Tag Archives: technical writing

4 Elements of a Good Abstract

How do you write a good abstract? Here are four elements of a good abstract.

Abstracts are important references for scientists or students working on their research proposal; particularly, in preparing their review of literature.  The abstract describes an unpublished or published research study in capsule form. It is a brief overview of the investigation so that researchers are able to comprehend the content of the research quickly.

The information provided in the abstract must be sufficient to help the researcher decide whether the work is relevant to his interest or not. It should be brief but not lacking in important elements necessary for understanding of the research conducted. The abstract will also help the researcher decide whether to read the research paper in its entirety or not.

So how should the abstract of a research paper be written so that maximum benefit is derived from it?

Four Elements of a Good Abstract

Specifically, you should write the abstract to meet its intended purpose. The abstract should:

  1. state clearly the objectives of the study;
  2. concisely describe the methodology or method employed in gathering the data, processing, and analysis;
  3. summarize the results, and
  4. state the principal conclusions of the research.

Generally, an informational abstract should give a brief summary of the main sections of the research paper, i.e., the introduction, the materials and/or methods used, the findings, discussion, conclusions, and recommendations.

In some academic institutions or scientific journals, however, recommendations are not incorporated in the abstract. That is because anyone can make recommendations based on the conclusion/s of the study.

The conclusion, in particular, should be given attention in writing the abstract. The conclusion should be well supported by the findings of the investigation; not a sweeping statement without any valid argument based on the findings to back it up. This is what really matters to the researcher trying to find gaps in knowledge that he can fill in.

Number of Words

Normally, abstracts should not exceed 250 words but this number could vary depending on the prescribed number of words, say, when you would like to submit your research paper to a popular scientific journal. Brevity is emphasized.

The limited number of words required for the abstract means that every word included in the abstract is necessary and that this should be presented in a coherent manner.  Important information should fit into one paragraph so this requires a little bit of thinking challenge and practice to the beginning researcher.

Tense of the Abstract

In what tense should the abstract be written?

The abstract should be written in the past tense because the investigation has transpired. However, statement of facts in, say, the results and discussion and the conclusion, must be in the present tense.

Finally, the references (e.g. name of author and date) should not be cited in the abstract unless the research paper involves an improvement or modification of a previously published method used by a researcher.

For more information and tips in writing the abstract of your research paper, visit the online writing lab of Purdue University.

©Patrick A. Regoniel 19 May 2014

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:

young mango

The high rate of albinism among newly born babies in a mango-growing community alarmed concerned government 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 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

Paraphrasing Passages in Research Writing: How Is It Done?

How do you paraphrase passages? This article explains and provides examples to illustrate how it is done.

This is a sequel of an article entitled, “Writing a Research Article: How to Paraphrase” in which the steps are explained on how to paraphrase sentences. But, how about when you paraphrase a passage? Will the steps be the same?

Yes, all the steps previously discussed can be used in passage paraphrasing. To start with, I will present a passage taken from the article of Dr. Regoniel entitled, “How to Conduct a Focus Group Discussion”. This particular passage is under the sub-topic, a trained moderator or facilitator.

“The moderator may not necessarily be the researcher himself but someone familiar with the issues to be discussed. Hence, he should confer with researcher before conducting the FGD process. He should have a good background knowledge of the participants and must not involve himself in the discussion, such as arguing with the participants. His main role is to introduce and explain the questions, clarify the issues raised, confirm responses, encourage the expression of ideas, among other related functions. He summarizes the process at the end of the discussion”.

So, how can we do it?

Since that passage is taken from a reliable source, your next step is to get the key words. From there, you can get the main idea and the supporting details. The use of T-chart can help you figure it out. Please see the sample below:

Use Key Words

The key words are focus group discussion (FGD), trained moderator (though the word trained is not present in the passage, it is part of the key word because the passage described not only a mere moderator but a trained one, and it is stipulated in the sub-topic), qualities and roles of moderator.

 Get Main Ideas

T chart

The main idea of the passage is the qualities and roles of a trained moderator in focus group discussion. But, we can chunk the main idea into two: the qualities and the roles of a trained  moderator.  Below right are the illustrations:

Use Synonyms When Appropriate and Have your Own Grammatical Structures

The passage below has been paraphrased for you. Can you guess the synonyms being replaced and the grammatical structures used?

