This is the main part of your thesis where you reel off a sequence of chapters, each with a unique result or building-block. Some tips here to make it the best:
- Ask your advisor for presentation style and help with outline.
- Think of this as a sequence of 2-3 distinct top conference papers that you have published.
- There should be a natural progression from one chapter to the next
- Keep in mind that you are still telling a story
- Use figures, and plenty of them
- They draw the reader in and make the thesis more interesting
- Can convey a lot more information than text, sometimes
- Ways to present your data
- Try the book Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Tufte
Be clear and candid about
- Your assumptions – yes, every one of them
- Your limitations – yes, every one of them
- Requirements of your solution/approach – both mandatory and optional
- Constraints under which your solution will work
- Above all, why these assumptions, limitations, requirements & constraints
- A concrete validation plan for your hypothesis – experiments, simulation, theorems, proofs, etc.
- Scope – what’s part of your thesis and what is definitely not
- Expect to shoe-horn all of the work that you did during your graduate research career into your thesis
- Present a set of scattered, unrelated results that don’t add up to a whole
- Tout all of the advantages of your approach repeatedly
- Conjecture wild promises from your results (i.e., stay factual throughout)
Presenting your Approach or Methodology well
- Tell the reader why you picked this approach
- Did you know that it would work? Did you have a basis for knowing this?
- What was your overall philosophy in your approach?
- What other approaches did you consider and discard?
- Where did they fall short? How were they inappropriate?
- What interesting negative or counter-intuitive results do you have?
- For instance, are there instances of where your hypothesis breaks down?
- Two questions that are almost always part of any Ph.D. defense
- How do you know that you are done? When is the problem solved?
- If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Within each Thesis Chapter
- What is this chapter all about?
- What sub-problem or issue is this chapter addressing?
- How does this chapter fit within the overall “story” of the thesis?
- The Meat
- Rigorous approach to sub-problem, or detailed explanation of issue
- Assumptions underlying sub-problem, or complete description of issue
- Validation: System design, theory, implementation, graphs, references, ….
- Repeat the highlights of the chapter
- Transition sentence that acts as a “teaser” for the next chapter, and how the next chapter fits with the current one