Tag Archives: college thesis

How to Write a Good Thesis Introduction: From General to Specific

How do you about writing a thesis introduction? Is there a way to do it to ensure that you put across the message more effectively? This article discusses one of the ways to make the introduction a logical explanation of the contents of a thesis. Writing the introduction follows a deductive approach. Read on how the general to specific method works.

My previous tip on how to write the introduction explained the importance of and provided an example of how to write a good hook. A good hook prompts the readers to go on and read the thesis. This time, I will detail another feature of a good thesis introduction that works well with the hook, that is, writing from general to specific.

Writing a Thesis Introduction: General to Specific

Many seasoned writers or researchers adopts writing from general to specific as the way to go.  Although this may seem common sense to those who write a lot and who have a way with words, professors or mentors need to guide their students or mentees. Mentoring provides at least the basic skills required for better composition.

If you are a student just finding your way in the scientific world for the first time by engaging yourself in thesis writing, writing a thesis introduction is quite a challenge. If you believe this is so, then you must go on and read my attempt to clarify this approach more fully.

The Inverted Pyramid Approach to Writing a Thesis Introduction

Let me illustrate the deductive writing method using an illustration to guide your thinking. I call this the inverted pyramid of writing a thesis introduction. It follows the general to the specific approach.

I figured out the situation in class while evaluating students’ interpretation of the inverted pyramid writing method. Incisively looking into draft compositions submitted to me, I thought that the concept at best gives just a gist or the tip of the iceberg. Many students find themselves at a loss on how to do it. Concept wise, it’s easy to understand, but applying it is another thing. There is a need to explain the idea further to make it more systematic.

So here it is. I will make the inverted pyramid or general to specific writing approach more detailed and doable. I present below my inverted pyramid concept.

writing a thesis introduction

As you will see in Figure 1 at right, there are three stages to be considered as you write from general to the specific concerns of the phenomenon.

Three Stages of the Inverted Pyramid Approach

1. Contextualization

First, there should be a contextualization of the situation or phenomenon. Contextualization provides details about the phenomenon being investigated or researched on. A simple way to do this is by applying the 5Ws and 1H technical writing approach. You will not miss important details using that method as you address the What, When, Where, Who, Why, and How questions. Make it as brief as you can.

2. Conceptualization

You should do some conceptualization based on the issue or concern at hand that you have introduced in the contextualization stage. Conceptualization is a product of reflective and analytical thinking. And thinking is best done when you have gained a lot of experience about the phenomenon you are trying to understand. The primary purpose at this stage is to point out the gap in knowledge about the event in question.

Further, notice that as you figure out the specific items in your study, there are many unknowns. Realize the limits of the mind. Many questions start to crop up in your head. There are many other important things to know.

The following questions can help clarify issues:

Some Questions to Clarify Issues
  • What things are already known about the phenomenon? 
  • Where will I get more information about the phenomenon?
  • How will I ensure that I am not duplicating another person’s work?
  • Have I read enough?
  • Do I have enough experience to say I am already thoroughly familiar with the subject?

Now, how will you go about this quandary? If you are asking some of these questions, this just means that you are not yet well-informed about your subject of inquiry. This situation requires more readings or a thorough review of literature.

Thus, it makes sense that many veteran researchers prefer or opt to write the introduction later, after a thorough review of the literature. Some researchers even defer writing the introduction at the end of the study.

It is during the conceptualization stage that you attempt to explain the phenomenon by presenting your hypothesis – your thesis or main argument. The hypothesis reflects what you believe is the best explanation of the phenomenon based on what you have read so far and your own reflective, analytic thinking.

Thus, the hypothesis is called an “educated guess.” It is here where theories as explanations of phenomenon come into play. You will need to be familiar with what plausible explanations there are available that you might want to adopt or modify.

3. Resolution

The last stage is an attempt at resolution, meaning, after formulating your hypothesis to explain the phenomenon. How will you go about it?

Now comes the point where you will ask the research questions that will serve as your guide in verifying your hypothesis. You must then present a systematic approach to testing your hypothesis – the method, which you will write in a separate chapter.

Now, I do hope that writing a thesis introduction is no longer an issue. You can now write with greater confidence. Develop your style.

© 2014 March 7 P. A. Regoniel

How to Write a Good Thesis Introduction: The Hook

How do you write a good introduction such that your readers will read the rest of your paper? You need to have a good hook. What is a hook and how is it used? This article explains this concept and provides an example.

