Introduction to MSc Thesis Writing at DTU Civil Engineering

I said 1203 but we’ll sneak in a couple player minutes early welcome to this information event for about writing master’s thesis for those of you don’t who don’t know who I am I’m good on demos I’m the head of studies for civil engineering along with me I have Keystone runner who’s the head of studies for building the soil you know architectural engineering and we also have our study administrator Mariana Golda who I hope you know who is because she is actually the one that can help you with a lot of things that you ask Christian and me about so she sits at the first floor of building 118 and a lot a lot of the questions that you have on basic questions she’s actually the one that knows that better than Christian and me because she is also in more close contact with us with regards to those nitty gritty details of the running and operations on your daily studies but what we’re here for today is that I’m gonna give a presentation about research and project writing there’s going to be some general information about writing techniques how research techniques and then there’s also going to be some practical information about the details of registrated thing running and doing the project finishing the project and so on so forth some of the constraints that is associated with that we are recording this so that and the slides will be available afterwards so that you can benefit from that hopefully later on so what is writing a thesis well as this clever guy said the only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down so you’ll have to write you’ll have to possibly screw around a bit but also at some point it’s the writing of the thesis that matters and it’s their thesis that you’re gonna be evaluated on and that’s a very key thing is that which we’ll get back to but it is the document that decides so if you’re doing overwhelmingly amount of work in the lab and don’t find time to write it that’s not what external reviewer can see so you know defend your time and make it make sure that all your work is written down so if we start and imagine the circle that contains all of human knowledge at some point you have a little information you grow up finish high school you get some more you get a bachelor’s degree which most of you have here unless you’re about to start the masters next year you get some more specialized information your studies will give you more and more you take technological specialization you get very more and more focus and then you get into reading research papers and you’re at the edge of the boundary you read a paper that was published in April 2015 and somebody is really just at the edge and then your job is to then focus in push and work and make a dent in that you have to come up with something that is new something that people have not done before and that is a result you need to have a result because without the thesis and without the result a thesis becomes very difficult to write and for you this is what it looks like you talk to all of your friends boyfriend/girlfriend family members all know that you’re writing a thesis and it’s the whole world but it’s also in important to keep in mind that there’s a lot of other things going on and that your we’re only a mere little part of this whole existence of knowledge all of this is based on on mat mites he did a you know the PhD school and in the end what we want to do is to knowledge to save lives or knowledge to improve society in his case he’s doing some medical research and he’s hoping that that may help to cure if not his own son but some people with the same condition so we are you know doing something to make a difference also for others you know it seems very much ourselves when you’re writing the thesis but it should also benefit others so what is research in the broadest term we do research whenever we gather information to answer a question that’s of the problem so if you turn it around there has to be a problem we have to identify a problem first because otherwise it’s going to be very very difficult to write something and to come up with a conclusion and it has to be original do I mean by original I like this clip I make a noise or I do something that no one has ever done before and then I can feel unique you got even if it’s only for like a second so no one’s ever done that no not this bad no you just witness a completely original moment human history it’s refreshing you subscribe oh no no no come on no I thought I think that was good enough the balls come on what are you shy this is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and then no one will happen again threat you can exist in and and if nothing else you’ll be remembered as it’s the one guy who ever did this it’s one thing you gotta go bury this hamster for the dog Dido so there’s a you know a few important things with that is that original has to be define you know you have to check whether somebody has done it before you have to check it carefully and it also has to be like she says you know in our context it doesn’t have to be just somebody has not done this in this spot it has to be worldwide new and also as opposed to to the guy we need to try to take some chances of exposing ourselves because if we do they’re very simple thing we may do it very perfectly but in the end the grade will probably reflect that just like in gymnastics if you do a very low difficulty element you will not be rewarded the highest grade you cannot get 12 for saying that you walk back and forth here and measured something very very simple it has to be something of more complexity so what I say here with this drawing is ah you know you’re here in your little DTU ship or a sailing boat and instead you know you can of course there’s a boat on a road there’s some challenges in that but don’t take the paved road off by McDonald’s and and you know take your easy meal and and and get to the goal try to sail into you know