Vince/ CroninStudents/ ThesisOutline.html


One quite possible outcome of any student's time in the MS graduate program at Baylor is that no graduate degree will be awarded. The most common reason for this outcome is that the student did not produce an acceptable thesis document. The purpose of this web document is to inform students about various style/organizational conventions that must be followed. Of course, the content of the thesis must represent an acceptable work of geoscience. In order for a thesis to be successful, it must be judged acceptable to the thesis review committee in terms of its form, effectiveness of its communication, and geoscience content.

In conformity with Baylor Geology Department rules and tradition, a thesis prepared under the direction of Dr. Vince Cronin will be presented in the style of a USGS publication (see (The GSA style is quite similar, and is described at

The goal is to complete research that yields a manuscript that will be submitted for publication.

To meet the requirements of the Baylor University Graduate School (see, a second document will be produced, which we will refer to as "the thesis." In general, the thesis has four components:

  1. a collection of useless garbage at the beginning (title page, signature page, copyright page, table of contents, table of figures, table of tables, table of appendices, the kitchen table, et cetera),
  2. a review paper created specifically for the thesis and presented in a chapter called "Previous Work" that supplies the background or context for your research,
  3. the manuscript that is submitted for publication, and
  4. appendices in which all relevant data are presented.

The thesis document should include (either directly or through references) all information necessary for another geoscientist to reproduce the research results.

A thesis prepared under the direction of Dr. Cronin will be a scientific work that is supported by scientific facts and that involves the development or use of scientific hypotheses. A scientific fact is a reproducible observation about a natural event, process or system. Quantitative scientific facts (measurements) will be stated with an appropriate number of significant figures and assessment of uncertainty (see and In general, we use the metric system in the sciences (see A scientific hypothesis is a testable explanation of how two or more scientific facts are related to each other. If an explanation is not testable, it is not a scientific hypothesis. No super-natural explanations -- explanations that are inherently untestable -- will be accepted for inclusion in a thesis directed by Dr. Cronin. Super-natural explanations are beyond the boundaries of scientific investigation, and a geology thesis must be a work of science or else it will not be acceptable to Dr. Cronin.

Read the material about duties, ethics and professional writing practices at . You should also take care to use geologic terminology properly throughout your thesis. Guidance for this arcane process is provided as follows:

As college graduates, it is assumed that you know how to write correct standard English sentences. As a reviewer of a large number of theses and dissertations since 1988, my experience indicates that such an assumption is of questionable reliability. Just to be on the safe side, I suggest that you review the relevant rules of English usage and style described in Chapters 30-32 and 35 of Day and Gastel (2006) and in the Suggestions to Authors of the Reports of the United States Geological Survey:

Essential Resources for Geoscience Authors

Generic Thesis Outline for Cronin's Students


The title should be very brief, and should use words that would facilitate the recognition of the thesis by a web-search engine. See Chapter 7 of Day and Gastel (2006).


Author affiliation, contact information. See Chapter 8 of Day and Gastel (2006).


Summarize, in no more than 2000 characters (not counting spaces), the scientific content of the thesis research. Compose this at the end of the process, after all other sections are finished. This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication. Abstracts do not have reference citations or figures. See Chapter 9 of Day and Gastel (2006).


This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication.

The introduction briefly describes the context and motivation for the research and indicates why it is important. The last matter to be addressed in a proper introduction is a clear statement of the purpose of the specific research effort that is described in this thesis/paper. Usually, the last paragraph of the introduction begins "The purpose of this paper is to ..." Other typical elements include answers to the following questions:

See Chapter 10 of Day and Gastel (2006).

Review of Relevant Previous Work

This section will appear only in the thesis, not in the manuscript submitted for publication. The three fundamental reasons why this section is important are that (1) it demonstrates the author's knowledge of the background information that pertains to the research, (2) it indicates the gaps in the author's research, if any, and (3) it provides appropriate context for readers who lack the background necessary to fully understand and utilize the research results. While the content will be unique for each thesis, some common elements for a thesis in which field data are collected might include the following:


This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication; however, some thesis research projects will require a more in-depth exposition of methods than would normally appear in a published paper. The standard is to provide enough information so that the methods are fully justified and reproducible by another geoscientist.