After reading a lot of articles, essays, narrations, accounts, among other things, I would say I have had a good deal of experience to say how good introductions must be written. I say this not only in reference to writing a thesis, but for any other composition for that matter.

I encountered many tips on how to write introductions. All those tips make sense, but the bottom line of it all is that the one concerned has to develop his or her own style of writing the introduction. A common goal is such that the reader of the introduction should be able to thoroughly understand and appreciate what the researcher wants to do.

So, what really matters in writing the introduction, in this case, to be specific – the thesis introduction? I’m fond of simplifying things so I set forth the vital elements of a good introduction based on introductions I have read that catch my attention. I will start with those elements that really matter. Foremost among those that researchers must consider in writing the introduction is how to write a good “hook.”

How to Write a Good Hook

Have you ever read something that holds your attention after reading just a few lines of words? Things that push you to read on to find out what’s next?  And even read it all the way to the end?

If that’s the case, then you’re hooked! You have read an introduction that has a good “hook.” The “hook” is the writer’s way to attract your attention. It’s not an empty hook. It is something that pulls you around to follow what the author wants you to follow closely, i.e., without you consciously knowing that you were captivated by what you have just read.

Well, how do you write a good “hook?” It’s a matter of style. You can start with something that’s intriguing or an issue that is timely and appealing to people so that they would want to know more about it.

Examples are good ways to demonstrate how things work so here is an example of a “hook” just to give you an idea to help you get started. This is about a true case that occurred about a decade ago. I often use this example in my environmental science class to illustrate the link between the use of pesticides and human health.

Example of a Good Hook

Here is an example of how a good hook should be written:

The high rate of albinism among newly born babies in a mango-growing community alarmed concerned young mangogovernment agencies. A task force from the Department of Health was dispatched to the area to find out the reason behind the occurrence of such condition. Initial queries among the affected families revealed that all mothers who gave birth to albinos ate young mangoes while they were pregnant. Is there something wrong with the mangoes? The group explored further and tried to see if mango consumption is a good lead to undertake an investigation. They asked questions about anything related to mango production.

Several key informants noted that the abnormality started to occur since the mango farmers switched to a new pesticide formula introduced by a well-known manufacturer of consumer chemicals to their community. Is there something in the new pesticide that caused albinism among children in the recent years?

After this hook, you may then proceed and introduce what you intend to do to verify if indeed there is a link between pesticides and albinism.

Don’t you think the above account will spark your curiosity to go on and read what’s next? Well, I hope you do agree with me because the reason there was a high rate of albinism is quite interesting. What did the researchers find in the more rigorous investigation that followed the scoping or exploratory survey?

To cut the story short, the culprit of albinism among children are the contaminated young, green mangoes which pregnant mothers crave to eat while conceiving. In our local vernacular, we call this “paglilihi sa hilaw na mangga.” As a result, mothers consume mangoes laced with pesticide, which, incidentally, has an ingredient that prevents the production of melanin. Melanin is a natural substance produced by the body that gives color to hair, skin, and the iris of the eye. It is produced by cells in the skin called melanocytes.

Now, that’s something that will make you think. If you are quite mindful of your health and consume lots of fruits and/or vegetables, you need to make sure that those are free of pesticides that can be harmful to your health. It is disturbing to know that many of the common fruits and veggies that we eat have pesticide residues in them.

Is this a good hook for writing a good introduction? Did it spark your curiosity to know more? Write your thoughts below.

Read a related article that I wrote in Ezinearticles for more tips on writing the introduction by clicking the link below.

5 Tips For Writing Introductions For Research Papers

© 2014 March 1 P. A. Regoniel

Using a Matrix to Prepare Your Research Proposal

Is there a way to simplify the preparation of your research or thesis proposal without leaving out the important items to include in its preparation? Try the matrix approach described here and reap the benefits.

You may find yourself getting into the trouble  of writing and rewriting your thesis proposal because you tend to miss important details pertinent to what you intend to investigate on and how you are going to go about it. Research or thesis proposal preparation is very time-consuming and can cause undue worry especially if you have set a fixed time frame to finish your thesis. If your desire is to have your research proposal approved soonest so you can start gathering the data you need, this is for you.

A systematic way of ensuring that everything is well addressed or covered fully in your research paper is possible with the use of a matrix. This technique is most appropriate when you want to make sure that you have adequate preparation, especially the appropriate methods to use, to answer the research questions.

What is a matrix?

My students would mull at me every time I tell them about using a matrix to do their research work in a more ordered, straightforward or effective manner. This is a not-so-common technical term to most of them. Although they usually wouldn’t ask, I follow-up with an explanation of what a matrix means.

