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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Explain Potentiodynamic Polarization Curve & its Relation to Passivation of Behaviour of Metals

The concept of passivation has been mentioned earlier in this discussion without a more profound discussion of the characteristics of the phenomena. Passivity is a condition found in some metals and alloys that are capable of resisting corrosion due to the formation of a surface film. These films form under strongly oxidizing conditions or high anodic polarizations. This definition excludes metals possessing a simple barrier film with reduced corrosion at active potential and small anodic polarization. Also, it should be pointed out that insoluble compounds formed by dissolution and re-precipitation are less tenacious and less protective than oxide films formed in situ at the metal surface. This is an exceedingly important characteristic found in several structural metals such as iron, chromium, nickel titanium and aluminium, and its respective alloys being the most noticeable example that of stainless steels.

Figure 1 – Schematic polarization diagram displaying transitions from active corrosion to passive behaviour and to the transpassive state


Metals and alloys that exhibit passive behaviour display a very distinct evolution on the Evans diagram, as exemplified in Figure 1 above. As the potential is increased from the corrosion potential, so the current increases according to normal dissolution behaviour until a critical value (icrit). This point also defines the beginning of stability for passive films, which occurs at potentials higher than Epp (primary passive potential). Beyond this point, the current measured can fall several orders of magnitude to a residual current (ipass). At higher potentials (Et) breakdown of the passive film might occur with an increase in anodic activity, as the metal enters the transpassive state. As always, for self-passivation to occur there must be a cathodic reaction with a nobler potential relative to the anodic reaction and, in this case, superior also to Epp.



One of the strategies employed in the protection of metals is the anodization process. By applying a potential in the passive state (between Epp and transpassivation), and choosing the right media and applied current, it is possible to grow very thick oxide layers to protect the metal surface from oxidation. This constitutes one of the most used techniques in the protection of aluminium alloys. There are several models that try to explain the formation and structure these oxide films; however, much is still uncertain. There are two basic theories: the crystalline oxide model and hydrated polymeric oxide model.


In the crystalline oxide model, as the name implies, passivation depends on the formation of an oxide/hydroxide layer. The exact structure of the oxides is very uncertain and seems to vary from crystalline all the way to completely amorphous. The oxides may contain oxygen and/or hydrogen under several different forms (H+, OH- or H2O), and the number of layers may change according to specific systems as well as the stoichiometry of the oxide.


In polymeric model, on the other hand, water molecules have an important role in passivation as they connect chains of polymeric oxide, whose structure varies from partially crystalline to amorphous.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

How to measure grain size using ImageJ software

copy & paste from http://osdir.com/ml/java.imagej/2006-04/msg00010.html


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anneliese writes,

>
> Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2006 14:46:34 +0200
> From: Klughammer GmbH
> Subject: ImageJ and Metallography
>
> Dear users,
>
> has anybody already made some experience with ImageJ and metallography?
>
> I am looking for
>
> - grain size measurement
> - graphite morphology
> - nodularity measurement
> - particle size distribution
>
> Anneliese
>
And Noel replies.
Refer to the following books.
Computer aided Microscopy by John Russ,
Quantitative Stereology by E. E. Underwood,
and the paper by D.C. Sterio 1984 Journal of Microscopy. (the unbiased
estimation of number and sizes of arbitrary particles using the disector, J
microscopy. 134, 127.

Grain size measurement in metallography proves to be difficult because it is
usually next door to impossible to produce a perfect polish and etch which
reveals all boundaries with sufficient difference to the matrix.
Thus thresholding will be incomplete.
Once you have perfect boundaries, then life is easier.
By perfect boundaries I mean black boundaries on a pure white background.
You may measure grain sizes using all three methods easily.
Linear intercept,
Triple point counting,
And area measurement.

Here are some formulae which are commonly used. (From Russ. J.C. Computer
Assisted Microscopy, Plenum Press 1990, isbn 0-306-43410-5.
P 225.
ASTM grain size G
Using intercept method

G=(-6.6457Log[base10](1/PL))-3.298

Where PL is the number of points per unit length, measured in millimeters.

