What is a thesis?
Your thesis is not your dissertation. Neither is it a one liner about what you are doing. Your thesis is “a position or proposition that a person (as a candidate for scholastic honors) advances and offers to maintain by argument.” [Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary]. “I looked at how people play chess” is not a thesis; ” people adapt memories of old games to play new games” is. Similarly, “I wrote a program to play chess” is not a thesis; “playing chess requires a database of actual games” is. A thesis has to claim something. There are many kinds of theses, especially in computer science, but most of them can be lumped into one of the following classes:
1. process X is a feasible way to do task Y
2. process X is a better way to do task Y than any previously known method
3. task Y requires process X
4. people use process X to do task Y
5. process X is a terrible way to do Y
6. people don’t use process X
Feel free to substitute “process X” with “memory organization X” or what ever else might make one theory different from another. Make sure you clearly specify the class of tasks Y to which your thesis applies.Besides being a proposition, a thesis has to have another property: it must say something new. “Understanding natural language requires context” is not a thesis (except maybe in a linguistics department); “process X is a feasible mechanism for adding context sensitivity to natural language understanders” is, as is “context is not required for visual understanding. What is a defense?
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A defense presents evidence for a thesis. What kind of evidence is apprpropriate depends on what kind of thesis is being defended. Thesis: process X is a feasible way to do task Y One defense for this kind of claim is an analysis of the complexity, or completeness, or whatever, of the theoretical algorithm. In computer science, the more common defense is based on empirical results from running an experiment. A good defense here means more than one example, and answers to questions such as the following. What are the capabilities and limits of your experiment? How often do the things that your experiment does come up in the real world? What’s involved in extending it?
If it’s easy to extend, why haven’t you? If your example is a piece of a larger system, how realistic are your assumptions about input and output? Thesis: process X is a better way to do task Y than any previously known method The same kind of defense applies here as in the previous case, but now serious comparisons with previous systems are required. Can your result do the same examples the previous results did, or can you make them do yours? Can you prove they couldn’t do your examples? If you claim to be more efficient, what are you measuring? Thesis: task Y requires process X
This is usually defended by a logical argument. It is usually very tough to do, even if the argument doesn’t have to be formalized. Thesis: people use process X to do task Y
Many students make the mistake of picking this kind of thesis to defend. It requires serious experimental evidence to defend, unless your real thesis is of the previous form, i.e., only process X is possible. Selected excerpts from protocols and surveys of your officemates are not psychological evidence, no matter how much they might have inspired your work. Thesis: process X is a terrible way to do Y, or people don’t use process X This is a reasonable thesis if process X is a serious contender. The defense would be an analysis of the limits of process X, i.e., things it can’t do, or things it does wrong, along with evidence that those things matter. I have lots of theses in my dissertation. Which one should I pick for my defense? Defending a real thesis is hard. If you think you have a lot of theses, you probably just have a bunch of undefended claims. One good thesis, or two so-so theses, with adequate description and defense, is more than enough to fill up a dissertation.
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I have the opposite problem. I don’t think I have any thesis by these standards. Highly unlikely. If you’re bright, educated, and have worked hard on a topic for more than a year, you must have learned something no one else knew before. The first mistake that students make is to think that a thesis has to be grander than the theory of relativity. A thesis should be new and interesting, but it doesn’t have to change the foundations of all we believe and hold dear.Don’t try to come up with a thesis first, and then investigate it. Start by exploring some task domain. Take some initial ideas and push them hard for a year or so. Now, stop and think about what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Among your accomplishments and experience, there will be several good candidate theses. Pick one.
Test it out on your advisor and other faculty members. Test it out on other students. Is it a claim that you can describe clearly and briefly? Is it a claim that anyone cares about? Is it a claim that people don’t find perfectly obvious, or if they do find it obvious, can you convince them that it could easily be false.Once you’ve refined your claim into a good thesis, now you can determine what kind of defense is appropriate for it and what more you need to do. This is where the hard part comes, psychologically, because to create a defense for your thesis, you’re going to have to attack it harder than anyone else. What happens if the thesis fails? Negate it and defend that! In a year or so of focused research, you should be ready for a real thesis defense. See how easy it is, once you know how?
Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement. Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about. A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes: * take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree * deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment * express one main idea * assert your conclusions about a subject
... results of previous research are summarized, organized and evaluated. Discipline-Specificity A literature review’s organization, format, level of detail and citation style ... manner while supporting the literature review author’s own thesis. A literature review establishes which sources ... literature review is set aside for reviewing sources on the primary topic. Then, a comparative analysis or discussion ...
Overview of Thesis Styles
* A thesis is a written document chronicling research conducted by the student in a particular area. Besides documentation of results and interpretation of experimental research, the document contains an extensive review of the literature pertaining to the subject area. * In general, the thesis begins with an overall statement of introduction and purpose for the study, including overall objectives. This section is followed by the literature review. This literature review stands alone, and is presented in addition to the literature cited when discussing the results of the research. The results of the research are then documented, including information on the methods, results and discussion of results. The last part of the thesis is usually a general discussion designed to draw broad conclusions, synthesize information, and suggest areas for future study.
In most cases, a thesis contains more detailed information than would normally be submitted for publication. * In general, the master’s thesis should demonstrate that the student has mastery of the field in which she/he presents her/himself, and is fully conversant with the relevant literature. An essential feature of Ph.D. study is the candidate’s demonstration of competence to complete a research project and present the research findings. The Ph.D. thesis must constitute a distinct contribution to knowledge in her/his major field of study and the material must be of sufficient merit to be, in the judgement of the examiners, acceptable for publication.
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* There are two main thesis styles:
1. The Traditional Style Thesis in which the major components – the methods, results of the research and discussion – are presented in discrete sections following the overall introduction and literature review. As indicated above, a general discussion should normally follow the discussion of the research results. * 2. The Paper Style Thesis is similar to the traditional style thesis in a broad sense, except that the research results are packaged as discrete units or chapters, either as published manuscripts, or in a form suitable for publication in scientific journals.
In the paper style thesis, each section or chapter has its own abstract, introduction, methods, results and discussion in addition to the overall abstract, general introduction and literature review. If the chapters have been published or are more or less ready for publication, the paper style thesis may not contain as much detail as the traditional style thesis. * The choice of thesis style depends to an extent on the kind of study that was done, whether discrete chapters are warranted or the material is best described as a single entity. The style is chosen in consultation with, and approved by, the student’s advisory committee before writing commences. The following sections describe the main elements of each style of thesis.