The purpose of each section in a thesis!

A thesis is different from a report. A report talks about what you’ve done, whereas thesis provides an argument about a new piece of knowledge. It is structured a certain way, to enable an examiner or a reader to easily find the information they need in such a long argument. Therefore, each section has a purpose that contributes to this argument, and the way you discuss the past literature and your current work would be influenced by which section the discussion falls in.

Abstract: Although it’s first in the thesis, it’s written last. It is a summary of all of the sections.

Introduction: This is only around 2-5 pages. Provides the context of your work. Why is it important? How does it fit in the overall scheme of things? It should also mention in short form what your work is about.

Literature review: This is the information required to understand the rest of the thesis. By the end of it, the reader should understand what the gaps in the knowledge are.

Aim and scope: This is only 1 page, and should outline what specific gap in the knowledge you will be addressing with this work, a one-sentence description of each aim, and a description of the scope that provides boundaries around what you’re doing

Methodology: This describes both why you’re doing what you’re doing, and also a list of steps describing what you’re doing. Someone should be able to replicate your results based on the information in this section. This section also includes your hypothesis.

Results: This is the raw data, presented either as graphs or tables. The text describes the raw data, and brings to attention the important things to the reader, which will be discussed later.

Discussion: This is the interpretation of the raw data, you might have some graphs that explain the raw data. It puts the results in context of the literature review and the gaps in the knowledge. Think about the scientific ‘story’, i.e. the argument you’re making for a new piece of knowledge, and how the results come together as evidence for this new knowledge. This section might contain some mini-conclusions.

Conclusion & future work: This section highlights how you have addressed your aim, and the resulting future work that is enabled by your work.

Structuring the content
Each paragraph is structured with a beginning, middle and end. The first sentence proposes an idea. The middle sentences support the statement in the first sentence. The final sentence summarises the paragraph. Each paragraph should only talk about one idea.

People often talk about finding your ‘voice’. A voice is actually just what you think. When you read the first sentence of each paragraph in the section, it should summarise the story of your logical argument. This is where your unique ‘voice’ comes through, as no-one else has thought of what you have just done!