through inspiration and engagement some curiosity and skeptical things challenges some revolution take the path and then get to the gold at the end and there’s also an option here that may seem to lure you in and that is the you know oh this narrow road that leads to the gold but one of the things with that is that avoid the narrow road that appears very direct because it may have very single failure modes and that has to do with oh yeah well if I only do this experiment that nobody’s done before and maybe hundreds have tried but I’ll do it correct and in five months even though people with a PhD and 20 years of experience couldn’t do it you know then you have a single mode of failure maybe there’s something that you have overlooked that will stop you and then you don’t have anything to fall back on because it’s the process that also gathers up information for your results and your writing so when you’re planning your project you need to find a topic that’s enough to let after a reasonable amount of information in the time you have don’t go too wide or too little question that topic and refine questions that catch your interest the term in the kind of nco readers will expect you to offer in support of your answer and determine whether you can find those data there’s no point in starting research on a topic until you know that you have a good chance of fighting the data on it there’s a lot of things that would be great to do but again if it’s too complex or too difficult it’s better probably to say no before you get going and also don’t do something that only intrigues you it has to be interesting for others so you need to do a problem identification and and here I’m very specific it’s not a problem formulation if you formulate the problem we can probably just sit down and formulate a lot of problems today but to identify a problem can take a long time because it requires reading literature and seeing that is actually a real problem so I you know what are you writing about what do you not know about it and what you want your reader to know and care about so it has to be very specific so that you know kind of what would be the great plot to have in the end where do you want to go then under as you go along there may be things call me a new information coming in and you have to change it but you should have some kind of ID or what would be the great plot if I get this plot or if I get this result then my thesis will be good and then you do all the work to get there so and you also have to distinguish between a practical problem and a research problem you know too many researchers at all levels too many researchers at all levels right as if their only task is to answer a question that interests them alone so you have a practical problem that should more you know if you write for a company they may have a practical problem or it may be some some other things but that should motivate a research question so that you can define a research problem and then you can get their research answer and the research answer should be enable you to then solve the practical problem and solving a problem for a company is not necessarily a research it could quite often be just their development so you have to keep in mind that you’re not writing for the company you’re writing your thesis for your degree at DTU and to be specific what’s the difference here you know because there’s a new indifference because if you solve a practical problem you will get an answer and you can get a lot of answers but if they may be very very specific specific and may not be so useful for other people in the long run engineering company often answers problem because they’re asked for specific problems by a customer and that’s what they do but when we do research can be used to answers many future practical questions provided that the problem has been properly identified and the plots have been correct and have the correct parameters on the x axis and the y axis what do i mean by that well if we look at something very carefully we have to look at it from many angles and an over longer time and possibly then you know because answer would be some asking for you know an equivalence ratio of three and a speed of 100 what happens and they go to this but what if they then ask for something here so instead of if we have done the research we can give them a fairly good estimate right away instead of setting out to find that particular point that is missing so if we point a graph that is also some way of doing a sensitivity analysis to see how the trend is and to make predictions so when we get to when you’ve done and get nervous alts you’re gonna write a report and you have a new interesting information and you have an important practical problem and you have answered important question and the report structure people always ask about the templates to me a template for a thesis is extremely extremely easy it is an abstract you know it’s a front page you have an abstract then there’s an introduction that’s chapter one chapter two is experimental setup or numerical method data collection scheme theoretical derivations and number three which is big is results and that’s where you need to start you know along with with this but if you had don’t have the results all of these other things that are before and after gonna be extremely difficult to write and balance off and then you go have discussions and perspectives and a conclusion and possibly some future work and references chapter one two three four five that’s a very standard and will always work and then you have references and here it’s important to look at citations to get the most current papers citations means people who have referred to that article so if you have a paper from 1982 it may have a lot of citations which will bring you forward in time because if you just look at the references that will bring you further and further back in time until you get back to in the 1700s if you do really