How to write a successful science thesis: the concise guide for students

How to write a successful science thesis: the concise guide for students 

William E Russey, Hans F Ebel and Claus Bliefert 

Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH | 2006 | 233pp | ?15.99 (SB) | ISBN 3527312986 

Reviewed by David Parker

Anyone who has ever written a thesis or dissertation will tell you about the hard work, steep learning curve and long hours that ultimately went into its creation. Here is a book, clearly pitched at and priced for first-time postgraduate students, which aims to make that process a little less fraught. 

Written by the same team of chemists that published The art of scientific writing  (now in its second edition), it is a volume that more specifically addresses the needs of science and engineering students preparing ’technical’ theses. 

Even within this specific topic, there is a lot of potential ground to cover because theses, as the authors admit, are very individual publications, written to comply with the varying conventions of specific subjects, institutions etc. Despite this potential pitfall, the book manages to cut a path of both relevancy and generality through its subject matter. 

The book’s various sections introduce the purpose and suggested approach to preparing all the standard components of a technical thesis, right through from the lab note book and literature searching to the completed article. In the process, it offers much valuable common sense, objective advice on planning, style, consistency, convention and use of language. The sections covering thesis components such as tables, equations and figures are also welcome, and like the rest of the book, are concisely written, accessible, and feature plenty of examples and exercises for the reader to work through. 

However, despite its grandiose title, this book isn’t a one-stop-shop on how a thesis should be written and should be regarded at best as a valuable supplement to, not a substitute for, building and maintaining an effective working relationship between a student and their supervisor(s). It is perhaps the directly handed-down advice on how to conduct research and structure effective scientific argument that will ultimately decide whether or not a thesis is a success.