How to ease the pain

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					How to ease the pain?
Nils Kalstad Svendsen

January 4, 2008

Challenges Structure Documentation of process and setup More pit falls Version control A good master student is a good student

The challenge of writing a master thesis

The master thesis is, for most of the students, the first large scientific work. The students are their own project managers. The expectations are HiG, meaning that the document should be written in accordance with the principles of scientific writing. There is no “How to write a master thesis” or “Master thesis for dummies”, because writing is a creative process. All we can give you are ideas on how to organize your work.

Main challenges

Over the years the main challenge for the HiG master students has been dual: Scientific
Experimental planning. Identification of a mathematical method for processing experimental data. Interpretation of the results.

You are not writing newspaper or magazine articles! A master thesis should be written in rational style.
Extended use of passive voice. Avoid the use of “I”!

Use the style you find in the articles you read.

Are you familiar with statistical methods such as: Simple comparative experiments Experiments with a single factor Analysis of variance Randomized blocks Latin squares 2k factorial design Blocking and confounding ... If not, get informed and see if any of these methods are applicable to the problem you are trying to solve. Try out: Box, Hunter, and Hunter: “Statistics for Experimenters: An Introduction to Design, Data Analysis, and Model Building”, John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 1978. Montgomery: “Design and analysis of experiments”, Wiley, 2005. kompendium.pdf


In order for you to make your thesis readable consult Preferably a style manual such as The Chicago Manual of Style available at our library. Or, better than nothing, some short English style guidelines available from the Internet.

For those writing in Norwegian some recommendations can be found at

Otherwise a good, old fashion, grammar book can/will come in handy!

There are two main styles of citations: By number: “This method was found to be unstable [17]”, or “Knuth [128] explains than when his paper . . . ”. By name and a year: “These results agree with an existing study (Smith, 1990)”. If more than one paper maps to Smith (1990), the papers are distinguished by appending a letter to the year: Smith (1990a), Smith (1990b), and so on. In both cases the list of references should be ordered alphabetically. In the first case the numbering should be done after the list is ordered. Note that when citing by number, it is good style to incorporate the author’s name if the citation if more than just a passing one.


Obey the guidelines given in “Directions for the Master’s Thesis”, available on Obey your supervises structural suggestions (these may differ from one supervisor to another). Generally a master thesis in an applied field contains:
An idea An overview of related work A theoretical part An experimental part striving to confirm the theory Conclusions

Documentation of process and setup

Keep an updated reading list and bibliography. Keep a communication log. Design your experiments carefully, use methods from experimental planning. The design must be documented in the report in order for the experiment to be replicable. What have you done to maximize the significance of you results?

More pit falls
You are short of time. HiG provides a set of milestones. The important milestones are the one you make for yourself.

Commitment Focus Finding easy tasks:
Making a questionnaire is not an easy task. Making a questionnaire which allows you to draw sound conclusions after analyzing the answers is an even harder task.

Use the time while waiting for whatever to write eg state of the art and the theory part. Disk crash!

Version control
What is version control? Version control is file and directory management over time. A tree of files is placed into a central repository. A repository is a file server which remembers every change ever made to files and directories. A time machine! Why use it? Reversion Change tracking Bug tracking In case of collaboration: Avoid overwriting. Handy, not only for programmers who spend their time making small changes to software and then undoing those changes the next day!


Subversion is a free/open source version control system. It provides the needed features of version control. Clients:
Linux: esvn Windows: TortoiseSVN

The project homepage The book “Version Control with Subversion” available on

The good student (as defined by Frode Haug)
Prioritizes studies Works hard Strives for knowledge Is active and engaged Is honest to him- or herself regarding motivation and status. In order to be a good student you should: Plan weeks in general and in detail The one who fails to plan, pans to fail! Be a student from 08.00 - 18.00 Use study, library, group rooms and computer labs actively Keep up with your schedule Work in groups if possible Engage yourself!


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