I would then scrounge for a clean sheet of paper or anything that can serve the purpose to illustrate how a matrix can be used to set one’s mind into focus. A matrix is basically a table with rows and columns. The technique works this way:

1. Prepare a table with the following headings for each column:

  • research question,
  • methodology, and
  • statistical analysis.

You may fold the sheet of paper into three equal-sized columns or draw a line downwards to separate each column.

2. List the research questions

Under the heading “Research Question,” write the series of research questions that you intend to pursue in their logical order. Logical order means that you arrange research questions chronologically. It is ordered in such a way that answering the first question will facilitate the resolution of the next question.

3. Supply the required methods to answer the research questions

Under the heading “Methodology,” look at the left column and think how you would go about answering the research question. What shall you use to provide the information required in the first question, the second one, third, and so on. As you finish writing the method to use, place a line beneath to separate the questions and their corresponding methods from each other.

4. Select the appropriate statistical tool

Under the third column with the heading “Statistical Analysis,” recall your statistics lessons or consult a statistician about the correct statistical tool to analyze the facts to be gathered in the study. Does the research question need simple descriptive statistics such as mean, median, mode or percentages? Or do you need to apply a correlation analysis, a test of difference between means, or a multivariate analysis? You can also add under this column the corresponding graphs or tables that you will need for better discussion of the findings.

Now, guided by your matrix, you will be able to answer your research questions with confidence. You make sure that everything is covered by setting a one-to-one correspondence in the crucial elements of the research proposal, i.e., the research questions, the methodology, and the corresponding statistical analysis.

An example is given below to show it should look:

example matrix

That wraps it up. Try it and be more systematic in preparing your research proposal.

© 2013 December 4 P. A. Regoniel

How to Finish Your MS or PhD on Time

Are you concerned that you may not be able to finish your graduate studies on time? Here are four tips to keep you on track.

How can you finish you MS or PhD on time or even before the prescribed period? As a graduate student, you may be quite concerned especially those who have a fixed number of years to finish their degree as part of the requirements of a grant or scholarship given them. This is possible, as long as you are determined to finish graduate studies as a desirable goal in your life. If others were able to do it, why can’t you?

Remember that the main reason many people pursue an advanced degree is such that they are able to do independent research. Aside from personal satisfaction of maximizing your potential as a student, you actually are preparing yourself for a life of research, of discovering things and ultimately contributing to the improvement of human life on this planet.

However, many MS and PhD degree holders just get their degree for the sake of getting that degree for promotion purposes, to get a permanent teaching position in a college or university or just plain vanity. These degrees are not designed to be taken for such purposes. Learning the art and skills of research requires responsible application of what has been learned.

So if you are inclined and is ready to take the challenge of finishing an MS or a PhD in your chosen field, here are four tips that will help you finish your course in due time and dispel of your worries. These are products of experience topped with a little imagination.

 Four Tips on How to Finish Your MS or PhD on Time

1. Have a research topic ready early in your schooling

During the early part of my advanced schooling to finish my PhD, my professor noted that ideally, graduate students should already have their research topic ready upon entering the graduate school. This is important so that the student is able to select the appropriate subjects required to be able to effectively conduct research on the topic envisioned to be explored.

Find a good adviser and refer to your university’s or scholarship granting institutions’ research agenda on topics to be pursued if there are prescribed directions for the preparation of the thesis or dissertation. It is better to be aligned with such priorities especially if you expect funding assistance from these institutions.

2. Procrastinate up to a certain point

Many people say that procrastination is bad. But procrastination can be productive too — at a certain point. The point is, if you postpone doing things at a later date, there may be better options along the way that you could consider or integrate in your decision. So, it’s better to take action, within a time frame, because you gain more information as more time is allowed to pass. More information means better decisions. You can write your manuscript better with intensive editing. And there will be less time-consuming repetitions or revisions of your manuscript. You are then able to save time.

A haphazard work, even if quickly submitted, is never acceptable. If you are given a week to work on a project, maximize it. Chances are, you can do your best if you make use all of those time. But of course, there are exceptions. If your scholarship provider gives monetary incentive for you being able to finish early, then go for it. Hack away…

3. Use a fishbone planning guide

There are many free tools available now to facilitate planning activities within a time frame. One of my favorites is XMind, a free mind mapping software to help your ideas take form. It is freely downloadable while extended features can be enjoyed using the Pro version. Plan your time frame to finish your advanced degree using this tool.

