A Template for a Science Thesis:
Scientific Writing in L
X 2ε
Master’s Thesis
in Atmospheric Sciences
Submitted to the
Faculty of Geo- and Atmospheric Sciences
of the
University of Innsbruck
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science
FirstName LastName
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hans Ertel
Innsbruck, December 2009
To Lisa and the Rolling Stones
This L
EX 2εtemplate is based on my own dissertation. It has been extensively
modified within the framework of the course Introduction to Scientific Working
which I taught at the University of Innsbruck in the winter semester 2009/2010
for students of the Atmospheric Sciences Master Program. It does not serve as the
official thesis template of the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics (IMGI), how-
ever, it follows some reasonable rules, such as the reference and citation guidelines
of the American Meteorological Society. Before using this template at IMGI, make
yourself familiar with the format guidelines of the Faculty of Geo- and Atmospheric
Sciences and the personal preferences of your advisor. My L
EX knowledge is based
on the guides of Oetiker et al. (2008) and Kopka and Daly (1999). Many ideas on
the content and structure of a science thesis are taken from the book of Russey et al.
(2006). This template is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without
any warranty. I am looking forward to receiving comments for improvements.1
Alexander Gohm
Innsbruck, December 2009
1alexander.gohm [at] uibk.ac.at
The abstract is a short summary of the thesis. It announces in a brief and concise way
the scientific goals, methods, and most important results. The chapter “conclusions”
is not equivalent to the abstract! Nevertheless, the abstract may contain concluding
remarks. The abstract should not be discursive. Hence, it cannot summarize all
aspects of the thesis in very detail. Nothing should appear in an abstract that is
not also covered in the body of the thesis itself. Hence, the abstract should be the
last part of the thesis to be compiled by the author.
A good abstract has the following properties: Comprehensive: All major parts
of the main text must also appear in the abstract. Precise: Results, interpretations,
and opinions must not differ from the ones in the main text. Avoid even subtle
shifts in emphasis. Objective: It may contain evaluative components, but it must
not seem judgemental, even if the thesis topic raises controversial issues. Concise:
It should only contain the most important results. It should not exceed 300–500
words or about one page. Intelligible: It should only contain widely-used terms. It
should not contain equations and citations. Try to avoid symbols and acronyms (or
at least explain them). Informative: The reader should be able to quickly evaluate,
whether or not the thesis is relevant for his/her work.
An Example: The objective was to determine whether . . . (question/goal). For
this purpose, . . . was . . . (methodology). It was found that . . . (results). The results
demonstrate that . . . (answer).
Preface iii
Abstract v
Contents vi
1 Introduction 1
1.1 Motivation................................. 1
1.2 StateofResearch ............................. 1
1.3 GoalsandOutline............................. 2
2 Methodology 3
2.1 ExperimentalSet-up ........................... 3
2.2 ModelEquations ............................. 3
2.2.1 Subsection............................. 3
2.2.2 Equation.............................. 4
3 Results 5
3.1 Some Important Things to Know . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
3.1.1 Experimental Parts in the Chapter Results . . . . . . . . . . . 5
3.1.2 Numerical Results or so-called Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
3.1.3 Order of Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
3.1.4 Cross-References ......................... 6
3.2 Figure ................................... 6
3.3 Table.................................... 7
3.4 Figure and Table Captions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
3.5 Title .................................... 8
3.6 Abbreviations and Symbols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
3.7 ParametersandUnits........................... 9
3.8 Footnotes ................................. 9
4 Discussion 11
5 Conclusions 13
A Large Quantities of Data 15
Bibliography 17
Acknowledgments 19
Curriculum Vitae 21
Epilogue 23
Chapter 1
1.1 Motivation
The chapter Introduction leads the reader into the subject matter of the thesis. It is
sometimes called Statement/Formulation/Definition/Presentation of the Problem.
It may start with a so-called Motivation. It also contains the State of Knowledge or
State of Research which is based on a literature survey (see section 1.2). Further, it
contains the Scientific Questions and/or the Goals that are addressed in the main
part of the thesis (see section 1.3). Finally, it provides an Outline of the science
thesis (see end of section 1.3).
