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  • Manuscript Preparation

Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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In your academic career, few projects are more important than your PhD thesis. Unfortunately, many university professors and advisors assume that their students know how to structure a PhD. Books have literally been written on the subject, but there’s no need to read a book in order to know about PhD thesis paper format and structure. With that said, however, it’s important to understand that your PhD thesis format requirement may not be the same as another student’s. The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines.

But, let’s take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We’ll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We’ll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections. As you read through this toolkit, compare it to published PhD theses in your area of study to see how a real-life example looks.

Main Sections of a PhD Thesis

In almost every PhD thesis or dissertation, there are standard sections. Of course, some of these may differ, depending on your university or department requirements, as well as your topic of study, but this will give you a good idea of the basic components of a PhD thesis format.

  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary that quickly outlines your research, touches on each of the main sections of your thesis, and clearly outlines your contribution to the field by way of your PhD thesis. Even though the abstract is very short, similar to what you’ve seen in published research articles, its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The abstract is there to answer the most important question to the reviewer. “Why is this important?”
  • Introduction : In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it’s important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.
  • Literature Review : Within the literature review, you are making a case for your new research by telling the story of the work that’s already been done. You’ll cover a bit about the history of the topic at hand, and how your study fits into the present and future.
  • Theory Framework : Here, you explain assumptions related to your study. Here you’re explaining to the review what theoretical concepts you might have used in your research, how it relates to existing knowledge and ideas.
  • Methods : This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design. Here you’ll discuss the specific techniques you used to get the information you were looking for, in addition to how those methods are relevant and appropriate, as well as how you specifically used each method described.
  • Results : Here you present your empirical findings. This section is sometimes also called the “empiracles” chapter. This section is usually pretty straightforward and technical, and full of details. Don’t shortcut this chapter.
  • Discussion : This can be a tricky chapter, because it’s where you want to show the reviewer that you know what you’re talking about. You need to speak as a PhD versus a student. The discussion chapter is similar to the empirical/results chapter, but you’re building on those results to push the new information that you learned, prior to making your conclusion.
  • Conclusion : Here, you take a step back and reflect on what your original goals and intentions for the research were. You’ll outline them in context of your new findings and expertise.

Tips for your PhD Thesis Format

As you put together your PhD thesis, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips that might keep you on track.

  • Don’t try to write your PhD as a first-draft. Every great masterwork has typically been edited, and edited, and…edited.
  • Work with your thesis supervisor to plan the structure and format of your PhD thesis. Be prepared to rewrite each section, as you work out rough drafts. Don’t get discouraged by this process. It’s typical.
  • Make your writing interesting. Academic writing has a reputation of being very dry.
  • You don’t have to necessarily work on the chapters and sections outlined above in chronological order. Work on each section as things come up, and while your work on that section is relevant to what you’re doing.
  • Don’t rush things. Write a first draft, and leave it for a few days, so you can come back to it with a more critical take. Look at it objectively and carefully grammatical errors, clarity, logic and flow.
  • Know what style your references need to be in, and utilize tools out there to organize them in the required format.
  • It’s easier to accidentally plagiarize than you think. Make sure you’re referencing appropriately, and check your document for inadvertent plagiarism throughout your writing process.

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  • Pak J Med Sci
  • v.32(2); Mar-Apr 2016

How to write a Doctoral Thesis

Prof. HR Ahmad, Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. E-mail: [email protected]

Note: * Ahmad HR. In: Medical Writing. Eds. SA Jawaid, MH Jafary & SJ Zuberi. PMJA, 1997 Ed II: 133-142.

PATIENT care and teaching are rather well established components of our medical career. However, with the passage of time a third component has started to influence our medical culture, namely research. 1 - 4 How to accept this challenge is a question. 5 Indeed, teaching and research form a dialectic unit, meaning that teaching without a research component is like a soup without salt. It is a well-established fact that the research activity of an institution is directly proportional to the number of qualified and committed PhD candidates. An inspiring infrastructure, laboratory facilities and libraries are pre-requisites for a research culture to grow. 6 - 8 This forms the basis of a generation cycle for an institution, so that research activity and its culture continues to grow from one generation to the next. The main objective of doctoral work in biomedical sciences is to develop a galaxy of scientist physicians and surgeons possessing high degree of humility, selflessness and ethical superiority. Such a programme will add a scholastic dimension to the clinical faculty.

Education in how to write a doctoral thesis or dissertation should be a part of the postgraduate curriculum, parallel to the laboratory work and Journal Club activities during the PhD studies and/or residency levels. 9 , 10 The overall structure of a doctoral thesis is internationally standardized. However, it varies in style and quality, depending upon how original the work is, and how much the author has understood the work. Therefore a thorough discussion with supervisor, colleagues and assistance from other authors through correspondence can be useful sources for consultation.

The choice of a topic for a doctoral thesis is a crucial step. It should be determined by scanning the literature whether the topic is original or similar work has already been done even a hundred years ago. It is the responsibility of both the supervisor and the PhD candidate to sort out this problem by continuous use of internet and a library. 11 The work leading to the PhD degree can originate from research in following spheres: 12

  • b) Methodology
  • c) Diagnostic
  • d) Therapeutic and Management
  • e) Epidemiology

The availability of internationally standardized methods, as well as research committed supervisors can enable physicians and surgeons to do PhD work in both basic and clinical health sciences. The importance of research in basic health sciences cannot be overemphasized. It is rather the base of the applied sciences. There are many instances where the elucidation of a mechanism involved in a process awaits the development of an adequate methodology. 13 In such a scenario; a new method is like a new eye. Research activity in the field of (a) and (b) illuminates the research directions for (c) (d) and (e). It is worth noting that sometimes important basic questions can come from (e) and stimulate research activity in the domain of basic health sciences. 14 , 15

Types of Doctoral Thesis

TYPE-I: Book Form: a classical style. The blueprint of this form is shown in Table-I .

Type-I: The Classical Book Form

TYPE-II: Cumulative Doctoral thesis: A modem but quite useful practice.

INTRODUCTION

A book containing the pearls of a PhD work has standardized divisions and formats, where the number of pages should be weighted in terms of content rather than container. The book includes summary, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, conclusions, references and acknowledgements.

Two exercises are mandatory before starting a PhD programme:

  • Literature survey using a regular library hours and internet surfing
  • Familiarization with the hands-on-experience of methodology involved in the work
  • The importance of a continuous literature survey using library, internet and direct correspondence with authors across the globe in the same field cannot be over-emphasized. The main goal of this exercise is to pinpoint the unresolved problem in the literature. An attempt to solve this problem now becomes the topic of the PhD thesis. All the relevant references should be collected, and carefully preserved in the form of a card system arranged alphabetically according to themes and authors. The introduction of the thesis should be styled like a review article with a critical analysis of the work of authors in the literature. The aims of the present PhD work can then also be addressed in the form of questions. The objectives would then deal with how to achieve the aims of the proposed study.

MATERIALS / SUBJECTS AND METHODS

Now comes the most crucial and functional part of the doctoral work, the materials/subjects and methods section. This part can be considered as the motor of the PhD work. The reliability, sensitivity and specificity of the motor must be checked before embarking on a long journey. Controlling the controls is the best guide for a precise and authentic work. Usually materials and methods contain components such as a description of the species involved, their number, age, weight and anthropometric parameters, types of surgical procedures and anesthesia if applied, and a detailed description of methodology. Continuous or point measurements should be thoroughly described. However, a dynamic method should always be preferred to static one.

The experimental protocol should be designed after a small pilot study, which is especially advisable in research on human subjects. A detailed and well-thought experimental protocol forms the basis of conditions under which the results would be obtained. Any deviation from the experimental protocol will affect the outcome, and the interpretation of results. It may be noted that great discoveries are usually accidental and without a protocol, based merely on careful observation! However, for the sake of a publication, a protocol has to be designed after the discovery. After having described the different phases of the experimental protocol with the help of a schematic diagram e.g., showing variables, time period and interventions, the selection of a statistical method should be discussed. Negative results should not be disregarded because they represent the boundary conditions of positive results. Sometimes the negative results are the real results.

It is usual practice that most PhD candidates start writing the methodological components first. This is followed by writing the results. The pre-requisites for writing results are that all figures, tables, schematic diagrams of methods and a working model should be ready. They should be designed in such a way that the information content of each figure should, when projected as a frame be visually clear to audience viewing it from a distance of about fifty feet. It is often observed that the presenters themselves have difficulty in deciphering a frame of the Power-Point being projected in a conference.

The results of a doctoral thesis should be treated like a bride. The flow of writing results becomes easier if all figures and tables are well prepared. This promotes the train of thoughts required to analyze the data in a quantitative fashion. The golden rule of writing results of a thesis is to describe what the figure shows. No explanation is required. One should avoid writing anything which is not there in a figure. Before writing one should observe each diagram for some time and make a list of observations in the form of key words. The more one has understood the information content of a figure; the better will be the fluency of writing. The interruption of the flow in writing most often indicates that an author has not understood the results. Discussion with colleagues or reference to the literature is the only remedy, and it functions sometimes like a caesarean procedure.

Statistical methods are good devices to test the degree of authenticity and precision of results if appropriately applied. The application of statistical technique in human studies poses difficulties because of large standard deviations. Outliers must be discussed, if they are excluded for the sake of statistical significance. Large standard deviations can be minimized by increasing the number of observations. If a regression analysis is not weighted, it gives faulty information. The correlation coefficient value can change from 0.7 to 0.4 if the regression analysis is weighted using Fisher’s test. The dissection of effect from artifact should be analysed in such a way that the signal to noise ratio of a parameter should be considered. A competent statistician should always be consulted in order to avoid the danger of distortion of results.

The legend of a figure should be well written. It contains a title, a brief description of variables and interventions, the main effect and a concluding remark conveying the original message. The writing of PhD work is further eased by a well maintained collection of data in the form of log book, original recordings, analyzed references with summaries and compiling the virgin data of the study on master plan sheet to understand the original signals before submitting to the procedures of statistics. The original data belong to the laboratory of an institution where it came into being and should be preserved for 5-7 years in the archive for the sake of brevity.

