Books to read if you’re writing your student thesis

It’s spring term and high season for thesis writing, which can be both scary, hard, interesting, and fun at once – here you will find tips on books that can help you in the process of writing your thesis. They cover the topics research methods and academic writing.

As for the method, this is a central part of the process: What method do you use in your studies, and how do you describe this in the thesis? This is where the method books come to rescue. Some of you have had method courses earlier; others will have a method course just before the thesis writing starts. And you will, of course, get some tips on good books in these courses, but there are other books than the course literature, and you’ll find plenty of books at the library. The largest part of all books on quantitative and qualitative methods can be found at department 300 on level 2.5 in the library.

There are also some good books to read on writing in general, and on academic writing in particular. These books will give you tips and advice when it comes to language (for example how to write in a passive voice instead of in first person), how to formulate different parts of the thesis (how to write the introduction), etcetera. You will find most of these books on shelf 808.066 on floor 4 in the library.

Text & photo: Katharina Nordling

Things to consider when reading a scientific text

To sit down and read a text may seem like a simple thing to do, but there is a difference between texts and texts – here are some tips on how to think when you’re reading a scientific text. 

Scientific texts have often the following structure IMR(A)D: Introduction, Method, Results (Analysis) and Discussion. But first in all scientific articles is the abstract. The abstract is a summary with the purpose to give you a quick indication on whether the article is of interest to you or not. It should contain some type of purpose for the study, how the study was done, what results were found and what conclusions could be drawn.

  • Then, the introduction follows, with two purposes: To create interest as well as to put the study into a general context by presenting previous research.
  • The method section describes which methods have been used to answer the questions. This section is important to read carefully so that you can determine the validity, that is how reasonable and correct the conclusions are.
  • Results present what the research data shows and it can be visualised with figures and tables.
  • In the ending discussion section the current study is related back to previous research and the current results are put in context. In the discussion, you should also find the conclusions made from the study.

When reading a text try to find the main points in the text. Perhaps you can also find what is surprising, unexpected or different from previous research or if there is something that is rarely focused on other research.

When you read a scientific text, you can consider and answer the following questions:

  • What is the problem that this text is trying to answer? Why is this question important to answer?
  • Is the used method the best to answer the questions or is there a better method?
  • What are the specific results? Can I summarize them in a couple of sentences?
  • Are the results supported by the research data?
  • Are there other ways to interpret the research data which the authors didn’t address?
  • In which way are the results unique/new/unusual/ or supporting compared to other related research in the area?
  • How can the results be related to what I am interested in? To other texts I’ve read?
  • Are there some specific applications presented in the text? Which future experiments could be done? Are there unanswered questions or are the results open for new questions?

You can also draw inferences, like in this example:

“Rett Syndrome is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder and one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females with an incidence of 1 in 10000-15000.”[1]

Comment: Hmmm…can it be related to a gene on the X-chromosome since its one of the most common causes in females… How common is that?

You should also take notes while reading. The best case scenario is that you take notes electronically, because you probably will find a specific note much easier later on. One way to do this is to create a template that you fill in for each text you are reading. Then your reading will be systematically documented and it may also help you in reading. The Library has also created a Google Drive document that you can download and use. You can download the template in a couple of different formats (Choose File and the Download as…).

Text: Pieta Eklund & Katharina Nordling
Photo: Mostphotos

[1] Ballestar, E., Yusufzai, T.M., & Wolffe, A.P. (2000) Effects of Rett Syndrome Mutations of the Methyl-CpG Binding Domain of the Transcriptional Repressor MeCP2
on Selectivity for Association with Methylated DNA. Biochemistry, 31, 7100-7106

Welcome to our Language & Search Lab!

Did you know that you can get help with your difficult searches, reference questions or help with the difficult academic language? Every Thursday between 12 pm and 15 pm there is a language teacher and one or two librarians who usually work with information search in room J441.

Long time ago we had a language lab and a search lab in the library, but since many questions slip into each other, it felt practical and beneficial to be able to help with both search and reference questions while at the same having a language pedagogical supervision. So in 2016, we merged the language and the search lab and have it once a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, it’s only the language lab in room J441.

You do not need to book in advance. It is Drop-In. Many students visit Language and search Lab time to time and sometimes we have many students at the same time, witch means that you may have to wait for help. You can log in to a computer in the room and work while you are waiting.

Text: Lena Wadell

Foto:  Dmitry Ratushny,  Unsplash

Use DiVA to reach out with your student thesis

The semester is coming to an end and so does the project of writing your student thesis, but when the thesis is done what happens then – who’ll be reading it? Well, that depends on what you as the author choose to do with it. By making it available in the university’s publication database DiVA, the paper can get wings and benefit both yourself and others. For example, you can attach the link to the thesis in your job applications, and let future employers see what you can do. In addition, the thesis will be searchable on the internet and others interested in the topic you wrote about may find and read the thesis.

In order for the thesis to be published in DiVA, you must approve the publication agreement when submitting your thesis.

