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Tips and Tricks for Scientific Papers

With your thesis you have the opportunity to do a research on a specific topic on your own and (compared to the usual homework assignments) on an extensively. At the same time you’ll be able to use all the knowledge gained during you academic studies as well as train scientific methods required to write a paper.

Finding a topic

In order to find a suitable thesis topic, firstly you should first think about your area of interest (e.g. safety of motor vehicles, alternative drives, engine technology, ...) and what type of work you wish to do (e.g. simulation on the computer, literature research, tests, ...). After this you can have a first look at the thesis topics offered at the Chair or have look at the websites of the companies you are interesting in, whether subjects are advertised.

As a matter of principle the thesis is being supervised by a research associate of the Chair, which means that once you have a thesis topic of your liking you can make an appointment to discuss further steps and clarify the thesis outline. IMPORTANT: If you plan to write your work externally in a company, you have to discuss the topic in advance with an associate of the Chair. We do not mentor final theses that were planned and processed without us because we want and have to be involved in the process. The grading of the thesis is done by the Chair and therefore we must ensure that the assigned task is appropriate.

If you are unable to find a topic for the thesis that is to your liking, you can of course come to us with your ideas. Generally it is a good idea to do some research in your area of interest, the state of the art – maybe you already have some ideas on interesting questions which you think should be answered within a scientific context. Together with a research associate it should then be possible to formulate a topic for your thesis.

Formalities

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Support

A research associate of the Chair supervises your thesis. Therefor there will be a few more meetings after the preliminary talk and topic finding.

It is particularly important that you present a time schedule shortly after you start with the thesis. This way you and your advisor can compare your progress to your original plans, making it possible to reveal possible bottlenecks in time.

Layout

Apart from the cover page, there are no rules for the design of the layout. If this is your first major scientific work, then please speak with your advisor. He or she will gladly give you some personal tips. You can download the cover page and some text basic modules here.

Efficient representation

Even for the thesis the following statement is valid: quality instead of quantity. Efficient does not mean to write as little as possible, it mean only to include important and meaningful ideas within the scope of the thesis. Basics without direct reference to the topic and long protocol-similar-reports of experiments etc. are out of place. A common phenomenon: especially after tasks or research that required a large amount of time the writer often feels to highlight these with lots of text, no matter if that is actual useful or not. That is exactly what you should not understand as efficient!

Writing style

Scientific writing differs significantly from other writing forms, e.g. writing a report. To improve yourself there are two important things to keep in mind:

  1. Read lots of scientific literature. By doing so you can get an initial overview on the matter in questions and you will notice – the more you read the more you own writing style will develop / adjust.
  2. Inform yourself accordingly to your deficits and seek advice. The Technical University has developed a guideline for academic writing which you can consult as reference text for questions about writing.

Sources and internet resources

Especially important for a very good thesis is the correct handling of sources. In the bibliography you must show all sources (including pictures) you did use. A guide at www.webwort.de/pro/richtigzitieren.pdf will show you how to correctly quote different sources. It is particularly important that you use the same quotation style throughout the entire thesis and that the reader can find the appropriate work with the help of your information.

Internet resources often have the tendency to disappear after some time, because either the site has been restructured or the content was deleted. If your are referring to such a source please proceed the following steps:

  • Specify concrete link and the date of access in the bibliography
  • Include a PDF of the "printed" website on your CD

CD

The CD that must be included to your final thesis should include the following:

  • The thesis as Word or PDF file
  • A separate summary of your thesis as PDF
  • Wiki article (see below)
  • All pictures used in your thesis with title (named accordingly to the title within the thesis)
  • PDF files of all used internet resources (a pdf print-out of the websites containing the information used for the thesis)
  • Simulation, design files and or scripts that were developed over the course of your thesis

Secrecy

Secrecies or non-disclosure agreements are no longer permitted for final theses of TUB.

Extension

An extension is possible, however this has to be approved by your advisor and the examination chairman (german: Prüfungsobmann). This will only take place if unpredictable circumstances made it impossible to finish your thesis in time, e.g. delays caused by technical defects or temporarily not available licenses for simulation tools.