Or if you measure areas of the grain bodies,

(From Russ. J.C. Computer Assisted Microscopy, Plenum Press 1990, isbn
0-306-43410-5.
P 225.
G=(3.22 Log[base10](NA.M^2))-2.95

Where NA is number of grains per unit area on a polished surface at a
magnification M.

If you count the nodes where triple points are then G is got from
(From Russ. J.C. Computer Assisted Microscopy, Plenum Press 1990, isbn
0-306-43410-5.
P 147.

G=(log[base e]((Nodes/2)-1)/Area)/(log[base e](2)) -2.95.

Some investigators have found it quicker to produce a photo, and to trace
the boundaries out manually using a transparent film and a felt pen. The
resulting drawing is then scanned into the computer and processed in ImageJ.
This will be black and white and easily thresholded into a perfectly
segmented binary image. Such an image is the ideal to which your preparation
must aspire.

Otherwise it may be more time consuming.

If your specimens are suitable, and your etching superb, then
it may be possible to produce a perfect image via the image processing tools
in ImageJ.
Techniques to investigate include, thresholding, subtract background, find
edges, skeletonize, erode, dilate, open, close, watershed and so on.
Also useful may be techniques which differentiate between rough and
smooth, or surfaces with different textures.
Each type of material will have its own behaviour, and you must discover
this for yourself.

I have just talked about grains here.
The particle size distribution will be more straightforward, so long as the
particles are easily discriminated from the matrix. Just be careful that the
smallest particles you need to measure are "larger" than the resolution
limit.
The analyze particles menu in ImageJ will be what you use here.

And for Graphite morphology and nodularity, I have no experience.
But I am sure the methods to be used will have the parameters you need and
these will easily be employed in a macro.

Regards
Noel Goldsmith

Noel Goldsmith
Aircraft Forensic Engineering
Air Vehicles Division
DSTO
506 Lorimer Street
Port Melbourne
Vic 3207
AUSTRALIA
Phone (613) 96267538
FAX (613) 96267089
Email noel.goldsmith@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, September 13, 2009

1 day training session on our new stereomicroscope & metallurgical microscope

Salam & selamat sejahtera,

Dear colleague, brothers & sisters

Please plan to be at the 1 day training session on our new stereomicroscope & metallurgical microscope (basic unit) that will be held on
Date:   16th September 2009 (Wednesday)
Time:   10.00 am
Place: Makmal Kubang Gajah (MBG2).

A very experience application specialist from Crest Systems (M) Sdn Bhd will be the speaker and he will share his knowledge on microscope instruments, application using stereomicroscope & metallurgical microscope in material/ metallurgical research and other fields, basic/ advance techniques image analysis and etc.


The topic of training basically covers
i)     Streomicroscope (OLYMPUS SZ61TR) – low power scope
ii)    Metallurgical microscope (BX51M) – high power scope
iii)   CMOS Digital Camera (Moticam 2300)
iv)   Basic Image Analysis (Image + 2.0 & Image Adv.)
§         Counting particle and measuring function (linear, area, angle, perimeter, etc)
§         Multilayer version  of the same image (each focused at a different position, can be combined produce a single focused image)
§         Image Calibration

Who knows, some of these systems and equipment may be able to solve problems at our lab session, or provide good tools for metallurgical/ materials teaching subject or furthering your R&D activities. Hope to see you there.
Thanks

Note: Postgraduate students or research asst. are also invited

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A suggested thesis structure


The list of contents and chapter headings below is appropriate for some theses. In some cases, one or two of them may be irrelevant. Results and Discussion are usually combined in several chapters of a thesis. Think about the plan of chapters and decide what is best to report your work. Then make a list, in point form, of what will go in each chapter. Try to make this rather detailed, so that you end up with a list of points that corresponds to subsections or even to the paragraphs of your thesis. At this stage, think hard about the logic of the presentation: within chapters, it is often possible to present the ideas in different order, and not all arrangements will be equally easy to follow. If you make a plan of each chapter and section before you sit down to write, the result will probably be clearer and easier to read. It will also be easier to write.