thorough research or somebody has done work on it for so long but try also to look at the citation so you get up to what is happening in April April and May 2015 to stay current when you do write there are some key writing tips one is topic sentence a topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph and the toya and there’s a link here and that topic sentence should inform the reader you know in a direct way what is this paragraph about if I want a speed read I could read the further I should be able to read the first sentence and silver see okay this paragraph this is key I have this information this otherwise if you take them all you know if if you have seven different things in one paragraph it may also be very difficult to follow your logic use transition words you know as a result therefore consequently you know to drive the logic of your writing both within the paragraph but also between paragraphs there should be no surprises in the text you’re not writing a crime novel tell everybody on in the first page you know which or second page which this the abstract who the who was the murderer there’s no point in hiding it they are interested in knowing exactly what you did and what you find the report goes in detail to explain them that but the abstract is where they want to figure out whether they want to read more so tell them who killed whom you know was it the professor in the billiard room with a pistol if you played clue arrow or clue and think of who your audience is and it’s not your supervisor it’s not just the external reader it’s a more general audience of somebody at your level with some previous knowledge on the thing if you go too much in detail too simplistic you’ll bore people you may even offend people because they’re like why am I reading this do they think I don’t know this this is you know do they think I’m stupid so that and if it’s too difficult people will not be able to follow and then does not appreciate what you’ve done and on on simple things also get the units and the format right and and and use a formulas here is something from NIST a link on how you units and and writing them in the text and displaying it create clear figures and figures with a caption this is a figure caption this is the text that goes with it and every figure should be introduced in the text so if you get to it I happened for a student of my reason this oh I feel that I don’t really properly introduce all of my figures in the text and as I well possibly you have too many figures because they’re not becoming relevant they’re becoming irrelevant for the logic in the text so if you have just figures there because you have them you can put them in in appendix or maybe you can combine them to a master plot that makes them relevant and it should be a number but it is also a text so if people again want a speed read they could look at the figure and get the information just by looking at the figures so when it comes to words of wisdom and followed by some practical information this is all and some of the previous is also by a book craft or research in a very small print from Amazon it may be worthwhile about ten dollars it costs I and don’t quote me on this but sometimes you can find this type of PDFs if you google closely I don’t know you know words of wisdoms from people that are written before you will struggle with your project if you do not know what readers look for in a final report go into archives look at previous reports what do they look like was a good report ask some friends you have you have a previous report ask your supervisor do you have a report from a previous student that I can look at and you should not think you should think of your project not a solitary work but as conversation with sources whose work you read and with those who will in turn read your work so that is referencing and putting it in context and no place is filled with imagine more imaginary voices than a library or lab ie don’t dig a hole and be just yourself discuss with your friends discuss with your supervisor ask librarians for help bring in you know friends even if they’re you know if your friend is writing in it a TTU compute you will most likely have some similar of type of obstacles and experiences so you can share a cross it doesn’t have to be topic specific but don’t think that oh I’m the only one in this situation and then sometimes new data alone are enough to interest the write readers but if you hope to write something that is really good it’s not you know very few can just have this is the plot and I write forth pages and that’s golden that could happen if you had some result that was noble price worthy unfortunately for civil engineering the number of Nobel Prizes are very low in our field so so it has to be elaborated on and so don’t think that one single result will solve all of it and if a writer asked no specific question worth asking he/she cannot offer a specific answer worth supporting so again you have to have the story straight and identify the problem you cannot use specific IDs that is plagiarism but what you can do is you can always again look for inspiration in papers and assimilate to their logic people’s logic and the way things have been done you know my research method can always be copied as long as you get new results and it’s very smart to look at what others have done because then you again secure yourself against a single failure mode because you have something that people have done I think it’s known to work whether it’s experiments or numerical methods and it’s not research when you uncritically summarize another person’s work so again try to move on from this classic learning we had in in grammar school about summarize a novel or summarize some work to referencing at the Masters level you’re supposed to reference you’re supposed to be aware of Waters alders have done and put yourself in context to that and refer to it instead of reiterate what they have done it can be a very