Your scientific work – our personal guide
Even if we love to commit ourselves to topics like “Where is the best schnitzel?” or “What’s the best way to save money in my city?”, we must not forget why you are with us: Because you are a student. At the end of each course or semester, the notorious thesis is due. So today, we will ignore where the cheapest beer is. Instead, we have bundled our experiences and written you a very personal guide for your academic work.
You can expect this, not that
As you know, we have all sat down in the lecture hall and worked our way through at least to the bachelor’s exam. We’ve all racked our brains over what topic is worth devoting so many pages and so much energy to. We all rose to the challenge and walked home with a degree. So one can speak of a certain expertise, from which you should definitely benefit. No, we are not going to tell you the standard structure of a dissertation in this article. We have decided to give you very personal tips along the way.
Jumpstart: Styles, outline and the infamous common thread
If you are studying at a university that does not provide a template for your academic work, you will initially be completely disoriented in front of an empty Word document. The World Wide Web is full of helpful templates.
Tip: If, for whatever reason, you decide to work without a template, we would like to draw your attention to an extremely useful Word function. When you create your table of contents – which you should definitely do very carefully from the beginning – select the option “create automatically”. Headings, subheadings and paragraphs are automatically indexed and you don’t have to torture yourself with annoying page numbers and sequential numbering.
The common thread that you will hear about again and again is essentially the following: Your work should be clearly structured and it should also be clear how you have dealt with the topic. This means your chapters build on each other and don’t stand on their own. At the beginning, however, a rough outline is sufficient, which you should discuss with your supervisor. Smaller chapters usually only arise when writing. To underline the common thread, you can also use introductory sentences to connect the individual chapters.
Digressions, quotations and other stumbling blocks
Speaking of outlines: A clear structure of your work not only helps your future readers, but also you. The deeper you delve into the topic in question, the more often you will scratch or even wander off into another area. Although digressions are not a death sentence – they can even enrich your academic work – but they are a risk. Your outline helps you to always come back to the topic.
Tip: Regular feedback from your supervisor is worth its weight in gold. If he is the unreliable type, your questions can be a little more demanding. In the end, it’s all about your grade. If you work in the dark and rely entirely on your feelings, you may end up with an unsatisfactory result and bite yourself in the ass due to your laziness in asking questions.
After the fact, changes are not only annoying, they can also be immensely time-consuming. Keyword quotes. They should be noted correctly from the start. Find out in advance which citation rules your university prefers. Once you have decided on a method, you should remain true to it throughout the work. In addition, we recommend that you not only cite the author or footnote in the case of a quote, but also enter the source immediately in the bibliography. Your future you will thank you. Nothing is more fatal than a student who thinks: “Oh, I can find that again. I’ll do it later.”
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Last but not least: Formatting and typos
Template or not, sometimes the automatic formatting just doesn’t look nice, to put it mildly. Especially when it comes to indenting words or page breaks, many tend to fiddle around with manual spaces and line breaks. What looks like a successful maneuver at first glance can later become fatal and destroy your entire formatting. So consider accepting the word where it is instead. And we also advise against the mentioned line breaks. For example, if you want to start a new chapter on the next page, it is better to opt for a clean page break.
Of course, you have written your academic work to the best of your knowledge and belief. However, everyone, absolutely everyone, has typos and grammatical errors. Even if you have read your document several times, you are already suffering from what is known as “operational blindness”. However, it’s not too bad. Measure number one: Run Word’s automatic spell checker over it. Stay alert! Word also mistakes many correct words and sometimes even tries to remove half of a sentence.
Before your work goes to the final submission, it should also be carefully proofread by friends or family. If you don’t have any professionals in your private environment, or simply want double security, use Scribbr’s correction service. They go through your work very carefully and you are guaranteed to hand in a flawless result in the end!
In addition, you should definitely think about a plagiarism check, especially for larger works.