Steps for Completing the Research Thesis.

Completing a graduate degree involves a lot of stuff. It is important to get this stuff in the right order. The following lists some of this stuff.


Start by defining the question (with your supervisor's help). If the question is suggested to you by your supervisor, make sure you understand it by reformulating it in terms that make sense to you.
Do a review of what has been done. Identify the issues.
Try out a few preliminary experiments and find out what works best.
  • This is the time to try out variations.
Detail a research protocol and stick to it.
  • You don't want 30 experiments each done differently.
Do the experiments. Have a notebook and use it.
  • Put everything that happens in the note book. It is hard to predict what will be relevant.
  • Review these notes before you go home, making sure that nothing was left out.
  • It is not possible to reconstruct things three months, or often a few days, later.
Analyze each experiment, as you complete it, for feedback. You need this feedback to make sure you are getting things right.
Regularly discuss your progress with your supervisor. It is best to get in the habit of have weekly meetings with your supervisor or as part of a group lab meeting.

When you get into trouble there is a natural tendency not to want to discuss it. You don't want to be the bearer of bad news. But this is precisely when advice is most useful.

Have regular  advisory committee meetings.
  • Do this early, before feedback is too late.
  • There is nothing like explaining things to others for clarifying them in your own mind.
As you complete each study, present it at a scientific meeting and at the same time write it up as a paper and submit it.
  • When is an experiment complete? A difficult question. The answer depends in part on your timeline.
  • But remember that, in the long run, one solid paper in a good journal will be worth more than 5 insignificant papers.
Assemble the papers into a thesis.

Completing Courses and Learning Skills.

Copyright 1995
Tutis Vilis
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
University of Western Ontario
London Ontario Canada

Created 28 Sept 1995
Last updated 10 January 2007
Comments welcome: tutis.vilis@schulich.uwo.ca