Advice for writing up a PhD thesis and preparing for the viva

Your chemical science thesis - an introductory guide to writing up your research project

Natalie Mansfield (ed)

London, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry 2008 | 16pp | ?25.99 (pack of 10 copies) (SB) (single copies free to RSC members)  ISBN 9781847558978

Reviewed by David Parker

Confronted with the prospect of compiling several years’ research work into a single document of around 200 pages, even the most eager student is bound to wonder where on earth to start.

This well presented booklet aims to provide some basic pointers as to how to go about writing a chemical science thesis, who to talk to and where to find more information.

Clearly in 14 pages you aren’t going to be offered anything other than general markers, in a topic where everyone’s experiences of having gone through the process are slightly different, and where the nature of a student’s research experience can significantly shape how best they should go about conducting the write-up.

Written concisely from the viewpoint of an organic chemist, there is just the right amount of guidance to engage the reader, without getting too bogged down in specifics. The booklet is clearly designed to help its target readers think about the preparation of a thesis in a structured and objective way, reminding them that the way they go about compiling their results is just as significant as the findings.

No booklet, of course, can answer all the questions on such a subjective topic, and can never replace the specific advice of supervisors. However, by accessibly introducing the subject and offering its readers some next steps to take, this is a worthwhile publication that is worthy of prominent placement anywhere that professional chemists interact with their next generation.

The final hurdle - a guide to a successful viva

Natalie Mansfield (ed)

London, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry 2008 | 12pp | ?14.99 (pack of 10 copies) (SB) (single copies free to RSC members) ISBN 9781847558961

Reviewed by David Parker

After at least three years of hard work in the lab, the library and writing-up, there remains just one great unknown separating you from your chemical science research qualification - the viva.

Aiming to unshroud some of the uncertainty surrounding the occasion and prepare candidates for this frequently nerve-racking but essential final assessment, this booklet provides a good first introduction to the whys, whens, whos and hows surrounding the big day.

While of course the discussion that takes place during any viva between a student and their examiners is as specific as the research in the spotlight, this compact and accessible publication encourages candidates to step back from their data and think objectively about the context of their research, the viva’s purpose, the steps involved from build-up to conclusion and how best they should prepare for it.

Though the most important factor in obtaining the right outcome from a viva - the choice of examiners - is out of a student’s hands, the booklet nevertheless offers some valuable general guidance, next steps and further reading, effectively helping to fill a commonly perceived knowledge gap about this important event in a researcher’s development.