How to write a thesis

Many of you have just started to write bachelor or master thesis. At this point you should be sure about the scientific content of your thesis. But maybe you are thinking of how to actually write your thesis and present your ideas. Here are some useful hints.

  • The thesis layout is specified by Faculty of Mathematics and Physics rules, please follow them. You can even download a LaTeX template for the thesis. Check also webpages maintained by the supervisor of the study programme “Mathematics”.
  • Do not even think of writing the thesis using other document preparation system than LaTeX. LaTeX is the document preparation system for typesetting mathematics. End of story.
  • Learn how to use citation databases such as Web of Science and MathSciNet. Learn how to export the data from these databases to BibTeX and how to use them in LaTeX.
  • Get familiar with some useful macro packages in LaTeX. In particular amsmath package is extremely useful. User’s guide is available here.
  • Avoid writing your own LaTeX macros! Your are not the first person writing a scientific text. Many high quality macro packages for typesetting things such as tensors, commutative diagrams, chemical equations and so on are already available. Do not waste your time by reinventing the wheel.
  • All scientists are in fact professional writers and storytellers. Get familiar with elements of style for scientific writing. Read at least Elements of Style for Writing Scientific Journal Articles, which is a document prepared by Elsevier publishing house. Maybe you think that the ability to write a stylistically good scientific text is a matter of talent and can not be improved. This is not true. It is a skill as any other and it can be improved by training and practice. The top universities really do bother how their students write and speak, see for example book Writing Science (Oxford University Press) and Science Research Writing: For Non-Native Speakers of English (Imperial College Press).
  • Do not forget to backup your work! Your hard disk drive is certainly going to fail one week before the thesis submission deadline.
  • Talk to your supervisor even about non-scientific issues (thesis outline, layout, language).