Copyright waiver
Your institution may have a form for this (UNSW does). In any case, this standard page gives the university library the right to publish the work, possibly by microfilm or other medium. (At UNSW, the Postgraduate Student Office will give you a thesis pack with various guide-lines and rules about thesis format. Make sure that you consult that for its formal requirements, as well as this rather informal guide.)

Declaration
Check the wording required by your institution, and whether there is a standard form. Many universities require something like: "I hereby declare that this submission is my own work and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it contains no material previously published or written by another person nor material which to a substantial extent has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma of the university or other institute of higher learning, except where due acknowledgment has been made in the text. (signature/name/date)"

Title page
This may vary among institutions, but as an example: Title/author/"A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Science/The University of New South Wales"/date.

Abstract
Of all your thesis, this part will be the most widely published and most read because it will be published in Dissertation Abstracts International. It is best written towards the end, but not at the very last minute because you will probably need several drafts. It should be a distillation of the thesis: a concise description of the problem(s) addressed, your method of solving it/them, your results and conclusions. An abstract must be self-contained. Usually they do not contain references. When a reference is necessary, its details should be included in the text of the abstract. Check the word limit. Remember: even though it appears at the beginning, an abstract is not an introduction. It is a résumé of your thesis.

Acknowledgments
Most thesis authors put in a page of thanks to those who have helped them in matters scientific, and also indirectly by providing such essentials as food, education, genes, money, help, advice, friendship etc. If any of your work is collaborative, you should make it quite clear who did which sections.

Table of contents
The introduction starts on page 1, the earlier pages should have roman numerals. It helps to have the subheadings of each chapter, as well as the chapter titles. Remember that the thesis may be used as a reference in the lab, so it helps to be able to find things easily.

Introduction
What is the topic and why is it important? State the problem(s) as simply as you can. Remember that you have been working on this project for a few years, so you will be very close to it. Try to step back mentally and take a broader view of the problem. How does it fit into the broader world of your discipline?

Especially in the introduction, do not overestimate the reader's familiarity with your topic. You are writing for researchers in the general area, but not all of them need be specialists in your particular topic. It may help to imagine such a person---think of some researcher whom you might have met at a conference for your subject, but who was working in a different area. S/he is intelligent, has the same general background, but knows little of the literature or tricks that apply to your particular topic.

The introduction should be interesting. If you bore the reader here, then you are unlikely to revive his/her interest in the materials and methods section. For the first paragraph or two, tradition permits prose that is less dry than the scientific norm. If want to wax lyrical about your topic, here is the place to do it. Try to make the reader want to read the heavy bundle that has arrived uninvited on his/her desk. Go to the library and read several thesis introductions. Did any make you want to read on? Which ones were boring?

This section might go through several drafts to make it read well and logically, while keeping it short. For this section, I think that it is a good idea to ask someone who is not a specialist to read it and to comment. Is it an adequate introduction? Is it easy to follow? There is an argument for writing this section---or least making a major revision of it---towards the end of the thesis writing. Your introduction should tell where the thesis is going, and this may become clearer during the writing.

Literature review
Where did the problem come from? What is already known about this problem? What other methods have been tried to solve it?

Ideally, you will already have much of the hard work done, if you have been keeping up with the literature as you vowed to do three years ago, and if you have made notes about important papers over the years. If you have summarised those papers, then you have some good starting points for the review.

If you didn't keep your literature notes up to date, you can still do something useful: pass on the following advice to any beginning PhD students in your lab and tell them how useful this would have been to you. When you start reading about a topic, you should open a spread sheet file, or at least a word processor file, for your literature review. Of course you write down the title, authors, year, volume and pages. But you also write a summary (anything from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages, depending on the relevance). In other columns of the spread sheet, you can add key words (your own and theirs) and comments about its importance, relevance to you and its quality.

