Let's revisit the idea of the thesis itself. It is a hypothesis, a conjecture, a theorem. The dissertation is a formal, stylized document used to argue your thesis.
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The thesis must be significant, original no one has yet demonstrated it to be true , and it must extend the state of scientific knowledge. The first thing you need to do is to come up with no more than three sentences that express your thesis.
Your committee must agree that your statements form a valid thesis statement. You too must be happy with the statement -- it should be what you will tell anyone if they ask you what your thesis is few people will want to hear an hour presentation as a response. Once you have a statement of thesis, you can begin to develop the dissertation.
The abstract, for instance, should be a one-page description of your thesis and how you present the proof of it. The abstract should summarize the results of the thesis and should stress the contributions to science made thereby. Perhaps the best way to understand how an abstract should look would be to examine the abstracts of several dozen dissertations that have already been accepted.
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Our university library has a collection of them. This is a good approach to see how an entire dissertation is structured and presented. MIT press has published the ACM doctoral dissertation award series for over a decade, so you may find some of those to be good examples to read -- they should be in any large technical library. The dissertation itself should be structured into 4 to 6 chapters. The following is one commonly-used structure:.
Chapter I, Introduction.
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Here, you should clearly state the thesis and its importance. This is also where you give definitions of terms and other concepts used elsewhere. There is no need to write 80 pages of background on your topic here.
Instead, you can cover almost everything by saying: "The terminology used in this work matches the definitions given in [citation, citation] unless noted otherwise. The progress of science is that we learn and use the work of others with appropriate credit. Assume you have a technically literate readership familiar with or able to find common references. Do not reference popular literature or WWW sites if you can help it this is a matter of style more than anything else -- you want to reference articles in refereed conferences and journals, if possible, or in other theses.
Also in the introduction, you want to survey any related work that attempted something similar to your own, or that has a significant supporting role in your research.
How did you structure your thesis and approach writing it? How long did it take?
This should refer only to published references. The electronic submission process is not yet available for master's theses or undergraduate honors theses. The Registrar's Office and Stanford University Libraries will hold informational sessions to provide assistance to students who have additional electronic submission questions. If you have further questions about electronic formatting, the submission process, or just general issues with submission, come to one of these sessions for assistance.
Bring your laptop computer with you to these sessions. There will be representatives from both the Stanford University Registrar's Office and the Library present to assist you. If you are not submitting electronically, you may schedule a paper dissertation format, or paper submission appointment with the Registrar's Office.
The above slide presentation, produced by Stanford University Libraries in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel, is designed to inform students about copyright issues, in particular the choices and decisions a student faces in the process of submitting a dissertation or thesis electronically.
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