We all have to complete one of them (i.e. an AP, Thesis or Dissertation), so we should help each other figure out where to start and support each other on finishing in a timely manner! Hence, welcome to the EEPSA guide on doing your Thesis/AP/Dissertation – a place where we can gather our collective knowledge about how to complete the final requirement for our degree here at UD…


  1. In the beginning there was confusion…
  2. Start writing right now!
  3. Sprout some legs!
  4. Mature to a finished document

Some acronyms to facilitate the discussion (in alphabetical order):

  • AP: Analytical Paper; or the most common document written to complete a masters degree at CEEP.
  • TAD: Thesis – AP – Dissertation; the documents that this whole scholarship portal is about!

And some EEPSA groups that have formed to help each other out:

  • Topic Choice Workgroup
  • Masters AP/Thesis Workgroup
  • PhD Theory & Methods Workgroup | PhD Knowledge Archive | 

In the beginning there was confusion…

Where to begin your research and/or prepare an outline and abstract for your TAD

Pick a topic – begin with an idea to serve as your TAD-seed (). Energy & Environmental Policy can be seen through any lens you might imagine is a good way to investigate the world. You can study solar panels used by polar bears to attract lost jellyfish with unusually high bio-accumulated cadmium levels, or the prevalence of unicorns in progressive policy movements pushing for social reform of land rights and genetic heritage ownership… Your overall aim should be to find a topic that you (1) enjoy, (2) is concise, and (3) marshals your skills to facilitate actually finishing in a time frame you/your family and friends/your professor(s) are comfortable with and believe is necessary.

 – this is very important because at some point you will not enjoy actually working on your TAD. This is normal and you can attribute your lack of progress to whatever metaphysical reality you wish – goldfish mutiny off the coast of Kentucky, or the discovery of pinto bean flavored ice cream. Pick something you Love! When the darkness of TAD completion is so thick you feel a nuclear powered flashlight is your only hope, it might be necessary to take a step back and meditate on your inspiration that began this whole project. Some sort of TAD-seed provoked your inspiration (a sense of justice, democratic facilitation, pragmatic policy formation, a profound love of potatoes, , etc.) and you can fall back on this source of energy and environmental engagement to help you turn you TAD-seed into a living thriving document.

Don’t try to write an encyclopedia (i.e. be concise), but recognize it is easier to delete than write the whole thing in three months – regardless of the coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls you feel will give you that final push. Your topic should be concise which is consistent with two criteria:

  1. Intellectual engagement with the where you want to take this report. You might want/need to learn something new, hence this is an engagement with the uncertainty demons that fill your head, but that you actually believe you can complete and will be able to discuss with your four-year-old niece, and the distinguished practitioner/researcher of __________ (insert desired field) where you want this document to take you.
  2. Congruence with the interplay of past-present-future research on your topic…. Hence, recognize that someone else has done something similar, yet your research can balance the sum of past research, and at the same time identify the terra incognita where you are taking the field.
    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_incognita

Your existence in this world is shared! Your friends/family/colleagues both help and hinder you working on your paper, but again these are the same folks who actually read this document. You are thus not in this alone, so find a group of people to bounce ideas off of, take courses together because you find the topics interesting/challenging/necessary/prove the existence of chocolate-loving-trolls, and you respect the need to reciprocate each others needs/desires/fears to write a document individually, but live in a world where each of us can and do help you succeed.

Idea formation:

  • Research Resources:
    • http://www2.lib.udel.edu/subj/energy/energy.htm
    • http://www2.lib.udel.edu/subj/envi/
  • TAD Procrastination: Theory of Planned TAD Progress

And most importantly, recognize what are the actual steps needed to graduate when you

  • http://www.udel.edu/gradoffice/polproc/#steps

Start writing right now!

The best way to begin writing your document is to actually begin writing your document – acceptance that in the stages of writing you might look a little awkward at first, but the TADpole stage is first chance for you to swim about in your topic and build up the intellectual   , hence you can start writing any old

Important links to explore:

Starting Your Proposal?