“The moderator does not need to be the researcher himself but someone who is aware of the issues to be presented. So, he should discuss first to the researcher the process for focus group discussion before conducting it. Likewise, he must know the background of his participants so that he can have a meaningful interaction with them. It is also suggested that the moderator must avoid discussing and arguing with the participants. His main role is to introduce and explain the questions, clarify issues raised, confirm responses, encourage expression of ideas and summarize the process at the end of the discussion”.

One of the ways to have your own grammatical structure is the change the sequence of information.  This was not discussed in my previous article because I believe that this is more appropriate in passage rather than in sentence paraphrasing.

Cite the Author or the Source of Information and Change the Sequence of Information

 In order to have a legitimate paraphrase and not a plagiarized version, the possible paraphrase of the original passage would be the following:

According to Dr. Regoniel, the moderator must avoid discussing and arguing with the participants. His main role is to introduce and explain the questions, clarify issues raised, confirm responses, encourage expression of ideas and summarize the process at the end of the discussion.

 It is also suggested that he need not be the researcher himself but someone who is aware of the issues to be presented. In this case, the moderator should discuss first with the researcher the process for focus group discussion before conducting it. He must also know the background of his participants so that he can have a meaningful interaction with them.

Therefore, the plagiarized version of a paraphrase is when you failed to acknowledge the author or source; when you directly translated the words from one form of English wording to another, when you used the same sequence of information or in some cases, the same words and phrases.

References:

1. Jameson, J. (2004). Researching and reporting.  Saudi Arabia: University English Program King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

2. Purdue OWL. Paraphrase: write it in your own words. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/619/

© 2013 October 17 M. G. Alvior

Writing a Research Article: How to Paraphrase

Whenever you write a research paper, you need to paraphrase passages or articles from different sources in order to make the article more credible and scholarly. But, what is paraphrasing? Why is it important? And how can you make a good one?

Paraphrasing is a way of retelling another person’s idea in your own words. This means that you must keep the original meaning being conveyed by the writer while rewriting it using your own style and grammatical structure.

It is also important that you tell the readers where your information originated. If you are unable to do so, you will be guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism means using someone’s ideas without acknowledging him/her properly – whether it is intentional or unintentional. Plagiarism is like committing a crime. Thus, you must be careful in paraphrasing the work of others anticipating the legal implications of your actions.

How to Paraphrase

Now, how can you write a good paraphrase? As a neophyte, you should start first with sentences and apply the following steps:

1. Get a sentence from a credible source.

Your source may be a book or online document that comes from a reliable website. Then, read and re-read the sentence until you get the main idea. Find the key words. If you are not familiar with the words, use a dictionary or a thesaurus.

2. Find the synonyms of words that are not familiar to you.

Make sure that the synonym is appropriately used in the sentence and to a given context. A dictionary may give you synonyms but not all of them can be used interchangeably.

For example, the words commence and begin. These words are synonymous but during graduation exercises, you cannot alter the word commencement by using the word beginning. In the same manner, the terms value and importance are synonyms. But in Mathematics, it is not appropriate to say, find the importance of X.

Another way of using the synonym is to change the forms of the content words. Content words are the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. If the word used by the writer is a noun, you may change it into an adjective and the sentence construction will eventually change.

Why don’t you try the exercises below? You may check your answers using Merriam-Webster‘s online dictionary and thesaurus.

a. Change beautiful (adjective) into noun, verb, and adverb.
b. Change determination (noun) into verb, adjective and adverb.
c. Change decide (verb) into noun, adjective and adverb.
d. Change determinedly (adverb) into noun, verb, and adjective.

3. Have your own grammatical structure.

Simply changing the vocabulary is not considered paraphrasing. You should have your own writing style. Use your own words.

Some ways to have your own grammatical structures are:

a) change the active verbs into passive,
b) change the word order,
c) change the phrases into single word or adjective,
d) reduce a clause,
e) expand a clause,
f) combine clauses, and
g) make two sentences out of one.

Exercises to Practice Paraphrasing

Observe the difference between the original statements and the newly constructed sentences after applying the different ways to change the grammatical structure in the following examples:

1. Change active to passive construction
semantics

Original: The researcher can measure the giraffe’s neck in two different habitats.
Ans.: The giraffe’s neck can be measured by the researcher in two different habitats.

2. Change the word order

Original: The researcher can measure the giraffe’s neck in two different habitats.

Ans.: In two different habitats, the researcher can measure the giraffe’s neck.

Original: Recently, lobsters served in restaurants are smaller.
Ans.: Recently, smaller lobsters are served in the restaurants.

Original: Recently, lobsters served in restaurants are smaller.
Ans.: Smaller lobsters are served in the restaurants recently.

