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Topic: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry  (Read 6285 times)

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Offline Compaq

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Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« on: July 15, 2014, 04:00:38 AM »
Hey!

ChemicalForums do not have a separate "Chemistry Writing" sub-forum, so I place this topic in here.

I start on my thesis in inorganic chemistry this fall. I have started setting up the LaTeX-document, and I have some questions. My thesis will likely be of the IMRAD-format (or something equivalent), but should I divide my various sections into separate open-right chapters, or just sections following each other?

Laboratory reports and published articles all have sections as the highest level, but these documents are much shorter than the average MSc thesis (mine will probably be around 60-100 pages, 60 ECTS credits).

Alternatively, my main headings can be structured as "Chapters", new chapters always starting on the right hand page. Since the document is so long, I thought maybe this would be the best practice, although the least common. The chapters serve as logical breathing points in the thesis, more so than a new section. The chapter headings are larger, which make the break stronger.

I am reluctant because chapters are not common in lab reports (my thesis is essentially one large lab report), and every thesis in my field from the university have sections as highest level. However, the university has no official guidelines on the matter, so I can pretty much do as I please.

So, are anyone experienced with this? Maybe there are some supervisors out there who knows what reads easy and what reads hard? I appreciate all opinions.

Regards,
Anders

Offline curiouscat

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2014, 04:22:55 AM »
My PhD thesis had Chapters. New ones always started on the right. In some versions pages were one sided.

Offline Compaq

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2014, 05:14:42 AM »
And you felt your thesis was easily read, and the chapters worked for you?

Offline curiouscat

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2014, 05:16:50 AM »
And you felt your thesis was easily read, and the chapters worked for you?

Yep. In fact, not just me, but I never recall seeing a thesis that didn't have chapters. By one name or another.


Offline Corribus

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2014, 09:48:20 AM »
My general rule when advising even masters students is that each chapter should be organized like a research paper that might, under idealized conditions, be published. Plus one chapter that gives an overall introduction to the broad scope and goals of the thesis, with background information.

The last masters student I supervised had a thesis (around 60 pages) with five chapters (introduction, literature review/background, two research chapters, conclusions/summary), plus an abstract. Each research chapter also had an introduction, experimental methods, results/discussion, etc. Organizing this way is helpful in the even you or your advisor ever wants to submit any of your material to a journal for publication - it's already in the right format.

My PhD thesis (almost 600 pages spread over two volumes) was organized pretty much the same way. So, I don't think the page count really makes a difference as to whether you should use a chapter structure. But in the end, you should be asking your advisor what he/she thinks, not us. :)
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

Offline Compaq

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2014, 02:31:25 PM »
Corribus, that structure makes sense for my thesis. I am going to characterise manganese particles chemically (ICP-MS/OES) and morphologically (XRD, SEM), and so separate chapters for those analyses might be logical. Of course, everything should come together in a some kind of discussion/analysis.

Thanks, great idea!

Offline Corribus

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2014, 11:11:00 PM »
In my opinion it makes sense to present these in different chapters if the aim of the experiments is thematically different. It really depends on what kind of story you're trying to tell. The organizational part of scientific writing is probably the most difficult to learn, and almost certainly the most difficult to teach. Getting good at it comes only through practice and guidance from someone who knows how to do it. This is where you should lean on your advisor for help. Also, I really recommend using an outline approach for the initial stages of writing, and I also find it helps to know what figures you will present, because the figures should tell the basic story in picture form.
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

Offline curiouscat

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2014, 12:27:26 AM »
It really depends on what kind of story you're trying to tell. The organizational part of scientific writing is probably the most difficult to learn, and almost certainly the most difficult to teach.

Part of this is because scientific writing style is pretty abstruse and archaic. I'm not convinced that the current format remains the best for scientific communication. A Journals key stylistic elements are still somewhat stuck in an era 150 years ago.

Offline Compaq

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2014, 07:53:02 AM »
It really depends on what kind of story you're trying to tell. The organizational part of scientific writing is probably the most difficult to learn, and almost certainly the most difficult to teach.

Part of this is because scientific writing style is pretty abstruse and archaic. I'm not convinced that the current format remains the best for scientific communication. A Journals key stylistic elements are still somewhat stuck in an era 150 years ago.

Much of the problem is the way scientists write: wordy, abstract, lots of add-on clauses, nominalizations, overuse of the passive voice, using difficult words instead of common synonyns etc. I find the layout of published articles okay, but the way the authors present their findings is often much, much more complex than it needs to be.

When writing clearly and concisely, half the job is done.

Offline curiouscat

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2014, 08:05:08 AM »

Part of this is because scientific writing style is pretty abstruse and archaic. I'm not convinced that the current format remains the best for scientific communication. A Journals key stylistic elements are still somewhat stuck in an era 150 years ago.


Much of the problem is the way scientists write: wordy, abstract, lots of add-on clauses, nominalizations, overuse of the passive voice, using difficult words instead of common synonyns etc. I find the layout of published articles okay, but the way the authors present their findings is often much, much more complex than it needs to be.

When writing clearly and concisely, half the job is done.

True. Often I also have to read trade journals or engineering magazines. Those are technical too but the style is refreshingly clear & concise. Often but not always.


Offline Compaq

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2014, 08:25:50 AM »
Nature or Science are often well-written too, because they cater to the general and interested person on the street.

Offline Corribus

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Re: Writing MSc in analytical chemistry
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2014, 09:36:18 AM »
A scientist once told me that his objective in writing is to make the language as opague and hard to understand as possible. The idea being that if you make it sound complicated enough, people (meaning potential reviewers) will just assume you know what you're talking about. :)
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

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