The outline helped us with our figures, although some of them started as mock figures that were completed later. Altogether my thesis was pages, which is quite average for a Ph. My thesis had to be written in publishable chapters. I had a hard time keeping the chapters short enough for manuscript submissions, so at the time of defense my thesis—which consisted of three chapters plus an overall abstract for introduction—was pages, but it ended up being trimmed after that.
I focused on producing several manuscript-ready chapters rather than trying to include all the research work that I did. I first organized my data and results into a storyboard by printing all my graphs and laying them out on a giant table. This strategy helped me see how the pieces fit together, which results would be in or out, the best way to display the data, and where the chapter breaks should be. It also helped me identify a few gaps that needed to be filled back in the lab. Altogether it took about 1 year, including a couple months of maternity leave in the early stages, to write the whole thing.
I decided to write my entire dissertation from scratch. I was already working on two manuscripts for journal submission, but both were collaborations, so it made more sense, and it was also easier, to tell the story of my Ph. I wrote up my scientific results in four different chapters, with additional chapters for the introduction, materials and methods, and conclusion.
For each of the results chapters, I went back to my original experiments and computational results to verify the findings and regenerated the figures and tables as required. I made a lot of notes and flowcharts describing what should go into each chapter to guide me during the writing, which later also helped me provide a quick overview at the beginning of each chapter and crosscheck information at the end of the writing process. As I completed the whole thing, I was quite surprised at how much I had written.
My thesis was nearly pages, and I almost got concerned about examiners having to read them all. I spent about 6 months putting it all together, using the 4-year duration of my stipend as a hard deadline to push myself to finish. Heil , research associate in computational neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.
My writing got squeezed into a two-and-a-half-week gap between the end of a major research project and my defense date, which had been chosen 6 months earlier. Luckily, my department allows students to use published papers as dissertation chapters and I had published regularly during my Ph.
I chose to put together a brief history of my field. This required tracking down and reading a whole bunch of historical papers. Then I jotted down every thought I had on the subject, producing a bullet list of elements I wanted to cover, logical connections between ideas, references, and even just catchy phrases.
Then I made a first attempt to compile all these thoughts into some structured text, focusing on whether I had sufficient material to support my points and how well they flowed. After that, I focused on honing the phrasing itself, using online resources such as spell checkers and grammar books as English is my second language, followed by a final overall polish. When it comes to theses, I find that no one is as helpful as former grad students from your group.
When I reached out to our lab's alumni for advice, they helped me understand the overall process of thesis writing, estimate the time it would take to complete different parts, and watch out for potential pitfalls.
I also downloaded and skimmed through their theses to get a feel for what the final product was supposed to look like. My PI had been heavily involved in writing each of the papers that went into my thesis, so the need for his input was less critical. Nonetheless, before sitting down to write, I had a conversation with him in which we figured out what the main theme of my thesis should be and which papers to use.
Then when the time came to polish my thesis, many of my friends and colleagues, and my wife, who is also a biophysicist, provided invaluable advice. I sent each chapter's methods and results to all my committee members so that we could make sure that the science was complete before I dug into the key scientific messages.
My PI made sure we were in touch and made himself available for questions. He also was an excellent and very thorough editor—having somebody who will rip your writing apart and help you trim and organize is critical. Nearer the end, my fellow graduate students also helped me cut a lot of words. My PI got involved a couple of times: At the beginning when I asked him for advice about how to put a thesis together, and at the end for the final reading of the draft.
But I still felt totally lost. So when my best friend told me that he was going to visit his adviser to discuss how to write his thesis, I did not hesitate to tag along. His adviser clarified the expectations of the graduating commission, gave us some useful suggestions, and reassured us that all would be OK. That meeting helped me feel less overwhelmed and more confident.
A senior colleague of mine, who was an expert adviser for Ph. I would deal with the revisions while he was moving on to the next chapter, which made it much more manageable and saved a lot of time. At that time, I badly needed someone to tell me that I wasn't doing something totally wrong or stupid.
I sent my chapters to my PI one by one as I finished writing them. At times, I would get some feedback relatively straight away by email or through Skype; other times, I would need to send one or two reminders. Setting deadlines for myself, and letting my PI know about them, made me more accountable and helped me stick to my schedule. When I needed concrete tips on specific aspects of the thesis and my PI was really busy, I would just stop by his office.
I also sent individual chapters to people whom I knew had an interest in my research, mainly for proofreading, and I tried to find native English speakers to help me with grammar and spelling. I notified them all ahead of time so that they would have some flexibility on when and how to give me feedback. I was lucky to have a very caring supervisor who literally always had his door open.