Some of the questions to be addressed in the methods section include the following:

Some research projects have several discrete parts that will need to be treated separately. For example, Dr. Cronin's Masters thesis included physical and magnetic-polarity stratigraphy of the Skardu Basin in the Karakoram-Himalaya, so it included separate sections dealing with physical stratigraphy and magnetic-polarity stratigraphy. Another thesis might include a field and geochemical survey of a fault zone, or surface geologic mapping and geophysical traverses, and so on. In cases such as these, it is reasonable to have separate sections of the thesis for each of the sub-topics, each of which would logically have separate sub-sections for methods, results and analysis. The research described in the separate sections is merged in the synthesis.

See Chapter 11 of Day and Gastel (2006).


This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication.

In this section, the output of the methods that were previously described is presented without interpretation. In other words, the author presents the newly acquired scientific facts in this section. Remember that all quantitative data must be presented with an accompanying assessment of error. Graphed data should include appropriate error bars. Averages of sets of data should be presented with the appropriate 95% confidence interval. The reason for this separate presentation is to facilitate the formulation of different interpretations of the same output data by other researchers. See Chapter 12 of Day and Gastel (2006).

Interpretation of Results (Analysis)

This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication.

In this section, the new facts presented in the "results" section are analyzed in an attempt to identify characteristic patterns and to quantify relationships between them. This section is where hypotheses regarding the new data are developed and presented.

See Chapter 13 of Day and Gastel (2006).

Integration of New Results with Prior Results (Synthesis)

This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication.

The newly acquired scientific facts and associated hypotheses are integrated to prior knowledge in this section.


This is taken directly from the manuscript to be submitted for publication.

Provide a clear and concise statement of the research findings, being careful to explicitly indicate the level of uncertainty and clearly differentiate between data (facts) and interpretations/inferences (hypotheses). Science advances through the clear identification of unanswered questions, so absolute honesty is required in differentiating between what is well known, what is still partially unresolved, and what is unknown.

Suggestions for Further Research

This section appears only in the thesis.

Research typically results in some newly acquired facts, some new hypotheses, and the recognition of new questions that were not resolved by the research described in the thesis/paper. For the benefit of future student researchers who may want to continue this research, the author is asked to describe some of the unanswered questions that remain in connection with the thesis research.


This is where it is appropriate to briefly acknowledge every person and group/institution that contributed to the thesis research. While some latitude is granted in the content of this very brief section (e.g., thanking spouses, families, parents for their support and understanding), it is not appropriate to include people who are unrelated to the research effort (e.g., bartenders, hair dressers, cabana boys, exotic dancers, mechanics, pets, et cetera). See Chapter 14 of Day and Gastel (2006).


See Chapter 15 of Day and Gastel (2006).


All relevant data (including GIS data files), computer code, and imagery are presented as appendices. The appendices may be presented on an archival CD or DVD; however, a full written description of the contents of the digital archive must be included in the paper thesis document.

Tables and Figures

DO NOT insert any graphic in your thesis that you have not created 100% from scratch unless you have fully cited the source and, when necessary or appropriate, obtained written permission for its use. All figures have captions that should describe elements of the figure that are not self evident, but that should not duplicate text presented elsewhere in the paper. Tables do not have captions -- they have titles embedded in the top of the table and references/expanations presented as footnotes at the bottom of the table. All lettering in tables or figures must be clearly legible after being photocopied.

In many cases, the use of color in graphics and photographs is useful or necessary to communicate ideas visually. Color elements of a thesis should still be effective after they are reproduced in a black-and-white photocopier or laser printer.


Tables must be in the format used by the USGS, discussed in . Also see Chapter 16 of Day and Gastel (2006).


See Chapter 17 of Day and Gastel (2006) and . All geologic maps and sections must have a clear explanation of the geologic symbols used, including those used to identify rock units. All maps must have some sort of bar scale and direction indicator (north arrow); cross sections must have vertical and horizontal scales clearly indicated. With very rare exceptions, vertical exaggeration is not used by structural geologists in cross sections because it distorts the very geometries that are important to our analyses.


See Chapter 18 of Day and Gastel (2006). Some indication of scale is necessary for photomicrographs, specimen photos, and outcrop photos.

Some common problems in grammar and punctuation

(an ever-growing but incomplete list; also see Chapters 30-32 & 35 of Day and Gastel, 2006)

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