This is the liveliest part of a thesis. Its main goal is to defend the work by staging a constructive debate with the literature. The golden rule of this written debate should be that a rigid explanation looks backward and a design looks forward. The object is to derive a model out of a jig-saw puzzle of information. It should be designed in such a way that the results of the present study and those of authors from the literature can be better discussed and interpreted. Agreement and disagreement can be better resolved if one considers under what experimental conditions the results were obtained by the various authors. It means that the boundary conditions for each result should be carefully analyzed and compared.

The discussion can be divided into the following parts:

  • criticism of material/subjects and methods
  • a list of important observations of the present study
  • interpretation and comparison of results of other authors using a literature table
  • design of a model
  • claim of an original research work
  • The criticism of the methodological procedure enables a candidate to demonstrate how precisely the research work has been carried out. The interpretation of results depends critically on the strict experimental protocol and methods. For example, an epidemiological work is a study of a population. However, if the population sampling is done regularly at a specific location; the question arises as to how a result derived from a localized place can be applied to the whole population.
  • After having discussed at length the strong and weak points of material/subjects and methods, one should list in a telegraphic design the most important observations of the present study. This may form a good agenda to initiate interpretation, argument, reasoning and comparison with results of other authors. The outcome of this constructive debate should permit the design of a working model in the form of a block diagram. All statements should be very carefully referenced. The ratio of agreement and disagreement should indicate the ability of the author to reconcile conflicting data in an objective and quantitative way. Attempts should be made to design a solution out of the given quantum of information. It is also well known that most of the processes of human physiology can only be understood if their time course is known. The dynamic aspect of interpretation of results is therefore more powerful and superior to the static one. 16 Therefore a continuous record of variables should be preferred and sought to reveal the secrets hidden in the kinetics.
  • Finally, the discussion should conclude how far the study was successful in answering the questions being posed at the end of the introduction part. Usually a doctoral thesis raises more questions than it answers. In this way research does not come to a standstill and does become a life time engagement for a committed scientist. Also it is important to note that all scientific theses should be quantifiable and falsifiable, otherwise they lose the spirit and fragrance of a scientific research.
  • The author’s claim of original work is finally decided by the critical review of his research work by the literature and the number of times being cited. It can be easily read by a high rate of a citation index of a publication and invitation. When a methodological research clicks, one becomes a star overnight.

Type-II: CUMULATIVE DOCTORAL THESES

Another way of writing a doctoral work is a cumulative type of thesis. 11 It consists of a few original publications in refereed journals of repute. It is supplemented by a concise summary about the research work. This type of thesis is usually practiced in Sweden, Germany and other countries. It has the advantage of being doubly refereed by the journals and the faculty of health sciences. Additionally, papers are published during a doctoral work. A declaration has to be given to the faculty of science about the sharing of research work in publications, provided there are co-authors. The weightage should be in favour of the PhD candidate, so that the thesis can ethically be better defended before the team of august research faculty.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A critical review of this manuscript by Dr. Roger Sutton, Dr. Khalid Khan, Dr. Bukhtiar Shah and Dr. Satwat Hashmi is gratefully acknowledged.

Dedicated to the memory of Mr. Azim Kidwai for his exemplary academic commitment and devotion to the science journalism in Pakistan.

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When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree.

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

  • 8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included
  • At least 1 inch for all margins
  • Body of text: double spacing
  • Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry
  • Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used

Fonts and Point Size

Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be published to DASH as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of Word, follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  • Click the File tab and then click Options .
  • In the left column, select the Save tab.
  • Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

  • In the File pull-down menu click on Options .
  • Choose Save on the left sidebar.
  • Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.
  • Click the OK button.
  • Save the document.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

  • Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.
  • A new window will display. In the bottom right corner select Word Options . 
  • Choose Save from the left sidebar.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

  • Open your document in Microsoft Word. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF tab at the top. Select "Change Conversion Settings." 
  • Click on Advanced Settings. 
  • Click on the Fonts folder on the left side of the new window. In the lower box on the right, delete any fonts that appear in the "Never Embed" box. Then click "OK." 
  • If prompted to save these new settings, save them as "Embed all fonts." 
  • Now the Change Conversion Settings window should show "embed all fonts" in the Conversion Settings drop-down list and it should be selected. Click "OK" again. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF link at the top again. This time select Convert to Adobe PDF. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, this process can take 1-15 minutes. 
  • After your document is converted, select the "File" tab at the top of the page. Then select "Document Properties." 
  • Click on the "Fonts" tab. Carefully check all of your fonts. They should all show "(Embedded Subset)" after the font name. 
  •  If you see "(Embedded Subset)" after all fonts, you have succeeded.

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

  • Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions are required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, Harvard Griffin GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH , Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image or other third-party content in my dissertation is fair use?  

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going to be used?

  • Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.
  • A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image.  

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

  • Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 
  • Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used?  

  • Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

  • If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community .

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.
  • Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone, therefore, has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media , which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder . Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate . Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images.  

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page .

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at the top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

  • Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

A copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page. This page should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the online version of the published dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

  • Do not print a page number on the title page. It is understood to be page  i  for counting purposes only.

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [ year ] [ Author’s Name ] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a  Creative Commons  license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

  • Do  not  print a page number on the copyright page. It is understood to be page  ii  for counting purposes only.

An abstract, numbered as page  iii , should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 

  • double-spaced
  • left-justified
  • indented on the first line of each paragraph
  • The author’s name, right justified
  • The words “Dissertation Advisor:” followed by the advisor’s name, left-justified (a maximum of two advisors is allowed)
  • Title of the dissertation, centered, several lines below author and advisor

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

  • Front Matter
  • Body of Text
  • Back Matter

Front matter includes (if applicable):

  • acknowledgements of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions
  • a dedication
  • a list of illustrations or tables
  • a glossary of terms
  • one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable):

  • bibliography
  • supplemental materials, including figures and tables
  • an index (in rare instances).

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ProQuest ETD . Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. Please note:

  • Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.
  • Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, the Office of Scholarly Communication is not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

  • Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.  The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). This page should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.
  • Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page.  The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. If you use your full middle name or just an initial on one document, it must be the same on the other document.  
  • Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author's name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.” There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 
  •  The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 
  • The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 
  • All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page.
  • Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.
  • Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left-hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 
  • Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure.
  • Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 
  • Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.
  •  DAC Attachment. The signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must additionally be uploaded as a document in the "Administrative Documents" section when submitting in Proquest ETD . Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.
  • Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches.
  • You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH . This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions.
  • Contact the  Office of Student Affairs  with further questions.

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Doctoral Thesis Guidelines

Introduction

Preparing to Submit the Thesis

Application for the Degree Oral Final Examination – Signature Page

Online Submission of the Thesis

ETDs @ ProQuest ORCID Harvard Author Agreement Redaction Embargoes Surveys

Distribution of the Thesis

Open Access After Submission Bound Thesis Fee Additional Bound Copies

Copyright and Publishing Considerations

Understanding Your Copyright and Fair Use Copyright Registration Acknowledging the Work of Others Use of Copyrighted Material Steps for Using Published and To-Be Published Work

Formatting Guidelines

Text Margins Pagination Title Title Page Abstract Body of Thesis Figures and Tables Footnotes Bibliography Supplemental Material  

Citation & Style Guides

Thesis Submission Checklist

INTRODUCTION All DrPH degree candidates at the Harvard Chan School are required to successfully complete and submit a thesis to qualify for degree conferral. This website provides information on the requirements for how to format your thesis, how to submit your thesis, and how your thesis will be distributed.  Please follow the submission and formatting guidelines provided here. Back to top

PREPARING TO SUBMIT THE THESIS The electronic submission of your thesis and the original Signature Page are due on the dates specified on the Harvard Chan School’s Academic Calendar Summary for each degree awarding period (November, March, and May). These items must be submitted using the ETDs @ ProQuest tool in order for the degree to be voted. No exceptions will be made to this rule. Back to top

Application for the Degree There are three degree granting periods: November, March, and May. To apply for graduation, students must complete the Application for Degree on the my.Harvard portal by the deadline posted on the Harvard Chan School’s Academic Calendar .

Deadline extensions are not possible. Students who miss the deadline must apply for the subsequent degree conferral date (November, March, or May). The student is responsible for meeting submission deadlines. Back to top

Oral Final Examination — Signature Page All Doctoral Committee members are required to sign the Signature Page at the time of the Doctoral Final Oral Examination indicating their final approval of the thesis.

A scanned copy of the Signature Page should appear before the title page of the PDF online submission of the thesis; no page number should be assigned to the Signature Page. The title on the Signature Page must read exactly as it does on the title page of the thesis. The Signature Page will be included in all copies of the thesis.

Click here for instructions on how to merge the Signature Page into the thesis PDF.

The Signature Page for DrPH students must be formatted as follows:

This Doctoral Thesis, [ Title of Doctoral Project ], presented by [ Student’s Name ], and Submitted to the Faculty of The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Public Health , has been read and approved by:

______________________________________ (typed name below line – signature above)

________________________________________ (typed name below the line – signature above)

Date : [ Doctoral Project Official Approval Date (month day, year) ]

Back to top

ONLINE SUBMISSION OF THE THESIS  

ETDs @ ProQuest All DrPH candidates are required to submit a digital copy of the thesis to the Registrar’s Office as a PDF file via ETDs @ ProQuest by the deadline established for each degree conferral date. Theses must be submitted in their final format, as described in the section Formatting Guidelines . Students must check their formatting carefully before submitting. Formatting errors will prevent the students’ theses from being accepted and approved.

The online-submission tool can be found at:  http://www.etdadmin.com/hsph.harvard

A how-to video for submitting a thesis via ETDs is available on the Countway Library website .

