how to structure a thesis
The theory used in an empirical study is meant to shed light on the data in a scholarly or scientific manner. It should give insights not achievable by ordinary, everyday reflections. The main purpose of using theory is to analyse and interpret your data. Therefore, you should not present theoretical perspectives that are not being put to use. Doing so will create false expectations, and suggests that your work is incomplete.
A summing up should repeat the most important issues raised in your thesis (particularly in the discussion), although preferably stated in a (slightly) different way. For example, you could frame the issues within a wider context.
- Avoid merely announcing the topic; your original and specific “angle” should be clear. In this way you will tell your reader why your take on the issue matters.
- Original thesis: In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
- Revised thesis: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
- Avoid making universal or pro/con judgments that oversimplify complex issues.
- Original thesis: We must save the whales.
- Revised thesis: Because our planet’s health may depend upon biological diversity, we should save the whales.
- When you make a (subjective) judgment call, specify and justify your reasoning. вЂњJust becauseвЂќ is not a good reason for an argument.
- Original thesis: Socialism is the best form of government for Kenya.
- Revised thesis: If the government takes over industry in Kenya, the industry will become more efficient.
- Avoid merely reporting a fact. Say more than what is already proven fact. Go further with your ideas. OtherwiseвЂ¦ why would your point matter?
- Original thesis: Hoover’s administration was rocked by scandal.
- Revised thesis: The many scandals of Hoover’s administration revealed basic problems with the Republican Party’s nominating process.
- Unless you’re writing a technical report, avoid technical language. Always avoid jargon, unless you are confident your audience will be familiar with it.
- Avoid vague words such as “interesting,вЂќ “negative,” “exciting,вЂќ “unusual,” and “difficult.”
- Avoid abstract words such as “society,” вЂњvalues,вЂќ or вЂњculture.вЂќ
In answering the first question “why”, you should know what your personal interest in this topic is and if and why it is relevant in general. Why does it matter in real life? You can also give background information here. By answering these questions, you can ground your whole paper from the onset and the readers will not have to answer these questions themselves. In answering the “how”, you should briefly explain how you are going to reach your research goal. Some prefer to answer that question in the methods chapter, but you can give a quick overview here. And finally, you should explain “what” you are studying. You could put your research question in this part. It is recommended to rewrite the introduction one last time when the writing is done to make sure it connects with your conclusion. Learn more about how to write a good thesis introduction in our thesis introduction guide.
- Why is the topic being studied?
- How is the topic being studied?
- What is being studied?
If in doubt about how your thesis or dissertation should be structured, always check your department’s guidelines and consult with your supervisor.
Although the abstract is very short, it’s the first part (and sometimes the only part) of your dissertation that people will read, so it’s important that you get it right. If you’re struggling to write a strong abstract, read our guide on how to write an abstract.
Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction. A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.
Anticipate the counterarguments. Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you’ll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn’t, then it’s not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)