Final presentation

After submitting your thesis to the examination office, you should make an appointment for the Seminar on current research topics in the field of Naturalistic Driving Observation (usually Tuesdays between 12 and14 o’clock) via our secretariat. Within the scope of the seminar you will give a short 20 minute presentation on your thesis – what was your research question, how did you solve the issue and what were the results? Afterwards the will be a 10 – 15 minute Q&A session.

Grading

The grading of your thesis is up to the university, specifically your advisor and Prof. Marker. In case you have written your thesis externally, your local advisor will make a grade proposal, which we will respect. However it has no liability.

Content

This section is about a complete guide, but rather to raise your awareness for certain points that are different from the usual (homework) assignments, but are particularly important to us. In case of further questions please speak to your advisor.

Elaboration of the scientific/technical problem

Each paper starts with the motivation, thesis, the necessity to work specifically on this topic. It is not your task to work though the problem statement but rather to present your own thoughts on the issue like:

  • How does the problem fit into the big picture?
  • What are your expectations regarding a possible solution (thesis)?
  • What would be the benefit of your solution (e.g. increase of security, simplification of a process, creation of new guidelines)?
  • How is the problem solved using the current state of the art and the actually the necessity to improve the situation?
  • Which further developments would be possible with your proposed method?

Discussion/critical review

The last part of the final thesis is the discussion of the results. It is also one of the most important. Here you should show your ability to assess your results and evaluate them from a critical perspective. It is helpful to take a few steps back and have a long and hard look at your motivation: Was your thesis proved to be correct? Which restrictions apply your results? Should further research be done in this area? Which unpredictable difficulties were encountered? What are the aspects someone using your work should consider to not draw the wrong conclusions? – The quality of your thesis depends largely on the answers to these and similar questions. Even an otherwise very good and extensive work loses its value fi the results are not put into the correct context and assessed accordingly.

Literature review

A literature review is used to get an overview of the current state of the art, to find out what studies have already been made within the scope of your assignment and what results they provided. However it is also necessary if you are for instance using simplifications or assumptions and need to state their reasons or if assumptions need to be statistically substantiated (e.g. statements on accident occurrences).

For this reason it is not only necessary to read on the internet or in standard works, but also to find specialized publications on the topic. Therefore it might be helpful to search for conferences regarding your research area where you may find appropriate publications. The bibliography of every good article also offers additional literature / sources which in turn allow further research on the topic.

For anyone who thinks that literature review is something that can be done “along the way” is mistaken. To become acquainted with the professional world is an important milestone to assess your problem from multiple points of view and to draw the right conclusions. Therefore, the quality of the literature review in the thesis is highly valued.

Independence

This does not mean the independent processing of the task, but the independent thinking and development of solutions. You shall show with your thesis that you can apply previously acquired knowledge on a specific topic, asses it from different angles and that you are able to evaluate the results properly.

Simulation

For tasks that require the simulation of something, you should not underestimate the time required for the single steps along the way.

  1. Prior to the simulation assumptions are made for simplifications – these abstractions need to be justified! Only once you are clear about what and why you omit or simplify certain aspects you can evaluate your results correctly.
  2. During the simulation phase you might be surprised how long even a single simulation can take – depending on the program and complexity this may take up several minutes or even hours.
  3. After the simulation you must evaluate and scrutinize your results critically! With a simulation you can only imitate reality up to a certain point, the level of realistic computation depends largely on your assumptions and simplifications. Therefore it is necessary to remain critical of your results: what is possible with your model, what not, what improvements have to be made?

Trial

Theses with the focus on trials include trials on and with test vehicles (e.g. Vehicle Dynamics, Alternate Drive Systems) as well as experiments on the crash-test facility (Vehicle Safety) or the engine test stand (Engine Technology).
Here applies the same as for the simulation: the trial itself is not the important part of your thesis. The core of your scientific work is to work out:

  • which trial
  • for what purpose
  • by what means
  • what simplifications are made and
  • under consideration of which boundary conditions

should be performed. Assumptions always have to be justified (with the help of sources). After planning you should be able to perform the trial mostly on your own.

Subsequently all results must be critically examined so the limitations are well pointed out and it becomes clear which conclusions are applicable. How do the results apply in terms of the initial thesis? What are possible sources of error and how can these be quantified? Which further trials should be done?

Zusatzinformationen / Extras

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