJ 1992,3, 304: 1409-11
Your Thesis
Before writing anything, you need to be clear about the importance of your
own work. This exercise is designed to help you to clarify why your
research is being done.
Work with a partner. Take it in turns to talk through your answers to
the following prompts:
Briefly, what is your research about?
Why is the work important?
In what way(s) is your work different from anything which has
gone before?
Exercises to Help you Get Going:
Practising writing an Introduction
Conceptual Frameworks
Building Blocks of a Thesis
Conceptual Frameworks
…are mind maps of your research. They help you to set down all the
components of the research project and then organise them into segments
such as:
 Hypothesis
 Literature Review
 Research Design
Mind Mapping
Mind Mapping
Bullet point approach
• A more structural approach than freewriting
• Alternative to mind maps or can be used in conjunction
with them
• Construct lists of priorities and bullet points to
summarise main ideas
• Create lists then re-order according to logical sequence
or order of importance
• Refer to Page 19 in the handout
Bullet Points
• Editing is separate from “writing from scratch”
• Successful writing is a 2-stage process: write first, edit later
• Freewriting helps separate these stages
• Different objectives for each stage
 Grammar/spelling
 Structure
 Content
 Coherence
 Expression/style
• Possible editors to help you?
• Remember – editors are not responsible for your mistakes!
Quick editing test
How many Fs?
Frozen foods are the result of
years of scientific studies and the refinement
of refrigeration.
Getting into the writing habit
TASK: generate some prompts to help
you write
for 5 minutes each day
What could you write about on day 1?
... Day 2?
... Day 3?
Steps To Publication
1 Select topic
[2 Write to editor to ask if there would be interest in topic]
3 Draft paper
4 Obtain comments from friendly colleagues/ ask advice about
[5 Give paper at conference and draw on comments]
6 Submit to journal
7 Preliminary assessment by editor
8 Acknowledgement sent
Steps To Publication Contd.
9 Paper sent to referees
10 Referees submit comments
11 Editors confer
12 Editors send letter with 3 possible contents:
Accept paper with
minor revisions
13 Do revisions
14 Join publication queue
15 Journal produces proofs
16 Publication!
Please rewrite &
The Structure Of Academic Papers
Description of previous work
Description of your work
Summary and Conclusions
The Structure of Academic Papers
Description of previous work
Description of your work
Summary and Conclusions
Personal Action Plan
List three key things you have learnt about writing skills:
How are you going to put these points into practise when
you are writing?
What’s Next?
• Academic support
• Writing map
• Writing buddies?
• Writing workshops – run by Graduate School and
AELSU (dates to follow)