short sentence Peterson and his co-workers showed that the beam will fail at such-and-such loading parentheses a number and that supports your argument however my result shows and then you have an argument going you don’t have to write or paraphrase their whole paper and use their figures to get there just say it’s been done the interested reader can go and find it themselves and beginners typically offer too little evidence they think they prove a claim with one question a one quotation one number or one personal experience and that’s the one very important thing an example is not evidence even though journalists think so it’s very you know we have to think of in in a journalists view point of view they call up an expert and they Eve if the person is not even an expert they’ll name them to come an expert so that they can do their job easily and say oh I found an expert who says this and then they say yep that’s that solved and then everybody reads it and it can take a long time to to clean that up for us we need more than just an example or more than just somebody statement because that could be completely causal instead of supported information you also have to manage the unavoidable problem of inexperience for most of you it’s going to be the first and only time you write a master thesis except that you know that’s just the way it is and you all be anxious when you start and its new and it’s difficult but know that uncertainty and anxiety are natural and inevitable those feelings do no signal incompetence only in experience something we’ve not done before is new and it’s not necessarily that oh I don’t I’m not good at this it’s just that you haven’t done it so get control over your topic by writing along you don’t write your thesis in the last two weeks I’ll get back to that break the task into managed manageable steps count on your advisers to understand your struggles we want you to succeed and then you can expect our help and you should expect our help and you should really ask us for your for our help set realistic goals and most important recognizes struggle for what it is it’s a learning experience you’re still in training and if you continue in school you’ll do a PhD and you’re still in training so accept that and and and the moment you accept that is easier to go down instead of saying oh I should know this no it’s the first time so how do we proceed with this the master’s thesis is the final assignment of the master’s course at EQ and what does it mean to be the final that means that you’re sure before it was written that you had to have at least 55 is a test point now it is that you have it has your final assignment meaning that you can take a course in parallel with it but you cannot start it before you’re at the very end of your coursework and then you find the subject area of interest in on-campus Nets you can find we put things in the folder for the civil engineering where I’ve writing the messages to you in that campus net group there are project catalogs but the different sections at DTU civil engineering also have their project catalogs that are more or less updated but give you an ID or what’s what people are doing and then you contact the supervisor within that area research it could be d2 civil engineering mechanical management environmental space what you know it could be any and discuss with the perspective supervisor if collaboration with the company is relevant or if you work in a company you can go that way and say I want to work and do something there and then you contact a DQ supervisor either way you always need to have a DQ supervisor so finding your project is a process so in my case if you you know I’m interested in fire safety so if you were were to be interested in fire safety you could say oh I’m interested in fire safety oh there’s a guy I took a class with him or her and say oh yeah this guy I wonder what he’s doing and then you can go into DTU orbit or something and look what I’m doing a lot of different things and then they say oh this this one is what I’m interested in our material flammability in microgravity yeah that that’s really sounds interesting and I saw this guy on the front of the DTU newspaper that project I want to be part of that and then you go it’s like a talk with me and you say oh well let me read a call a few things because the picture was really cool and the title sound cool but I don’t know really you know is this really something that I’m interested in to do so maybe took it take a look at the papers that are written or that seem relevant and then you go back in and because typically within that sphere the you’re gonna be working on a very small part of that again and and that’s how it goes you know so it goes from very global specific back and forth into identify a small problem and this is thanks to Jakob AG Johansen a former student who who also helped with this so how do you select the supervisor you know most of us want a great supervisor so why not take one that you think that you like or that you know that you like from courses or previous projects bachelors so on so forth you know good teachers professors that made an interesting talk interesting research area but keep in mind that the good teacher may not necessarily be a good researcher you know because scholastic aptitude and research aptitude are two different things you know look at their home page look into their research their publications their research group their previous supervision if this works you know then you can go in and and you see DTU here and it says publication project activity CV that you use you can see what’s going on with the supervisor to see whether they what they have going seems to be interesting or whether that was something that was just a perception on your side and how do you approach a potential supervisor well write an email knock on their door you know it’s a date process and and try to figure out the game but it’s not very difficult just open