How to Write a Case Study

Most good empirical software engineering papers that contain a study follow the same structure for its presentation. As far as I know, this structure was not invented by a single researcher, but developed gradually over the course of many publications.

Professional readers expect your case study to follow this structure, too. The audience that really matters for your publication—your thesis supervisor, his PhD advisor or program committee members—all are professional readers.

The goal of this article is to describe this structure: the basic building blocks of thesis chapters or paper sections that make up case study presentations. Continue reading “How to Write a Case Study”

Thesis Architecture

The outline is the architecture of your thesis. It decomposes your document into components (called chapters) with dependencies between them (called references). As for software, the architecture plays a crucial role for the success of your project.

Since text is hard to refactor (much harder than source code), it is tedious manual work to fix an outline that does not work properly later. Minimize this risk by 1) using a standard architecture and 2) early validation of a prototype (through supervisor feedback). Continue reading “Thesis Architecture”

Which Tools to Use to Write your Thesis?

If you program a new application, choosing the right programming language is critical. Choose Java or C#, for example, and you have free access to state-of-the-art IDEs and thousands of frameworks and libraries. Choose Clou or Panter, and you are on your own.

For a thesis, the choice of tools is far less important. For my own writing and research projects, the big bottleneck is my thinking speed. When choosing tools for your thesis, the goal is thus mostly to avoid waste. Continue reading “Which Tools to Use to Write your Thesis?”

When to Write What?

When you write your thesis, your of level of knowledge of its chapters changes. It increases as you read, implement and experiment. It also decreases, however, as you move on to new parts and your brain throws out old stuff to make room for new stuff.

If you write a part too early, you have to rework later to accommodate for the new knowledge; or delete pages, as you learn that the topic is far less important that you thought two months ago. If you write too late, on the other hand, you need effort to rediscover the forgotten information.

Both rework and rediscovery waste time. Choosing when to write in which form is key to minimize waste. Continue reading “When to Write What?”

How to Spend Your Writing Time Well?

A thesis is made up of several chapters, including an introduction, definitions, related work, proposed solution, and conclusion. You must decide how much time (and pages) to spend on each of them. I call this writing resource allocation.

If this is done poorly, authors will waste a large part of their writing time on chapters that are not central to their thesis; for example, producing bloated definitions or myriad irrelevant technical details. Not only does this distract readers, it also robs authors of the time they need to write their central chapters carefully. Therefore, poor writing resource allocation is a recipe for a bad thesis. Continue reading “How to Spend Your Writing Time Well?”