How many papers? How relevant do they have to be before you include them? Well, that is a matter of judgement. On the order of a hundred is reasonable, but it will depend on the field. You are the world expert on the (narrow) topic of your thesis: you must demonstrate this.

A political point: make sure that you do not omit relevant papers by researchers who are like to be your examiners, or by potential employers to whom you might be sending the thesis in the next year or two.


Middle chapters

In some theses, the middle chapters are the journal articles of which the student was major author. There are several disadvantages to this format.

One is that a thesis is both allowed and expected to have more detail than a journal article. For journal articles, one usually has to reduce the number of figures. In many cases, all of the interesting and relevant data can go in the thesis, and not just those which appeared in the journal. The degree of experimental detail is usually greater in a thesis. Relatively often a researcher requests a thesis in order to obtain more detail about how a study was performed.

Another disadvantage is that your journal articles may have some common material in the introduction and the "Materials and Methods" sections.

The exact structure in the middle chapters will vary among theses. In some theses, it is necessary to establish some theory, to describe the experimental techniques, then to report what was done on several different problems or different stages of the problem, and then finally to present a model or a new theory based on the new work. For such a thesis, the chapter headings might be: Theory, Materials and Methods, {first problem}, {second problem}, {third problem}, {proposed theory/model} and then the conclusion chapter. For other theses, it might be appropriate to discuss different techniques in different chapters, rather than to have a single Materials and Methods chapter.

Here follow some comments on the elements Materials and Methods, Theory, Results and discussion which may or may not correspond to thesis chapters.

Materials and Methods
This varies enormously from thesis to thesis, and may be absent in theoretical theses. It should be possible for a competent researcher to reproduce exactly what you have done by following your description. There is a good chance that this test will be applied: sometime after you have left, another researcher will want to do a similar experiment either with your gear, or on a new set-up in a foreign country. Please write for the benefit of that researcher.

In some theses, particularly multi-disciplinary or developmental ones, there may be more than one such chapter. In this case, the different disciplines should be indicated in the chapter titles.

Theory
When you are reporting theoretical work that is not original, you will usually need to include sufficient material to allow the reader to understand the arguments used and their physical bases. Sometimes you will be able to present the theory ab initio, but you should not reproduce two pages of algebra that the reader could find in a standard text. Do not include theory that you are not going to relate to the work you have done.

When writing this section, concentrate at least as much on the physical arguments as on the equations. What do the equations mean? What are the important cases?

When you are reporting your own theoretical work, you must include rather more detail, but you should consider moving lengthy derivations to appendices. Think too about the order and style of presentation: the order in which you did the work may not be the clearest presentation.

Suspense is not necessary in reporting science: you should tell the reader where you are going before you start.

Results and discussion
The results and discussion are very often combined in theses. This is sensible because of the length of a thesis: you may have several chapters of results and, if you wait till they are all presented before you begin discussion, the reader may have difficulty remembering what you are talking about. The division of Results and Discussion material into chapters is usually best done according to subject matter.

Make sure that you have described the conditions which obtained for each set of results. What was held constant? What were the other relevant parameters? Make sure too that you have used appropriate statistical analyses. Where applicable, show measurement errors and standard errors on the graphs. Use appropriate statistical tests.

Take care plotting graphs. The origin and intercepts are often important so, unless the ranges of your data make it impractical, the zeros of one or both scales should usually appear on the graph. You should show error bars on the data, unless the errors are very small. For single measurements, the bars should be your best estimate of the experimental errors in each coordinate. For multiple measurements these should include the standard error in the data. The errors in different data are often different, so, where this is the case, regressions and fits should be weighted (i.e. they should minimize the sum of squares of the differences weighted inversely as the size of the errors.) (A common failing in many simple software packages that draw graphs and do regressions is that they do not treat errors adequately. UNSW student Mike Johnston has written a plotting routine that plots data with error bars and performs weighted least square regressions. It is at http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/3rdyearlab/graphing/graph.html). You can just 'paste' your data into the input and it generates a .ps file of the graph.