ORCID ETDs @ ProQuest supports ORCIDs.  ORCIDs are persistent digital identifiers that link you to your professional activity.  You may register for an ORCID either before or during submission if you do not yet have one.  To do so, you may go here .

The Harvard Library ORCID page provides information about the value of having an ORCID iD and how Harvard plans to use ORCID data. Additionally, please visit the Harvard ORCID Connect site to connect your existing ORCID iD to Harvard University.

Harvard Author Agreement When submitting work through ETDs @ ProQuest, you will be consenting to the Harvard Author Agreement , which grants the University a non-exclusive license to preserve, reproduce, and display the work. This license, which is the same the Harvard Chan School faculty use under the School’s Open Access Policy, does not constrain your rights to publish your work subsequently. Back to top

Redaction Very few theses require redaction, which is the process of obscuring or removing sensitive information for distribution. ETDs @ ProQuest does support redacted versioning for these very rare cases where there is sensitive or potentially harmful material in the thesis (e.g., commercially sensitive information, sensitive personal data, risk of harmful retribution, etc.).

If your work is one such rare instance, then you may select the “I think I need to submit a redacted version of my thesis” on the file upload screen. You will then be prompted to contact the Office for Scholarly Communication, which will help you with your request. Back to top

Embargoes To forestall any potential challenges that a student may face in the publication process (e.g., if the candidate has a publication pending with a publisher or has previously published some of the content in the thesis and there is a publisher’s embargo that must be honored), the Harvard Chan School has instituted a default one-year embargo for submissions through ETDs @ ProQuest.   The embargo starts on the date of the thesis submission deadline. With an embargo, the full text of the thesis will be unavailable for view or download for a limited period of time.  The citation and abstract for the work, however, will be publicly available.

If a student would like to make her/his work available immediately by opting out of the embargo process, she/he may do so by selecting the No Embargo option during the submission process.

If, due to extenuating circumstances, a student is required to embargo part or all of their work beyond one year, she/he must request an extension during the submission process. An extension can be requested for up to two years. This request is subject to the approval of the student’s department chair(s) and the University Librarian.

Any embargo applied to the DASH version of the thesis will be applied to the Countway Library and Harvard Chan School department versions of the work.

Students do not need to take any action to remove an embargo.  The embargo will automatically be lifted in DASH at the end of the selected and approved period.  If a student would like to change the duration of his/her embargo request, then please contact the Registrar’s Office at [email protected] or 617-432-1032. Back to top

Surveys The School of Public Health is asked to participate in the Survey of Earned Doctorates. This is an annual census of research doctorate recipients in the United States.  Data collected from these surveys are used to make federal policy decisions regarding graduate education.

Students are required to complete the Survey of Earned Doctorates upon submission of their thesis. A Certificate of Completion will be sent to you, as well as to the Registrar’s Office.

Please click here to complete your survey.

DISTRIBUTION OF THE THESIS

Open Access For information on open access, we recommend the Office of Scholarly Communication’s (OSC) Director Peter Suber’s brief introduction . He has also written about providing open access to theses . The OSC has produced several videos of Harvard faculty and students discussing open access. Two may be of particular interest: the first features Professors Gary King and Stuart Shieber , and the second features a recent Harvard graduate, Ben Finio . Back to top

After Submission Once you have applied for your degree and submitted your thesis online, it is checked for compliance by the Registrar’s Office and, if accepted, is piped to the following downstream systems:

  • DASH : Your work will be sent to DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard), Harvard’s open access repository. Search engines index DASH, which means your work will be more discoverable and more frequently cited. You will be making DASH access decisions for your work at the point of submission. This will be the access copy of the thesis.
  • HOLLIS : The metadata about your work will be sent to HOLLIS . This will make your work discoverable through the Harvard Library catalog.
  • DRS2 : Your work will be stored in Harvard Library’s digital preservation repository, DRS2 . This will be the preservation copy of the thesis.

By default, theses will be made available through DASH one year after students submit their theses via ETDs @ Harvard for degree completion (see Embargoes ). DASH is operated by Harvard Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication and is the University’s central service for openly distributing Harvard’s scholarly output.

Note that any embargo applied to the DASH version of the thesis will be applied to the Countway Library and department versions of the work. Back to top

Bound Thesis Fee Currently we are not receiving bound thesis copies.  Doctoral students will not be charged bound thesis fees. Back to top

Additional Bound Copies Students may secure extra copies of their work for their own purposes.  These additional copies may be purchased through  Acme Bookbinding . or through ETDs @ ProQuest . Back to top

COPYRIGHT AND PUBLISHING CONSIDERATIONS

Understanding Your Copyright and Fair Use The Office for Scholarly Communication has created copyright-related resources for your reference.

The first addresses your copyrights and identifies some considerations when publishing (see “ Planning to publish? ”). It is important that you envision any future use you may like to make of your work. Any publishing contract you sign can affect your potential future uses, such as use in teaching, posting your work online on either a personal or departmental website, or any potential future publication. Before you sign a publication agreement, you can negotiate with a publisher to secure licensing terms that best suit your needs. It is important that you read any contract you sign and keep a copy for your own records.

The second resource discusses fair use (see “ Fair use ”), what it is, the laws that have determined its shape over time, and tips for ensuring that use of third-party material (including quotes, images, music, film, etc.) in your thesis is fair. Back to top

Copyright Registration Your work is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form. You are not required to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office to enjoy protection of your work. However, if you choose to do so, you may register your work with the Copyright Office online . Back to top

Acknowledging the Work of Others Students are responsible for acknowledging any facts, ideas, or materials of others used in their own work. Students should refer to the statement on Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism in the Harvard Chan School’s Student Handbook . Back to top

Use of Copyrighted Material A thesis is a scholarly work, and as such use of third party material is often essential. Fair use applies to the reproduction of any third party material, including your own previously published work, that you may use in your thesis.

If you have questions about copyright and fair use, please contact the Office for Scholarly Communication . Back to top

Steps for Using Published and To-Be Published Work When submitting an article for publication that you intend to use in your thesis, you should secure permission to do so (along with permission to reuse your own work as you would like) from your publisher in your publishing agreement. If the default contract does not let you retain these rights already, then you should use an author addendum to secure these rights (see “ Planning to publish? ”).

You may use your own previously published material as part of your thesis with the permission of the publisher. Again, refer to your publication agreement for details. If your contract does not specify these rights, then contact the publisher to negotiate this use. Back to top

FORMATTING GUIDELINES The following are instructions on how to format your thesis. If, after reading the instructions here, you have additional questions about the requirements, please contact the Registrar’s Office at (617) 432-1032; [email protected]. Back to top

Text   All text should be double-spaced on one side of the page with footnotes single-spaced. The font size should be at least 10 point, but no larger than 12 point.  The font and font size should be consistent throughout.  All text should be black. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Margins The margins of the thesis must be 1 inch on all sides. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Pagination Students’ theses must follow the pagination guidelines as illustrated below. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter/paper heading. Drawings, charts, graphs, and photographs should be referred to as figures and should be numbered consecutively within the text of the thesis with Arabic numerals. Each figure should carry a suitable caption; e.g., Fig. 42. Arrangement of Experimental Equipment. Check pagination carefully and account for all pages.

All page numbers should be consecutive and centered at either the bottom or top of the page.
 Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Title The title of the thesis should be brief and should indicate the general subject treated. Nine words are usually sufficient to describe the investigation. Students are strongly encouraged to embed keywords into their title, so that the title will be retrievable on computerized listings. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Title Page The title page must contain the following information, well-spaced and centered on the page:

For DrPH Students:

TITLE OF DOCTORAL THESIS

STUDENT’S NAME

A Doctoral Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of Doctor of Public Health

Harvard University

Boston, Massachusetts.

Date (the month in which degree will be awarded, year of graduation (e.g., May 2021)

Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Abstract The abstract should not exceed 350 words. It should immediately follow the Title Page, and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract should be double-spaced. The author’s name and the title of the thesis, as well as the name of the thesis advisor, should be included on the abstract page. The author’s name should be right justified, the title of the thesis centered, and “Thesis Advisor: Dr. ____________” should be left-justified at the top of the abstract page.

Thesis Advisor: Dr. [Advisor’s name]                                                    [Author’s name]

[Title of thesis]

           The text of the abstract, not to exceed 350 words, should be double-spaced.  The first line of each paragraph is indented.  Full justification of the text is not recommended.

Students will also be required to submit a text version of the abstract via the online-submission tool. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Body of Thesis The thesis should consist of manuscripts suitable for publication in a scientific medium appropriate to the candidate’s field and/or approved reprints of the published work(s) (see Steps for Using Published and To-Be Published Work and Use of Copyrighted Material ).

Technical appendices should be added where necessary to demonstrate full development of the thesis material. Papers published under joint authorship are acceptable provided the candidate has contributed a major part to the investigation. The degree candidate is expected to be senior author on at least one of the papers. In the case of manuscripts published under joint authorship, the co-authors or the advisor may be consulted by the readers or the CAD to clarify the nature and extent of the candidate’s contribution. In addition to evaluating the quality and significance of the work, those responsible for accepting the thesis [the Department(s) and Doctoral Project Committee] may determine whether the format is suitable for publication in a scientific medium appropriate to the degree candidate’s field(s). Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Figures and Tables Figures and tables must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly in the text. If a figure or table is alone on a page with no narrative, it should be centered within the margins of the page.

Figures and tables referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the thesis. Figure and table numbering must be either continuous throughout the thesis or by paper (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2). For example, there cannot be two figures designated in a thesis as “Figure 5.”

Headings of tables should be placed at the top of the table. While there are no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions, a consistent format must be used throughout the thesis. (See Citation and Style Guides )

Captions of figures should be placed at the bottom of the figure. If the figure takes up the entire page, the figure caption should be placed alone on the preceding page and centered vertically and horizontally within the margins. Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “Figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Horizontal figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top, so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin (leave a 1 inch margin on the long edge of the paper above the top of the table).

Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in vertical orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

Figures created with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles created by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Footnotes Footnotes are reserved for substantive additions to the text and should be indicated by an asterisk in the text. Extensive use of footnotes is not encouraged. The footnote should be placed at the bottom of the page. A horizontal line of at least two inches should be typed above the first footnote on any page. Footnotes should be placed so that at least one inch is left at the bottom of the page. Use single-spacing within footnotes. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Bibliography To document the sources of information, a bibliography must be included at the end of the papers or thesis. References may be numbered or listed alphabetically. If references in the bibliography are numbered, then corresponding in-text references should be indicated by listing the number in parentheses after the name of the author.

Bibliographic Example:

23. Gibbs, C.S.: Filterable virus carriers. J. Bact., 23, 1932, 113.

In-Text Example:

“. . . as Gibbs (23) has stated.”

The initial number should be omitted if references are listed alphabetically.

Within any bibliographic section there should be consistency and adherence to an acceptable journal style for a bibliography. Each reference in the bibliography must contain the name of the author, title of the paper, name of publication, volume, date, and first page.

More than one publication by the same author in the same year should be indicated both in the bibliography and in the text by the use of underlined letters, etc., after the date of publication. The standard system of abbreviation used by the Quarterly Cumulative Index should be followed for the abbreviations of journal titles.

If students’ individual papers have different bibliographic styles, then it is not necessary to change the bibliographic style of one to match the other. Consistency within each bibliographic section is the most important element. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

Supplemental Material Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of each chapter/paper in an appendix. If additional digital information (including text, audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the thesis, then it should be uploaded as supplemental material via the ETDs @ Harvard online submission tool. Back to top  |  Back to Formatting Guidelines

CITATION & STYLE GUIDES

  • The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  • Crews, Kenneth D. Copyright Law and the Doctoral Dissertation. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, 2000.
  • Day, Robert A. and Barbara Gastel. How to Write & Publish a Scientific Paper. 6th ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006.
  • MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Modern Language Association of America, 2008. Strunk, William. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2005.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010.
  • Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago
  • Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing. 7th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

THESIS SUBMISSION CHECKLIST ☐ Is the Signature Page unnumbered and positioned as the first page of the PDF file? ☐ Is there a blank page after the Signature Page? ☐ Does the body of the thesis begin with Page 1? ☐ Is the pagination continuous? Are all pages included? ☐ Is every page of the thesis correctly numbered? ☐ Is the placement of page numbers centered throughout the manuscript? ☐ Is the Title Page formatted correctly? ☐ Is the author’s name, in full, on the Title Page of the thesis and the abstract? ☐ Does the author’s name read the same on both and does it match the Signature Page? ☐ Is the abstract included after the Title Page? ☐ Does the abstract include the title of the thesis, the author’s name, and the thesis advisor(s)’ name? ☐ Is the title on the abstract the same as that on the title page? ☐ Are the margins 1” on all sides? ☐ Is the font size 10-12 point? ☐ Are all charts, graphs, and other illustrative materials perfectly legible? ☐ Do lengthy figures and tables include the “(Continued)” notation? ☐ Has all formatting been checked? ☐ Is the Survey of Earned Doctorates  completed? ☐ Has the Survey of Earned Doctorates’ confirmation email or certificate been uploaded to ETDs @ Harvard?

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PhD Thesis Guide

This phd thesis guide will guide you step-by-step through the thesis process, from your initial letter of intent to submission of the final document..

All associated forms are conveniently consolidated in the section at the end.

Deadlines & Requirements

Students should register for HST.ThG during any term in which they are conducting research towards their thesis. Regardless of year in program students registered for HST.ThG in a regular term (fall or spring) must meet with their research advisor and complete the  Semi-Annual PhD Student Progress Review Form to receive credit.

Years 1 - 2

  • Students participating in lab rotations during year 1, may use the optional MEMP Rotation Registration Form , to formalize the arrangement and can earn academic credit by enrolling in HST.599. 
  • A first letter of intent ( LOI-1 ) proposing a general area of thesis research and research advisor is required by April 30th of the second year of registration.
  • A second letter of intent ( LOI-2 ) proposing a thesis committee membership and providing a more detailed description of the thesis research is required by April 30th of the third year of registration for approval by the HST-IMES Committee on Academic Programs (HICAP).
  • Beginning in year 4, (or after the LOI-2 is approved) the student must meet with their thesis committee at least once per semester.
  • Students must formally defend their proposal before the approved thesis committee, and submit their committee approved proposal to HICAP  by April 30 of the forth year of registration.
  • Meetings with the thesis committee must be held at least once per semester. 

HST has developed these policies to help keep students on track as they progress through their PhD program. Experience shows that students make more rapid progress towards graduation when they interact regularly with a faculty committee and complete their thesis proposal by the deadline.

Getting Started

Check out these resources  for finding a research lab.

The Thesis Committee: Roles and Responsibilities

Students perform doctoral thesis work under the guidance of a thesis committee consisting of at least three faculty members from Harvard and MIT (including a chair and a research advisor) who will help guide the research. Students are encouraged to form their thesis committee early in the course of the research and in any case by the end of the third year of registration. The HST IMES Committee on Academic Programs (HICAP) approves the composition of the thesis committee via the letter of intent and the thesis proposal (described below). 

Research Advisor

The research advisor is responsible for overseeing the student's thesis project. The research advisor is expected to:

  • oversee the research and mentor the student;
  • provide a supportive research environment, facilities, and financial support;
  • discuss expectations, progress, and milestones with the student and complete the  Semi-Annual PhD Student Progress Review Form each semester;
  • assist the student to prepare for the oral qualifying exam;
  • guide the student in selecting the other members of the thesis committee;
  • help the student prepare for, and attend, meetings of the full thesis committee, to be held at least once per semester;
  • help the student prepare for, and attend, the thesis defense;
  • evaluate the final thesis document.

The research advisor is chosen by the student and must be a faculty member of MIT* or Harvard University and needs no further approval.  HICAP may approve other individuals as research advisor on a student-by-student basis. Students are advised to request approval of non-faculty research advisors as soon as possible.  In order to avoid conflicts of interest, the research advisor may not also be the student's academic advisor. In the event that an academic advisor becomes the research advisor, a new academic advisor will be assigned.

The student and their research advisor must complete the Semi-Annual PhD Student Progress Review during each regular term in order to receive academic credit for research.  Download Semi Annual Review Form

*MIT Senior Research Staff are considered equivalent to faculty members for the purposes of research advising. No additional approval is required.

Thesis Committee Chair

Each HST PhD thesis committee is headed administratively by a chair, chosen by the student in consultation with the research advisor. The thesis committee chair is expected to:

  • provide advice and guidance concerning the thesis research; 
  • oversee meetings of the full thesis committee, to be held at least once per semester;
  • preside at the thesis defense; 
  • review and evaluate the final thesis document.

The thesis committee chair must be well acquainted with the academic policies and procedures of the institution granting the student's degree and be familiar with the student's area of research. The research advisor may not simultaneously serve as thesis committee chair.

For HST PhD students earning degrees through MIT, the thesis committee chair must be an MIT faculty member. A select group of HST program faculty without primary appointments at MIT have been pre-approved by HICAP to chair PhD theses awarded by HST at MIT in cases where the MIT research advisor is an MIT faculty member.**

HST PhD students earning their degree through Harvard follow thesis committee requirements set by the unit granting their degree - either the Biophysics Program or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

** List of non-MIT HST faculty approved to chair MIT thesis proposals when the research advisor is an MIT faculty member.

In addition to the research advisor and the thesis committee chair, the thesis committee must include one or more readers. Readers are expected to:

  • attend meetings of the full thesis committee, to be held at least once per semester;
  • attend the thesis defense; 

Faculty members with relevant expertise from outside of Harvard/MIT may serve as readers, but they may only be counted toward the required three if approved by HICAP.

The members of the thesis committee should have complementary expertise that collectively covers the areas needed to advise a student's thesis research. The committee should also be diverse, so that members are able to offer different perspectives on the student's research. When forming a thesis committee, it is helpful to consider the following questions: 

  • Do the individuals on the committee collectively have the appropriate expertise for the project?
  • Does the committee include at least one individual who can offer different perspectives on the student's research?  The committee should include at least one person who is not closely affiliated with the student's primary lab. Frequent collaborators are acceptable in this capacity if their work exhibits intellectual independence from the research advisor.
  • If the research has a near-term clinical application, does the committee include someone who can add a translational or clinical perspective?  
  • Does the committee conform to HST policies in terms of number, academic appointments, and affiliations of the committee members, research advisor, and thesis committee chair as described elsewhere on this page?

[Friendly advice: Although there is no maximum committee size, three or four is considered optimal. Committees of five members are possible, but more than five is unwieldy.]

Thesis Committee Meetings

Students must meet with their thesis committee at least once each semester beginning in the fourth year of registration. It is the student's responsibility to schedule these meetings; students who encounter difficulties in arranging regular committee meetings can contact Julie Greenberg at jgreenbe [at] mit.edu (jgreenbe[at]mit[dot]edu) .

The format of the thesis committee meeting is at the discretion of the thesis committee chair. In some cases, the following sequence may be helpful:

  • The thesis committee chair, research advisor, and readers meet briefly without the student in the room;
  • The thesis committee chair and readers meet briefly with the student, without the advisor in the room;
  • The student presents their research progress, answers questions, and seeks guidance from the members of the thesis committee;

Please note that thesis committee meetings provide an important opportunity for students to present their research and respond to questions. Therefore, it is in the student's best interest for the research advisor to refrain from defending the research in this setting.

Letters of Intent

Students must submit two letters of intent ( LOI-1 and LOI-2 ) with applicable signatures. 

In LOI-1, students identify a research advisor and a general area of thesis research, described in 100 words or less. It should include the area of expertise of the research advisor and indicate whether IRB approval (Institutional Review Board; for research involving human subjects) and/or IACUC approval (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; for research involving vertebrate animals) will be required and, if so, from which institutions. LOI-1 is due by April 30 of the second year of registration and and should be submitted to HICAP, c/o Traci Anderson in E25-518. 

