is a common requirement in masters-level and doctoral-level academic programs. The format and structure of these works vary depending on an individual's particular department, discipline or purpose and objective. If the purpose is to satisfy academic needs, which is generally the case, a student should look to the specific standards defined by his or her's institution or the ones set forth in a particular field of study. Though things are changing with regards to dissertations (for example, some may find that their institution allows for alternative submissions such as published works), for the most part, the traditional thesis is still a cornerstone of academic scholarship and knowledge of its proper structure and presentation should be obtained by anyone pursuing post-graduate studies.
How to structure your thesis
There are various ways to structure your thesis or dissertation. As stated earlier, depending on your discipline or specific department requirements your thesis format may differ slightly from traditional structures. In general, all thesis papers and dissertations will include a few common elements. These are as follows; a standard cover or title page, abstract, table of contents, list of visual additions such as diagrams, and reference page or bibliography and appendices.
Some other elements may also be added keeping in mind your own preferences or the overwhelming benefit of the addition, for example if you were to include a glossary knowing that your paper has very difficult terms that may even need to be clarified to members of that field.
Basic thesis structure
Your title page should be simple and straightforward. It should include the title and subtitle of your work, your name, applicable credentials, university or organization, department, specific information about your thesis (for example if it was submitted to fulfill the requirements of a particular program or project) also specific advisors or professors who possibly assisted and or allowed you to perform your research under the supervision.
Table of contents
This section of your thesis needs little explanation. Simply list all the major sections or titles in your paper along with their subtitles or subdivisions. Your contents page can start after your title page or possibly after the abstract as seen in some thesis presentation styles.
Abstracts are short, concise explanations of your thesis statement (about 500 words). The essential information that you will be covering in your paper should be answered in your abstract. Your abstract should answer the questions, who, what, when, where and how. For example;
(a) what you did and why, (b) your methods or how you discovered your results, (c) what your actual results were and (d) why they mattered or their relevance and significance to your particular field of study.
Once these questions are answered constructing a precise and efficient abstract should be easy to accomplish.
List of illustrations, diagrams, or figures
Including a list of your visual aides in the beginning of your thesis depends on whether or not you have a large amount of visuals to identify. If you have over ten items then include the list and write the name of each image, its page number and a brief description of what it illustrates. Visuals include charts, diagrams, illustrations and similar items used to support your statements and show an examination of data and results.
This section is not found in all paper formats and is generally considered optional. If you feel that it is a reasonable addition that would enhance your presentation by genuinely assisting the reader than you may want to include it. In general its expected that your audience will be familiar with the jargon of your discipline though dissertations are written for many purposes and in your case it may be warranted.
This section may appear in the beginning of your paper as seen here or at the end before your bibliography. It should simply acknowledge those who aided and assisted you in completing your paper by any means, for example your advisors or institutions that provided you with grants and other support whether financial, technological, or other.
The text or main body of your paper will be structured according to your purpose and the type of dissertation (depending on your discipline) you are formulating. A common type of thesis is known as the experimental or analytical thesis, with this format the main text of your paper would be similar to the following;
- Literature review
- Results or findings
- Analysis and discussion of results
The second common type of theis is the theoretical based thesis or dissertation. If formulating this type of writing you will create chapters based on the theories studied and examined. Since it is theoretical there is no practical investigations involved and therefore you would not need the above sections noted such as methods, results and findings. Instead you may need to order or group your paper according to the type of theories you are analyzing.
Examples of thesis style by discipline
- Literature review
- Experimental Methods
- Results and findings
- Theoretical analysis
- Compare and contrast experimental results
- Conclusion and future work
- Main Body: This is written according to the order in which you will discuss, categorize, or analyze your theories. You may decide to group them according to a common interpretation or understanding or by means of a broader concept or idea.
Here you need to cite all references consulted in creating your thesis. References should be listed in alphabetical order and follow a designated referencing style such as APA
Your appendix should include information that would be considered too lengthy to include in the body of your paper
such as long charts and statistical documentation. Likewise calculations over two pages or so, and other charts and diagrams that may be helpful but not vital to your argument and thesis. Also you may include other information such as interview transcripts or copies of papers you consulted for your project which may not be readily accessible to your colleagues or others interested in utilizing your sources.
Overall the structure and presentation style of your thesis should effectively present your research and findings while adhering to common scholarship guidelines and the expectations of your particular institution and discipline.