In most cases, your results need discussion. What do they mean? How do they fit into the existing body of knowledge? Are they consistent with current theories? Do they give new insights? Do they suggest new theories or mechanisms?

Try to distance yourself from your usual perspective and look at your work. Do not just ask yourself what it means in terms of the orthodoxy of your own research group, but also how other people in the field might see it. Does it have any implications that do not relate to the questions that you set out to answer?


Final chapter, references and appendices

Conclusions and suggestions for further work
Your abstract should include your conclusions in very brief form, because it must also include some other material. A summary of conclusions is usually longer than the final section of the abstract, and you have the space to be more explicit and more careful with qualifications. You might find it helpful to put your conclusions in point form.

It is often the case with scientific investigations that more questions than answers are produced. Does your work suggest any interesting further avenues? Are there ways in which your work could be improved by future workers? What are the practical implications of your work?

This chapter should usually be reasonably short---a few pages perhaps. As with the introduction, I think that it is a good idea to ask someone who is not a specialist to read this section and to comment.

References (See also under literature review)
It is tempting to omit the titles of the articles cited, and the university allows this, but think of all the times when you have seen a reference in a paper and gone to look it up only to find that it was not helpful after all.

Should you reference web sites and, if so, how? If you cite a journal article or book, the reader can go to a library and check that the cited document and check whether or not it says what you say it did. A web site may disappear, and it may have been updated or changed completely. So references to the web are usually less satisfactory. Nevertheless, there are some very useful and authoritative sources. So, if the rules of your institution permit it, it may be appropriate to cite web sites. (Be cautious, and don't overuse such citations. In particular, don't use a web citation where you could reasonably use a "hard" citation. Remember that your examiners are likely to be older and more conservative.) You should give the URL and also the date you downloaded it. If there is a date on the site itself (last updated on .....) you should included that, too.

Appendices
If there is material that should be in the thesis but which would break up the flow or bore the reader unbearably, include it as an appendix. Some things which are typically included in appendices are: important and original computer programs, data files that are too large to be represented simply in the results chapters, pictures or diagrams of results which are not important enough to keep in the main text.
© 1996. Modified 2/11/06 Joe Wolfe / J.Wolfe@unsw.edu.au, phone 61- 2-9385 4954 (UT + 10, +11 Oct-Mar).

School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

What is a thesis? For whom is it written? How should it be written?

Your thesis is a research report. The report concerns a problem or series of problems in your area of research and it should describe what was known about it previously, what you did towards solving it, what you think your results mean, and where or how further progress in the field can be made. Do not carry over your ideas from undergraduate assessment: a thesis is not an answer to an assignment question. One important difference is this: the reader of an assignment is usually the one who has set it. S/he already knows the answer (or one of the answers), not to mention the background, the literature, the assumptions and theories and the strengths and weaknesses of them. The readers of a thesis do not know what the "answer" is. If the thesis is for a PhD, the university requires that it make an original contribution to human knowledge: your research must discover something hitherto unknown.

Obviously your examiners will read the thesis. They will be experts in the general field of your thesis but, on the exact topic of your thesis, you are the world expert. Keep this in mind: you should write to make the topic clear to a reader who has not spent most of the last three years thinking about it.

Your thesis will also be used as a scientific report and consulted by future workers in your laboratory who will want to know, in detail, what you did. Theses are occasionally consulted by people from other institutions, and the library sends microfilm versions if requested (yes, still). More commonly theses are now stored in an entirely digital form. These may be stored as .pdf files on a server at your university. The advantage is that your thesis can be consulted much more easily by researchers around the world. (See e.g. Australian digital thesis project for the digital availability of research theses.) Write with these possibilities in mind.

It is often helpful to have someone other than your adviser(s) read some sections of the thesis, particularly the introduction and conclusion chapters. It may also be appropriate to ask other members of staff to read some sections of the thesis which they may find relevant or of interest, as they may be able to make valuable contributions. In either case, only give them revised versions, so that they do not waste time correcting your grammar, spelling, poor construction or presentation.

