Thesis Format

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Thesis Format

The thesis is a lengthy experimental, design, or theoretical report, with a problem-method-results-discussion structure.

There are several different possible structures of the thesis format, depending on which type of document you are writing.

When writing an essay or shorter research paper , it may make more sense to follow the “traditional” A-B-C-D essay format.

However, if you are writing a long research report, such as a thesis or dissertation, you will probably follow the problem-method-results-discussion (PMR) structure.

This structure is less familiar to many people than an A-B-C paper format; however, it has the major advantage of organizing your thesis in the order that it will be read.

It also has other benefits, such as making it easier for readers to navigate through your document, and encouraging you to present complete arguments.

The problem defined in the thesis can be one or defined by several problems, examples:

• How does the internal combustion engine work?

• The dangers of smoking.

The method can be defined as use of data, statistics, theories and so on… Example:

A large scale survey was conducted to determine his level of anger and hostility.

The results section is where you present your findings. Example:

This study found that the overall mean score on the anger and hostility scale was significantly higher for cases than controls.

The discussion section ends your thesis, where you discuss the findings from your study in light of existing research, and relate it to the hypothesis. Example:

Further research is needed to determine why smokers have a shorter life expectancy compared to non-smokers.

In addition, future research needs to be done to determine the optimal amount of smoking cessation services.

The above example is not thesis-format; instead, this is an attempt at providing a short example that may be useful in describing thesis format.

Below you will find more detailed information about each section of a thesis/dissertation format:

1 – Introduction

The introduction starts with a brief summary of what you will be talking about and how it will be organized.

For example: “In this thesis I examine four different research articles on the topic of A, B, C and D.”

There are several ways to organize an introduction:

• You can start by telling what you will be talking about

• You can tell what you will be telling, or how you will organize the document

• You can give a context for your research.

What is most important in an introduction is making sure that all of your readers know what to expect after they’ve read this section.

If they don’t know where you are going to take them, they will probably stop reading.

You should also tell readers why you are doing the research. The specific reasons may differ depending on your particular topic, but overall there are usually four specific reasons that you discuss in an introduction:

• To provide new information to solve a problem or answer a question

• To present original ideas or develop new theories to explain something

• To extend or compare previous work done by others

• To correct or refute previous work done by others.

Sometimes, the introduction may give readers background information about your topic, for example if it is a well-known problem/question but one that hasn’t received much attention recently.

This section is the most important part of the thesis; it motivates readers to keep reading and lets them know what you can do for them.

2 – Methodology

In a thesis/paper, methodology is a section where you describe how you collected your data.

For example: “In this study I interviewed 15 people from Montreal.”

3 – Results and Discussion

This section is where you present your findings.

For example: “My results show that 15 people from Montreal are introverts.”

In the discussion, you discuss your findings in light of what was already known or discussed about your topic.

You also try to explain why you found certain things and not others, and project what you might find in the future.

It is important for your discussion to point out whether or not your hypothesis was correct.

The discussion section usually starts with a brief summary of the results, without going into too much detail.

Then, you explain why your findings are interesting and/or important for your field of study.

When you are discussing your findings, it is important not to use first person pronouns (I, me, my).

Here are some examples:

“We found that…” instead of “I found that…” or “My results showed that…”

“Studies have shown that…” instead of “Studies show/have shown that…”

“It was found that…” instead of “I/we/the researcher(s)/etc. found that…”

These are important distinctions because the goal of the discussion section is to discuss your research in light of what was already known by others.

If you say, “I believe…,” “this study shows…,” “the results indicate…,” it makes it sound like you are the only one with these beliefs, ideas, or views.

Even if this is true (because you did come up with them independently), this is not what you want to say in a scientific context.

In your discussion, be sure to address some of the limitations of your study.

For example, if you did not include some important groups in your research, mention this.

Also be sure to mention some things that you would like to do further or follow up on, based on these results.

Even if you didn’t have the resources to do them at the time of this study, it is important to state that you would like to do them, in order to show that your research is not complete and that there are still things left to learn.

In the results section, make sure you include all of your data tables or figures, with a heading including the date and the word “Figures” at the top of each table or figure.

For example: “Figures 1-5”

In the discussion, you can refer to your figures using their number (e.g., “Figure 1 shows that…”) rather than including the actual figure in your paper.

You should also include tables from statistical tests or other analyses that you did, with a heading including the date and a word in brackets indicating what type of table it is.

For example: “Table 3 [Results]”

In the discussion section, you can refer to your tables using their number (e.g., “Table 3 shows that…”) rather than including the actual table in your paper.

Note that you should place most tables above the reference list, while most figures should be placed below.

Make sure you include all of your references in alphabetical order at the end of your thesis/paper.

For example: Harlow, Harry F., Sara O. Sells, and Donald B. Rubin (1949).

“Sexual Immaturity and Psychologic Disturbances in Boys Adopted from Institutional Homes.” Journal of Genetic Psychology, 65, 279-310.

1 – Introduction

3 – Results and Discussion

4 – Limitations/Future Directions

5 – Conclusion


Since the thesis is viewed as an original piece of work by the graduate school, it must demonstrate your independent thought process.

The Graduate School wants the thesis to reflect your critical thinking skills and ability to examine information critically, rather than regurgitating what was done in a lab session or book chapter.

It should show that you are capable of conducting research by yourself, making decisions about how to collect data and analyzing it, and coming to your own conclusions.

The Graduate School does not want to read something that sounds like it was written by someone else (e.g., your lab instructor or textbook).

This should be evident in your thesis even if you did get help from others at some point while writing it.

To demonstrate these skills, it is important to include discussion, analysis, and interpretation of the results in your thesis.

This should be evident throughout the entire manuscript, not just in certain parts (e.g., introduction and conclusion).

It will show that you can think on your feet if you discuss alternative explanations for your findings, give specific reasons why you reject or accept these explanations, and provide potential follow-up experiments.

In addition, you should make it clear how the results fit into the overall body of knowledge in your field (e.g., what is already known and what still needs to be studied).

The Graduate School wants to ensure that your thesis can stand on its own and does not need to be rewritten by someone else in order for it to make sense.

To achieve this, you should avoid writing your thesis like a lab report (e.g., step-by-step methods or results without interpretation) or technical paper (e.g., long lists of acronyms and numbers).

It is also important that the language you use is appropriate for the intended audience (e.g., other scientists in your field).

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