School of Computer Science

Writing Up

At a certain point you will realise that you have most of the results you need, and the biggest remaining task is to write them up as your Thesis.

Of course you will talk to your supervisor about the scientific contents, but you should also look at Aaron Sloman's Notes on presenting theses for more general guidelines.

Writing up status

Around the time when you start writing up, there is a change in your official registration status with the University, from normal registration to "writing up" stutus. Usually this happens automatically at the end of your third year. (See below, under maximum and minimum periods of study, for more details of how this is calculated.)

  • You are not then expected to need the same facilities. In Computer Science we still provide access to a computer and desk, but you may not still have your own desk in the Computer Science building. Instead you may have to share a desk in the Chemistry West building (Y8 on the University map - it's the next building on the right as you go from Computer Science down towards the clock tower).
  • You are not expected to need regular supervision from your supervisor, although you may well find your supervisor is still very happy to give you advice. We do ask you to send regular progress reports to your supervisor, at least once a month. These should say what chapters you have written, what is still left to do, and what your timetable is for finishing.
  • The fees are substantially less! They are called "continuation fees". If you were on a School studentship, the School will not normally pay these reduced fees.

Don't forget that at any time once you go into writing up, you may be asked to vacate your desk in the Computer Science and move to Chemistry West. If this causes difficulties, for example if you have a deadline coming up, it may be possible to postpone the move slighly if you ask the Research Students Tutor.

You may also be asked to vacate your Chemistry West accommodation once you have submitted your thesis, though you will still have access to hot desk facilities there. Again, tell the Research Students Tutor if deadlines make this difficult for you.

Academic Services have provided further details on writing-up status and the continuation fee.

Council tax

The official University advice on council tax exemption for writing up students is vague - it may vary from council to council. Some (at least) take it that you are exempt if you are a student and not working full time. The Research Students Tutor can give you a letter certifying your study situation.

Maximum and minimum periods of study

The University regulations specify, for each research degree programme, a minimum and maximum period of study. For full time PhDs, the minimum is 3 years and the maximum is 4 years. (For part time, these are extended pro rata. For example, for 75% part time, such as for most of our Teaching Assistants, the minimum is 4 years and the maximum is 5 years and 4 months.)

What this means is that you must be normally registered (full fees) for at least 3 years. After that, when you are ready, you can go into writing up until you submit, which should be within 4 years of when you first started. (To submit early, or for an extension to the deadline you must make a special application to the University.)

In Computer Science our research students normally go into writing up automatically at the end of their minimum study period.

Writing up and Thesis Group meetings

You will still have a schedule of Thesis Group meetings, generally every 6 months. However, your progress reports do not have to say much: just what chapters you have written, what is still left to do, and what your timetable is for finishing. When you send this report to your Thesis Group, they may decide that your progress is clearly satisfactory and a meeting is unnecessary.

If your progress is not going well, and you are likely to need an extension, you should definitely hold a Thesis Group meeting to discuss it and make a recommendation to RSMG.

Although the Thesis Group are involved only every 6 months, please send the same kind of progress report every month to your supervisor. This will help you keep engaged with your writing up, and will help your supervisor know you are still on track. It is particularly important if you have a job at the same time as you are writing up. It is easy to underestimate the time management problems.

Writer's block

If you get stuck, you're not unique - this probably happens to most people at some stage. Often it happens when you are not quite sure what you are trying to say, or in what order to arrange it. Naturally you should stop and think about it - typing is no substitute for thinking -, but you can get blocked if the thinking doesn't give a complete answer.

Generally speaking, the trick is to get down to writing something, even if you're not quite sure it's what you want in the end. There are various reasons for this.

  • If you have planned the chapters properly, then when you are stuck on one part you may be able to write up another - you don't have to write the chapters in order. And while you are typing one part, the back of your brain can still be thinking of the other.
  • Once you have some written material in front of you, you can see much more clearly how well it says what you want to say.
  • The typing in itself takes time, and once you have typed up a lot of material it's relatively easy to amend and rearrange it.
  • Typing always feels more productive than not typing, so you will feel better.

When you have finished ...

... you will be ready to submit your thesis.