Take note that in sentences 2 and 3, you have to make changes on the following:

a. change the pattern of the words by placing the adjective before the noun (smaller lobster), and
b. change the word order by placing the adverb at the end.

3. Change the phrase into single word or adjective

Original: A researcher with so much passion in his work will likely become more successful than others who are not.
Ans.: A passionate researcher will likely become more successful than others who are not.

4. Reduce clause

Original: Knowledge is something that we need not only learn in school but by self-study and passionate interest in discovering more than what is made available to you.
Ans.: Knowledge is something not only learned in school but by self-study and passionate interest in discovering more than what is made available to you.

5. Expand clause

Original: One of these excellent writing tools that can help you focus on your writing is FocusWriter, a distraction-free word processor.
Ans.: One of these excellent writing tools is FocusWriter which has a distraction-free word processor that can certainly help you focus in what you write.

6. Combine clauses

Original: If the researcher is confident that he has sampled randomly and that the sample approaches a normal distribution, then a t-test is appropriate to test for difference.
Ans.: If the researcher is confident that he used random sampling to come up with a normal distribution, then a t-test is appropriate to test for difference.

7. Make two sentences out of one

Original: Younger people tend to recall things better than aging researchers who spent most of their time studying and narrowing their frame of mind as a result of specialization. If you are a professor, choose a student who performs well in class.
Ans.If you are a professor, choose a student who performs well in class because he is young and have a good memory to recall things.

The steps given are only appropriate for sentence paraphrasing but are very important in paraphrasing the passages which will be discussed in the next article.

References:

  1. Jameson, J. (2004). Researching and reporting.  Saudi Arabia: University English Program King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
  2. Purdue OWL. Paraphrase: write it in your own words. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/619/

Note:

Original statements in examples 1, 2, and 4-7  are used with permission from Patrick Regoniel.

© 2013 October 14 M. G. Alvior

10 Benefits of Peer Review in Research Writing

What is peer review? Why is it important that you involve colleagues in writing your research manuscript? Here are 10 benefits you can get from peer review.

presentation

Although you may believe that you already have what it takes to write your research paper in an excellent manner, it is highly recommended that you involve people within your discipline to finalize what you have written thus far. This is a good process to undergo before submitting your research paper for publication or in compliance with the requirements of a research project. Chances are, there are always things that you have overlooked while writing your research paper.

Just the other day, I had the opportunity to present my research findings and gain the benefits of a peer review. I presented the result of an impact assessment project we did in selected “target island communities” of the Calamianes Islands in northern Palawan in the Philippines. Target island communities are communities (locally called “barangays”) where various programs and projects have been implemented by a local foundation. The main intention is to provide various assistance packages to the marginal fisherfolks who are highly dependent on their coastal resources. Their routine livelihood activities are affected by the on-going operation of a natural gas project where a pipeline carrying natural gas runs through their fishing zones.

Thus said, the benefits I gained from peer review arose from this presentation. We used an LCD projector to correct the manuscript as we go on with the editing so that everybody sees the progress of the review.

So what are the benefits of subjecting your manuscript to peer review? Although the virtues of peer review may have been discussed elsewhere, below is a list of benefits that I have personally gained from the experience.

Now, here’s the list of 10 benefits to be gained from peer review:

1. Corrects vague terms

Although I am using an online thesaurus each time I write to find the appropriate word to express an idea, there are words that appear to be inappropriate or unclear in some instances. Getting feedback from colleagues help me decide if indeed I have to stick to my terms or adopt what they suggest. If the suggestion sounds good, I don’t hesitate changing terms in question.

2. Provides feedback as to the effectiveness of your communication

Well, that’s it. You can easily see from your peer group’s reactions if they understood the points you advanced in your manuscript. If it takes them a while than usual once a page has been displayed for them to provide their feedback, that could probably mean that there’s something wrong in the flow of thought or discussion. Clarifying questions will most likely come next. And yes, they do.

3. Allows you to see other people’s perspectives on issues raised

Seeing other people’s perspectives is a very valuable contribution to your research manuscript. It is here that you will realize that you do not monopolize good ideas. There may be better, sound ideas out there that can make your writing great. You will then be able to get yourself out of your personal biases and think beyond the box.

After reading Louis Agassiz tussle with Charles Darwin in David Dobbs’ book titled “Reef Madness,” I realized that even recognized experts in science can lose their credibility once the facts show deviations from convention. It pays to listen to the merits of another person’s viewpoints and not be blinded by your own prejudices or stubborn resistance to convincing evidence.

