6

I am ending the conclusion of my PhD thesis by saying something like this (not even remotely in these words):

There was a lot of work gone in the thesis, yada yada yada, however there is room for more, such as having this and that.

I have a feeling that ending the thesis with "what's missing" leaves a negative impression on the reader, although the thesis addresses an issue that has never been addressed before, so the proposed solutions are novel.

I decided to finish with a sentence that reminds the reader that the work is novel and leaves the impression that this is going to pave the way forward. The sentence that immediately came to my mind is:

This Thesis is only the beginning.

But that sounds really cheesy. Like those movies that show "The End" and then suddenly a question mark is added.

My question is, what alternative sentence can I use to convey what I'm trying to say (in the context of a PhD thesis)?


If it helps, this is the actual last paragraph:

The proposed software architectures have been iteratively improved upon based on past experiences, case studies, and peer reviews. Nevertheless, no software architecture ever reaches perfection. Potential future directions include higher reconfigurability of the robot skin, allowing feedback from user applications to the robot skin, or real-time transfer of data between the host PC to other processing units and distributed tactile processing. Compliance to safety standards is another possible research direction. This Thesis is only the beginning.

  • Can you use that section to sketch out proposed ways to move forward? If there's more to do, what is there to do? Even if it's broad strokes? – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Feb 18 '15 at 14:03
  • @LaurenIpsum, I believe I already have. I included the actual paragraph if it helps clear things up. – Shahbaz Feb 18 '15 at 14:20
3

I think that's fine, actually, with a little tweaking. I'd move your "only the beginning" farther back in the paragraph, and clarify that thought a tiny bit: (bold is only for emphasis; you wouldn't bold it in your thesis)

The proposed software architectures have been iteratively improved upon based on past experiences, case studies, and peer reviews. Nevertheless, no software architecture ever reaches perfection. This thesis is only the beginning of [explain what's beginning: theories? solutions? a new field?]. Potential future directions include higher reconfigurability of the robot skin, allowing feedback from user applications to the robot skin, or real-time transfer of data between the host PC to other processing units and distributed tactile processing. Compliance to safety standards is another possible research direction.

Disclaimer: I'm not in academia; I'm reading this just from a coherence perspective.

  • Alright, so if you read this paragraph which ends with possible future directions, does it leave a positive impression on you? Because if it does, I don't have to add that sentence at all. – Shahbaz Feb 18 '15 at 15:02
  • @Shahbaz I think you need the sentence for reading flow. The overall paragraph is positive; that sentence just helps smooth it out. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Feb 18 '15 at 20:23
  • 1
    A combination of your answer and kbk's is what I'm going for. "This is the first step" is a better sentence, but even with the original sentence, placing it where you have makes it much better. That's why I'm accepting this answer. – Shahbaz Feb 19 '15 at 10:07
5

I think about the, "This is only the beginning" concept more as "This is the first step". It is very common in academia to think about your PhD as a stepping stone to your initial body of research over the next few years. I would think the ideas in the "next steps" paragraph need to be fleshed out in more detail. (Use the "If you could wave a wand and have a project funded, what would you work on next?" concept here.) Having mentioned these ideas, end your thesis mentioning your own work.

2

A paragraph or chapter that outlines "possible future research directions" is a common part of many theses, placed near the conclusion.

Do not treat it as "this is missing." Your thesis is complete over the section it analyses. Your analysis is not "lacking". Instead, it opens the doors to more research that can be based upon it - things that would be impossible or way more difficult to research without your thesis. Just alongside with "possible practical applications" which are food for thought for engineers, you provide "possible theoretical/research applications" - how your thesis can be useful for other scientists in expanding understanding of the wider domain. Just note to use it to provide suggestions that do make use of what you've provided, build upon it.

There is a separate section, "domain analysis", which places your research in the greater image. You usually place it somewhere in the introduction, and it describes how your thesis fits and expands upon existing knowledge - what it builds upon, and what are some "neighbour fields" that are closely related. If some of these "neighbour fields" are lacking in research, you may mention so, but you should make sure to delineate them as such - they are not a part of your thesis, they are just other subjects, and the fact they require more research [by someone else] is just a circumstance worth mentioning.

Of course if some of the "future research directions" would need to build upon both your thesis and these "neighbour fields" which are still lacking, you can still mention them as prerequisites, e.g.

Utilizing the proposed architecture enables research of application of the robot skin in sensing and physical (thermal, chemical, structural) analysis of objects with which the robot comes in contact, pending research and development of mechanically flexible sensors of these properties, embeddable in the robotic skin.

  • Thanks. I understand what you say, and I need to think it over to put it in appropriate terms. – Shahbaz Feb 18 '15 at 17:08
2

(I know this is an old question; and this answer will be no help to the OP.)

Speaking as an academic (with a PhD), it is not unusual for a research paper to end with a section called Future Work, which details what else can be done based on this research. This can follow or precede a section called Summary and Conclusions which is the take-aways of the paper.

A PhD Dissertation is just an extended research paper (usually it has produced multiple peer-reviewed articles). It would be unusual for a PhD Dissertation to NOT have any future work to do; one's publications and dissertation are the #1 calling card for getting a job as a new professor.

The same is true for much research. Once in a while a paper just produces a new solution to an existing problem, already complete and self-contained, and there is nothing more to accomplish and no further applications. But most of the time, new ideas or new approaches are more widely applicable; they open new avenues, thus "Future Work" is applicable and the author points out specifically what they think are the most promising additional applications.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.