How much detail?

The short answer is: rather more than for a scientific paper. Once your thesis has been assessed and your friends have read the first three pages, the only further readers are likely to be people who are seriously doing research in just that area. For example, a future research student might be pursuing the same research and be interested to find out exactly what you did. ("Why doesn't the widget that Bloggs built for her project work any more? Where's the circuit diagram? I'll look up her thesis." "Blow's subroutine doesn't converge in my parameter space! I'll have to look up his thesis." "How did that group in Sydney manage to get that technique to work? I'll order a microfilm of that thesis they cited in their paper.") For important parts of apparatus, you should include workshop drawings, circuit diagrams and computer programs, usually as appendices. (By the way, the intelligible annotation of programs is about as frequent as porcine aviation, but it is far more desirable. You wrote that line of code for a reason: at the end of the line explain what the reason is.) You have probably read the theses of previous students in the lab where you are now working, so you probably know the advantages of a clearly explained, explicit thesis and/or the disadvantages of a vague one.

Make it clear what is yours

If you use a result, observation or generalisation that is not your own, you must usually state where in the scientific literature that result is reported. The only exceptions are cases where every researcher in the field already knows it: dynamics equations need not be followed by a citation of Newton, circuit analysis does not need a reference to Kirchoff. The importance of this practice in science is that it allows the reader to verify your starting position. Physics in particular is said to be a vertical science: results are built upon results which in turn are built upon results etc. Good referencing allows us to check the foundations of your additions to the structure of knowledge in the discipline, or at least to trace them back to a level which we judge to be reliable. Good referencing also tells the reader which parts of the thesis are descriptions of previous knowledge and which parts are your additions to that knowledge. In a thesis, written for the general reader who has little familiarity with the literature of the field, this should be especially clear. It may seem tempting to leave out a reference in the hope that a reader will think that a nice idea or an nice bit of analysis is yours. I advise against this gamble. The reader will probably think: "What a nice idea---I wonder if it's original?". The reader can probably find out via the net or the library.

If you are writing in the passive voice, you must be more careful about attribution than if you are writing in the active voice. "The sample was prepared by heating yttrium..." does not make it clear whether you did this or whether Acme Yttrium did it. "I prepared the sample..." is clear.

Style

The text must be clear. Good grammar and thoughtful writing will make the thesis easier to read. Scientific writing has to be a little formal---more formal than this text. Native English speakers should remember that scientific English is an international language. Slang and informal writing will be harder for a non-native speaker to understand.

Short, simple phrases and words are often better than long ones. Some politicians use "at this point in time" instead of "now" precisely because it takes longer to convey the same meaning. They do not care about elegance or efficient communication. You should. On the other hand, there will be times when you need a complicated sentence because the idea is complicated. If your primary statement requires several qualifications, each of these may need a subordinate clause: "When [qualification], and where [proviso], and if [condition] then [statement]". Some lengthy technical words will also be necessary in many theses, particularly in fields like biochemistry. Do not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of brevity. "Black is white" is simple and catchy. An advertising copy writer would love it. "Objects of very different albedo may be illuminated differently so as to produce similar reflected spectra" is longer and uses less common words, but, compared to the former example, it has the advantage of being true. The longer example would be fine in a physics thesis because English speaking physicists will not have trouble with the words. (A physicist who did not know all of those words would probably be glad to remedy the lacuna either from the context or by consulting a dictionary.)

Sometimes it is easier to present information and arguments as a series of numbered points, rather than as one or more long and awkward paragraphs. A list of points is usually easier to write. You should be careful not to use this presentation too much: your thesis must be a connected, convincing argument, not just a list of facts and observations.

