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I'm being asked to 'clearly state the novelty' in my thesis. I suspect my supervisor would love to actually have a section titled 'Novelty' in big, black letters.

Personally, I think this is against the spirit of writing a thesis, because a thesis is not a report of what one has done with their time, but a work sample which shows one can write scientifically.

Of course it should be clear to a reader which parts are novel and which parts aren't. But that should be apparent from the final and intermediate discussions.

Also, my supervisor seems to think the 'Novelty' section should be part of the Introduction. Now, to me this completely breaks the flow because I work hard to introduce one concept at a time throughout the thesis, so every new piece of information rests on something that has already been discussed. That's really hard to do if I'm to write what will be the end result before I have even defined the words I need to use.

From a structuring point of view (not particularly an Academia point of view), are my qualms justified? And if yes, is there a graceful way to write what will be the final result of a thesis without using concepts that haven't been introduced?

  • Use the Buzzfeed method. "I'll be discussing how X and Y lead to Z. And what happens after Y will shock you." – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Mar 30 '15 at 15:21
  • Your thesis must include an overview of the research that has been done. You must then explain what you are doing differently, and why your approach is valid. This is the introduction, and it must be repeated in the discussion. Weren't you taught how to structure academic writing? – user5645 Mar 30 '15 at 17:53
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Your thesis is motivated by some need. Novelty is hiding there.

Areas of Novelty

Consider at least these areas where your thesis might offer something new:

Phenomena being researched. Even if the general topic has been researched to death, your research explores some specific detail that has not been studied before.

That's novelty.

Your research was motivated by some earlier results, likely from earlier scientific research. Perhaps the earlier research recommended further study in some of the specifics. If your research falls within those specifics, you can introduce the novelty of your thesis by citing those recommendations. Their recommendation is a hint that (at the time of publication, at least) there was something both interesting and unknown.

If your research fills the gap, or offers the potential to fill it, that's novelty.

Method of research. Even if your research consists entirely of tried-and-true methods, there will be something different in how you applied them. At very least, you will have applied the methods to some new specific detail where they have been not previously applied.

That's novelty.

Results. Your results will not be exactly like anyone else's. Even if your research does nothing more than confirm some other research, that confirmation is novel.

Your Motivation

Even if you are not following up on some earlier researchers' recommendations, there is something in earlier research that motivated you (or your advisor). Some phenomenon that would be interesting to know about, yet remained unknown. Something that made you say, "Ah, this is worth exploring."

Worth exploring almost certainly hints at novelty.

The Reader's Motivation

Another way to look at this: Why would anyone bother to read your thesis?

Your thesis had better say something new (about phenomena being studied, methods, results, or some other novelty), or there is no point reading it.

So ask yourself: What will the reader gain from reading this?

If you can answer that, that's novelty.

The Introduction

The job of the introduction is to help readers decide whether to make the effort to read the rest of the thesis.

Thesis readers are almost certainly motivated by the desire to learn some new thing that matters to them in an area where they have an interest.

So write your introduction to help them figure out:

  • Is this in my area of interest?
  • What is here for me to learn? What new thing?
  • How does this matter to me?

To do that:

  • Describe the motivation for your research. Especially the key details you were trying to explore.
  • Describe what's new in your research methods, or in how you applied research methods.
  • Summarize what's new in your results and conclusions.

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