M.Phil. in Materials Modelling: Thesis Guidelines

H. K. D. H. Bhadeshia

M.Phil. students on this course are required to submit for examination, a thesis, not exceeding 15,000 words in length, including tables, figure legends, and appendices, but excluding bibliography, on a research project approved or prescribed by the Degree Committee for the Faculty of Physics and Chemistry.

Preparation of Thesis

The ability to write a clear, concise and informative report on your work is a very important skill. A good report highlights the essential points and conclusions and is sufficiently detailed and clear to get across a lot of information, whilst being readable and interesting. It should be logically arranged into sections, each section having its own well organised substructure. Avoid ambiguity, repetition or vagueness, as well as lengthy discursive discussion. Look at a few publications in scientific journals and decide which are well presented, what makes them good, and what makes others bad.

Discuss the format for your report with your supervisor, although the exact structure is up to you, and different projects may be best presented in different ways. However, aim to incorporate the following:


Give a summary of the salient features of the project, what you set out to do, and what you achieved, in a few sentences, including summarised quantitative results where appropriate.


A list of symbols, abbreviations etc. is very useful. Make sure that the units you use are consistent and clear, and that you comply with the SI system.


Describe the scientific basis underlying the work you have done. How does your project relate to other work in the field? Summarise the background, but do not overdo the detail; it is essential to refer to the work of others.

Experimental Details

Give sufficient information to allow someone else to duplicate your results. You do not need to dwell on standard experimental techniques, but the source and nature of any materials used should be stated clearly, and any specific experimental or theoretical details should be noted.

You may wish to make raw data available. Summarise the results and/or present them graphically in the body of the report to illustrate trends, but repetition should be avoided. Pay attention to errors in your data.


It is normally appropriate to examine the results in the light of theoretical expectations. Be as objective and constructive as possible in your comments. If there are discrepancies, be prepared to examine both theory and experiments in a critical light. Attempt to relate your observations to those of previous researchers, consulting original sources. Do not be dismayed if your observations are different; try to explain why this may be the case and why the previous work may not necessarily be correct.


Make these concise and specific. Your statements must be justified by the results that you have obtained. Do not report what you think you should have seen and, equally, do not be afraid to present conclusions at variance with current scientific consensus (although in such cases you must ensure that you have examined your data critically and realistically). Remember that reporting a negative result may be significant and useful.


There should be a list of references, in order of appearance in the text, within which they may be conveniently indicated by:


Common Mistakes

  1. There is no excuse for spelling mistakes - use SPELLCHECK .
  2. Inconsistency of notation. Different papers may use differring terminology but when these are discussed in the thesis they must share a common terminology. Difficulties can be avoided by using a master nomenclature list.
  3. There should be a gap after a full stop or a comma.
  4. There are no spaces after an opening bracket or before a closing bracket
  5. Try and include titles in the reference list.
  6. Inadequate referencing.
  7. Left quotation marks are not the same as right quotation in TeX.
  8. There is a thin-space between numerals and units (e.g. 45 MPa). The units themselves are in roman font. Use strict SI convention. For example, there is a gap between MN and mm when writing MN mm. Use exponents: MN mm -1rather than MN/mm
  9. Incorrect or unspecified units of concentration: Fe-10Ni % is not good enough. e.g., use Fe-10Ni wt%.
  10. Experiments are reported in the past tense. For example:
    Length changes are analysed WRONG
    Length changes were analysed CORRECT
  11. Abbreviations must be explained when first introduced (HAZ, TTT ?!).
  12. Fig. 4.2 not Fig.4.2; Table 5.1 not Table.5.1
  13. Terms like "Fig. 4.2" should be on the same line
  14. "Compared with" rather than "Compared to".
  15. Plural of Datum is Data. These data are excellent....
  16. PROGRAMME of work as opposed to computer PROGRAM
  17. The names of chemical elements do not begin with capitals unless at the beginning of a sentence.
  18. All equations, tables, figures must be numbered.
  19. Figures must not be excessively large, and should be included in the text rather than at the end of chapters. The font on scales and legends should be at least size 15 (Geneva) when the figure size is 1/3 of the page length.
  20. It is wrong to write a volume fraction as 20%. The latter is a volume percent.
  21. Diagrams and tables should be included in the text rather than at the end of a chapter.
  22. Mathematical notation is in italics whether it occurs in the text or in equations. Note that terms such as log, exp, sin are nevertheless in roman font even when in equations.
  23. When presenting the results of computer programs, it is important to specify completely the list of inputs used to generate the outputs. For example, it is dangerous to present a calculated phase diagram without specifying all the phases and components accounted for in the analysis.

Figures and Tables

The notation on figures must correspond to that used in the text. There must not be information on figures which is not discussed in the text. Units on diagrams must be SI. Old diagrams with non-SI units must be redrawn. Any diagrams obtained from the literature must be acknowledged even though they may have been redrawn, especially if the intellectual content of the diagram is not significantly modified.

Columns in tables should not be separated by vertical lines. The recommended practice is to omit such lines for clarity.


  1. Appropriate use of references:
  2. Ensure that all the work you have done is included in your thesis; negative results are also useful.
  3. Do your writing as you progress, rather than leaving it to the last minute.
  4. Micron markers should be placed on the micrographs, rather than on the page in the vicinity of the micrograph.
  5. Avoid the use of jargon. Your work should be comprehensible to others in the Department. Examples of jargon: "recrystallisation region", "TMCP", "HAZ".