The discussion section should be a brief essay in itself, answering the following questions and caveats: What are the major patterns in the observations? Refer to spatial and temporal variations. What are the relationships, trends and generalizations among the results?
What are the exceptions to these patterns or generalizations? What are the likely causes mechanisms underlying these patterns resulting predictions? Is there agreement or disagreement with previous work? Interpret results in terms of background laid out in the introduction - what is the relationship of the present results to the original question?
What is the implication of the present results for other unanswered questions in earth sciences, ecology, environmental policy, etc? There are usually several possible explanations for results. Be careful to consider all of these rather than simply pushing your favorite one. If you can eliminate all but one, that is great, but often that is not possible with the data in hand. In that case you should give even treatment to the remaining possibilities, and try to indicate ways in which future work may lead to their discrimination.
A special case of the above. Avoid jumping a currently fashionable point of view unless your results really do strongly support them. Include the evidence or line of reasoning supporting each interpretation. What is the significance of the present results: This section should be rich in references to similar work and background needed to interpret results. Is there material that does not contribute to one of the elements listed above?
If so, this may be material that you will want to consider deleting or moving. Break up the section into logical segments by using subheads. Conclusions What is the strongest and most important statement that you can make from your observations? If you met the reader at a meeting six months from now, what do you want them to remember about your paper? Refer back to problem posed, and describe the conclusions that you reached from carrying out this investigation, summarize new observations, new interpretations, and new insights that have resulted from the present work.
Include the broader implications of your results. Do not repeat word for word the abstract, introduction or discussion. Recommendations Include when appropriate most of the time Remedial action to solve the problem.
Further research to fill in gaps in our understanding. Directions for future investigations on this or related topics. Simpson and Hays cite more than double-author references by the surname of the first author followed by et al.
Pfirman, Simpson and Hays would be: Nature , , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commonly asked questions about ozone.
Harper Collins Publishers, New York, pp. Child Review of ciliary structure and function. Biochemistry and Physiology of Protozoa , Vol. Hutner, editor , Academic Press, New York, Bonani A high altitude continental paleotemperature record derived from noble gases dissolved in groundwater from the San Juan Basin, New Mexico. Tables where more than pages. Calculations where more than pages. You may include a key article as appendix.
If you consulted a large number of references but did not cite all of them, you might want to include a list of additional resource material, etc. List of equipment used for an experiment or details of complicated procedures. Figures and tables, including captions, should be embedded in the text and not in an appendix, unless they are more than pages and are not critical to your argument.
Order of Writing Your thesis is not written in the same order as it is presented in. The following gives you one idea how to proceed. Here is another approach. Write up a preliminary version of the background section first. This will serve as the basis for the introduction in your final paper. As you collect data, write up the methods section. It is much easier to do this right after you have collected the data.
Be sure to include a description of the research equipment and relevant calibration plots. When you have some data, start making plots and tables of the data. These will help you to visualize the data and to see gaps in your data collection. If time permits, you should go back and fill in the gaps. You are finished when you have a set of plots that show a definite trend or lack of a trend.
Be sure to make adequate statistical tests of your results. Once you have a complete set of plots and statistical tests, arrange the plots and tables in a logical order. Write figure captions for the plots and tables. As much as possible, the captions should stand alone in explaining the plots and tables. Many scientists read only the abstract, figures, figure captions, tables, table captions, and conclusions of a paper. Be sure that your figures, tables and captions are well labeled and well documented.
Once your plots and tables are complete, write the results section. Writing this section requires extreme discipline. You must describe your results, but you must NOT interpret them. If good ideas occur to you at this time, save them at the bottom of the page for the discussion section. Be factual and orderly in this section, but try not to be too dry. Once you have written the results section, you can move on to the discussion section.
This is usually fun to write, because now you can talk about your ideas about the data. Many papers are cited in the literature because they have a good cartoon that subsequent authors would like to use or modify. In writing the discussion session, be sure to adequately discuss the work of other authors who collected data on the same or related scientific questions.
Be sure to discuss how their work is relevant to your work. If there were flaws in their methodology, this is the place to discuss it. After you have discussed the data, you can write the conclusions section. In this section, you take the ideas that were mentioned in the discussion section and try to come to some closure. If some hypothesis can be ruled out as a result of your work, say so.
If more work is needed for a definitive answer, say that. The final section in the paper is a recommendation section. This is really the end of the conclusion section in a scientific paper. Make recommendations for further research or policy actions in this section. If you can make predictions about what will be found if X is true, then do so. You will get credit from later researchers for this.
After you have finished the recommendation section, look back at your original introduction. Your introduction should set the stage for the conclusions of the paper by laying out the ideas that you will test in the paper. Now that you know where the paper is leading, you will probably need to rewrite the introduction. You must write your abstract last. All figures and tables should be numbered and cited consecutively in the text as figure 1, figure 2, table 1, table 2, etc.
