The term “thesis” comes from the Greek θέσις, meaning “something put forth,” and refers to an intellectual proposition. “Dissertation” comes from the Latin dissertātiō, meaning “discussion”.
Submitted as part of an academic degree, a thesis generally forms a major part of any PhD, Master’s or Bachelor’s degree. By presenting an argument and focus of research, the academic thesis is a body of work documenting a specific research study. The researcher does this by “putting forth” an argument/research statement, stating the purpose of the study, discussing the previous research literature on the topic of the study, and presenting the methods and findings.
The typical structure of a thesis varies between universities and institution, but essentially consists of six main elements:
- Abstract: A clear and concise description of the study in 150-300 words. The abstract summarizes the entire thesis, and in addition to stating the research focus, it may also briefly describe the results and conclusions.
- Introduction: This opening section introduces the research topic, the basic methodology, and a short background to the study and what it aims to explore.
- Literature Review: This section provides an overview of any existing studies that relate to the current study and inform the reader of the scope of current knowledge on the topic and elements pertaining to the researcher’s study, presented in the research thesis.
- Methodology: presents the research design and data collection methods, while justifying why they were chosen.
- Findings: Here, the researcher presents their results and findings. Tables are often used to present data, along with a detailed outline of the results.
- Analysis and Discussion: The results are interpreted and analyzed by the researcher in the context of the literature review. In this section, the researcher states how significant they are to the research topic and how they can be interpreted. This section also allows the researcher to point out the limitations to the study, provide explanations for unexpected results, and note any questions that remain unanswered.
- Conclusion: To complete the research thesis, the conclusion section answers the research question by summarizing the the main points of research. There is also room for the researcher to give their personal opinion, making deductions based on the results obtained, as well as give recommendations for future studies.
When it comes to preparing a thesis, there are many techniques we can use to stay on track. Following the structure is essential, but a thesis does not have to be written in a chronological order. For instance, if you have already collected and examined the data for your research, then you will already know what to include in your Methods and Results sections. Here are a few things to consider before, during, and after you write a thesis.
Before starting it
When starting to think about a significant research topic, consider the topic of interest and its audience. Who are they? Why would they find your research interesting? Do they already know about the topic? If so, what information already exists about it? And further, what do they need to know about to further their knowledge? Can your audience gain anything by reading your research? Answering the above questions will help you narrow down the research scope and refine the research statement.
Next, brainstorm everything you can think of related to your research topic. After choosing what to investigate, observe, analyze, argue, or observe, a skeleton outline can help you visualize the basic structure and give you a place to start. Organizing your information in a logical order, the outline should list all the major points that support your thesis, as well as any supporting ideas and arguments.
While you’re writing it
- Consider the structure of your paper and what needs to be included in each section. As you gather your research, make a detailed list of all your sources. Each source will help you to detail the background and literature review sections.
- While collecting the research data, it is a good idea to record the methods and equipment used, as it can be included in the methodology section.
- After collecting a substantial amount of data, you can begin to construct any graphs, charts, and tables. These will be useful in the Results section, since they serve to describe the results.
- Any interpretations or ideas generated from your data should be used in the Discussion section. You can also compare your data with other studies and describe how it relates to yours.
- Next, use the ideas mentioned in the previous section to form your conclusion. Did your research comprehensively answer your research question, or is more research necessary? If so, how could this be achieved? This information will lead you to the Recommendations section, where you can also make predictions about future outcomes and directions for further research.
The points above outline one possible way to navigate writing a thesis. Once you finish writing your body paragraphs, you are ready to write your introduction! By the time you finish writing the body of your paper, you can decide what you feel are the most important points of your argument. Writing the introduction last will avoid you from having to go back and make changes if you diverged from your original plan set out in your thesis proposal. Also, after documenting and analyzing your study in-depth, you’ll have more information to use when grounding the research in the context of other related studies.
After you’ve finished writing it
After the first draft is complete, reread and revise the thesis. Did you address everything required in the guidelines? Does the entire paper prove your research and support your arguments sufficiently? Read through your paper, aloud if it helps, aiming to achieve a consistent scholarly voice, and rephrase any awkward sentences, if necessary. Also take note of any grammar errors or spelling mistakes and use clear academic language. To make sure your thesis is up to scratch, consider hiring an experienced copy editor in academic writing will polish up your thesis, correcting all elements of language and style.