4. Prevents you from committing serious blunders in your arguments

You may have raised points that may be founded on wrong assumptions. Once the assumptions are wrong, then all you have written is essentially wrong. This just follows the rules of logic. If your premises are wrong, then everything that goes after it is unreliable.

5. Gives confidence

More heads is better than one so they say. Once you have gone through a battery of questions and critical comments, and you are able to fend them off or address them adequately, you will then feel more confident. It builds self-esteem and allay fears of rejection.

6. Facilitates concise writing

You may have written more than what is necessary. Removing unnecessary paragraphs or sentences here and there gives rise to a concise, professionally written manuscript.

7. Improves grammar

Although emphasis is given to the content of your research paper, your grammar matters a lot. Good grammar facilitates reading as the reading flow is made more efficient.

8. Allows you to expound on your points

You may have thought you have written enough to explain the matter at hand. Then you realize your peers were taken halfway the intended ideas you want to project. This requires expounding on the issues you have raised for greater understanding and/or clarity of ideas.

9. Confirms your observations

If you have gone together in the field, your colleague can confirm or refute your observation. This validates your findings.

10. Encourages you to perform better next time

If the exercise has shown you some good feedback, you will be on guard on the likely comments, suggestions or criticism on your manuscript the next time around. You are then able to write better than before as you integrate all the comments and suggestions thus avoid committing the same mistakes.

Peer review is a very important process that authors have to go through before they are able to publish their research manuscript. The main purpose is to ensure that whatever comes out published is in its excellent form, i. e., virtually free of errors. Once quality is guaranteed, the published work becomes a solid foundation for others to make a good literature review that will help advance knowledge in a particular field. It is, however, not a foolproof process to produce quality work as everyone is subject to error and their own biases. Read this interesting discussion on peer review.

That’s how science works.

© 2013 June 24 P. A. Regoniel

5 Thesis Writing Tips for Greater Impact

Are you ready to write your thesis at this point? Here are five tips to help you do it more effectively.

thesis writing

Before starting to write down the contents of your thesis and after writing it down, the following 5 tips to effective thesis writing will help you keep on track and draw out the best in you.

Thesis writing tip #1. Keep your writing simple and direct to the point. Whenever you present your ideas based on the data that you have gathered, always focus on the lead statement. The lead statement is the first statement in your paragraph that must be thoroughly clarified before shifting to another idea for paragraph development. Support your lead statement with facts, that is, those that you gathered during the course of conducting the study. Nobody will question fact-laden statements.

Thesis writing tip #2. Present your results graphically for greater understanding and impact. Since you are not writing for yourself but others, figure out a way to present your data in the form of graphs or pictures if you may. A picture speaks a thousand words.

Decades ago, the convention appears to have been presenting data in the form of tables. Present graphs instead. With current increased capacities to do this with your computer using a spreadsheet application, it is easy to create graphs in any form you want. Choose one which adequately serves your purpose.

In addition to specific information on numbers, graphs can show trends. It highlights the highs and lows in measures of the variables used in the study.

Thesis writing tip #3. Write your statements in chunks of information. You can be more effective in thesis writing if you write brief statements instead of just one- or two-sentence paragraphs. Make frequent use of the period (.) or colon (;) so your reader can pause and digest the ideas that you present.

Thesis writing #4. Avoid too general statements. This is a common mistake I usually encounter among my students. Focus on the specific issue that you want to present. If your topic is about sea level rise as a manifestation of climate change, then, by all means, write about sea level rise! Unless you really need to refer to other evidences of climate change, don’t include them just to make an impression that you know a lot about climate change.

Always ask yourself the question: “Will this statement make clear the issue that I am discussing?”

Thesis writing tip #5. Recognize that you have flaws and invest. Let someone, preferably a colleague in the same area of specialization, read your work and make comments. While you may be quite confident that you have written your thesis in the best way you can, chances are you will miss some important points or glaring errors in your statements. Just make sure that your colleague reads your manuscript as thoroughly as you do.

Invest by paying your capable classmate or colleague to read your work so he will commit to it. Unless of course he also wants you to return the favor by reading his own manuscript. There is no such thing as free lunch (see the concept of opportunity cost for more information on this statement).

You may use the TSPU principle in writing down your thesis to keep you focused on your topic.

© 2013 January 6 P. A. Regoniel

What is the Difference Between Theory Testing and Theory Building?

