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Methods of Research & Thesis Writing

by Teresa J. Siskin, Demand Media

    You can see the finish line of graduation, but one final obstacle stands in your way: the thesis. Crafting a well-composed thesis can be a daunting proposition, but with knowledge of essential research methods and thesis components, you can simplify the task.

    Research Question

    This research question seeks to propose a solution or improvement to a specific problem or set of problems. Base the research question on literature you have read or past experiments with which you have been involved. Your research question should fit the scope of the research you wish to perform. Check that your chosen area of research is well documented in scientific literature or medical journals.

    Methodology

    Research methodology consists of the principles and rules by which you will abide as you perform your research. From an analytical perspective, this involves clearly defining equations, experiments and or variables you have used. From an argumentative point of view, this means establishing a scholarly review of the state of research from which your argument stems. As you proceed, you will need to supplement your methodology with additional reading/research to ensure that you are current with the state of research in your field and that your research parameters are still viable. If your research results continue to support your hypotheses/arguments, begin outlining your thesis.

    Introductory Sections

    All theses share a common set of sections/subdivisions that can be helpful guideposts through the writing process. A thesis generally begins with a title page, including the thesis title, your name and contact information and the name and contact information for your project adviser(s). Next comes the acknowledgements section, which allows you the opportunity to thank those who have assisted you in the steps leading up to your thesis. The successive series of sections are intended to prepare your readers for what they are about to review. This includes the abstract, which provides a brief description -- roughly 250 to 500 words -- of the research you will present in your thesis and its significance and novelty, followed by the table of contents and a list of figures or tables if applicable, which give your reader a quick guide to the outlay of information and imagery in your thesis.

    Body

    The aim of the body is to offer a compelling introduction followed by an in-depth report of your research, including a review of the literature that led to your original research question, the research methods you used, the results of that research and a discussion of the results as they relate to your original research question. For a properly composed analytical thesis, these areas are parsed into specific sections: methods, results and discussion/recommendations. The methods should include all calculations and parameters you used in your research so that anyone wishing to replicate your results and analyses could do so. The results section should record your observations derived from these methods, while your discussion/recommendations section should extrapolate from these observations the impact on your original research question. In the conclusion, discuss the impact of your overall research, followed by your references section where you cite the sources you paraphrased or consulted during your research and writing. Include any necessary appendices, composed of supporting evidence or information that you cite or reference in your text.

    Proof Your Work

    Before you submit it for review, perform a detailed edit. Double-check that all materials you borrowed from sources and research studies you mentioned are appropriately cited. Also check to ensure that you are using the citation style deemed appropriate by your academic department or university. Review your table of contents and list of figures/tables to ensure that your numbering/labeling system is not only consistent but also is acceptable to your department or university.

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    About the Author

    Teresa J. Siskin is a researcher, writer and editor. She holds a master's degree in art history and is completing a doctorate in art history.

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