In LOI-2, students provide a description of the thesis research, describing the Background and Significance of the research and making a preliminary statement of Specific Aims (up to 400 words total). In LOI-2, a student also proposes the membership of their thesis committee. In addition to the research advisor, the proposed thesis committee must include a chair and one or more readers, all selected to meet the specified criteria . LOI-2 is due by April 30th of the third year of registration and should be submitted to HICAP, c/o Traci Anderson in E25-518.

LOI-2 is reviewed by the HST-IMES Committee on Academic Programs (HICAP) to determine if the proposed committee meets the specified criteria and if the committee members collectively have the complementary expertise needed to advise the student in executing the proposed research. If HICAP requests any changes to the proposed committee, the student must submit a revised LOI-2 for HICAP review by September 30th of the fourth year of registration. HICAP must approve LOI-2 before the student can proceed to presenting and submitting their thesis proposal. Any changes to the thesis committee membership following HICAP approval of LOI-2 and prior to defense of the thesis proposal must be reported by submitting a revised LOI-2 form to HICAP, c/o tanderso [at] mit.edu (Traci Anderson) . After final HICAP approval of LOI-2, which confirms the thesis committee membership, the student may proceed to present their thesis proposal to the approved thesis committee, as described in the next section.

Students are strongly encouraged to identify tentative thesis committee members and begin meeting with them as early as possible to inform the direction of their research. Following submission of LOI-2, students are required to hold at least one thesis committee meeting per semester. Students must document these meetings via the Semi- Annual PhD Student Progress Review form in order to receive a grade reflecting satisfactory progress in HST.ThG.

Thesis Proposal and Proposal Presentation

For MEMP students receiving their degrees through MIT, successful completion of the Oral Qualifying Exam is a prerequisite for the thesis proposal presentation. For MEMP students receiving their degrees through Harvard, the oral qualifying exam satisfies the proposal presentation requirement.

Proposal Document

Each student must present a thesis proposal to a thesis committee that has been approved by HICAP via the LOI-2 and then submit a full proposal package to HICAP by April 30th of the fourth year of registration. The only exception is for students who substantially change their research focus after the fall term of their third year; in those cases the thesis proposal must be submitted within three semesters of joining a new lab. Students registering for thesis research (HST.THG) who have not met this deadline may be administratively assigned a grade of "U" (unsatisfactory) and receive an academic warning.

The written proposal should be no longer than 4500 words, excluding references. This is intended to help students develop their proposal-writing skills by gaining experience composing a practical proposal; the length is comparable to that required for proposals to the NIH R03 Small Research Grant Program. The proposal should clearly define the research problem, describe the proposed research plan, and defend the significance of the work. Preliminary results are not required. If the proposal consists of multiple aims, with the accomplishment of later aims based on the success of earlier ones, then the proposal should describe a contingency plan in case the early results are not as expected.

Proposal Presentation

The student must formally defend the thesis proposal before the full thesis committee that has been approved by HICAP.

Students should schedule the meeting and reserve a conference room and any audio visual equipment they may require for their presentation. To book a conference room in E25, please contact Joseph Stein ( jrstein [at] mit.edu (jrstein[at]mit[dot]edu) ).

Following the proposal presentation, students should make any requested modifications to the proposal for the committee members to review. Once the committee approves the proposal, the student should obtain the signatures of the committee members on the forms described below as part of the proposal submission package.

[Friendly advice: As a professional courtesy, be sure your committee members have a complete version of your thesis proposal at least one week in advance of the proposal presentation.]

Submission of Proposal Package

When the thesis committee has approved the proposal, the student submits the proposal package to HICAP, c/o Traci Anderson in E25-518, for final approval. HICAP may reject a thesis proposal if it has been defended before a committee that was not previously approved via the LOI-2.

The proposal package includes the following: 

  • the proposal document
  • a brief description of the project background and significance that explains why the work is important;
  • the specific aims of the proposal, including a contingency plan if needed; and
  • an indication of the methods to be used to accomplish the specific aims.
  • signed research advisor agreement form(s);
  • signed chair agreement form (which confirms a successful proposal defense);
  • signed reader agreement form(s).

Thesis Proposal Forms

  • SAMPLE Title Page (doc)
  • Research Advisor Agreement Form (pdf)
  • Chair Agreement Form (pdf)
  • Reader Agreement Form (pdf)

Thesis Defense and Final Thesis Document

When the thesis is substantially complete and fully acceptable to the thesis committee, a public thesis defense is scheduled for the student to present his/her work to the thesis committee and other members of the community. The thesis defense is the last formal examination required for receipt of a doctoral degree. To be considered "public", a defense must be announced to the community at least five working days in advance. At the defense, the thesis committee determines if the research presented is sufficient for granting a doctoral degree. Following a satisfactory thesis defense, the student submits the final thesis document, approved by the research advisor, to Traci Anderson via email (see instructions below).

[Friendly advice: Contact jrstein [at] mit.edu (Joseph Stein) at least two weeks before your scheduled date to arrange for advertising via email and posters. A defense can be canceled for insufficient public notice.]

Before the Thesis Defense 

Committee Approves Student to Defend: The thesis committee, working with the student and reviewing thesis drafts, concludes that the doctoral work is complete. The student should discuss the structure of the defense (general guidelines below) with the thesis committee chair and the research advisor. 

Schedule the Defense: The student schedules a defense at a time when all members of the thesis committee will be physical present. Any exceptions must be approved in advance by the IMES/HST Academic Office.

Reserve Room: It is the student's responsibility to reserve a room and any necessary equipment. Please contact imes-reservation [at] mit.edu (subject: E25%20Room%20Reservation) (IMES Reservation) to  reserve rooms E25-140, E25-141, E25-119/121, E25-521. 

Final Draft: A complete draft of the thesis document is due to the thesis committee two weeks prior to the thesis defense to allow time for review.  The thesis should be written as a single cohesive document; it may include content from published papers (see libraries website on " Use of Previously Published Material in a Thesis ") but it may not be a simple compilation of previously published materials.

Publicize the Defense:   The IMES/HST Academic Office invites the community to attend the defense via email and a notice on the HST website. This requires that the student email a thesis abstract and supplemental information to  jrstein [at] mit.edu (Joseph Stein)  two weeks prior to the thesis defense. The following information should be included: Date and time, Location, (Zoom invitation with password, if offering a hybrid option), Thesis Title, Names of committee members, with academic and professional titles and institutional affiliations. The abstract is limited to 250 words for the poster, but students may optionally submit a second, longer abstract for the email announcement.

Thesis Defense Guidelines

Public Defense: The student should prepare a presentation of 45-60 minutes in length, to be followed by a public question and answer period of 15–30 minutes at discretion of the chair.

Committee Discussion:  Immediately following the public thesis presentation, the student meets privately with the thesis committee and any other faculty members present to explore additional questions at the discretion of the faculty. Then the thesis committee meets in executive session and determines whether the thesis defense was satisfactory. The committee may suggest additions or editorial changes to the thesis document at this point.

Chair Confirms Pass: After the defense, the thesis committee chair should inform Traci Anderson of the outcome via email to tanderso [at] mit.edu (tanderso[at]mit[dot]edu) .

Submitting the Final Thesis Document

Please refer to the MIT libraries  thesis formatting guidelines .

Title page notes. Sample title page  from the MIT Libraries.

Program line : should read, "Submitted to the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, in partial fulfillment of the the requirements for the degree of ... "

Copyright : Starting with the June 2023 degree period and as reflected in the  MIT Thesis Specifications , all students retain the copyright of their thesis.  Please review this section for how to list on your title page Signature Page: On the "signed" version, only the student and research advisor should sign. Thesis committee members are not required to sign. On the " Accepted by " line, please list: Collin M. Stultz, MD, PhD/Director, Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology/ Nina T. and Robert H. Rubin Professor in Medical Engineering and Science/Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The Academic Office will obtain Professor Stultz's signature.

Thesis Submission Components.  As of 4/2021, the MIT libraries have changed their thesis submissions guidelines and are no longer accepting hard copy theses submissions. For most recent guidance from the libraries:  https://libguides.mit.edu/mit-thesis-faq/instructions  

Submit to the Academic Office, via email ( tanderso [at] mit.edu (tanderso[at]mit[dot]edu) )

pdf/A-1 of the final thesis should include an UNSIGNED title page

A separate file with a SIGNED title page by the student and advisor, the Academic Office will get Dr. Collin Stultz's signature.

For the MIT Library thesis processing, fill out the "Thesis Information" here:  https://thesis-submit.mit.edu/

File Naming Information:  https://libguides.mit.edu/

Survey of Earned Doctorates.  The University Provost’s Office will contact all doctoral candidates via email with instructions for completing this survey.

Links to All Forms in This Guide

  • MEMP Rotation Form (optional)
  • Semi-Annual Progress Review Form
  • Letter of Intent One
  • Letter of Intent Two

Final Thesis

  • HST Sample thesis title page  (signed and unsigned)
  • Sample thesis title page  (MIT Libraries)
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  • Dissertation & Thesis Manual

Preparation and Submission Manual Overview

Doctoral dissertations and master’s theses.

Doctoral dissertations and master’s theses submitted to UC San Diego must meet the requirements set by the Graduate Council of the University of California San Diego for the degree candidate to be eligible for a graduate degree. A doctoral dissertation must be the result of original research conducted in the candidate’s specialization and must be approved in its entirety by the student’s doctoral committee. A master’s thesis must be a significant research work that must be approved in its entirety by the master’s committee.

The final version of the dissertation/thesis must conform to the details outlined in the " Preparation and Submission Manual for Doctoral Dissertations and Master's Theses. " For reference, we have provided some highlights below, but please refer to the full PDF Manual for complete instructions.

We have also made a template available as an inital resource to assist students with proper formatting.