I prepared a simple sample of a fish bone plan guide for graduate students below showing the critical points of graduate school work (see below). You can add more detail such as adding the time you will do the things required to finish your course and including details on what you will do under those major milestones in your study. You may print this and stick it on a wall to remind you always.

fishbone plan
A simplified plan to finish graduate school work.

4. Play

You also need to de-stress once in a while. All work and no play can make Johnny a dull boy. Take time out with friends and relax. After all, what are you studying for. Is it not that you want to have a good life to enjoy? Little joys can compensate for a hectic work schedule. Taking too much stress can be bad for your health.

While stress is necessary to get things done, too much stress can have negative effects. Too much production of the stress hormone cortisol, according to Scott (2013), include the following negative effects:

  • inability to think well or understand things
  • problems in the thyroid which is responsible for calcium secretion (related to bone maintenance)
  • higher than normal blood pressure that could lead to stroke
  • weakened immune system that will allow cancer cells to proliferate
  • more fat in your abdomen (!)

If you gain too much fat, you will have a host of other problems associated with it. That will be another source of stress.

Apply these tips and you will be well on your way to the path of academic success.

© 2013 November 22 P. A. Regoniel

How to Write the Abstract

This article provides guidance on how to write a good abstract. See how it’s done.

After you have written fully your research paper, thesis, or scientific paper, there is a need for you to write the abstract. How is the abstract written? What are the important elements of a good abstract?

If this is the first time or you do not feel confident about the abstract that you have written, here are important points to remember and adhere to in writing the abstract. An example is provided for your guidance.

Definition of an Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of your research paper, thesis, or scientific paper. How short should it be? If you are submitting it for inclusion in a conference presentation, the convention is to limit its length from 250 to 300 words. It is possible, however, to capture the essence of the paper in less number of words. This means that you will really have to make it as short as possible without leaving out the important items that will cause readers to read the paper. The abstract serves as a teaser, a taste of the pie for readers to decide whether they will read the whole piece.

Elements of a Good Abstract

A good abstract is a mini-version of the whole research paper. Therefore, it should contain

  • the aim or purpose of the research paper,
  • the methodology or the procedures used in the conduct of the study,
  • the major findings, and
  • the conclusion or conclusions.

Recommendations are not included in the abstract.

In writing a good abstract, therefore, the critical sections of a research paper should be present. How is this achieved? You can simply start off by writing each of the above mentioned sections in only one sentence. This means that your abstract can be written in four sentences.

All right. So how should the different sections be written in such a way that they are concise while at the same time meaningful? Be guided by the following descriptions of each critical section:

  1. Aim or purpose – state why the study was undertaken and what are its objectives
  2. Methodology – give a brief description of how the study was conducted
  3. Major findings – only state the significant results or highlights of the study
  4. Conclusion – after those findings were obtained, what conclusions can be drawn?

Example of an Abstract

This report discusses a two-year study on the effect of exposing four to six-year old children to violent computer games. The study involved 200 children in nursery schools whose aggressive tendencies and anti-social behavior were observed with their teachers’ cooperation. The computer games they played at home were likewise assessed with the help of their parents. A strong correlation between violent computer game use and aggressive tendencies was obtained. Violent computer games, especially the interactive ones, caused greater aggressiveness and anti-social behavior among children.

flash games

I hope that should get you started. Have your own style by deviating a little from the convention. The point is, the abstract should be interesting enough such that the reader will want to read your investigation and learn from it.

© 2013 November 16 P. A. Regoniel

How to Use a Mind Map to Prepare Your Research Proposal

Plan out and finish your research proposal in no time using a mind map. Learn how to prepare it by following the steps described in this article. The examples generated by a mind mapping tool define each step.

Mind mapping is a great tool to help you come up with your research proposal. The mind map will guide you through the process of research proposal preparation and even the whole study with less effort as you become more systematic in your approach. It will help you plan out in detail those things that you want done within a specified period and at the same time, monitor your progress.

How does mind mapping work? To those who are not familiar with this excellent tool that has many applications, the following example is given to show how it works.

The mind map example was generated using a free mind mapping software called XMind. You may download this free tool for your specific operating system in xmind.net. The free mind mapping software works in Linux, Windows and Mac. The XMindPro/Plus has more features but you can make do with the free one to familiarize yourself on how a mind mapping software works.

