Writing about Research Goals and Procedures in Your Thesis or Dissertation
Clarity and precision of both thought and writing are essential in a proposal (or thesis) introduction, because everything that follows depends to some degree on that introduction. You may find that the information you provide and perhaps your overall intentions are not completely understood by your supervisor and other members of your thesis committee. You may receive too little or too much advice, especially if the topic, problem or phenomenon you are investigating is unusual or your approach to it is unconventional, innovative or unique, in which case your readers may well emphasise what they think you should be doing, particularly if they do not thoroughly understand what you think you are doing. It is always a good idea to consider all criticism and advice as carefully and objectively as possible, of course, and you just might find that the members of your committee will arrive at solutions and approaches that you had not considered. In fact, one of the most useful aspects of the proposal process is that it reveals differences of opinion and provides the perfect opportunity to make the decisions and compromises that will find middle ground, resolve problems and improve the thesis you ultimately write in a variety of ways.
However, if your own plans seem in danger of becoming lost beneath the practical and theoretical concerns of your supervisor and other committee members, or if you are having a hard time defining what you are only beginning to understand (never an easy task), you might want to try this simple strategy in your introduction:
• Start with the words ‘In this thesis I would like to’ and continue with a basic description in plain (rather than specialised or discipline-specific) language of what you hope to achieve: for example, ‘find out if the use of domestic robots is feasible in apartment buildings designed for elderly people.’
• Then add ‘I intend to do this by,’ which might be finished with ‘providing ten elderly apartment-dwelling individuals with access to two different domestic robots designed to perform simple household tasks.’
• Additional sentences might read ‘I plan to measure the success of the robots via a questionnaire completed by each of the participants’ and ‘This questionnaire will include items that focus on the two main functions of the domestic robots: taking out the trash and delivering groceries.’
Such a straightforward approach can continue until you have covered all of the introductory elements I have mentioned in previous postings, and more. You probably will not use these sentences in their original form in the introduction you submit for your proposal or ultimately revise for your thesis, and you will no doubt need to elaborate the information with further details, ideas and references, but you will provide yourself with a simple and concise report of what you need to write about. This report will be especially useful for clarifying your intentions and meaning when discussing your introductory material with your supervisor and other members of your thesis committee, and it will probably also prove helpful when you are preparing your presentation for the proposal meeting.
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