Tips for Thesis Writing in AG Lai

Page Number Guidelines

There is no categorical rule for the ideal length of a thesis. Each thesis is unique, and there may be good reasons for it being longer or shorter than the typical thesis in the same program. The most important thing is to ensure that the work is documented in a clear and concise manner. The author needs to balance between providing sufficient information to ensure the reader understands what went into the research, and keeping the information succinct.

In addition, putting important plots and key tables in appendices to save space in the thesis proper is not an ideal practice. This just annoys your referees, which then have to flip to the back of your thesis to obtain the necessary information. Nevertheless, Appendices can be useful to put additional plots and information which provide supporting information but are not crucial to the main flow of the thesis document - please use Appendices, but do NOT overuse them!!

General guidelines (for pages not including the appendix) are:

  • BSc Thesis: 30-40 pages
  • MSc Thesis: 60-80 pages
  • PhD Thesis: 110-160 pages

Reasonable deviations from these guidelines are understandable, although if you plan to deviate appreciably from these general guidelines, it it probably a good idea to discuss it with your supervisor!!

Thesis Template of the II. Physikalisches Institut (University of Goettingen)

Please use the thesis template of the institute, which can be found at the internal institute wikipage: Institute Wikipage

Tips on the actual written document

Here are specific points that address common issues that Stan has found in reading theses over the past years.

Acknowledgements / Danksagung

  • please do show your gratefulness to your colleagues, collaborators, and supervisors. Particle physics is never an individual effort, and without close collaboration with others (such as Alessia Murrone wink ), the research is not possible. This is also a nice opportunity to thank your family members and friends outside of physics.
  • Bonus points for including sentences such as "Academia is not for everyone." or "At Lino Gerlach's birthday party..." wink
  • mentioning things like Kira's scariness comes at your own risk wink wink

Theory Chapter

  • you are not writing a textbook. You do need to provide the proper theoretical context for your thesis, but you do not need to derive every theoretical equation/relation from first principles.
  • for those with topics related to the Higgs boson, it is expected that you discuss electroweak symmetry breaking. Please do not write about symmetry breaking in a U(1) toy model. Such a section would be welcome in a course or textbook, but in a thesis, you should focus on electroweak symmetry breaking in the SM group SU(2) x U(1).
  • If you mention Supersymmetry and argue that it provides a good dark matter candidate, please note that this is only true when R-parity is conserved.

Detector Chapter for ATLAS theses

  • please describe both the CERN accelerator chain (up to and including the LHC) as well as the ATLAS detector
  • for the tracking and calorimetric systems, you should explicitly mention the transvere energy/momentum resolutions and pseudorapidity coverages of these systems.
  • you should describe the coordinate system of the detector. You may need to explicitly mention that ATLAS uses a right-handed coordinate system, to avoid ambiguity of the sign of the z-coordinate.
  • Pseudorapidity and rapidity should be defined - note that neither pseudorapidity nor rapidity are NOT a Lorentz-invariant variables. The DIFFERENCE between two pseudorapidity values is approximately invariant under Lorentz boosts in the longitudinal (z) direction. The DIFFERENCE between two rapidity values is invariant under Lorentz boosts in the longitudinal direction.

Conclusions Chapter

  • typically the final chapter, where a summary of the investigations is given, and an outlook on future prospects is described.
  • It is ideal in the final paragraph(s) that you "zoom-out" from the thesis topic, and describe the implication of the thesis in the wider particle physics context.

Figures and Tables

  • All figures and tables need to be mentioned in the text proper.
  • Describe the content of the figures/tables in the text proper, even if the information would be duplicated in the captions. Don't assume that the reader knows the context of the figure/table. The significance/meaning of the figure/table should be explained clearly for the reader.
  • Figures and Tables should appear in the order they are mentioned in the text.

ATLAS Style Guide and Language Usage

  • For ATLAS theses, the ATLAS Style Guide is surely a good source of style conventions to follow
  • Non-ATLAS theses can also benefit from the conventions outlined in the ATLAS style guide
  • Please be consistent in your usage of English: British/Oceanic, American, or Canadian
  • Theses can also be written in German (but then I won't be able to help so much with writing-style)
  • Avoid the active tense if possible, and use passive voice. (usually comes naturally for German speakers)
  • For particles, labels like "Higgs" and "tau" should always modify nouns, and never be the nouns themselves. Therefore, the particles should be written as "Higgs boson" or "tau lepton", for instance.
  • Please, please, please, please use a spell-checker and/or grammar-checker before handing in. Sloppy language usage is quite disrespectful for your referees.

Common Mistakes in English Usage

  • usage of "by" vs. "until", see webpage
  • "lose" vs. "loose" - lose is the opposite of win, while loose is the opposite of tight
  • "separate" not "seperate" - despite the pronounciation

Making clear what your personal contributions are

  • for PhD theses especially, it's sometimes hard to disentangle what contributions were personal contributions from an official ATLAS result, since many official ATLAS results are carried through by an analysis team consisting of many members. One way to make this clear is to add a section in the Appendix where the personal contributions are made explicit, especially if this is not entirely clear from the actual thesis proper.

Special remarks on References

  • Check your references carefully for formatting mistakes and errors
  • This webpage has a few tips on the references/bibliography with latex
  • LHC Collaborations (ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, ALICE) have the convention to list only collaboration and no authors. This convention can also be used for other large collaborations (CDF, D0, OPAL, ZEUS, etc)
    • Please ensure you do not have "A. Collaboration" or "C. Collaboration" or "T.A. Collaboration" as leading author!!
  • If the paper is published, please DO give the journal reference (more important than the arXiv reference).
    • The arXiv reference is no longer necessary if you have a journal reference.
  • Author names should appear as "[First initials][Last Name]". As per ATLAS Style Guide, list all authors up to five authors. If there are more than five authors, then take the leading author and add "et al." afterwards.
  • Weblinks in references in theses should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. If a journal reference is provided, no need to provide the URL.

Helpful Links

-- StanLai - 2020-07-09

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