Hints for thesis writing

During the project

  • Which question does your experiment tackle? Why is the measured quantity relevant for that question?

  • Write everything relevant and potentially relevant on your experiments into your lab book. Anything might turn out to be important (Sequence of measurements, temperature at which the field was applied, heating in between measurements, he-filling,...)

  • Label samples and always note the batch number of the measured piece (we, e.g.,measured 50 pieces of LaFeAsO of identical nominal composition but slightly and not so slightly different properties)

  • Always plot your results in correct units immediately after measurements.

  • Check the literature and compare your results. What did other people do?

  • Compare your results to what you have expected. As soon as possible.

  • Plan your measurements well but do NOT just follow the same procedure for all materials. Use your physicist's knowledge to seöect the right measurements conditions!

  • If you have something new, unexpected, spectacular... talk with your supervisor

  • Ask your lab mates for help - with the experiment, with practical things, and discuss your results with them.

  • Be prepared to explain you project and your reults in a minute or two.

  • Think yourself (and do not start finding out what other people/your supervisor/the literature) claim to be correct.

  • Trust your data (and if you don't, find out why)

  • Know the error bars!

  • Discriminate "hard" conclusions and interpretation/hypotheses

  • Always know which compound you investigate, the valence of included ions (if relevant), known ordering phenomena and ordering temperatures etc. YOU are the expert of the material under study (but don't expect your supervisor to remember all details)!

  • Similarly, YOU must know the literature!

Start of writing process

  • For Germans, writing in German is usually faster.

  • Collect all publishable data which you have obtained.

  • Talk with your supervisor which data to show and how to organise your thesis.

  • For the theory part: Restrict to the essentials!

  • For the experimental part: Dito. The reader who knows about the device should be able to fully reproduce your work. A thesis is no textbook on devices (exceptions are devices set-up within the project).

  • Only in case of unusual experiments: Describe the setup. And whenever you improved something.

  • When writing a paragraph: Start with the beginning, i.e., observation, and THEN draw a conclusion. Each paragraph may be a small story in itself with begining, middle part, and final conclusion.

  • Cite appropriately! If you make a statement which is not based on your data - provide the reference!

  • If you get a private information on something, cite as "R. Klingeler, private communication."...

  • ... but if published, cite the publication.

  • Be careful with general statements ("all phase transitions are..."). There may be one strange counter example.

  • Proof read your thesis! And find others to do so, too.


Technical issues

  • Use a Latex template from a previous thesis which format you like.

  • Globally define the gap between paragraphs. Use e.g. "setlength{parskip}{0.3 x}". Do not generally use between paragraphs.

  • Use LARGE plots. Your data are the important part of your results. Saving pages is not the aim of your thesis.

  • Figure captions should explain everything in a plot but interpretation of the plot is for the main text.

  • Do not start a chapter with its summary.

  • Chapters start on the right hand sides in a book.

  • Chemical compositions are not italic. It reads: H$_2$O but not $H_2O$.

  • Physical quantities are slanted, units not: $T=300$~K.

  • Our universty's name is "Heidelberg University" or "Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg". Not "U. of H."

PS: This list is motivated by Jürgen Schnack's list (U Bielefeld)!