1.2 State of Research
Based on the literature survey, the writer draws a picture of the existing knowledge
in a specific field and points to open questions. Hence, after this survey the Introduc-
tion will ultimately culminate in the formulation of specific scientific questions/goals
addressed in the thesis (see section 1.3).
To cite a certain source (e.g., a paper) use the citation commands \citet and
\citep of the natbib package.1Together with the bibliography style ametsoc.bst,
which is included in the L
EX manuscript template for AMS journals2,natbib
produces citations in the author-date format together with a list of references that
fulfill the AMS citation standard.3
As an example, you can cite papers like Hann (1866) and Scar and Smith
(1993a) which have to be specified in your BibTeX database file (in this case it is
mybibfile.bib). More than one article of the same author can be cited like here:
Hoinka (1985,1990) studied foehn winds.
You may want to split your review of the literature into several sections. Fur-
ther, use paragraphs to structure your introduction. If you like to cite papers in
brackets (passive citations) you can do this as in the following sentence: Gap flows
have been studied in the Strait of Gibraltar (Scorer 1952;Dorman et al. 1995), in
the French Rhˆone Valley (Pettre 1982), near Hokkaid¯o in Japan (Arakawa 1969),
near Unimak Island in the Aleutian Chain (Pan and Smith 1999), and in the Howe
Sound of British Columbia (Jackson and Steyn 1994a,b). Citation of a Dissertation:
The gap flow in the Wipp Valley has been studied by Gohm (2003). Citation of a
conference paper: Gohm et al. (2006) investigated the boundary layer structure in
the Inn Valley. Citation of an online document: The AMS provides a guideline for
preparing citations and references (American Meteorological Society cited 2009).
1.3 Goals and Outline
After the literature survey the Introduction will ultimately culminate in the
formulation of specific scientific questions, aims or goals. Hence, near the end of
the Introduction there will often appear sentences like:
. . . The goal of the investigation thus became trying to find out if . . .
. . . For this reason it appeared reasonable to attempt . . .
. . . It therefore became necessary to clarify whether . . .
Instead of describing the goals in one paragraph, you may want to structure
them with the itemize command:
(1) First goal.
(2) Second goal.
(3) Third goal.
The so-called SMART criteria4might be used as a guideline to define reasonable
goals. Here, the acronym SMART describes the properties of “good” goals: specific,
measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.
The introduction may also describe briefly the methodology chosen and the
materials (e.g., data, instruments, etc.) used. However, a detailed description will
follow in the main part (see chapter 2).
Finally you should present an outline of your science thesis. Explain what the
reader will find in the following chapters. For example, chapter 2describes the
methodology. The results are presented in chapter 3. A discussion is provided in
chapter 4and the conclusions are drawn in chapter 5.
Chapter 2
This chapter provides a detailed description of the methodology. It is sometimes
called Experimental Section. Depending on the subject it is a “synonym”, e.g., for
Theoretical Section, Computational Methods, Model Description and Setup, Field
Work, and so on. Hence, this chapter contains a description of what has been done in
order to address the scientific question raised in the chapter Introduction. However,
it does not contain the results!
2.1 Experimental Set-up
Depending on the topic of the science thesis, this chapter may contain a description
of the experimental set-up, the field experiment, datasets, instruments, measure-
ment procedures, analysis techniques, calibration and quality control, and other
things. In case of a modeling study it may contain the formulation and derivation
of model equations, the formulation of initial and boundary conditions, the data
used to drive and validate the model, an overview of the model set-up (e.g., param-
eter set-up), modifications of the “original” model code, a description of relevant
parameterizations, a theoretical background needed for the interpretation of model
2.2 Model Equations
2.2.1 Subsection
Use subsections to structure your thesis. The first and second component of the
momentum equation is shown in equation (2.1) and (2.2), respectively. Together
with (2.3) they form the set of shallow-water equations implemented in a numerical
You can also use “subsubsections”. However, they do not carry a separate heading
number and they do not appear in the Table of Contents.