Co-author permission letters are submitted electronically via the Kuali Permission Letter Submission Form .  (see section below, "Use of Published Material," for additional information) 

Specifications and Formatting

Minimum Margins

The margins of your thesis/dissertation should be from 1" on all sides. (Slightly larger margins are acceptable, but should be a minimum of 1 inch.)

Font and Font Sizes

A font size of at least 10 must be used for the text; students may choose one of the following font sizes: 10pt, 11pt or 12pt. Standard fonts are Arial, Century Gothic, Helvetica, or Times New Roman. A consistent font must be used throughout the entire dissertation or thesis.

Page Numbers

All page numbers are centered at the bottom of the page, 0.5” from the bottom edge.

Except where noted below, each page of the entire dissertation or thesis must be numbered consecutively; pages should be numbered according to the following standards:

  • Neither the title page nor the blank or copyright page is to be numbered; however, the two pages are counted when numbering the preliminary pages that follow.
  • The dissertation/thesis approval page is always numbered as page “iii”.
  • The preliminary pages following the title and blank or copyright pages must be numbered consecutively beginning with lower case Roman numeral “iii” on the dissertation/thesis approval page. All preliminary pages are to be numbered using lower case Roman numerals (following the title and blank or copyright pages, begin with iii, iv, v, vi, etc.). This includes the dissertation/thesis approval page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, list of abbreviations, list of symbols, list of illustrations, list of figures, list of schemes, list of tables, list of photographs, preface, acknowledgements, vita (required for doctoral dissertations), and the abstract. The page numbers must be placed at the bottom of the page and centered 0.5” from the bottom.
  • The main body of the text and any back matter must be numbered consecutively with Arabic numerals beginning with “1” (1, 2, 3, etc.), including text, illustrative materials, notes, appendices and bibliography. All pages are numbered at the bottom of the page and centered.

Correct pagination (no missing pages, blank pages, or duplicate numbers or pages) is required for the doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis to be acceptable.

Page Organization

Preliminary Pages

Except for the title page and blank or copyright page, all preliminary pages are numbered with lower case Roman numerals at the center bottom of the page. Pages are numbered in sequence, and page numbers are centered and placed 0.5” from the bottom of the page.

  • The name of the conferring institution – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN DIEGO – appears in all capital letters at the top of the page.
  • The title should be specific, unambiguous, and descriptive of the research, with easily identifiable key words that will ensure electronic retrieval.
  • Scientific titles must use words, not symbols, formulas, superscripts or Greek letters.
  • Doctoral students should refer to their document as a dissertation. Master’s students should refer to their document as a thesis.
  • “in” should be all lowercase and on a line alone.
  • The degree title listed should be the title that UC San Diego will actually confer; if unsure, contact your Graduate Coordinator.
  • “by” should be all lowercase and on a line alone.
  • Students may use either their legal or lived name as it is listed on the UC San Diego official record and remain consistent throughout the document
  • All committee members must be listed, chair first, using the title Professor. If professor is not applicable to all committee members, list all names without any titles. Use double spacing between “Committee in Charge” and the chair’s name. Alphabetize all members after chair and single space all names. Indent all committee members 0.5” from “Committee in Charge”. (This section is the only section of the title page that is not centered.)
  • Degree year: Students must use the year of the quarter of degree conferral.
  • The title page is not numbered; it is counted as page “i” in the numbering of the preliminary pages. The title and blank or copyright pages are the only manuscript pages without page numbers.

Dissertation/Thesis Approval Page

This page is always numbered page iii. Page numbers from here forward in the preliminary pages of the document will vary for individual students, depending on which of the optional pages described below students choose to include. The numbers must be internally consistent for the document.

There is no header on the dissertation/thesis approval page. The text at the top of the page is either left justified or fully justified. The text at the bottom of the page is centered. All information should be centered on the page vertically.

Effective November 2020, faculty signatures are not collected on the dissertation/thesis approval page. Faculty committee member approval is captured on the combined Final Report Form (this form is initiated and managed by the department/program graduate coordinator). Students should check with their department/program graduate coordinator to verify that the combined form is being used. The formatted page iii must still be included in the dissertation/thesis and must follow the format described above.

All dissertations or theses are required to have a table of contents. List the page number that each section first appears on. Use proper capitalization and include header and sectional titles exactly as they appear within the dissertation or thesis (for example, if “Chapter” is used in the text headers, it must be used in the Table of Contents).  

If illustrations such as figures, tables, graphs, maps, diagrams, photos, etc., are scattered throughout, make a separate “List of Figures,” “List of Tables,” “List of Graphs,” etc. to follow the table of contents. 

Acknowledgements

The acknowledgements, along with any other preliminary sections or parts of the dissertation or thesis, must be reviewed and approved by the committee members.

See the section “Using Published Material” (in the full PDF manual, and in the excerpted section below) if any portion of the dissertation or thesis is co-authored, published, submitted for publication, or is being prepared for publication. A paragraph acknowledging all co-authors and publishers is required in the acknowledgements page and as the last paragraph of text at the end of each applicable chapter.

Permission letters from the committee chair and all co-authors must be submitted electronically via the Kuali permission letter submission form   prior to or the day of the student’s final document review . See the full manual for sample letters and additional information.  Click here for step by step instructions and an overview of the Kuali form.

An abstract should provide a clear impression of the content and major divisions of the dissertation or thesis. Abstracts of doctoral dissertations must not exceed 350 words; master’s theses abstracts must not exceed 250 words.

Figures and Tables

All figures and tables must be accompanied by a caption. Captions for figures go below the figure. Captions for tables go above the table.

All figures and tables must have their captions formatted the same, ie numbering, spacing, bold/italicized text, text alignment (left, centered, justified), font.

Figures/tables and their captions need to fit on one page and within the page margins. If they cannot fit on one page, then format the captions as a facing caption, where the caption goes on the page before the figure/table. For example, page 1 would be the figure caption (no other text), and page 2 would be the figure itself.

If figures/tables go on multiple pages, then the caption must be on each page that the figure/table appears. Table headers must also be on each page.

Appendices and References

  • Appendices typically contain supporting material such as data sheets, questionnaire samples, illustrations, maps, charts, etc. Appendices may be single-spaced.

References/Biolography/Works Cited

  • The format of the references and/or bibliography should follow that of the student’s discipline and should be consistent throughout the dissertation/thesis.
  • All authors must be listed. Do not depersonalize non-primary authors by referring to them in the bibliography as et al.
  • Bibliographies, references, and works cited are to be single-spaced with a double space between entries, and should be the last entry in each chapter or in the dissertation/thesis.

Use of Published Material and Co-Author Permissions

If students are using material which has been submitted for publication or has been published, students must read the full text that follows and see the manual for additional details. 

Students must obtain permission letters from all co-authors, including committee members and UCSD faculty. Students submit the co-author letters to GEPA electronically via the Kuali permission letter submission form  for any chapter or portion of a chapter in the dissertation or thesis to which one or more of the following applies:

  • Students have co-authors (regardless of whether or not students are submitting it for publication);
  • The chapter or portion thereof is being prepared for publication;
  • The chapter or portion thereof has been submitted for publication;
  • The chapter or portion thereof has been published.

If approved by the committee members, reports of research undertaken during graduate study at UC San Diego that have been published or submitted for publication in appropriate media may be accepted in their printed form in full or in part as the dissertation or thesis.  

If the material has co-authors other than the committee chair, the student must obtain permission letters from all co-authors giving their approval for the co-authored material to be used. This must be done even if copyright has been retained.  Students need to determine if the publisher’s permission is also required.  Students collect their signed co-author permission letters and cover letter from their committee chair and submit electronically via the Kuali permission letter submission form  prior to or the day of their final document review with GEPA.  

Click here for a sample/template of the cover letter from the committee chair and the permission letter(s) from co-author(s).

Click here for step by step instructions and an overview of the Kuali form.

Copyright and Publishing Options

  • All students receive copyright when creating and publishing their dissertation/thesis.
  • Proquest offers to file for additional copyright with the US Copyright Office for a fee. Students can file for additional copyright through Proquest or on their own through the US Copyright Office .

Publishing Options

  • Your dissertation/thesis is published in two different libraries, Proquest and eScholarship.
  • Traditional = your paper can only be accessed if someone has access to Proquest or pays to access your paper. The default option.
  • Open access = your paper is available to anyone on the interent for free. You would have to pay a fee for this option.
  • eScholarship is the University of California's digital library. All papers are open access in eScholarship.

Dissertation and Thesis Release Form (Embargo)

Students, with approval from their committee chair, may choose to immediately publish or put an embargo/delay on publishing their disserrtation/thesis. The default option is immediate publication.

  • If an embargo is chosen, the options are for a 1 or 2 year delay. (Note: Students in the MFA in Writing program are required to have a 10 year embargo).
  • If the embargo needs to be extended, a request from the committee chair must be submitted to the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs via email before the embargo expires . Dissertations/theses cannot be re-embargoed once the embargo expires.

Your embargo choice must match in Proquest and on the dissertation/thesis release form . The release form must be signed by the student and the committee chair and must be uploaded as part of the submission to ProQuest. 

Please note: If you delay the release of your work, access to the full text of your work will be delayed for the period that you specify. However, the citation and abstract of your work will be available through ProQuest and through the UC California Digital Library (eScholarship).

Dissertation and Thesis Release Form (Embargo Form)

Embargo options are for a 1 or 2 year delay. (Note: Students in the MFA in Writing program are required to have a 10 year embargo).

Embargo Extension: If the embargo needs to be extended beyond initial embargo period, a request from the committee chair (with endorsement from the department chair / program director) must be submitted to the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs via email before the embargo expires . The request must specify the reason for the additional time and how long the embargo should continue. Dissertations/theses cannot be re-embargoed once the embargo expires. Please see the Policy on Open Access for Theses and Dissertations: https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/2000688/ .

For further questions about doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis formatting, students may contact the appropriate GEPA Academic Affairs Advisor . 