your mouth or or all right but when you write an email show that you have thought something about it don’t come in right to ten people like I need to write a thesis and I should preferably work starting tomorrow puts an intravenous thesis into here so that I could survive for the next half year on my ass you know be proactive be be inspired know to tell them who you are and where you know the supervisor from which courses have you taken and how did you apply how did it approximately go what do you want what do you want and to do and why do you ask this supervisor the supervisor yeah so the project start what kind of bachelor thesis did you write what kind of special course have you taken you know possibly ask do you have available projects or suggestions can we meet it’s okay to shop around but not too much and do not skip the project in the last moment that’s very bad for you but it’s also bad for a supervisor because they may do some planning it may be some arrangements financially preparing for things so it’s not great to two days before and say oh actually I talked with five people and now I wasted their time and I decided this guy at the last minute you know be open about you know you can be open that I’m that you’re looking but at some point try to narrow it down and that’s why as we will get back to that we have certain deadlines for this process due diligence you know do the research for the project selection it’s the project a part of a larger research project that’s typically a plus is it possible to be cool supervisor by PhD student that’s certainly very good because then you have somebody to work with you know directly is it realistic to write a scientific article that could be that you write something and go to a conference that’s a great experience it’s also fun it’s also a good way to see a part of the world typically by somebody paying for you to go to Korea or San Francisco or wherever the conference may be what kind of supervision can you expect you know be directs like are you too busy are you available can I get a separation from you how much how many students do supervisor have if it’s if he has 42 being number 43 may not be so ideal you know can you get some articles describing the portrait background are the necessary data in place and can you get them are there experimental rig and the needed equipment in material in place you know if you’re gonna do experiments ask to come and see the lab see what’s going on sometimes you will also dare say that that kind of that looks not like me you know the more you get into it you’ll sort of get a feel for for what is you and what is not you dos TT you have the neither program licenses if you’re doing numerical work it’s very important because it can take a long time or they can be exceedingly expensive and how much manual work is expected as I said it’s the report that matters so if you’re gonna go out and create two hundred and sixty-seven beams that takes you four and a half months to do how you’re gonna have time to write you know you’re not the labor we have support by technical assistant personnel that should be able to support you in building things in general so expect that and check that there are resources for that both financially and in in in ours and you can always also if you plan ahead you can write your thesis abroad probably a third of the students that I’ve supervised have written thesis in Australia UK the US and Norway so it is possible but it takes typically a bit more planning so what’s the timeline for all of this well clock is ticking if you’re gonna write in the fall you know because about three to six months before starting the project think about topics that you find interesting do you want to write with a company and typically no later than three months before anticipate starting date which is now with the new rules first of August so that means about this timeframe that you should establish contact with a relevant supervisor and then about one to two months before anticipate starting date start working on the project formulation find the starting date with your supervisor you know but now the nudity rules about starting dates it’s the first working day of January or the first working day of August so it’s very simple in that sense and if you have activities that are in parallel you can get an extension but those are by default two starting dates and that will by default give you an end date because there’s no vacation during the thing if you write a five easy test point course you will write if you write for 30 points it’s five months if you write two thirty two and a half points it’s five and a half months and if you write 35 points which are the three options you write for six months and the system will automatically give you the end date so there’s no fixing around on that and I expect you to go in and read the study database on the things the constraints the Lea you know the constraints of your education that are given by DTU for it and then about one month before the anticipated starting date submit the signed project registration form electronically and it’s written on the webpage the form is is available and Mariana is very happy to receive them and it’s also very happy to receive them when they’re ready and in due time because she cannot process sixty forms in one day and especially not the day before August first because she may be on vacation so keep in mind that one thing is you’re planning but it’s also you’re using a system that needs to assist you so the link is here the form has to be completed and approved before you start your project you not start your project before the project has go being complain and all of them go through me or through Christian where we look whether you know particularly some of the details Mariana look at technique technical things writing in English which is mandatory and and all some other things titles and so on so forth and Christian right try to look at the probe