Looking around the CEEP library, I guess I have not found the book titled: “Proposals for Dummies…

“One of the great curiosities of academia is that the art of writing a research proposal — arguably one of the most difficult and demanding tasks confronting any research student — is so weakly institutionalized within graduate programs” (http://iis.berkeley.edu/DissPropWorkshop)

In a general sense, the quote above from Michael Watts seems to have some specific meaning to each of us, and corresponds to adifficult aspect each of confronts when crafting our proposal… Check out his proposal/fieldwork guide from the link above, with some “nuts-and-bolts” teasers here:


  • Timeline
  • Theory
    • Establish the context
    • Point out debates and disjuncture; expose the cracks and highlight the payoffs
    • Privilege elegance over expansiveness
    • Show your knowledge and expertise without being pedantic or dismissive
  • Research Question
    • The research question should be evocative
      • Make it timely
      • Frame it as a paradox
      • Take a distinctive approach
    • The research question should be relevant
      • Fill in the missing piece
      • Make connections
    • The research question should be clear
      • Ground the questions
      • Limit variables
    • The research question should be researchable
  • Research Design
    • Identify the kind of research you intend to do
    • Be realistic
    • Be precise
    • Be flexible
    • As much as possible, test your methods in advance
    • Consider revising your research question; consider revising your methods
  • Background and History
    • The history/background should engage your readers with broad themes and topics
    • The background/history should illustrate your concepts, questions, and theory
    • The history/background should demonstrate your experience, knowledge, and passion
  • Budgeting
    • Demonstrate that your budget is realistic by specifying costs for each line entry
    • Consider every possible expense
    • Compare your budget to available funds
  • Concepts and Terminology
    • Whenever possible, avoid neologisms
    • Be conceptually consistent
    • Carefully consider and justify typologies and categories
    • see the guide for books and articles on social science concept formation: http://iis.berkeley.edu/DissPropWorkshop/nutsandbolts
  • Thesis Format Guide: http://www.udel.edu/gradoffice/forms/thesismanual.pdf
  • UD thesis layout (Word/Latex): http://www.udel.edu/topics/udthesis/
  • Proposal (map, compass, hourglass)
    •  Methodology & research design
      • (list to come of methods shmethods!)
    • Aim for TAD research?
    • Suggested chapters of dissertation: brief outline of
    • Annotated bibliography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annotated_bibliography
  • (1) Research map, (2) compass, and (3) hourglass: Present & Defend

A note about PhD Proposals and PhD Proposals
Important for those 2nd year PhD students is the recognition that not all proposals are created equal – some are more equal towards sustaining than others… (WIP)

  • There is the “proposal” you submit at the end of your 2nd year or at the beginning of that summer. This “proposal” is submitted to your academic adviser. Once approved by your academic adviser, he or she will give you a grade for your proposal and dissertation courses and consequently you can then be considered in “sustaining” status. This process does sometimes vary, especially if you know who is going to be your dissertation adviser (i.e. chair person), so check with them to be sure, especially as it relates to your “Proposal” below.
  • And there is your “Proposal”… Basically, this is your actual proposal that you ‘defend’ with regards to what you dissertation research will cover. Again, depending on your on personal context, this could be your “proposal” as well, hence you would be in sustaining status and also on the fast track to finishing your dissertation!

Sprout some legs!

The ability to know when you have a metaTAD – a metamorphosis into a document that looks like you might actually finish your TAD in a way that fulfills your goals of….

Engage with your colleagues and committee members

  • Attend conferences
  • Read academic pop culture (journals),
  • Develop mentoring relationships with your committee members
  • Form an FFFFF group (First Friday Forum on Fiscal Fluidity?) – and note that F is not the grade you are hoping to receive on this document.
    • Form a wiki based discussion group? Example of one here: Events at UD

Create a TAD-Log
Each time you work on your document (including doing your literature review), you should note the work you accomplished in a research log book. In its most basic sense, this book is your record book to let you know where to start the next time you start writing or are continuing with your fieldwork. A (really) short entry in the log book could say something like: “Today I discovered that Darwin believed that beards are the remnants of our ancestral heritage with birds. Next period: investigate further to see if b-boying dancing is also related”

Work, Work, Work…
And some inspiration towards that bright future out there:

Mature to a finished document

quagmire is guaranteed at some point…  (WIP, you feel free to add your thoughts here EEPSA!)