However, I tried to only request his input when I felt that critical decisions had to be made, for example when I had finished an outline or a chapter. He provided feedback mainly through track changes added to my drafts, which I found very convenient. When I received his input, I tried to deal with the revisions immediately, leaving the comments that required more work for later.
By tackling the quick revisions first, I felt that I was making progress, which helped me stay motivated. To focus on my writing, I had to stop most of my research, though I still performed some minor tasks that did not require significant time and concentration, such as launching computer calculations. Regarding work-life balance, my wife and I have an informal pact that we try not to work after dinner and on weekends. Without proper rest, productivity just drops and you end up feeling miserable.
I can't say that this pact was enforced during the thesis writing period, but even in the most intense times, we did get out of town at least once a week for a walk in nearby parks and nature reserves to decompress. During the entire writing period, I kept some other work-related activities going.
Especially at the beginning, I remained active as a teaching assistant. Working with students was a nice distraction from my thesis, and it was motivating to see that my work was useful and appreciated by others, especially during unrewarding writing times.
I also worked on other research projects in parallel and went to several international conferences and a summer school on citizen science. These activities not only offered a welcome break from the thesis, but also reminded me of how important and interesting my research was. I also made sure to stay active to keep up my positive energy. Going to the gym always brought me back to writing with a clear mind and a healthier feeling. Sometimes I would try to arrange coffee breaks with friends to reward myself with a piece of cake and good company.
Other times, planning to visit a museum or try a new restaurant helped me keep going by giving me a nice event to look forward to. I stopped doing most of my fieldwork about a year and a half before my thesis was due, which was about the same time my son was born. After my maternity leave, I spent 6 to 8 hours a day writing from home, with my baby on my lap or sleeping next to me.
Once he was in day care at 7 months old, I went to coffee shops nearby so that I could pop over and nurse him at lunchtime. Several times a day, I practiced the Pomodoro Technique where I'd set the timer for 45 minutes and not do anything but write—no emails, no social media, no other tasks. If I thought of something I needed to do, I wrote it down for later. In addition to combining writing with motherhood, other aspects of work-life balance were also extremely important to me.
I didn't work most weekends, and I made sure I got outside and exercised or had some fun every day. Letting go of guilt about not working was key. Feeling bad doesn't get you anywhere, and it just makes the experience unenjoyable for you and the people you love or live with. Early on, it really helped to take a few days away from the lab and just write. I took advantage of the fact that my parents were on holiday and spent a week in their house.
I set realistic daily deadlines, and if I met those I treated myself with a little reward, like a short run through the forest or an evening picnic with an old friend. That week proved very productive, and I came back motivated to get the rest of my writing and experiments done. After I returned, I made sure to continue doing some fun activities without necessarily having to achieve something first, as I realized that I should not be too hard on myself.
Going for a run between writing spells, for example, allowed me to get some distance from my thesis and helped me to maintain perspective and generate new ideas. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor. If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation.
In this section, you will analyse the existing research typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications , with a view to understanding the following questions:. Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework or theoretical framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research. Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on.
Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you.
Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question s.
What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. It all depends on what your research design choices were. Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds?
If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English. In other words, its time to attempt to answer your original research question s from way back in chapter 1. Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer s to the research question s.
Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. This is a strength, not a weakness.
Be brutal! This marks the end of your core chapters — woohoo! The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e. APA, Harvard, etc. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually — its far too error prone.
To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same. A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation.
So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one. The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count see this post which covers how to reduce word count. And there you have it — the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z.
To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is typically as follows:. Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process asking, investigating and answering your research question.
Moreover, the research question s should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the Grad Coach Blog. Very helpful and accessible. Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions.
Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question. The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
The conclusion chapter attempts to answer the core research question. Title page The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. Acknowledgements This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
Any tutors, mentors or advisors. Your family and friends, especially spouse for adult learners studying part-time. Abstract or executive summary The dissertation abstract or executive summary for some degrees serves to provide the first-time reader and marker or moderator with a big-picture view of your research project.
For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points at a minimum : Your research questions and aims — what key question s did your research aim to answer? Your methodology — how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question s?
Your findings — following your own research, what did do you discover? Your conclusions — based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question s?
We have mentioned above the the signature of the Research Supervisor and the Chairman of. The title page inside must below, phd dissertation structure the order given, to understand the significance of. Itemizes all figures, data, and complete work in one line accordance to their university format. Scholars can approach us with existing research studies about your. Our aim towards this article a final output of our will have a complete flow. Microsoft Word allows you to. We focus on this major written document which will be of our work Subject area the final nod easily. An abstract is the first part of the research as existing research work about the is going to read your. All following pages of the dissertation text, including appendices if research which is a written. Also, remember to put them written document which can have.Fully and clearly articulate the answer to your research questions. Discuss how the research is related to your aims and objectives. Explain the significance of the work.