Tag Archives: 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

5 Ways on How to Generate Ideas Even When You Are Not Inspired

Perhaps one of the most difficult situations a graduate student encounters when writing parts of their research is when they are not inspired at all. How can one overcome this difficulty? Here are five ways to generate ideas even when you are not inspired.

Ever faced a blank wall, feeling uninspired to write something at all and finish your thesis or dissertation? This feeling is normal; everybody goes through this stage of their study life in the graduate school.

Here are five tips to keep you going in your quest to finish your thesis.

Five Ways to Generate Ideas

1. Take a break in a relaxing atmosphere like a beach or a place away from distractions. 

Relaxing in a beach with some notes with you can help you jot down ideas as you clear your mind of your cares at home. There may be cares at home or work that keeps you from writing. Being by yourself amidst a peaceful atmosphere help unclutter your mind and let ideas come in. Write anything that comes to mind.

2. Review your goals in life.

What do you really want out of your life? Sometimes, the lack of inspiration reflects a lack of direction. Remember why you want to finish your research paper. What will you get out of it? Is it something that will help you reach your goals in life?

By asking yourself these questions, your mind will try to justify the need for action. It will force your mind to think and generate ideas to realize your goals. If the goal is quite clear, ideas will converge for its achievement.idea

3. Outline your tasks and do these tasks incrementally.

Make sure you outline your tasks and break them down into doable bits of action. You can use a mind map to follow on your progress. If you are just starting your research proposal, you can use this mind map to help you submit your research paper on time.

Make sure that you are clear about your statement of the problem. Psychologists noted that among cognitive factors that have been shown to hinder creative thought are failure to perceive and define a problem correctly. [1]

4. Do some chores.

Do what you kept hanging for a long time. Do you need to fix something at home but have postponed it hoping you will find the ‘right time’ to do it? The time is now. This may be one of the needed chores that keeps you from thinking when you need to. Unfulfilled tasks hinder creativity. The mind must be free to harness its creativity.

While doing the chores you need to do, there’s a great possibility that something might crop up in your mind. So keep your notes within grasping distance for a quick jot.

5. Write freely.

Take a pen or pencil and a sheet of blank paper. If you prefer, open your laptop and use an uncluttered word processor to start writing anything that comes to mind. One of these excellent writing tools that can help you focus on your writing is FocusWriter, a distraction-free word processor.

Write freely, close your eyes and let your mind flow. After a while, inspired messages will offer themselves to get you going.

Reference

1. “Creativity.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 1968. Retrieved October 01, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045000261.html

© 2013 October 2 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

The Relationship Between Bribery and the Environment

Bribery can lead to environmental degradation. What are the evidences? Are there solutions to this age-old corrupt practice? This article explores these issues.

The recent spate of corruption highlighting a businesswoman allegedly bribing government officials to channel billions in taxpayers money to fly-by-night or bogus non-government organizations prompted me to write this article. Since my concern is largely on the environmental implications of events like this, I reviewed literature on how corruption, specifically bribery, relates to the environment.

Bribery and the Environment

Considering that governance becomes the prime focus of analysis when corruption issues arise, this discussion will examine undesirable practices, specifically offering of incentives to public officials in view of exempting them from the rule of law or pocketing taxpayers money for their own selfish purposes. Bribery occurs at different levels of government, that is, from the highest administrative or lawmaking bodies to operational levels charged with law enforcement responsibilities.

A brief review of reports on the relationship between bribery at different levels of government and the environment yielded the following summaries and conclusions:

1. Bribery of law enforcers leads to low compliance among violators thus pressure to natural resources.

Sundström’s study[1] in South Africa revealed that law enforcers’ acceptance of bribes from small-scale fishers who commit illegal fishing such as poaching decrease their trustworthiness. As a result, fishers tended to exploit their natural marine resources more than what it can sustain. Overfishing upsets the balance of the marine food chain such that the population of target fishes decline and sizes of fish caught by fishermen get smaller through time.

2. Ineffective regulatory systems results to pollution.

Environmental inspections as a regulatory system serve to deter non-compliance with rules and regulations set forth for approval of environmentally critical projects. Once those tasked to do such inspections receive money in exchange for favorable reports on the project’s environmental performance despite exceeding permissible emission levels, pollution results. The effects of pollution may be immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic) depending on the nature of the pollutant.

For example, if a mining project does not have adequate leachate treatment facilities as a result of non-compliance to required mitigating measures, high concentrations of heavy metals will be discharged into waterways. This will disrupt the normal biological processes in aquatic ecosystems where various organisms including man derive sustenance.

3. Environmentally harmful policies are formulated such that disasters occur.

When unscrupulous individuals bribe lawmakers to craft policies towards their favor, environmentally harmful policies result. For example, if the government allows logging in highly elevated or watershed areas, lack of trees to cushion the impact of heavy rains result to flooding of low-lying villages. This will mean loss of lives and property aside from loss of important ecological goods and services.

4. Unfair allocation of environmental resources lead to further environmental degradation.

If high-ranking officials accept bribes to allow large commercial fishing companies to fish in municipal waters, unfair allocation of marine resources occur. As small fishers do not have the means to compete with the efficient, mechanized fishing equipment of large-scale fishers, they will resort to illegal means that further degrade the environment. One of them is the use of dynamite in fishing wherein large areas of productive reef are destroyed. The attitude that prevails is “Well take them (the fish), before they (the large-scale fishers) do.”thief

What has been done so far to curb bribery?

