A PhD thesis is always a work of qualification. You must defend some kind of work in which you show your skills. This does not necessarily need be a breakthrough direction in science and practice. But sometimes this concept of a qualifying work is somehow simplified. It is believed that if you wrote several formulas or 150 pages of reasoning, the work is already ready and you can defend it. This is not true. In any case, a PhD thesis should contain at least a new look at some well-known statements of problems or some new solutions. We hope that our tips for writing a thesis paper will help you to write your own paper.
Let us now turn to a very important part of the process of writing a thesis paper. Any thesis is one, two, or even several tasks. The question is:
- Who should set tasks, and how? This is an important question. Graduate students and masters themselves can not set tasks. This is a normal procedure, and it is not necessary to be surprised at this and worry about it. The ability to set goals successfully comes with experience. In order to be able to set tasks well, you have to work hard. Therefore, we are confronted here with two problems: the choice of the supervisor and the choice of the topic of the thesis.
- Who will be the supervisor? If you are not self-sufficient, never choose supervisors who do not have the time to deal with you. You need to choose supervisors who have the time, opportunity, and interest in you and your work. Post-graduate students or masters who are “neglected” turn out to be in a very bad situation precisely because they do not know how to set tasks.
For self-sufficient people, there are other formulas. The supervisor should be a “superprofessional” in his or her field; this is a person you should learn from. Now let’s talk about the tasks. There are tasks, problems, and good intentions, and these must be clearly distinguished. Karl Popper has wonderful words: “Science has no areas or branches of knowledge; in science there are unsolved problems and the need to solve them.”
- What is the task in this situation? The task should clearly define what is given and what we intend to get, and more, the task usually knows the ways to solve it and the apparatus we use. That is, the task is always specific, as in the school curriculum. An example is, say, data analysis using linear regression. You have an apparatus, you solve the task and get something. Another example: you have input data, you have a model that describes the behavior of participants, and you need to find first-order conditions. This is the task.
- A problem is a little bit different. It is known what is given, but what we will get is far from known. Moreover, the apparatus and technique are often unknown. We have to reinvent them according to the problem or modify some existing ones. Where the problems come from and how they are solved – on this theme many books are written.
- As we said, there are problems, tasks, and there are good intentions. Good intention has no solution. Topics for graduate students should be clear and fully resolved, with the understanding of how to solve them. For example, the general theory of the functioning of the French economy is not a dissertation topic, but it is some kind of good intention that has no solution. In our opinion, these are not scientific topics at all, so we will not talk about them. On the other hand, there is a great danger that graduate students try to choose such narrow topics that, it seems to them, it is easier to write on them.
Any thesis is the expenditure of some intellectual and physical resources. Do not waste time on “narrow” topics that are of no interest to anyone. You can not waste time on a dissertation that will become obsolete before you can defend it, and you can not waste time on a dissertation that will be put to the shelf and be forgotten in six months. Always try to choose the right balance of the importance of the work and the effort. Any thesis is a spent effort.
There must be an element of fundamentalism in the work; do not just do technical work, set the values, set the parameters, let the computer count, and get some conclusions. You see, there must be some new perspective on the problem. It is not necessarily a breakthrough in science, but at least something new should be covered. A fundament is achieved very simply – we need models, even quite simple ones, but there must be models. This applies to any science, not just mathematics, economics, and political science. There must be new models in the work leading to new views.
Very often, the tasks that need to be addressed arise from the needs of practice. Here we understand the practice extensively, and it is not only a specific request of a particular consumer. Analyzing the practical problem, you can often come up with very general models.
Planning Effort and Time
Solving problems is always time-consuming. And graduate students often can not do science every day – days off are needed. If you do not have these days off, and then try to write a dissertation, nothing good comes of it. Today you are investing in yourself, defending your thesis. Therefore, you should negotiate with the employer so that you have one day off a week so that you go to the library and work as many hours on this day as possible, plus Saturday and Sunday, so then there is some chance to be successful at writing a thesis paper.
Balance your efforts and your time. The most important thing for all postgraduate students: you have to read a lot. If you do not read, you can not pretend that you know something in your field. It is necessary to view all the main journals and, most importantly, the books. It takes time. A thesis without a good, qualified review is not a thesis. The supervisor can help by specifying which main journals to read, and which basic articles in the field one should know. It is very important that when you read, you must create for yourself a certain image of the field. This image of the field is not created simply by enumerating the read works; you need a certain look. A thesis is a certain view of the problem, and a thesis review is not just a list of works.
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