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'Get it Right'

The University of Birmingham's Mark Pallen says that, after frequently being asked to, he's tired of talking thesis. And so, over at his Pathogens: Genes and Genomes blog this week, Pallen puts forth some no-frills advice on how to write an acceptable PhD thesis. As a whole, Pallen says a PhD thesis should adhere to all stylistic rules — regarding "margin sizes, order of front material, and length of abstract," et cetera, he says — and should not be oppressively lengthy or alarmingly brief. ("Suspicions will be aroused if the thesis is too short — [fewer than] 200 pages — or too long — [more than] 300 pages," Pallen says.) He adds that "for the thesis as a whole and for each chapter, there should be a clear separation between the kind of material that belongs in the introduction, in the methods section, in the results section and in the discussion," and he discusses what content goes in those sections in detail. As for the thesis defense, a PhD candidate must "demonstrate knowledge and understanding of all the work that has been done, and the background to it," as well as on all relevant basic concepts in his or her field, Pallen says. He adds that since judgment committee's word is generally final and not able to be appealed, it's best to "get it right before you submit."

The Scan

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