2.2.2 Equation
As an example for the equation environment, I show the equations used in the
numerical shallow-water model (SWM) developed by Scar and Smith (1993a,b):
ˆx= 0,(2.1)
ˆy= 0,(2.2)
ˆy= 0,(2.3)
with the non-dimensional variables (henceforth generally labelled with hats) ˆuand ˆv
as the two horizontal velocity components, ˆ
Hand ˆ
has fluid layer depth and terrain
height, respectively, ˆ
Has fluid layer height, and ˆ
tas time. Equations (2.1)–
(2.3) are non-dimensionalized with the following scales: a typical length Lfor the
horizontal length scale, the initial far-upstream depth of the fluid layer H(with
h= 0) for the vertical length scale, the phase speed of linear gravity waves gH
for the velocity scale, and the time scale L/gH.
Chapter 3
This chapter contains a detailed description of your findings. It shows what has been
found to answer the scientific questions. Hence, it consists of the author’s original
contributions. This chapter is the “heart” of a science thesis.
3.1 Some Important Things to Know
It is important to differentiate between facts and interpretations and between your
contributions and those of others! Facts and your contributions are part of this
chapter. Interpretations and contributions of others should be rather part of the
chapter Discussion.
3.1.1 Experimental Parts in the Chapter Results
Experimental details should only appear in the chapter Results to the extent nec-
essary to ensure comprehension. Painstaking descriptions of instruments, analysis
procedures, field conditions, etc., should be part of the chapter Methodology. How-
ever, absolutely necessary is information that shows the reliability of the findings
and the robustness of an innovation (e.g., a new analysis technique).
3.1.2 Numerical Results or so-called Data
Results are more than simply numbers! They are tiny but unique messages. Data
should not only be made “visible” (e.g., in figures, such as in Fig. 3.1) but should
also be made articulate.
3.1.3 Order of Presentation
Use chapters and (sub)sections to separate, e.g., various topics, questions, and prob-
lems, or to separate measurements from calculations. Arrange information in a con-
Longitude (deg E)
Latitude (deg N)
11 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8
Time (UTC)
Potential temperature (K)
00 03 06 09 12 15 18 21 00
Figure 3.1: (a) Topographic map of the target area: Gray shaded elevations contours
with increments of 200 m starting at 400 m MSL and a white elevation contour line at
1600 m MSL. (b) Time series of potential temperature (K) at Ellboegen (solid line) and
Sattelberg (dashed line) from 00 UTC 06 November to 00 UTC 07 November 1999. Labels
in (a) mark the location of Innsbruck (IBK), Ellboegen (ELB), and Sattelberg (SAB).
sistent way, e.g., from simple to complex, from small to large (or vice versa in terms
of scales: e.g., from synoptic-scale to micro-scale), from most important (central)
to least important (peripheral). Arrange the material in order to maximize impact
rather than sticking to a strict chronological order. Try to tell a story that consists
of a beginning, followed by a gradual unfolding, and a “happy end”.
3.1.4 Cross-References
You can always refer to other parts of your thesis like in the following example: See
chapter 2or section 1.3 or Fig. 3.1 or Table 3.1 or equation (2.1).
3.2 Figure
Figure 3.1 shows an example for an EPS figure with two panels. The topography of
the Wipp Valley and Inn Valley is shown in Fig. 3.1a. Figure 3.1b shows the time
series of potential temperature at two stations. In order to refer to a certain range
of figure panels write, e.g., Fig. 3.1ab.
This template uses the subfigure environment with the option FIGTOPCAP to
place the subfigure labels (a) and (b) at the top of the figure. However, since we
want to have the caption at the bottom of figure, use \figuretopcapfalse before
3.3 Table 7
the first \subfigure command within the figure environment, otherwise the figure
number produced by \ref is wrong.
3.3 Table
Table 3.1 is an example for a table that consists of several rows and columns. Here,
the tabular environment is used inside the table environment.
Parameter Code Description Units Code
g$g$ acceleration due to gravity m s2m~s$^{-2}$
Td$T_d$ dew point temperature C$^{\circ}$C
v· T$\mathbf{v} \cdot
\nabla T$
temperature advection K s1K~s$^{-1}$
~v · T$\vec{v} \cdot
\nabla T$
temperature advection K s1K~s$^{-1}$
t $\frac{\partial p}
{\partial t}$
local pressure tendency Pa s1Pa~s$^{-1}$
p0cos(kx ωt)$p_0 \cos (kx
- \omega t)$
wave expression Pa Pa
Table 3.1: Some meteorological and mathematical parameters and expressions.
