Summary: DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
ADVICE FOR STUDENTS WRITING REPORTS, THESES AND DISSERTATIONS
Written by Ward Cheney, incorporating suggestions from many sources. Version of July 28, 2001
The writing of a report, thesis, or dissertation is a serious undertaking, and one of its purposes is purely pedagogical.
Namely, the candidate is expected to learn how to write in a clear expository style about mathematical matters. The writing
is quite separate from the study and research that go into the work prior to writing. It demands rather a different set of
skills, and these do not come easily to everyone. Besides basic English writing skills, a knowledge of accepted mathematical
style is also required.
Among all human endeavors, mathematics is prešeminent in its striving for absolute precision in its formal written text.
Precision in writing is not easily attained, but one begins by using always the correct word at the proper place and by carefully
constructing each sentence. We also advise against the use of slang, colloquialisms, and other non-standard linguistic devices.
(More about that later.)
Let us assume that your materials have been assembled in the form of notes. You should next prepare an outline of your
entire project. There should be a number of chapters, starting with an introductory one from which a reader can learn what
you intend to do in the later chapters. Your outline should be in detail, enumerating all lemmas, definitions, and theorems
if you are writing a dissertation. You should let your advisor see this outline before you do much writing.
After you have done a small amount of the writing (following your outline, of course), you should let your advisor see
that. Perhaps he/she will have some "global" suggestions that will apply to everything you write. There may be matters of
style that need to be brought to your attention.
After your advisor has read your text (all or part) and you have revised it (taking account of his/her suggestions), give