One important stylistic choice is between the active voice and passive voice. The active voice ("I measured the frequency...") is simpler, and it makes clear what you did and what was done by others. The passive voice ("The frequency was measured...") makes it easier to write ungrammatical or awkward sentences. If you use the passive voice, be especially wary of dangling participles. For example, the sentence "After considering all of these possible materials, plutonium was selected" implicitly attributes consciousness to plutonium. This choice is a question of taste: I prefer the active because it is clearer, more logical and makes attribution simple. The only arguments I have ever heard for avoiding the active voice in a thesis are (i) many theses are written in the passive voice, and (ii) some very polite people find the use of "I" immodest. Use the first person singular, not plural, when reporting work that you did yourself: the editorial 'we' may suggest that you had help beyond that listed in your acknowledgments, or it may suggest that you are trying to share any blame. On the other hand, retain plural verbs for "data": "data" is the plural of "datum", and lots of scientists like to preserve the distinction. Just say to yourself "one datum is ..", "these data are.." several times. An excellent and widely used reference for English grammar and style is A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler.

Presentation

There is no need for a thesis to be a masterpiece of desk-top publishing. Your time can be more productively spent improving the content than the appearance.

In many cases, a reasonably neat diagram can be drawn by hand faster than with a graphics package, and you can scan it if you want an electronic version. Either is usually satisfactory. A one bit (i.e. black and white), moderate resolution scan of a hand-drawn sketch will be bigger than a line drawing generated on a graphics package, but not huge. While talking about the size of files, we should mention that photographs look pretty but take up a lot of memory. There's another important difference, too. The photographer thought about the camera angle and the focus etc. The person who drew the schematic diagram thought about what components ought to be depicted and the way in which the components of the system interacted with each other. So the numerically small information content of the line drawing may be much more useful information than that in a photograph.

Another note about figures and photographs. In the digital version of your thesis, do not save ordinary photographs or other illustrations as bitmaps, because these take up a lot of memory and are therefore very slow to transfer. Nearly all graphics packages allow you to save in compressed format as .jpg (for photos) or .gif (for diagrams) files. Further, you can save space/speed things up by reducing the number of colours. In vector graphics (as used for drawings), compression is usually unnecessary.

In general, students spend too much time on diagrams---time that could have been spent on examining the arguments, making the explanations clearer, thinking more about the significance and checking for errors in the algebra. The reason, of course, is that drawing is easier than thinking.

I do not think that there is a strong correlation (either way) between length and quality. There is no need to leave big gaps to make the thesis thicker. Readers will not appreciate large amounts of vague or unnecessary text.

Approaching the end

A deadline is very useful in some ways. You must hand in the thesis, even if you think that you need one more draft of that chapter, or someone else's comments on this section, or some other refinement. If you do not have a deadline, or if you are thinking about postponing it, please take note of this: A thesis is a very large work. It cannot be made perfect in a finite time. There will inevitably be things in it that you could have done better. There will be inevitably be some typos. Indeed, by some law related to Murphy's, you will discover one when you first flip open the bound copy. No matter how much you reflect and how many times you proof read it, there will be some things that could be improved. There is no point hoping that the examiners will not notice: many examiners feel obliged to find some examples of improvements (if not outright errors) just to show how thoroughly they have read it. So set yourself a deadline and stick to it. Make it as good as you can in that time, and then hand it in! (In retrospect, there was an advantage in writing a thesis in the days before word processors, spelling checkers and typing programs. Students often paid a typist to produce the final draft and could only afford to do that once.)

How many copies?

Talk to your adviser about this. As well as those for the examiners, the university libraries and yourself, you should make some distribution copies. These copies should be sent to other researchers who are working in your field so that:
  • they can discover what marvellous work you have been doing before it appears in journals;
  • they can look up the fine details of methods and results that will or have been published more briefly elsewhere;
  • they can realise what an excellent researcher you are. This realisation could be useful if a post- doctoral position were available in their labs. soon after your submission, or if they were reviewers of your research/post-doctoral proposal. Even having your name in their bookcases might be an advantage.

