Analysis Chapters

This working for a living thing is really cutting into my time for other things. On the flip side, it is really nice to be making money again.

We have now gone through all the sections of the thesis but the last two. These are the analysis chapters and the conclusion. One could suggest these are the most important parts of your thesis and the ones your examiners will read with the greatest care. In the analysis section, you show the work you have done. You prove your thesis statement. This part might be long or short. It might contain a great deal of data and charts, or none at all. Your type of analysis will depend on your type of thesis. But all theses contain this section. This is not where you talk about what others have done. This is not where you talk about what you are going to do. This is not where you discuss your methods. This is where you show the research needed to prove your hypothesis is correct (or incorrect). This may be your own field research, statistics, or even research gathered from other sources. But it demonstrates what your thesis is and what problem it solves.

I’ve recently been doing research on business plans. I’ve never had much of a head for business and never written a business plan, but I thought I should have a go at one for my new company. The analysis part of your thesis is like the main section of your business plan: where you say what the business is and why its needed and what it will do for your customers. Ostensibly, this is the integral part of a business plan. Everything else supports this. Just as the rest of the thesis supports the analysis.

It will also be either the first thing you write, or one of the last. This will depend on how your research formulates itself. Sometimes starting with this part makes the rest of the thesis just flow onto the page. And sometimes, particularly if you are still not entirely certain how your data proves your hypothesis, starting with everything else may just lead you – step by step – to your final conclusions. In order to write your analysis chapter you have to understand your data. You have to know what it means and how it relates to your thesis and what it says. You have to know your conclusions.

This makes the analysis section of the thesis very scary. A lot of people procrastinate this part, because they don’t believe they have enough data to prove their case. This is unlikely, but sometimes the data can be overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.

I’ve been there. This is the part of the thesis I wrote absolutely last (other than the conclusion). Before I started it, I still wasn’t certain what format this section would take, how many chapters I needed, or – exactly – what I needed to say. I stewed for a long time, going over the data again and again, trying out different directions, before I realised that the hypothesis I had asked was wrong. Or rather, it wasn’t wrong, I had just asked the question the wrong way. Flipping the question suddenly lined up all of the data and away I wrote!

It might not be that easy for you. It might be even easier. The idea is to have a clear thesis statement, that you set out to prove through data gathering. The data either proves the thesis to be true, or not. Either outcome is valid, particularly in the sciences. But in Humanities, sometimes we get a little carried away with things, and we go off on tangents, and ultimately we realise we have a bunch of data that isn’t useful. You don’t have to use all your data, but having it all can confuse you. Sometimes, weeding out what data is actually useful will take you the longest, but once you have it you will be hard pressed not to shout ‘Eureka!’ and dance about the room.

And from there, it is a case of writing it all up. The analysis chapters don’t have to be formal or grandiose. They are about showing your data and explaining why it answers your thesis question and why that’s important. Be straightforward. Be clear. Don’t use 10,000 words when you only need 5,000. Here is where you need to learn to be concise. Flowery language or more words than necessary are not going to impress your examiners. They want to read this chapter (these chapters) and implicitly understand your entire thesis. If they can’t do that, you have not written these chapters correctly.

So take your time here. Be clear on what you are saying. Discuss it with others. Get others to read it. Focus on saying only what you need to say to prove your thesis. The flowery stuff can be saved for other chapters, like the lit review! [I’m joking, flowery language is inappropriate in any section of the thesis.] By the time your reader gets to this part of the thesis, they want it short and sweet.

 

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