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  • Failure to properly organize your proposal – If you do not organize your proposal in a logical fashion, it is extremely difficult for the reviewing members of the GSC to tell that you have a good understanding of the area and are therefore prepared to begin your proposed work. Most importantly, your thesis proposal itself, and each section within it, must have good “flow”. This means that each statement must logically follow the one preceding it. You must always present complete “trains of thought”. There should be no “leaps of faith” required to understand what you are writing about. This reflects the process of scientific reasoning. Things should carefully follow from one step to the next as in a mathematical proof. It is also a good practice to look at each paragraph in each section individually and ask yourself the question: “Does this paragraph correspond to the title of this section?” If your answer is “No.” then you need to consider moving or refocusing that paragraph. A common example of this occurs when related work is discussed in a different section. (This is often easily identified by the presence of a large number of citations in the paragraph in question.)

  • Failure to make comparisons between related work – It is insufficient to simply enumerate work related to your proposed thesis. You must logically organize and discuss the related work in such a way that it is clear to the reader how the various previous research efforts relate to each other and, especially, how they relate to what you are proposing.

  • Failure to remember that the GSC is, by its constitution, a multidisciplinary committee – You must write your proposal accordingly. You are not writing to an expert audience within your specific chosen area of study. As a consequence, you must always define all acronyms and explain terms before you use them. You may assume only a general, undergraduate level of knowledge and must, in your thesis proposal, explain everything beyond that. Always follow the old adage: “Know your audience!”

Some common, less serious, problems often seen in MSc thesis proposals include:

  • Grammatical and spelling errors – the prevalence of such errors speaks negatively to your concern for detail and your industriousness. These are characteristics that are fundamental to success in scientific research and higher-level study such as the MSc and PhD degrees. You should remember that negative impressions of your written work will often be reflected later in such things as reference letters written for you. As a first step, you should always spell check your thesis proposal. Remember, however, that spell checkers are not perfect and will fail to detect certain errors. Further, grammatical checkers are notoriously bad in certain situations and technical writing, such as that in a thesis proposal, is one such situation. The bottom line is that automatic checking must be only a first step. Careful, human proofreading is also needed. If necessary, it might be useful to arrange to have proofreading of the final (submitted) version of your proposal done by a native English speaker. A proposal which has obviously been poorly proof- read may be returned for improvement prior to review.

  • Inadequate and/or dated citations – whenever you refer to the work of others (including figures you may have reproduced), to specific systems and/or when you make specific claims that you do not justify explicitly yourself within your proposal you need to provide a citation to the related work. Further, such citations should always be made on the first reference to the corresponding system or piece of work. There are no exceptions to these two rules. Further, when selecting citations, you should always pick the best possible reference where “best” is judged in terms of direct relevance, quality of the

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