Whatever the University's policy on single or double-sided copies, the distribution copies could be double-sided paper, or digital, so that forests and postage accounts are not excessively depleted by the exercise. Your adviser could help you to make up a list of interested and/or potentially useful people for such a mailing list. Your adviser might also help by funding the copies and postage if they are not covered by your scholarship. A CD with your thesis will be cheaper than a paper copy. You don't have to burn them all yourself: companies make multiple copies for several dollars a copy.

The following comment comes from Marilyn Ball of the Australian National University in Canberra: "When I finished writing my thesis, a postdoc wisely told me to give a copy to my parents. I would never have thought of doing that as I just couldn't imagine what they would do with it. I'm very glad to have taken that advice as my parents really appreciated receiving a copy and proudly displayed it for years. (My mother never finished high school and my father worked with trucks - he fixed 'em, built 'em, drove 'em, sold 'em and junked 'em. Nevertheless, they enjoyed having a copy of my thesis.)"

Personal

In the ideal situation, you will be able to spend a large part---perhaps a majority---of your time writing your thesis. This may be bad for your physical and mental health.

Typing
Set up your chair and computer properly. The Health Service, professional keyboard users or perhaps even the school safety officer will be able to supply charts showing recommended relative heights, healthy postures and also exercises that you should do if you spend a lot of time at the keyboard. These last are worthwhile insurance: you do not want the extra hassle of back or neck pain. Try to intersperse long sessions of typing with other tasks, such as reading, drawing, calculating, thinking or doing research.

If you do not touch type, you should learn to do so for the sake of your neck as well as for productivity. There are several good software packages that teach touch typing interactively. If you use one for say 30 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, you will be able to touch type. By the time you finish the thesis, you will be able to touch type quickly and accurately and your six hour investment will have paid for itself. Be careful not to use the typing exercises as a displacement activity.

Exercise
Do not give up exercise for the interim. Lack of exercise makes you feel bad, and you do not need anything else making you feel bad while writing a thesis. 30-60 minutes of exercise per day is probably not time lost from your thesis: I find that if I do not get regular exercise, I sleep less soundly and longer. How about walking to work and home again? (Walk part of the way if your home is distant.) Many people opine that a walk helps them think, or clears the head. You may find that an occasional stroll improves your productivity.

Food
Do not forget to eat, and make an effort to eat healthy food. You should not lose fitness or risk illness at this critical time. Exercise is good for keeping you appetite at a healthy level. I know that you have little time for cooking, but keep a supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. It takes less time to make a sandwich than to go to the local fast food outlet, and you will feel better afterwards.

Drugs
Thesis writers have a long tradition of using coffee as a stimulant and alcohol or marijuana as relaxants. (Use of alcohol and coffee is legal, use of marijuana is not.) Used in moderation, they do not seem to have ill effects on the quality of thesis produced. Excesses, however, are obviously counter-productive: several espressi and you will be buzzing too much to sit down and work; several drinks at night will slow you down next day.

Others
Other people will be sympathetic, but do not take them for granted. Spouses, lovers, family and friends should not be undervalued. Spend some time with them and, when you do, have a good time. Do not spend your time together complaining about your thesis: they already resent the thesis because it is keeping you away from them. If you can find another student writing a thesis, then you may find it therapeutic to complain to each other about advisers and difficulties. S/he need not be in the same discipline as you are.

Coda

Keep going---you're nearly there! Most PhDs will admit that there were times when we thought about reasons for not finishing. But it would be crazy to give up at the writing stage, after years of work on the research, and it would be something to regret for a long time.

Writing a thesis is tough work. One anonymous post doctoral researcher told me: "You should tell everyone that it's going to be unpleasant, that it will mess up their lives, that they will have to give up their friends and their social lives for a while. It's a tough period for almost every student." She's right: it is certainly hard work, it will probably be stressful and you will have to adapt your rhythm to it. It is also an important rite of passage and the satisfaction you will feel afterwards is wonderful. On behalf of scholars everywhere, I wish you good luck!

© 1996. Modified 2/11/06 Joe Wolfe / J.Wolfe@unsw.edu.au, phone 61- 2-9385 4954 (UT + 10, +11 Oct-Mar).

School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

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