Master’s thesis formatting questions:

  • Kelsey Darvin, [email protected] : Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Structural Engineering, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Kim McCusker , [email protected]:  All Arts & Humanities, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences, Materials Science, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 
  • Karen Villavicencio , [email protected] : Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, Chemical Engineering, NanoEngineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Neurosciences  

 Doctor of Philosophy dissertation formatting questions:

Doctor of Musical Arts, Doctor of Education, all Rady programs, Biostatistics PhD, all joint PhD program dissertation, and Master of Public Health (MPH) formatting questions:

 After fully formatting your doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis you may schedule your appointments at: https://gradforms.ucsd.edu/calendar/ .

  • Degree Completion
  • Dissertation & Thesis Submission
  • Dissertation & Thesis Template

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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

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How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Dissertation

What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

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  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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doctoral thesis pages

The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service , AI proofreader or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.

Congratulations!

The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

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doctoral thesis pages

  • What Is a PhD Thesis?
  • Doing a PhD

This page will explain what a PhD thesis is and offer advice on how to write a good thesis, from outlining the typical structure to guiding you through the referencing. A summary of this page is as follows:

  • A PhD thesis is a concentrated piece of original research which must be carried out by all PhD students in order to successfully earn their doctoral degree.
  • The fundamental purpose of a thesis is to explain the conclusion that has been reached as a result of undertaking the research project.
  • The typical PhD thesis structure will contain four chapters of original work sandwiched between a literature review chapter and a concluding chapter.
  • There is no universal rule for the length of a thesis, but general guidelines set the word count between 70,000 to 100,000 words .

What Is a Thesis?

A thesis is the main output of a PhD as it explains your workflow in reaching the conclusions you have come to in undertaking the research project. As a result, much of the content of your thesis will be based around your chapters of original work.

For your thesis to be successful, it needs to adequately defend your argument and provide a unique or increased insight into your field that was not previously available. As such, you can’t rely on other ideas or results to produce your thesis; it needs to be an original piece of text that belongs to you and you alone.

What Should a Thesis Include?

Although each thesis will be unique, they will all follow the same general format. To demonstrate this, we’ve put together an example structure of a PhD thesis and explained what you should include in each section below.

Acknowledgements

This is a personal section which you may or may not choose to include. The vast majority of students include it, giving both gratitude and recognition to their supervisor, university, sponsor/funder and anyone else who has supported them along the way.

1. Introduction

Provide a brief overview of your reason for carrying out your research project and what you hope to achieve by undertaking it. Following this, explain the structure of your thesis to give the reader context for what he or she is about to read.

2. Literature Review

Set the context of your research by explaining the foundation of what is currently known within your field of research, what recent developments have occurred, and where the gaps in knowledge are. You should conclude the literature review by outlining the overarching aims and objectives of the research project.

3. Main Body

This section focuses on explaining all aspects of your original research and so will form the bulk of your thesis. Typically, this section will contain four chapters covering the below:

  • your research/data collection methodologies,
  • your results,
  • a comprehensive analysis of your results,
  • a detailed discussion of your findings.

Depending on your project, each of your chapters may independently contain the structure listed above or in some projects, each chapter could be focussed entirely on one aspect (e.g. a standalone results chapter). Ideally, each of these chapters should be formatted such that they could be translated into papers for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Therefore, following your PhD, you should be able to submit papers for peer-review by reusing content you have already produced.

4. Conclusion

The conclusion will be a summary of your key findings with emphasis placed on the new contributions you have made to your field.

When producing your conclusion, it’s imperative that you relate it back to your original research aims, objectives and hypotheses. Make sure you have answered your original question.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

How Many Words Is a PhD Thesis?

A common question we receive from students is – “how long should my thesis be?“.

Every university has different guidelines on this matter, therefore, consult with your university to get an understanding of their full requirements. Generally speaking, most supervisors will suggest somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 words . This usually corresponds to somewhere between 250 – 350 pages .

We must stress that this is flexible, and it is important not to focus solely on the length of your thesis, but rather the quality.

How Do I Format My Thesis?

Although the exact formatting requirements will vary depending on the university, the typical formatting policies adopted by most universities are:

What Happens When I Finish My Thesis?

After you have submitted your thesis, you will attend a viva . A viva is an interview-style examination during which you are required to defend your thesis and answer questions on it. The aim of the viva is to convince your examiners that your work is of the level required for a doctoral degree. It is one of the last steps in the PhD process and arguably one of the most daunting!

For more information on the viva process and for tips on how to confidently pass it, please refer to our in-depth PhD Viva Guide .

How Do I Publish My Thesis?

Unfortunately, you can’t publish your thesis in its entirety in a journal. However, universities can make it available for others to read through their library system.

If you want to submit your work in a journal, you will need to develop it into one or more peer-reviewed papers. This will largely involve reformatting, condensing and tailoring it to meet the standards of the journal you are targeting.

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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

Book cover

The Quintessence of Basic and Clinical Research and Scientific Publishing pp 769–781 Cite as

Writing a Postgraduate or Doctoral Thesis: A Step-by-Step Approach

  • Usha Y. Nayak 4 ,
  • Praveen Hoogar 5 ,
  • Srinivas Mutalik 4 &
  • N. Udupa 6  
  • First Online: 01 October 2023

472 Accesses

1 Citations

A key characteristic looked after by postgraduate or doctoral students is how they communicate and defend their knowledge. Many candidates believe that there is insufficient instruction on constructing strong arguments. The thesis writing procedure must be meticulously followed to achieve outstanding results. It should be well organized, simple to read, and provide detailed explanations of the core research concepts. Each section in a thesis should be carefully written to make sure that it transitions logically from one to the next in a smooth way and is free of any unclear, cluttered, or redundant elements that make it difficult for the reader to understand what is being tried to convey. In this regard, students must acquire the information and skills to successfully create a strong and effective thesis. A step-by-step description of the thesis/dissertation writing process is provided in this chapter.

  • Dissertation
  • Postgraduate
  • SMART objectives

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1 Introduction

The foundation of the entire postgraduate or doctoral research program is disciplinary knowledge. At most universities, one of the main requirements is that the research introduces or expands a novelty that contributes to the advancement of the subject [ 1 ]. Even though the writing is a clear component of higher-level coursework and is frequently acknowledged as a source of significant concern for students, it is commonly undervalued. Gaining proficiency in academic writing is necessary for earning a Master or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree and improving the employability of Master or doctoral graduates, who must demonstrate this competency during their professional career. Universities, corporations, Non-government Organizations (NGOs), and government agencies demand efficient writing skills from research job candidates, making this talent increasingly crucial in the global job market. While research degree programs frequently emphasize subject-specific information, academic writing development is usually underestimated [ 2 ]. University’s success is increasingly being measured by quality publications, which are also considered one of the requirements for ‘academic promotion and funding competitions. Lack of journal publications reduces prospects for knowledge expansion. As a result, producing a strong thesis for doctorate candidates is essential that is good in writing, with structural format, original research, with proper analyses of data and interpretation.

The thesis should be an independent work written entirely by the research candidate, supported by the supervisor or guide in all aspects. It outlines a specific issue that the candidate has tackled, sometimes as part of a larger team and with the support and guidance of academic mentors. It motivates and describes the problem, identifies a clear gap for a potential novel academic contribution through critical analysis, evaluates existing solutions, and lays out a hypothesis, a suggested cause for the issue, or a proposed solution. The work done to choose the theory is also sufficiently explained and justified by the thesis [ 3 ]. An idea of the thesis must meet all Master or Ph.D. requirements, adhere to disciplinary standards and expectations, and exhibit advanced writing skills. It must demonstrate critical thinking and uphold a high level of formal literacy, having both accuracy and persistence. Writing for a doctoral degree thesis puts candidates through emotional endurance tests, prompts identity changes, and reassigns them to modern social and scholarly networks [ 1 ]. These factors make writing a thesis challenging and call for academic, interpersonal, and emotional guidance. It is also essential that the ability to explain ideas and analyse the data is more critical for a Ph.D. than the amount of writing a student can produce [ 4 ]. Through the various writing experiences obtained while pursuing the degree, the candidate will acquire knowledge on how to articulate their ideas, how to arrange their work so that readers of all types may connect with it, and how to develop the best layout so that it is evident to fit all the data together. They also learn what is proper, expected, and helpful in writing contexts. The list of writing abilities that can be applied outside of the academic environment is extensive and is a take-home learning gained through the Ph.D. degree. Time management is another significant point worth highlighting. The need for a routine and the willpower to follow it seems to be the first requirement for time management. The effectiveness of patterns and habits varies markedly from person to person. Without a schedule to finish the writing, imperatives like promises and deadlines may not be enough [ 5 ]. Thus, it becomes essential to set a timeline.

The students who seem to be writing frequently for journals or newsletters admit with disappointment that they remain engaged in the same chapter they worked on the week before. Many become overconfident about how soon they can complete specific aspects of their thesis. It appears that there is a connection between writing habits and time management, as well as an awareness of the scope of each writing assignment. Therefore, success in doctorate writing involves figuring out what works for each individual or adjusting to what one’s life permits [ 1 ]. In this chapter, we will explain how to write a Ph.D. thesis, so that postgraduate or doctoral students can be appropriately guided.

2 Steps in Constructing and Structuring a Thesis

Ph.D. students are not likely to have produced numerous theses at the time of writing up; typically, they would have written one in a final undergraduate year and potentially another during post-graduation. However, the work is substantially longer in duration and covers a broader range of topics, necessitating greater attention to detail than any predoctoral studies/work. Most Universities demand that the entire dissertation or its component sections be “publishable” quality. This serves as the yardstick for choosing the information to be included in the thesis. Candidates should consider concepts of quality, credible and novel ideas for thesis writing and should consider the questions like; Are the stated experiments accurate? Is the data acceptable to the scientific community? Would the entire framework hold up to peer review [ 3 ]? The most effective method for creating a strong thesis is likely to be thinking through writing. However, frequently the student cannot adequately explain the significance of the study’s findings until the study is completed and the results are analysed and interpreted.

