Structure and organization of a thesis

Nick Blog

Where to start when you have to write a three-year or master’s degree thesis? You can save yourself a lot of headaches by starting to write every relevant element of your thesis structure in a Microsoft Word document. This simple exercise gives you an overview of everything you still need to do and can serve as a draft when you need to start writing the actual thesis.

Structure of the thesis

Every faculty and degree course has specific requirements regarding the structure of the three-year or master’s thesis. First of all, it is good to inquire about any requirements and needs required by your course of study. However, the structure of any type of thesis usually has common points.

Title page

The title page is the first page of your thesis, the one that will immediately capture the reader’s attention. This page contains the title, the subtitle and, in some cases, an illustration relevant to the study. Here you can also enter your name, your course of study and your matriculation number.

Information page

The information page may be necessary in some cases to add more information to the title page. This page also contains the title, the subtitle, information about your speakers and yourself (name, registration number and e-mail address), as well as information on the course of study. At the end of the page you can enter the date of the graduation notice.

Preface

The preface is a brief personal note regarding your three-year or master’s thesis. Here you can provide the reader with information about the origins and context of your thesis.

Furthermore, the preface can also be used to thank anyone who has helped in the drafting of the paper.

Acknowledgments

Like the preface, the thanks section allows you to thank all the people who have been helpful during the writing of the three-year or master’s thesis. In this respect, the thank you page is very similar to the preface, the difference is that in this section all the other additional information is not mentioned, such as the context and the origin of the thesis.

Our advice is to use only a preface and add thanks on the same page. You can think of creating a special section only if you need to dedicate a lot of space to thanks.

Summary (Abstract)

One of the main functions of the summary is to help the reader decide if the content of your three-year or master’s thesis is interesting enough to read on. In the summary it is important to answer four questions:

  • What’s the problem?
  • What has been done?
  • What was discovered?
  • What do the new discoveries mean?

Index of the thesis

In the thesis index, you can list the chapters of your three-year or master thesis with the related page number. The thesis index provides the reader with a general overview and the page number of the beginning of each chapter, facilitating the reading of the thesis. Insert in the index of the thesis (easily created on Word) all the parts of your thesis, including the appendix.

Index of figures and tables

All the tables and figures used in your thesis must be listed in a list of figures and tables. When you use the “Insert Caption” function in Word, you can automatically generate this list.

List of abbreviations

In the list of abbreviations it is necessary to insert the abbreviations of all the key terms used in your three-year or master’s degree thesis. By creating this list in alphabetical order, the reader can easily search for the abbreviation that interests him. However, this list can be inserted both at the beginning and at the end (after the bibliography) of a paper, depending on personal preferences and / or the guidelines provided.

Glossary

The glossary is a list of all the terms used in the thesis that require a brief additional explanation. In the glossary the terms are listed in alphabetical order and are explained by a brief description or definition.

Introduction

The introduction introduces the topic and the discussed problem and describes how the three-year or magisterial thesis was structured. A clear and convincing written introduction will more easily attract the reader’s attention and encourage him to continue reading the paper.

Theoretical framework / Narrative synthesis

In the chapter on the theoretical framework, it is necessary to start answering all the questions concerning the topic and the objective of the research (ie the set of questions that help you define that variable). Almost always, all the necessary answers are found by conducting an in-depth and adequate study of the topic in question. We recommend a separate section for each question.

If you are conducting empirical research and preparing personal hypotheses, you can use the text to support or reject a hypothesis. You can make a narrative summary to formulate personal hypotheses. Later, when you conduct qualitative and quantitative research, you will be able to verify the hypotheses.

Research structure

In this section you describe the study carried out, an integral part of the research plan. Here you will be shown where, when, how and with whom you searched. The “how” will determine your search method. Will you conduct the research using a survey or a direct experiment? The “how” is also characterized by the “research methodology”.

Search results

In this chapter we put into practice what was described and analyzed in the previous chapter using the methodologies used. The results of the research are described and the results are analyzed.

Conclusion

In the conclusion you can finally provide an answer to the questions previously posed and, often, the results are left open to more possible interpretations.

In the conclusion section, we also discuss the various possible interpretations and points of view as well as suggestions on possible future studies or research.

Suggestions / consultative plan

Recommendations for future studies or research are almost always discussed in the previous section of the discussion of the three-year or master’s thesis. However, an advisory plan is required for students who do final traineeships at a company or institution.

In this section, students express suggestions or action plans to the company or body in response to the conclusion of the research carried out.

Afterword / Evaluations / Reflections

Like the preface, the afterword is often used for thanks, so it is often useless if a preface is already present. But this section can also be dedicated to personal reflections.

When writing the thesis with another person, you can use the afterword to indicate how the collaboration took place and what was learned from it.

Bibliographical references

All the sources used in the bibliographic list (or bibliography) are listed. Your faculty or course of study may specify which style to use to indicate the sources used. One of the most popular is the APA style.

We have created an APA Generator that allows you to easily and quickly create the right style to mention all your sources. If your faculty requires a specific style (as can be the OSCOLA style for some faculties of Jurisprudence) I should use that style of quotation to write your bibliographic references.

Appendix

Your thesis focuses on a central theme. Many of the documents that you have used but do not necessarily have to be present in the thesis are added to the appendix. If these documents have contributed to your research, you need to include them so that other people can read up on how the research was conducted and what it was based on.

Often in the appendix there are interviews (questions), tables and analyzes.

The structure described above can be very useful when writing a three-year or master’s thesis, but obviously you can easily change the format or adapt it to your needs.

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