3.4 Figure and Table Captions
Figure and table captions must contain all necessary information to understand the
content of the figure and table, without the need of additional text. Only in case of
very complicated figures or tables, the caption may end with a remark such as “See
text for further explanation”. The interpretation of the table or figure is not part of
the caption, but should be given in the main text. In order to avoid repetitions, the
phrase “As in Fig. xx, but for . . . is often used. Necessary information provided
in the caption is a description of
shown parameters together with units,
date and time,
contour intervals,
line styles and markers,
and others.
A list of figures and a list of tables at the beginning of the thesis (before chapter 1)
is optional.
3.5 Title
The title of your science thesis should be kept as short as possible. It should represent
an extremely compact summary of the thesis. The title should provide a clear and
complete description of the topic and should contain many keywords (“what?”,
“how?” and possibly “why?”). The main title should not contain more than 10
words. An optional subtitle may be used if necessary (all together not more than 25
words). Important words and terms should be placed at the beginning of the title.
Avoid unspecific expressions such as
Investigation of ...
Experiments on ...
Results of ...
Attempts to ...
Rather use expressions such as
Influence of ... on ...
Generation of ... with ...
Dependence of ... upon ...
Optimization of ... upon ...
Avoid technical abbreviations or acronyms and special symbols such as IR for in-
frared or θfor potential temperature.
3.6 Abbreviations and Symbols
Abbreviations (e.g., ECMWF) and symbols (e.g., ~vg) have to be defined, i.e. ex-
plained, at the place where the first appear in the text. For example: The model was
initialized with the operational analysis of the European Centre for Medium-Range
Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). From the ECMWF fields of geopotential height we
derive the geostrophic wind vector ~vg. The change of ~vgwith pressure preveals the
thermal wind equation.
A list of abbreviations and a list of symbols at the beginning of the thesis (before
chapter 1) is optional.
3.7 Parameters and Units 9
3.7 Parameters and Units
Use italic letters for scalar quantities (e.g., Rand g), bold upright letters or arrows
for vector quantities (e.g., vgor ~vg) and sans-serif letters for tensors (e.g., T). All
this parameters should be written in mathematical mode ($ ... $). Units should
be written with normal upright letters (e.g., m s1). Use spacing between numbers
and individual units (e.g., φ= 100 W m2). Less or no spacing is used between
numbers and units in case of percent and degrees (e.g., 10% and 5C). See also
Table 3.1 for further examples.
3.8 Footnotes
Do not use footnotes in an extensive way. Footnotes distract the reader from the
main body of the document. Do not use footnotes for referring to literature, rather
use the author-year citation system together with a bibliography (list of references)
at the end of the thesis.
Chapter 4
The discussion is the interpretation and evaluation of the results. It is a compari-
son of your results with previous findings. It provides the answer to the scientific
questions raised in the introduction. It is the “nerve center” of a thesis, whereas the
chapter Results may be seen as the “heart”.
Clearly separate between your own contributions and those of others. Provide
rigorous citations of appropriate sources! Explicitly refer to specific results pre-
sented earlier. A certain amount of repetition is necessary. For example, the results
presented in 3.2 suggest that . . . . Order discussion items not chronologically but
rather logically.
The chapter Results answers the question: What has been found? (Facts). The
chapter Discussion answers the question: How has the result to be interpreted?
The most important message should appear in the first paragraph. The answer
to the key question may appear in the first sentence: e.g., did your original idea work,
or didn’t it? The following questions may be answered in the discussion section:
Why is the presented method simpler, better, more reliable than previous
What are its strengths and its limitations?
How significant are the results?
How trustworthy are the observations?
Under which precondition/assumption and for which region are the re-
sults/method valid?
Can the results be easily transferred to other regions or fields?
Chapter 5
This chapter contains consequences that derive from your results. It may also con-
tain speculations. It may provide suggestions for future studies. Hence, the conclu-
sions may provide an outlook and list open questions. Sometimes this chapter is part
of the discussion. In such a case, the chapter reads “Discussion and Conclusions”.
Appendix A
Large Quantities of Data
Large quantities of data should be placed in an appendix. They should only be
“summarized” in the chapter Results. Another way is to present some representative
cases together with some extreme cases in the chapter Results. In any case, there
should always appear a reference to the appendix in the main part of the thesis.
