Thesis life Part 2: How to write your report?
If you search the web for “how to write your thesis report?”, thousands of tips and tricks to write a great report will appear within milliseconds. In fact, it is one of the most searched key phrase for students. The main reasons for this is that students are often bewildered by the unstructured structure of thesis report writing. If your research group is anything like mine, you will receive very basic instructions about your report. What you actually need, is good guidelines that will help you write a great report. So, you turn to the web to solve your problems.
The web is no doubt a good teacher, guiding you along the way. But, it lacks the precise help that you need regarding you report writing. Most tips are very general in nature and will apply to almost all branches of science and social science. Few tricks are relevant to your specific branch of research. But despite all that, web gives you a good overview that you previously lacked.
Considering all that, I would like to put forth a few suggestions of how to tackle your report writing. I would try not to repeat the things that you will easily find on the web. So, you may find this blog not completely helpful but in fact, a bit complementary to your search on the web.
Read existing reports
Some research groups of WU allow (semi-restricted) open access to thesis reports of their students. Most of these completed reports make way on the “MyLibrary” web page of WUR. If you are one of the students working in these departments, you will find a plethora of reports in the library database. You can read them and take suggestions from them quite easily. Here is a link to MSc thesis reports in the library.
Ask former thesis colleagues for their experience
If you are writing your report for the first time, you must be struggling with questions like “How many pages long should my report be? “, “what sections should be there in my report?”, “should I combine my results and discussion, or should I keep them apart?”, “What should I include as main body of report and what should I keep in the appendix?”, “is this same as my BSc thesis?”. The best way to answer these questions is meet up with someone from your own research group who has just completed their thesis work. You can ask them for specific details and also about their experience.
Think of your report as a travelogue
The title here might be a bit misleading, but, the sentiment behind it is quite genuine. As a Masters’ student, you are expected to do extensive independent work on your thesis in the given time frame. So, when you write your thesis work, you are expected to explain you whole journey through the thesis work in intricate details. The things that you would normally not mention in a scientific paper, need to be mentioned in the thesis report. For example, some technical detail of your methodology like how you selected your sample size. It might not be significant enough to mention that “this was all that was possible in this budget” in a scientific paper, but in your thesis report, you need to mention it as well as defend your decision by giving clear reasons. Every small detail of your journey has to be maintained and mentioned.
Writing Lab Wageningen
Have you ever wondered about the persistent advertisement on all monitors present in Forum saying “Writing Lab Lunch Session”? These guys are the ones who will help you with your writing. They have lunch sessions almost twice a week about grammar, syntax, writing styles. Besides this, you can also arrange special sessions with their team out of a writing block, if you ever encounter one. Their team can also help you with technical stuff like library search, information literacy, etc. These people can be a lifeline when all seems gloomy. You can lookout for their schedule here or make a private appointment with them by sending an email here.
It may seem quite weird to mention this here, but there certainly are courses that you can follow to improve your scientific writing at any stage of your study. Modular skill courses like “Scientific Writing Skills” and Wageningen In’to Languages courses help students upgrade their writing skills. If time permits, they can prove to be quite useful and fun to attend. Since most of them are short and not work intensive, you can always find time for them if there are no scheduling disagreements.
Other Universities Thesis report examples
I believe this should be your last option since most universities have different structure for theses and their report styles. Nevertheless, it can be a good platform to base your report on considering the differences between WU and others. Many universities publish example reports of outstanding students on their official websites. These are not usually intended for students of other universities, but are freely accessible. You can gleam some ideas from these model reports. You can also find templates and samples on various university pages which may help you decide your own structure.
Smart work and clear thoughts and your friends.
It is very easy to get lost in your own report writing. It is never better to write a whole book as first draft and then cut it down to favorable number of pages. Better way to tackle this, is to write clear, but short parts, one at a time and then get feedback on them. You can get feedback from anyone who is willing to give it. Try to get your report analysed from as many people as possible before you submit it. This may be from those of your background and specialty or completely out of your hemisphere. It doesn’t matter. Take their comments and think about them. Making million drafts before finalizing is like trying to open your safe without knowing its combination. Time is precious.