Students

The following are some guidelines for those students working with me on their thesis (in brief):Paper stack

Sketch of thesis structure

Abstract

  • Introduction
    • Problem statement
    • Hypothesis/es
    • Thesis contributions
    • Structure of thesis
    • Terminology
  • Background of the study
    • What is the industry/public sector doing?
  • Literature Review
    • Critical assessment of cutting edge and state of the art work/efforts by other academic/research bodies? [Computer Science]
    • Critical assessment in relation to your thesis (this should not be a summary of what other people are doing/saying)
  • Methodology
    • How are you planning to achieve the thesis objectives
    • Why choose methodology A over B, C and D
    • Which techniques will you use to help you collect and analyse data
  • [If there is an artefact] Analysis (e.g. of technologies to be used), Design (of artefact and test plans) and Implementation of artefact
  • [If there is an artefact] Testing of artifact (with respect to thesis objectives/hypotheses)
  • Analysis of Data (Evaluation)
  • Discussion and Interpretation of Results and Findings
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Critical assessment of your work
    • Compare results with the closest ‘rival’
    • Personal scrutiny
  • Future work
  • Concluding remarks and revisit your contribution

Appendices

Bibliography

… finally, you’ll need to ‘sell’ your thesis to a panel (examiners) during your viva. This is a crucial element, so good presentation skills need to be adopted. For this reason, milestones meetings will consist of a presentation on current progress, issues encountered and planned milestone objectives.

Examiners will consider the following points:

  • Proper specification of your work (including hypothesis/es, aims and objectives and evaluation strategy)
  • Elegance in software and/or experiment design and implementation (also, you must follow appropriate development methodologies)
  • Proper execution of the pre-defined evaluation strategy (this should have been designed at the initial stages)
  • Proper use of language and formatting (do not submit until you’ve gone through a number of proofreading iterations – seek professional help)

Guiding Principles

  • Less quantity – more academic rigour (thorough understanding of the material at hand).
  • 80 pages should be enough … excluding any necessary appendices
  • You should be able to write about the
    • a) motivation behind your work
    • b) problem statement
    • c) method
    • d) results and
    • e) conclusion/s in one short paragraph (let’s call it the Abstract)
  • Conclusions should explain
    • a) what you’ve learnt and
    • b) how things could have been done better
  • Focus on the learning experience rather than on producing glossy ‘products’
  • Stick to one referencing style (Word has good inbuilt support for referencing/citation of sources. Other tools here and here).
  • Planning of frequent milestones is expected (stick to your research plan as much as possible)
  • Collaborative tools may be used (Google Docs mainly)
  • References and Citations
    • You are encouraged to use RefWorks (for free with your UoM account – here)
    • Use any one of the following styles (ACM, IEEE or Harvard) – but you must be consistent throughout your document

Tone of voice

So, regarding the passive vs. active voice dilemma, there are no strict rules at the Faculty. APA suggest the first person style (“I will then … We found that…”). Some argue that one should be objective (hence the third person), but others argue that authors are actually presenting their own arguments (hence the first person). UK unis frown upon the passive voice “It was found … “ style and state that it is heavy and unnecessarily lengthy (The law of waffle: the reader will become disgusted, and quickly come to dislike you).

From The laws of writing a good dissertation: “Rule of thumb: use active voice. It is not recommended that the writer uses a passive voice. Use first person singular (I) or first person plural (we). … There’s always the student who thinks that third person passive ‘it was considered’ sounds clever or correct. It doesn’t. Third person passive is useful for reporting chemistry experiments, where the experimenter’s experience and opinions are not part of the equation.”

Many other arguments can be found on the internet…. but this is my take on the matter.

Official guidelines offered by the Faculty of ICT

Follow this link for the Final Year Project Harmonised Guidelines.

 

If you’d need any further information, just contact me on chris.porter@um.edu.mt