Include a caption for each figure and table, citing how it was constructed reference citations, data sources, etc. Include an index figure map showing and naming all locations discussed in paper. You are encouraged to make your own figures, including cartoons, schematics or sketches that illustrate the processes that you discuss.
Examine your figures with these questions in mind: Is the figure self-explanatory? Are your axes labeled and are the units indicated?
Show the uncertainty in your data with error bars. If the data are fit by a curve, indicate the goodness of fit. Could chart junk be eliminated? Could non-data ink be eliminated? Could redundant data ink be eliminated? Could data density be increased by eliminating non-data bearing space? Is this a sparse data set that could better be expressed as a table? Does the figure distort the data in any way? Are the data presented in context? Figures should be oriented vertically, in portrait mode, wherever possible.
If you must orient them horizontally, in landscape mode, orient them so that you can read them from the right, not from the left, where the binding will be. If there are no data provided to support a given statement of result or observation, consider adding more data, or deleting the unsupported "observation. Final Thesis Make 3 final copies: Final thesis should be bound. Printed cleanly on white paper. Double-spaced using point font.
Resources The Barnard Writing Room provides assistance on writing senior theses. Look at other theses on file in the Environmental Science department, they will give you an idea of what we are looking for. Of course do not hesitate to ask us, or your research advisor for help.
The Barnard Environmental Science Department has many books on scientific writing, ask the departmental administrator for assistance in locating them.
Also see additional books listed as Resources. Copy Editing Proof read your thesis a few times. Make sure that you use complete sentences Check your grammar: The goals of your paper will help you find the best thesis. Breaks down something to better examine and understand it. Teaches or illuminates a point. Take a specific stance to make your thesis more powerful.
You should address a single issue in great detail so that your points can be fully supported in the body of the paper. The best theses find a novel, exciting way to approach the topic. Ensure your thesis is provable. Do not come up with your thesis and then look it up later. The thesis is the end point of your research, not the beginning. You need to use a thesis you can actually back up with evidence. Ultimately, the only way for his poems to have faith is to temporarily lose it.
State your thesis statement correctly. Someone should be able to argue an alternate position , or conversely, support your claims. Get the sound right. You want your thesis statement to be identifiable as a thesis statement. You do this by taking a very particular tone and using specific kinds of phrasing and words. Use words like "because" and language which is firm and definitive. Example thesis statements with good statement language include: Know where to place a thesis statement.
Because of the role thesis statements play, they appear at the beginning of the paper, usually at the end of the first paragraph  or somewhere in the introduction. Although most people look for the thesis at the end of the first paragraph, its location can depend on a number of factors such as how lengthy of an introduction you need before you can introduce your thesis or the length of your paper.
Limit a thesis statement to one or two sentences in length. Pick a topic that interests you. This must be the first step in writing your paper and your thesis statement because all direction of the paper will depend on what topic you are writing about. Unfortunately, you must ignore this step if the topic is decided for you. The goal of this step is to find a particular narrow subject in your topic which you can make an argument about. For example, take the topic of computers.
There are many aspects of computers that can be expanded on such as hardware, software, and programming. However, vague topics like these do not make good theses. But something more narrow, such as the effects of Steve Jobs on the modern computer industry, allows for a much clearer focus. Know the type, purpose, and audience of the paper. These are usually assigned by the instructor, but even if you get to choose them, you must understand that these will affect your thesis statement considerably.
If you are writing a persuasive paper, your purpose will be to prove something to a specific group. If you are writing a descriptive paper, your purpose will be to describe something to a specific group. Each of these must be expressed in your thesis somehow. Follow a rigid structure. Knowing the basic formulas will not only keep your thesis within the acceptable length but it will also help you see how your entire argument should be organized.
Your thesis should contain two parts: A clear topic or subject matter A brief summary of what you will say Another way of looking at a thesis is as a formula, or a pattern, that comfortably holds your ideas: Because [reason s ], [something] [does something]. Although [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [Something] [does something].
The last example includes a counter-argument, which complicates the thesis but strengthens the argument. In fact, you should always be aware of all counter-arguments against your thesis. Write down your thesis. You will be able to think about your thesis logically , clearly, and concisely. There are two schools of thought on thesis timing. Some people say you should not write the paper without a thesis in mind and written down, even if you have to alter it slightly by the end.
Do whatever seems best to you. Analyze your thesis statement once you think you have a final, or working, version. The point is to make sure you avoid making any mistakes that can weaken your thesis. To get a better idea of what to do and what to avoid, consider the following pointers: Never frame your thesis as a question. A thesis is not a list. Keep it concise and brief. Never mention a new topic that you do not intend to discuss in the paper.
Do not write in the first person. Using sentences such as, "I will show Do not be combative. The point of your paper is to convince someone of your position, not turn them off, and the best way to achieve that is to make them want to listen to you.
Express an open-minded tone, finding common ground between different views. Realize that your thesis does not have to be absolute.
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