American Meteorological Society, cited 2009: Author reference and citation
guide, URL http://www.ametsoc.org/PUBS/journals/author_reference_
Arakawa, S., 1969: Climatological and dynamical studies on the local strong winds,
mainly in Hokkaid¯o, Japan. Geophys. Mag.,34, 359–425.
Dorman, C. E., R. C. Beardsley, and R. Limeburner, 1995: Winds in the Strait of
Gibraltar. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,121, 1903–1921.
Gohm, A., 2003: Contributions to the dynamics of south foehn: A gap flow study
during the Mesoscale Alpine Programme. Dissertation, University of Innsbruck,
111 pp.
Gohm, A., F. Harnisch, and A. Fix, 2006: Boundary layer structure in the Inn
Valley during high air pollution (INNAP). Extended Abstract, 12th Conference
on Mountain Meteorology, Santa Fe, NM, Amer. Meteor. Soc., URL http://ams.
Hann, J., 1866: Zur Frage ¨uber den Ursprung des ohn. Z. ¨
Osterr. Ges. Meteor.,
1 (17), 257–263.
Hoinka, K. P., 1985: Observation of the airflow over the Alps during a foehn event.
Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,111, 199–224.
Hoinka, K. P., 1990: Untersuchung der alpinen Gebirgs¨uberstr¨omung bei S¨udf¨ohn.
DLR-Forschungsbericht 90-30, 186 pp., DLR Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
Jackson, P. L. and D. G. Steyn, 1994a: Gap winds in a fjord. Part I: Observations
and numerical simulation. Mon. Wea. Rev.,122, 2645–2665.
Jackson, P. L. and D. G. Steyn, 1994b: Gap winds in a fjord. Part II: Hydraulic
analog. Mon. Wea. Rev.,122, 2666–2676.
Kopka, H. and P. W. Daly, 1999: A Guide to LATEX. 3d ed., Addison-Wesley, 600
Oetiker, T., H. Partl, I. Hyna, and E. Schlegl, 2008: The Not So Short Intro-
duction to LATEX 2². CTAN, URL http://www.ctan.org/pub/tex-archive/
Pan, F. and R. B. Smith, 1999: Gap winds and wakes: SAR observations and
numerical simulations. J. Atmos. Sci.,56, 905–923.
Pettre, P., 1982: On the problem of violent valley winds. J. Atmos. Sci.,39, 542–554.
Russey, W. E., H. F. Ebel, and C. Bliefert, 2006: How to Write a Successful Science
Thesis: The Concise Guide for Students. Wiley-VHC, 223 pp.
Scar, C. and R. B. Smith, 1993a: Shallow-water flow past isolated topography.
Part I: Vorticity production and wake formation. J. Atmos. Sci.,50, 373–1400.
Scar, C. and R. B. Smith, 1993b: Shallow-water flow past isolated topography.
Part II: Transition to vortex shedding. J. Atmos. Sci.,50, 1401–1412.
Scorer, R. S., 1952: Mountain-gap winds; a study of surface wind at Gibraltar.
Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,78, 53–61.
Now it is time to thank all people who have contributed to your work and who
have supported you during your study. Do not forget to mention all relevant data
providers and funding agencies (also provide the grant numbers).
Curriculum Vitae
FirstName LastName
Born on 01 April 1976 in Town, Country
Education and Professional training:
1999–2003 Research assistant and Ph.D. student in the group of Dr. LastName at
the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck.
1998–1999 Diploma thesis under the guidance of Dr. LastName, Institute of
Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck: “Title of your
diploma thesis”.
1993–1998 Diploma study at the University of Innsbruck. Master of Natural
Science (Magister rerum naturalium) in Meteorology.
1989–1993 Highschool, Town. Matura.
Meteorological training courses: “Numerical methods and adiabatic for-
mulation of models”, ECMWF, 1998; “Data assimilation and use of satellite data”,
ECMWF, 1998.
Participation in field experiments: Gap flow study (MAP), Austria, 1999.
Here is the place where you may want to tell a little story or a fairy tale which has
some relevance for your thesis, such as “Once upon a time, . . . ”. The Epilogue is