At my last feedback tutorial my superviors advised me that I need to do more 'signposting' in my thesis including better introductions and conclusions to sections / chapters.
Patrick Dunleavy's book has useful advice about this but I still find them really difficult to do.
Have you cracked this? Do you have a strategy for 'signposting' you can recommend?
I would be most grateful for any advice.
I imagine that I am writing for my boyfriend (or person of choice) and handholding them through my thesis, explaining to them in a conclusion what the chapter just examined/argued/introduced, then clearly explaining what the next one will generally examine/argue/introduce. Then, in the next chapter I would start by introducing that chapter and knitting it to the last one so it feels like a seamless transfer. Imagine they have put the thesis down and gone to make a cup of tea. Then they come and pick it up again and just would like a little refeshing on what it is you are talking about here again.
When you are writing it feels like you are being really irritating and repeating yourself a lot but actually it isn't bad to read. And it helps cement to yourself, and the reader, where the heck this whole thing is going. They don't like to be kept guessing! In the intro's point out your main arguments and the conclusion that you are working to in that chapter so they can work it out with you - don't unveil your main argument as a big flourish at the end of the chap/paper.
I think that's all I can say for now and if I have stated the obvious I apologise... if you have a more specific issue I would be happy to help!
Thanks for the advice both of you. I think my supervisors are more like yours Jayney - it probably is good practice to keep signposting. I've just written an introduction which I think had quite a good high-impact start but possibly doesn't set out what I'm going to do well enough. I should have checked the forum before I sent it off, still, it was supposed to go by the end of yesterday. I'll just have to develop it for the next draft.
I have read a number of books on thesis writing that recommend signposting. I like it as it gives the reader an idea of where you are going. I used this method in my draft chapter introductions. However, in the feedbacks I got, one of my supervisors advised against it saying the introductory sections of the chapters shouldn't contain what appears to be conclusions. My principal supervisor made no comment on the point. I like to stick to the method, but at the same time I feel reluctant disregarding the advice out of deference to my supervisor. What do you guys think.
goodness, I wanted to keep my conclusions for the big finale, thought about having a fanfare, fireworks the lot! . My super says I have the conclusions under wraps so that the powers that be don't realise the true nature of what I am going to suggest . The only thing I have for the main intro so far are loads of papers. What have people put in their main intro? As my research is in education I was going to start with some of the great thinkers in the area, to lead on to the lit review which is all about the radical thinkers of our time - well at least those I know of of course, but I want to leave other stuff to the appropriate chapters as mine is probably 90%+ literature and only a small part is 'fieldwork' such is the nature of the study. What I have done though is do a draft abstract. someone here (sits on one of the boards)said that a good way to sort out where you are going is to write and rewrite the abstract as you go along, so I'm giving that a whirl.
Sort of linked to this topic - I'm doing chapter outlines for my review panel next week but I'm not sure what to put for the conclusion. Apart from 'this chapter will conclude what has gone before' it's difficult to know what to write. I have to do at least 300 words.
pamw - do you have a hunch about where this is going? a hypothesis of sorts? This helps show where you are coming from and going to - even though it is obviously up for question hence doing the research in the first place. Is contradictory but they like it...
joyce - you can really keep it all a secret? That's so cool - I have had the same sup for my Masters and now PhD so didn;t actually realise people did this! In my intro I will blurt the whole thing out for clarity then they can 'keep up' better and anyway, I want to show off how exciting the project will be!
i hope so, although the choice of supervisors is going to make it pretty clear where it may be heading. I had to rewrite my proposal title so, - in the words of my super -, they won't know what it is really about. Which is how a seemingly small change can make major changes in education possible by 'the back door' and my argument builds through the chapters to show how this will be possible. There has to be a lot of proof for my small change mainly because(and I think it is fairly widespread across education whatever is being discussed) they will not accept this change could be so influential because it doesn't involve teachers directly only indirectly, and it is their lack of concern that may well be their ultimate downfall. (gosh that sounds so dramatic , sort of watch this space!. I'm going to keep it quite secret by the choice of chapters i submit and presentations I do, without the final piece it all looks quite innocent and just a fairly middle of the road evaluation!
exciting stuff Joyce! Whenever I talk about my work it always sounds very dramatic and ambitious - most PhD projects I hear do! Good luck with it!
I guess for mine I will say in the intro what the layout, arguments and conclusions are... then fill in the gaps. But then, as is so much the nature of this work - in a years time, who knows?!!
Having had my viva I can tell you the things which my examiners particularly liked/wanted added:
Write a thesis structure section at the start of the thesis intro/lit review just saying 'this thesis consists of four/six experimental chapters etc... chapter 1 consists of, chapter 2 relates to, chpater 3 and 4 outline etc...... all refs are in a bib at the end etc.. or whatever goes with your work.
This then tells the examiner what to expect as he goes along how it is all going to fit together etc.. My examiners loved this (I got this from a thesis i admired). Write a concise abstract for each chapter if you can. I didnt do this and it was one of my corrections even though i thought it was adequately covered in the chapter intro- they wanted beating over th head with it!
it helps also to add a summary or 'key findings' in the form of bullet points at the end of experimental chapters - make it all clear and obvious!
finally in my discussion chapter i made a flow chart at the start of how all the cahpters fitted together to answer the hypothesis and the examiners loved this as they seem to read the thesis in bits and this helped them rebrief on what it was all about and also makes your 'story' clear and justifies why you did each section of work - helps show a good flow of ideas.
It helps to get an independent who isnt into the subject too (hubby, dad friend) to read it and tell you if they understood what the thesis is going to be about even if they dont get what the technical bits are.
Failing this pick a thesis you admire written by someone in a similar field and see how they did it - could parts have been clearer and would summaries have helped here there etc..
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