the problem identification to see whether this makes sense and technically what we most look at is where it falls within the education you’re in because we trust your supervisors to define a pro you know a proper project but sometimes it happens that somebody is like oh I want a right in their DTU environmental engineering about bird watching in the future and it was like well but you’re getting a degree in civil engineering I don’t think that topic will really fit with us giving granting your degree so so do all of these things no vacation English and describe it in detail you know tell us whether it’s going to be experimental numerical or theoretical because one thing you know telling us but if you don’t know the day you start whether it’s gonna be numerical or experimental that’s gonna delay your process you know and the project process learn about the topic literature search starter start a report from day one you know as a reference manager I sorry I if you don’t know how to use a reference manager the DTU library has courses on how to use this it’s very very beneficial to to use this write the introduction and problem statement very early and as you can find in the study database at at the latest three weeks after project start technically the rule says that your project statements should be put as it was written after a month should be included in your thesis and this is for you know you can say oh what is this another constraint but this is actually should be for your benefit because that can tell the external reader the sensor whether the project was poorly defined and and took you through turns and twists that were making it very difficult for you to work so see it can you know help you in in showing what you were told that you should do and what you’ve actually done and do not start coding Welding mixing experimenting before your problem statement is clearly written because then you’ll just do a lot of experiment a lot of manual work and not necessarily know whether it’s gonna pay off and the project completion it’ll be ups and downs you’ll have a good meeting and then afterwards or you prepare for meeting you have the meeting and then their supervisor tells you that yeah that doesn’t work and then you go back and you go up and up and then and then your PhD defense or your masters defense in this case and then you realize you just gave a 20-minute talk of three you know six months or five months of work and and there were only three plots presented that was actually not just introduction and pictures that you found related to the topic and you feel maybe uh but it is important to keep in mind there will be ups and downs so just prepare prepare for it and accept it and there’s a key thing it’s the importance of getting started and that is we’ll all be very resistant to doing something that we haven’t done before and we’ll listen and the supervisor tells you get started and you’re saying yeah and then you consider it and this is the Boyan and then you get to the willing to do doing and glad you did and you may continue to do but it’s you are in the center of this we can try to help you but we will not drag you in the ears to do your thesis as supervisors you’re you know adults and are expected to take care of this yourself but just earlier you start the better it is don’t do this classic you know this is the student knowledge and this is the project timeline in percent don’t do this studying for exam thing that where you the day before the exam you get all the knowledge you have and you get maybe you know possibly you get the good results but in this case try to do a different trajectory because so that you get to a high knowledge as quick as possible because refining this knowledge will be take some time but the key is also is this line here this is the supervisor buy and so on until you get to a certain level of knowledge and information it’s not going to be that interesting for your supervisor because they probably don’t similar projects before and they’re interested in something that can lead to a publication that can lead to new knowledge so you have to try to get to that point and the reward is if you get to that point you get longer time to discuss with your supervisor and you can for sure expect to get more and more of his or her time to discuss the project and a very important thing to remember the greatest solely based on your written work the report no matter how nice you are how much data you gather how much manual work you’re done it’s the documentation and written presentation of all that counts and in the end good planning gives a good result so that was all that that I had we will take questions Mariana is here also Goldman may or may not be here for for a few minutes if you don’t know pare hist Institute student and the study council the head of the study council at DTU big and and also Christian in the back it has been recorded we’ll share the slides so hopefully some of those details can can be used and if you have further questions don’t hesitate to contact us and as the last thing that I would say is obviously good luck in the process prepare well but also if you were to have a problem during the thesis that you feel is unfair something is unfair we are also there for you then contact us to discuss do you need extra time is something going on in your personal life or something going on something breaking down in in the lab where you need extra time or your needs at least somebody to talk with come and talk with us and but don’t wait until two days before the thesis is due because then it’s very tough for us to justify that you as a project leader of your master thesis have planned it we you know we’re not there to sign off something and and vouch you out we’re there to assist you so if you see something that may cause problems do contact us and we’ll do the best to steer you in to a successful completion so good luck

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