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I am finishing up my thesis and am currently focusing upon the conclusion. There I have a section on future work.

I have quite a few areas that I think require follow up or investigation. However, is there such a thing as listing too many areas of future work in that it will look like one hasn't done enough to tackle them? Or that the research is sub-par?

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    Consider the rule of three: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_%28writing%29 – Daniel R. Collins Jan 4 '16 at 17:13
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    This is something you can ask your advisor about. You want possible applications to be compelling, and not overly speculative. – Kimball Jan 4 '16 at 18:09
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    Nobody will read your thesis, just go for it. Have fun. I am only 0.1% kidding. Every good phd thesis opens up more questions than it answers, I wouldn't worry about it. Though country, topic of thesis (e.g., what field are you in) would help give a better answer. Might be different norms in engineering versus biology. – neuronet Jan 4 '16 at 18:33
  • @neuronet: This strongly depends on various factors such as country, field, type of thesis, and so on. Here, at least two people have to read any thesis de jure, and those are important as they determine your grade. It is often joked that only the supervisor reads the whole thesis and the coreferee only reads introduction and conclusion, and I would be surprised if this did not really happen, but even then, this question is about the conclusion. – Wrzlprmft Jan 5 '16 at 7:42
  • Generally, you don't get credit for what you have not done. "Too many" as you mentioned do no harm, yet seems to be not really a good thing - although I'm not sure how many is 'too many' in your case and it depends on the structure & content of your thesis as well. – Jim Raynor Jan 5 '16 at 10:21
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I do not think that the number of areas of future work (let’s call them prospects) is a problem per se. Rather, your prospects should be good, i.e., they should be substantiated by the thesis and by possible additional arguments and not be too speculative. This should give you a natural limit, as a given thesis should can only allow for so many good prospects.

Of course, it can always happen that a careless examinor is put off by the plain number of prospects in your thesis, but that’s a risk you have to estimate yourself. This applies to too many prospects as well as to few. An often quoted rule of thumb is that a good thesis raises more questions than it answers.

If you frequently communicated your research progress to your supervisor, they should already know how productive you were without looking into your thesis. Moreover, if your research was comparably unproductive for some reason, writing what could have been done can mitigate this to some extent. This in particular holds if the unproductiveness is not your fault (e.g., if the particle accelerator you were supposed to be working with was unexpectedly out of order for a year).

As always, you should probably talk to your advisor regarding the specific expectations for your field and type of thesis, the pecularities of particular referees as well as whether individual prospects are good or bad.

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Shock First: couple of questions before "executing yourself" on your defense date: why these future work is not part of your current contribution? who will do all these future work? what is the relations between your work and these future work? how many of these future work are actually have research contribution potential?... and how do you know they are?... did you publish them?... of course not!. You see where I'm going with these? You are setting yourself up for a "crime" you didn't commit.

Explanation: Like any other part of thesis, you are showcasing your research contribution. Do not push it (aka fluff it) to something bigger; and if there is any sensible examiner; he/she will grill you over "fluffing" parts. Obviously there are many future work routes, but you choose and pick the ones that came directly through your research. You cant not keep going and going until you solve the world problems in your future work.

Conclusion: I would suggest to gather all your published research materials under one roof, and then write about the best two or three subjects, from the future work sections of your published research, that you can talk about; which directly came out of your research.

  • Future Work sections in published papers often sound by orders of magnitude more important and generalized than the content of the papers itself, and they are the only part of papers where big progress can be announced without dealing with all the tiny little details that create 90% of the headaches and that no-one might ever want to spend time on. As such, I am skeptical about classifying Future Work sections of published research as "which directly came out of your research". – O. R. Mapper Jan 5 '16 at 17:00

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