Whether you want to do a Course Paper, B.Sc. Project, M.Sc. Thesis, Ph.D. Dissertation, or
even Post-Doctoral Fellowship Research, you are about to start a 5-Step Process:
- Step 1: Pick the topic of your research.
- Step 2: Do a background study on the topic.
- Step 3: Do your research.
- Step 4: Conclude.
- Step 5: Present.
And, if you are a beginner, then you are also just about to experience the Joy of Research!
Wonders of the top,
Joy of Research!
Your work is not complete unless you go through all these steps, successfully.
In the first step, naturally, you would not randomly pick a topic! You
would consider a number of not necessarily related topics, possibly make some
comparisons, and then decide on one. By the time you complete this step,
you would gain valuable knowledge on the context of your topic. Your
actual research will be accomplished in Step 3; but you cannot do that unless
you have a foundation based on two requirements:
- Breadth Requirement, extending your knowledge in the context of your topic, fulfilled by Step 1.
- Depth Requirement, deepening your knowledge on your topic, fulfilled by Step 2.
As you see, Step 1 is an important part of the process; and if, as I frequently
hear, you too want to say,
I'd like to do research, but I don't know on what;
would you give me a topic?
you really want to skip an important part of the process.
As long as you are looking for a topic, you are in Step
1 and not ready to start the next steps. You should not let your
supervisor make you skip this part. I certainly will not take away this
part of the process from any student, in any level, that I may supervise.
In Step 4, you make a conclusion.
Step 5 may not look as important, but it is the most significant part of the
process. In fact, a research with great results is of no value, unless it
is presented properly. You have to prepare an oral presentation, using
PowerPoint, and a written presentation, using LaTeX, XePersion. Your work can be as introductory as a
course paper, presentable at your classroom, or as advanced as a full scale
presentable at a national or international conference and/or journal.
Your paper should be organized in 4 sections (or chapters), as follows:
- Section 1: Introduction,
where you talk about your topic, outline some other topics that you have
considered before deciding on this one, provide the process and logic you went
through to decide on this topic , explain how and why you decided to work on
this topic, and present your plan. Describe how you are
going to proceed; you may, for example:
This section should be the result of Step 1, fulfilling the Breadth Requirement,
and it should take about 15%, of your paper.
- Set certain objectives, and present your plan
on how you intend to achieve your objectives,
- State a claim, and present your plan on how you are going
to prove your claim,
- Formulate your work as a problem, state it clearly,
describe the idealistic solution to your problem, and outline
the characteristics of your ideal solution.
- Section 2: Review, where you describe what
has already been done on this topic. This should be a critical
review of any available work on the topic. You must clearly
state the points of strengths and weaknesses of each work being reviewed.
Finally, a comparison of the different reviewed items would give a nice ending to this
section. This section
should be the result of Step 2, fulfilling the Depth Requirement, and it should take about
30%, of your paper.
- Section 3: Research, where you describe your
accomplishments, your findings, the results, and all that you have done on the
topic... This section should take about
40%, of your paper.
- Section 4: Conclusion, where you evaluate
your work and results, compare them with those of the other researchers', and
make a conclusion. You evaluate your work with respect to your
plan presented in the Introduction, and describe precisely which
objective you have achieved and how, which one you could not and why.
Describe precisely to what extent your solution satisfies the ideal solution,
and which characteristics of the ideal solution you could not satisfy and why.
A suggestion regarding the future research directions, by
identifying new research topics, would give a nice ending to
this section. This section should take about
15%, of your paper.
- In addition, your paper should have an abstract of a short
paragraph up to at most one page, and a bibliography of 5
to as many references as needed, proportional with the paper, of course!
Note that your paper will be considered as a
- Research Paper, if the major contribution of the paper is
Section 3. For a research paper, you have to work on all 5 steps
of the process. M.Sc. Thesis, Ph.D. Dissertation,
and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Research lead to research papers.
- Review Paper, if the major contribution of the paper
is Section 2. For a review paper, also called Survey
Paper, you have to work on all steps, but not as much on Step 3, of the
process. Your Course Papers, B.Sc. Project, and M.Sc. Seminar
lead to review papers. M.Sc. Thesis and Ph.D. Thesis
Proposal should provide a strong review of the topic in their Chapter
Thesis does not have to get deeply involved with the new ideas and research
aspects of the topic; it can well be a comprehensive and critical review of the
existing work on the topic with some small ideas, suggestions, and research
experimentations of your own, forming a small section 3. To me, an M.Sc.
Thesis, with Section 3 of as low as 20% and Section 2 of as comprehensive as
50% of the work, is perfectly acceptable. I put an M.Sc. Thesis
somewhere between research and review.
I do, of course, prefer to see it on the research side...
Generally, a good review paper leads to some good research topic, for example:
- In B.Sc. level, a Course Paper should lead you to the topics of
your B.Sc. Project. If this is not the case, then you have
not done your Course Papers properly! In fact, a Course Paper
should make-up a good portion of the Section 2 of your B.Sc. Project.
- In M.Sc. level, your M.Sc. Seminar should lead you to some topics
for your M.Sc. Thesis. If this is not the case, then you
have not done your M.Sc. Seminar properly! In fact, your
M.Sc. Seminar should make-up a good portion of the Section 2 of your
- Similarly in Ph.D. level, your Ph.D. Thesis
Proposal should lead you to some topics for your Ph.D. Thesis.
If this is not the case, then you have not done your Ph.D. Thesis Proposal properly!
In fact, your Ph.D. Thesis Proposal should make-up a good portion of the Section 2 of your
The depth of the work in all 5 steps of the process gets reduced when you come to B.Sc.
Project, and further reduced in the case of Course Paper.
The volume of a paper does not mean much, but just to give an idea, I like to
see a Course Paper in 10, a B.Sc. Project in 30,
an M.Sc. Thesis in 90, and a Ph.D. Dissertation
in 140 pages, ±10%, excluding the programs, simulations, and other appendices.
For My DEAR Students, who are just starting to experience the joy of
research, I have some samples:
- For your Course Paper use
- For your B.Sc. Project use
- For your M.Sc. Seminar use
- For your M.Sc. Thesis use
- For your Ph.D. Dissertation use
- For a General Survey Paper use
- For a General Research Paper in English use
- For a General Research Paper in Farsi use
As a last point, I encourage teamwork by allowing a team of 2 students to do a Course Project;
consequently, a Course Paper is expected to be written by one or two students.
However, a B.Sc. Project, M.Sc. Thesis, or Ph.D. Dissertation is an individual work
and must be accomplished by one student.
See also my Students page,