Mind Mapping as a Tool in Research Proposal Preparation

Let’s say you already have finished most of the required subjects in your chosen course and is now faced with the task of preparing a research proposal. You can come up with your mind map by following the three steps outlined below. You may do this without XMind using a clean sheet of paper, marking pen, and a set of colored pencils.

Step 1. Identify your main goal.

Since you intend to prepare your research proposal, your goal will be “Prepare Research Proposal.” Type in XMind as the central idea or write in bold strokes at the center of the paper.

Step 2. Figure out what major activities you should do to prepare the research proposal.

Preparing your research proposal involves at least three things. These are:

  1. prepare the research title for approval
  2. build your conceptual framework
  3. prepare the method/methodology section

You may write the introduction later when your topic becomes familiar to you. You may add more items in the list such as a section on the expected contents of your results and discussion section, bibliography, among others.

Link each major activity to the central idea using a line, preferably a curved one. Allocate enough space between these major activities to make way for the more detailed activities. XMind does this automatically when you add a subtopic to the main idea.

Step 3. Specify those things that you will actually do.

Under each of the major activities, specify those things that you will actually do. These should be action statements. Link these statements with lines to the corresponding major activities. In XMind, just add the specific activities as subtopics.

For example, you might want to include the following specific actions under the major activities in the preparation of your research proposal:

  1. Prepare the research title
    • Identify the research topic which will be the focus of the study
      • brainstorm
      • talk to experts
      • conduct an informal interview
  2. Build the conceptual framework
    • Write the literature review
      • download online literature
      • photocopy relevant materials
      • select theory to test
      • identify research gaps
    • Prepare the research paradigm
      • identify the dependent variable/s
      • identify the independent variable/s
      • figure out the statistical test to use (if quantitative analysis is required)
      • write the hypothesis of the study
  3. Prepare the method section
    • Data collection
      • prepare the research instruments
      • identify the population of the study
      • determine the sampling frame
      • pre-test the questionnaire
    • Statistical analysis
      • name the corresponding statistical analysis to be used for each problem statement

Output of the Mind Mapping Software

Following the steps above, the corresponding examples for each step were arrived at using the mind mapping software. Below is the mind map output that aided the preparation of the given examples (click the figure to enlarge).

research proposal mind map

You can add more or change items in the mind map as well as define a time frame for each of the activities that you have identified. In so doing, you will be able to make a rough estimate how long you should be able to prepare your research proposal. If you have a fixed period within which you have to submit your draft proposal, you can allocate specific time periods for the accomplishment of each activity. Thus, you can submit your proposal on time. 

© 2013 September 14 P. A. Regoniel

Defining A Research Topic For Your Thesis

Defining a research topic can be a difficult undertaking for a beginning researcher. How will you come up with a good research topic for your thesis? The article below provides five helpful tips. 

As most post-graduates would agree, deciding on your topic for your thesis paper is not as easy as it sounds. While you may have a general idea of the direction you want to go, and may even have the general topic chosen, defining that topic into an actionable research paper can be difficult. Considering the fact that this paper is an essential part of completing your academic career and that it can affect your future job prospects, it is important to come up with a research topic that is both interesting and achievable for you. Consider these tips:

Use Your Interests

Considering the amount of time that will be dedicated to this paper, the topic should be something that is not only of interest to you, but hopefully something you are passionate about. Having some knowledge going into the research puts you at an advantage, instead of having to start from scratch.

Research topic that is achievable

Picking a topic that is so unique that it becomes almost impossible to finish in the time period required is unwise. Consider the time that will be needed to do the research on a specific topic and come to a conclusion. There may be a reason that there are few thesis papers written on certain topics; they may be too laborious or do not have enough supporting data to complete.

Check literary sources

To determine whether a topic is a good fit for you, do some research on what literary sources are available. Too many resources may mean the topic has been used abundantly, while too few may make it difficult to do research in the time allotted.

Start with “Why” and go from there

Keep in mind that thesis topics are not facts nor are they opinions. They are explorations into the “why” of something. Finding the perfect topic will come to you when you find an intriguing question that needs a detailed answer, one that you have been wondering about yourself.

Ask advisors and professors

Discuss your search with your advisors and professors to get their input. They can provide you with ideas and direction, although the final definition will always be up to you.

The exploration for a thesis topic can be frustrating, however, by looking at all the angles ahead of time you can save yourself from even further frustration down the road. Consider it similar to doing international background checks before hiring a personal assistant that you need to trust and rely on for years. By taking the time to choose the correct topic that will interest you, has sufficient data available and will make an impact, you will save yourself from disappointment and unwanted surprises a year or more down the line.