As the thesis is published in DiVA, it will be searchable in the following fields: name, title, abstract, keyword, language, and subject area. Because both abstract and keywords are something you decide on, it may be a good idea to take your time when writing abstract and choosing keywords, making it easier for others to find the thesis.

If you have any questions about how an abstract should be written, or how to think about choosing keywords, you can get support and help with this at the library’s Search Lab – open every Thursday.

Text: Katharina Nordling

Academic ceremony and scientific publications

Friday 4th of May the University is celebrating the annual Academic ceremony – a ceremony where research is at the center when new professors are inaugurated and a doctoral degree conferment ceremony is held. A fundamental part of research is the scientific publications, the texts in which the research is described and communicated to the world in general and research colleagues in particular.

For the PhD students who, with their dissertation, completed their postgraduate studies and thus can be said to be finished researchers, it is the doctoral thesis that is the great crown of their work. It is the publication with great P, the goal that is sought throughout the entire postgraduate program. Doctoral theses may differ from each other, but there are two main forms – compilation thesis or monograph thesis.

In the compilation thesis, there are a number of previously published scientific articles that are combined into a whole by writing an introductory to the thesis. A monograph thesis is instead a single coherent text – much like a regular book. However, both types of theses have in common that the content must be so new or revolutionary that it could be presented in international research context.

Once you have a doctoral degree you can start your career as a researcher. Now there is no longer the obvious goal, the doctoral thesis that has to be completed. However, you still need to publish. Now, the researcher is constantly working to publish reports on the research being done, whether the research is done in joint research project or solely on his/hers chamber.

How this is done, and what different types of publications are used, depends to a large extent on the subject area the researcher is active in. There is a difference between how a researcher in chemistry and a researcher in sociology publishes. In science, medicine and nursing, for example, the scientific article is the focus, while in the humanities it is much more common for research results to be presented in books or reports.

At the university, all research published must be registered in the university’s publishing database DiVA. There you can find the research published by the people who are in focus at this year’s academic ceremony, but also research published by all other PhD students, doctors, lecturers and professors at the university. If there is any special research you are interested in, but you cannot the find full text, you are always welcome to the library and we will help you locate the text.

Text & Photo: Katharina Nordling

Think of what you write – make sure not to plagiarize!

Writing an essay or thesis may be perceived as difficult in many ways, one of them might be how to express yourself in a unique way, so you don’t plagiarize someone else’s work. The university has a good anti-plagiarism guide where you get insight into how to avoid, intentionally or inadvertently, plagiarizing. There is also information about what happens if it is discovered that someone has plagiarized.

Text: Katharina Nordling
Photo: Mostphotos

To read scientific texts

We have previously written a number of blog posts about how to find scientific articles, how to avoid plagiarism and how to cite correctly but nothing about how to read the texts that you find. This is also a competence in its own right and it is needed to get something out of the texts.

Scientific texts have often the following structure IMR(A)D, introduction, method, results (analysis), discussion, In this blog post you will get a couple of tips on how to read and better understand them.

Abstract has the purpose of giving you a quick indication whether the article is of interest to you or not. It should contain an aim or purpose for the study, how it is done, which results ar presented and which are the conclusions. The introduction has two purposes: create interest and also to set the study in a general and field specific context though presenting previous research. Method describes which methods are used to answer the questions. It is important to read this part carefully to be able to discuss the validity of the results. Results present what the research data shows and it can be visualised with figures and tables. Discussion contains results set in a context by using the previous research. Discussion aims also to answer the questions which the study aimed to answer.

When you are reading a text, try to find the main points of the text. Maybe you can find what is surprising, unexpected, in contrast of previous results or what is rarely addressed.

When you are reading a scientific text you can think of the following questions:

  • What is the problem this text is trying to answer? Why is it important to answer?
  • Is the used method the best to answer the questions or is there a better method?
  • What are the specific results? Can I summarize them in a couple of sentences?
  • Are the results supported by the research data?
  • Are there other ways to interpret the research data which the authors didn’t address?
  • In which way are the results unique/new/unusual/ or supporting compared to other related research in the area?
  • How can the results be related to what I am interested in? To other texts I’ve read?
  • Are there some specific applications presented in the text? Which future experiments could be done? Are the unanswered questions or does the results open for new questions?

You can also draw inferences. E.g. “Rett Syndrome is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder and one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females with an incidence of 1 in 10000-15000.”[1] Comment: Hmmm…can it be related to a gene on the X-chromosome since it one of the most common causes in females… How common is that?

You should also take notes while reading. The best case scenario is that you take notes electronically because you probably will find a specific note easier later. You can make your own template or you can use the one we have created for you to use while taking notes (Word 2010). You can download it to your own computer. We have also created a Google Drive document. You can download the template in a couple of different formats (file-> download as).

Pieta Eklund

[1] Ballestar, E., Yusufzai, T.M., & Wolffe, A.P. (2000) Effects of Rett Syndrome Mutations of the Methyl-CpG Binding Domain of the Transcriptional Repressor MeCP2
on Selectivity for Association with Methylated DNA. Biochemistry, 31, 7100-7106