Essentially, what do graduate students do when they conduct a research investigation? Do they follow certain guidelines in doing their research? Is there a difference between how a master’s degree and a doctoral degree student do their research? What is theory testing and theory building? The following article answers these questions.

Graduate students undertake research in two different ways. A master’s degree student engages himself mainly in research primarily aimed towards theory testing while a doctoral degree student undertakes a much more challenging research task of theory building. What is the difference between theory testing and theory building?

Theory Testing and Example

Theory testing is relatively easier than theory building. Theory testing is primarily applied by the graduate student, as the name suggests, to test whether a certain theory of his choosing is a plausible explanation of a phenomenon he would like to investigate.

To clarify the concept of theory testing, take the case of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Theory. Anthropogenic refers to human-derived greenhouse gas emissions that are believed to be the main reason for the observed global warming in recent years. Carbon dioxide comprises one of the greenhouse gasses. Carbon dioxide causes water on the surface of the earth to evaporate. Increased water vapor in the atmosphere can trap heat coming from the earth thus cause global warming. Is this a good explanation of global warming? See the debate on the issue in the video below:

If you are a master’s degree student, you can test this theory by looking into the humidity levels associated with carbon dioxide emissions. That is because it was mentioned a while ago, that carbon dioxide causes the water to evaporate. Greater carbon dioxide means greater water vapor in the atmosphere measured using, say, a wet and dry bulb thermometer. You will then have to find out if there is a correlation between temperature and surface humidity. This tests theory using specific factors to substantiate carbon dioxide effects to global temperature.

The main focus of theory testing is to find evidence to confirm or refute a theory. Theory testing, in this instance, tries to find out if there is there sufficient evidence to substantiate the Anthropogenic Global Warming Theory.

Theory Building and Examples

Theory building requires the application of higher level thinking skills compared to theory testing. Doctoral degree students or dissertation writers engage in this kind of research.

Why is this so?

Theory building requires the synthesis of a broad range of literature and studies to provide evidence or confirm explanations to a given phenomenon. Theory building is the graduate student’s or a veteran scientist’s attempt to explain something plausibly in a different light or perspective.

To further clarify the idea of theory building, take the previously discussed theory that tries to explain global warming, that is, the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Theory. The AGW Theory is just one of the theories that try to explain global warming.

One of the responses of a coastal community to sea level rise due to climate change is to build seawalls. This adaptation prevents coastal erosion as a result of advancing waters. This measure, however, could prove futile as this picture shows.

seawall
One of the responses of a coastal community to sea level rise due to climate change is to build seawalls. This prevents coastal erosion as a result of advancing waters. This, however, could prove futile as this picture shows.

Bast (2010) enumerated six other theories on global warming. I list these theories below:

1. Biothermostat Theory – the theory proposes that negative feedbacks from biological and chemical processes on Earth offset whatever negative feedbacks are caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels.

2. Cloud Formation and Albedo Theory – the theory advances the idea that changes in the formation and albedo (the proportion of light reflected by a surface) of clouds cancels all or nearly all the warming effects of greater levels of carbon dioxide.

3. Human Forcings Besides Greenhouse Gases Theory – the theory postulates that man influences climate is not only because of greenhouse gas emissions but likewise important human activities like clearing forests, irrigating deserts, and building cities.

4. Ocean Currents Theory – the theory explains that the variation of temperature worldwide was due to the slow-down of Thermohaline Circulation (a large-scale circulation of the ocean driven by differences in density due to changes in temperature and freshwater input) of the ocean.

5. Planetary Motion Theory – the theory attributes the recent global warming phenomenon to natural gravitational and magnetic oscillations of the solar system.

6. Solar Variability Theory – the theory suggests that global warming is due to changes in the brightness of the sun caused by bursts of energetic particles and radiation that periodically vary.

These are all theories that try to explain global warming. The graduate student needs to read a great deal of literature and gain insights to build theories. Further, you must note that these theories are not perfect explanations of global warming. Some of these theories may be substantiated or confirmed through time. On the other hand, further theory testing will show their weaknesses.

Whichever of these theories will stand rigorous scrutiny by researchers through further studies on the causes of global warming will come out as the best theory of global warming. That’s how science works.

Reference

Bast, J. L. (2010). Seven theories of climate change. Chicago: The Heartland Institute. 30 pp.

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (December 24, 2012). What is the Difference Between Theory Testing and Theory Building?. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from https://simplyeducate.me/2012/12/24/what-is-the-difference-between-theory-testing-and-theory-building/

© 2012 December 24 P. A. Regoniel