Acceptance of bribes shows the vulnerability of those tasked to govern and enforce the rules and regulations of a country. Many solutions have been suggested, recommended and enforced including reforms to improve transparency and accountability, legislation to reduce flaws in existing laws, reducing the discretionary powers of public officials, greater awareness among the people, involving citizens in government affairs, and so on and so forth.[2] However, despite these measures, corruption persists in many countries.

The Economic Solution

Based on the resource allocation point of view, the practice of bribery continues because it offers those involved to get more than enough resources to satisfy their wants. The one giving the bribe and the one receiving the bribe both benefit from their transaction but third parties suffer. The negative environmental impacts then are externalities of these transactions. There is a need, therefore, to integrate the externality of environmental degradation as a result of bribery.

In view of developing a research concept using the economic solution of internalizing externalities, economic valuation may be used as an approach to determine if there is a relationship between the amount of bribe and the cost of environmental degradation. Thus, the following questions may be asked:

  • Is there a relationship between the amount of bribe and the corresponding cost of environmental degradation?
  • How much environmental degradation occurs for a certain amount of bribe?

For the benefits gained by both the briber and the bribed (my own terms for brevity), monetary incentives to disadvantaged parties can offset the negative effects of environmental degradation. The point is, the guilty parties should be made to pay for the consequences of their actions. Penalties should be proportionate to achieve environmental justice.

Environmental justice is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” This means fair allocation of natural resources to everyone should be pursued in a democratic society.

Reference

1. Sundström, A. (2013). Corruption in the commons: Why bribery hampers enforcement of environmental regulations in South African fisheries. International Journal of the Commons, 7(2). Retrieved from http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/download/370/360

2. Winbourne, S. (2002). Corruption and the environment. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNACT876.pdf

© 2013 September 12 P. A. Regoniel

Five Effective Reading Tips for Graduate Students

Graduate students need to do a lot of reading to familiarize themselves with theories and ideas along their field of specialization. This activity will help them develop their critical thinking skills to effectively engage in research work. If you are one of those tasked to do so, here are five effective reading tips that will help you reduce stress associated with the need to read an endless queue of reading assignments.

Once you commit yourself to graduate school work, you will face more academic responsibilities than you were in your undergraduate years. One of those responsibilities is to read more than you used to do. This is with the end in view of enriching your knowledge on theories or ideas that will help you build the conceptual framework of your thesis or research later on.

But how much reading should you really make? Does reading all those stuff really matter? Are there ways on how to read more effectively?

Of course, your reading assignment is not the kind of reading that you make for pure pleasure, but to get something out of it. And many of the assigned readings are not just a few pages of nonsense but thick pages of something to ponder upon. Usually, graduate students have to digest three to five books a semester. This is a challenge for those who are not used to reading books with thick pages such as novels.

It is to your best interest and advantage if you follow a set of reading guidelines before doing any reading. This is not only to help you finish the required readings on time and actively participate in class discussion on the topic, but also to help you get the most of your reading without necessarily giving you a nervous breakdown.

Here are five tips on how to make the most of your reading:

1. Find out why that reading material was assigned

Figure out first what you intend to get out of that article, handout, journal or book before embarking on that long journey across words devoid of refreshing graphics. Unless you fully understand  why that reading was given, it will be difficult to comprehend it.

Ask yourself the two most important questions: “What am I looking for in this reading material?” and “Where can I find it?” These questions will help you avoid wandering on not-so-important sections of your reading material.

2. If you are reading a book, browse the table of contents to give you an overview of the book

This is common sense but many students fail to do this, i.e., making full use of the table of contents (TOC). If you really are hard pressed due to the limited time given to read a thick book, skimming through the TOC will be an effective strategy. Just read those items that you are not thoroughly familiar with or those that are relevant to the questions posed in #1.

This works better than any speed reading technique ever devised. Why in the first place will you read something that you don’t need to? Just focus on those that align with your interest and get on with life.

reading

Image Source

3. Write short notes on a record book as you go along reading

If you cannot make marginal notes right there on the reading material, you may just write notes and questions on a record book as you go along. Write the main topic on top and all your notes below. Notes remind you of the critical points you need to consciously store in your brain.

Why use a record book and not a notebook or a plain sheet of paper? This apparently unimportant suggestion is very important for the very reason that the record book allows filing and labeling for easy retrieval. You will, therefore, avoid that common mistake of losing your notes.

How should your notes be written? Make it as short as possible, noting only the important keywords. You need not rewrite the sentence, just make bullet marks for every important phrase and draw a star on those very important points made.

4. Read the summary if present

Reading the summary of a section, if present, can save you a lot of time. The summary serves to “warm up” your brain and gives you an idea of what to expect upon reading the composition. Thus, it will be easy to digest the contents.

5. Read only the lead sentence using the TSPU principle

Last but definitely not the least, use the TSPU principle in your reading venture. TSPU stands for Topic Sentence Paragraph Unity. Almost always, for a well-written composition, the topic sentence or lead sentence serves as the summary of the paragraph. A good book adheres to this principle.

If the lead sentence appears vague, you may read the supporting sentences after it. The main purpose of sentences after the lead sentence is to enable the reader to understand what it means by expounding more on it. If the first sentence is quite clear to you, then there’s no need for you to read the rest of the paragraph.

At this point, you will have a better idea on how to go about your reading assignments in the graduate school. Happy reading!

© 2013 August 5 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.