A thesis should be as specific and unambiguous as possible; it should not be just a list of questions and answers. Thus, it is always preferable to develop a thesis writing structure before beginning to write. When comparing the thesis with research papers, it is suggested that the main distinction between the two is the amount of meta-discourse used in the thesis. Since a thesis is a longer document than a research article, it is essential to include sections that inform the reader of what is to come and that make connections to other sections related to the topic the author is covering at that time [ 6 ]. A typical thesis comprises different chapters, Introduction, Literature Review, Material and Methods, Results, Discussion, Summary and Conclusion, each of which will be covered in more detail in the following sections. It is crucial to understand that a doctoral thesis is not constrained to any one chapter or part. Institutional standards and guidelines, supervisor and researcher preferences all play a role in determining how many chapters a thesis should include. Ideally, the thesis is organised primarily like a scientific research report, with discrete chapters for the introduction, methodology, results, and discussion; this is known as the IMRaD (Introduction—Method—Results—and—Discussion) model. The standard thesis often begins with an introductory chapter, a literature review, and a series of chapters that follow the IMRaD structure and concludes with a general summation chapter. While it is unsurprising that the IMRaD structure has managed to capture the interest of researchers because it is a frequently used format, many researchers have recently emphasised the attention towards alternative writing styles, particularly to research that uses a qualitative approach [ 6 ].

The main accomplishment of the candidate is to strike a balance between their points of view and the standards of their discipline. The goal of this book chapter is to assist Ph.D. students in having a visualisation of what and how the thesis should look like, as well as to provide ways of defining common frameworks. The use of frameworks like IMRaD indicates that the written work reflects authentic research contextualised inside the discussion and that the epistemology is based on legitimate methodologies. Students can use IMRaD as a checklist to identify the sections of their thesis that require development and to make sure that the anticipated aims and objectives are clearly visible. Although the initial structure plans are frequently not final, the basic framework of IMRaD remains the same. Students may need to rearrange their strategy as they gradually get a better understanding of their subject. Still, they must be careful to avoid concluding that doctoral writing is a compromised negotiation [ 1 ]. Editing the thesis and thoroughly checking for grammatical and typographical errors come as the final steps. In the following sections, a detailed step-by-step explanation is given on writing the different chapters in a doctoral thesis.

2.1 Thesis Introduction Chapter

The introduction is the action of introducing something or initiating by presenting the essential details before in-depth discussion, writing, and delving into it. It is an elementary act, part, or portion which would be in use of every spare of our routine life and also in scientific research, such as thesis and paper writing of various types of Graduate, Postgraduate, M.Phil, and Ph.D. It is a fundamental and unseparated part of any kind of thesis. An introduction starts with a statement grabbing the interest and curiosity of the readers. It introduces the central problem and highlights the importance of the investigation. It specifies the research question along with the approach that will be taken to address it. Citing verified evidence emphasises how serious the research issue is [ 7 ]. In the introductory part, “Create a Research Space” (CaRS) strategy proposed by Swales is frequently used to explain the presence of an introductory section. It focuses on three characteristics or general strategies that should be presented in the introduction: (1) why it matters, (2) identifying a research topic’s gap, and (3) outlining the uniqueness it will bring. These techniques are excellent for seizing readers’ attention and highlighting the significance of the research [ 1 ].

This is a highly important chapter in the thesis equally as methodology, results and discussion, etc., mainly because of its position placed in the thesis. This has been always named Introduction chapter presented at the beginning. Since it comes in as Chap.  1 , author must present the research topic in a diligent manner which should create interest in the reader. The author should provide clarity on the topic and the elements associated with it by defining it, describing the elements and their interaction, relationship, and differences. The systematic organization of background or summary of the existing research in the respective field must be presented. This chapter is also the place where the author has to provide a detailed account of the specific research problem, problem statement, hypothesis, objectives, scientific rationale, and clarify his or her position on the topic and the approach. Finally, the overview of the thesis and related aspects would be accommodated here. For the sake of easy understanding and the widely accepted structure, Chap.  1 of the thesis could be taken as a funnel or inverse triangle. It begins with a broad and general subject related to the research topic or title of the thesis, then narrows down to research questions, hypothesis, objectives, variables and the problems that are going to be solved in the research (see Chap.  1 ). It can also be said as the travel from divergent to convergent or details to micro details.

In simple terms, the author must explain what exactly a reader is going to read about the research topic, its importance, relevance, how it is going to contribute to society’s welfare, and what are the policy implications.

The general structure of the introduction chapter is shown below (Box 48.1 ).

Box 48.1 The general structure of the introduction chapter is as follows, but not limited to:

2.1.1 introduction to the problem.

The author must establish his/her research territory by defining, explaining and describing the topic chosen for the study or research. It must provide a wider and clearer understanding of the topic to the reader and must be presented from a broader to the specific of the research. Broader may be in terms of geography, population, etc., to specific means to the specified population of geography. This is not the summary of the thesis or a brief version of each chapter. It is a place for introducing the research and its topic and the thesis. The statements, quotes, or definitions from other authors can be placed in the section, which will provide the stronghold, understanding, importance, and relevance of the study topic.

2.1.2 Statement of the Problem

The statement of the problem is the central or focal point of the whole research or the thesis because everything further in the thesis goes around this and tries to address issues of multiple concerns and features. A statement of the problem is highly specific to the study usually written in six to eight paragraphs with a strong aim for each one. This section can be identified and written with Topic, Gap, evidence, Deficiencies, and Audiences:

Topic: need to state the specific problem both from theoretical and practical points of view.

Gap: Clearly mention that of not solving or not attempting this specific problem in previous research works.

The evidence: must be written that the researchers indicate the problem prevails by referring to the earlier studies.

Deficiencies: must be demonstrated how you as an author solved the problem and how the identified gap was filled.

Audience: whom your study is directed to, and where it would be useful.

There is no need of providing resources or references for every single statement made here except for the evidence section.

The mention of a research gap in two places; the introduction and statement of the problem must not be confused. In the introduction section, it is a border gap but in the statement of the problem, it is a specific one where the author needs to clearly define and provide details.

2.1.3 Review of Literature

The process of reviewing literature will help the author to understand the various aspects of the research topic including what, where, how and among whom the studies were conducted. This will give an idea of methodological applications, study implications and an overview of the respective research area. At the same time, this process will provide opportunities to identify the research density (overworked) and the gaps, which further leads the researcher to consider those aspects of the research.

2.1.4 Research Gap (Niche)

The author must clearly state the research gaps identified from the literature review and cite pertinent references. Here one must include methodological gaps, research topic gaps, theoretical gaps, etc., which in turn help in constructing a strong background to conduct research.

2.1.5 Purpose of the Study

Indicate what you want to learn, what you try to find, and what you want to reveal from this research.

2.1.6 Research Questions

One of the key components of a thesis is the research question. It concentrates on the study, governs the approach, directs all of the phases of research and analysis, and then provides the solution to the problem. The research question needs to elaborate on and reflects a greater comprehension of the subject. As a researcher, demonstrate how the study will bridge a gap in the knowledge base. A Ph.D. thesis should concentrate on issues such as: (1) What, Where, and (2) Why is the subject important? (3) What is the issue and how can it be resolved? (4) If the problem is not resolved, will it continue to exist? (5) Who is negatively impacted by the problem? (6) Does this problem support or refute previously held beliefs? An effort should be made in the thesis (in the discussion section) to answer all such questions [ 7 ].

In a research question, you specify precisely what you want to learn from your work. Your research paper, dissertation, or thesis should be guided by a well-chosen research question. All research questions ought to be focused on a single problem or issue that can be researched using primary and secondary sources and can be answered within the time frame and practical constraints. Specific enough to answer in-depth and complex enough to develop the answer over the course of a paper or thesis. Relevant to your field of study and society as a whole.

2.1.7 Research Hypothesis

An unconfirmed theory is called a hypothesis. It makes it possible to estimate or forecast an outcome or relationship under particular circumstances. To evaluate its validity and dependability, it must undergo thorough testing after which, if proven, it turns into a scientific theory. A hypothesis does not have to be a component of a study; it merely aids the researcher in seeing the issue more clearly. The hypothesis is a declaration and an educated guess that the student is not sure of and should be validated to see if it confirms the claim being made in the research or not. Therefore, the candidate should emphasise the proposed hypothesis and how it relates to the thesis topic [ 7 ].

The author must respond to the research questions posed in the preceding part of this section. For example, if one of the questions is “Is there any statistically significant relationship between parents’ educational status and children’s nutritional status in India?” then the hypothesis would be “There is no statistically significant relationship between children’s nutritional status in India and their parents’ educational status.” Use only null hypotheses. It is a type of statistical hypothesis that makes the case that a given set of observations does not have any statistical significance.

2.1.8 Objectives

The objectives force us to be precise about methods and to define key terms of the research protocol/proposal. The objectives will specify what scientific questions the study is designed to answer. It is developed logically from the topic, research questions, and hypothesis. The statement of objectives is essential for selecting the factors to be investigated, the response variables to be measured, the data needed to describe the effects of the factors, and the kind of statistical analysis required. Thus, when the study is completed, the results will be compared to the objectives and research questions. Unless the objectives are defined, the project cannot be initiated. The thesis should compare the results to the objectives specified in the beginning.

The objectives should cover the entire breadth of the project. Take into consideration- contributing factors, and variables (drug treatment). Arrange them in a logical sequence. Group the objectives: they are sometimes organized into hierarchies: primary, secondary, and exploratory. Or General and specific. For additional details, see Chaps.  1 and 4 .

2.1.9 Significance/Rationale of the Study

The author is expected to provide details in this section on how his or her research has a large impact on other studies, the area of study as a whole, and some other key individuals or the specific population. You can achieve this by asking yourself how and why this study would be essential. In the conclusion chapter of the theses, researchers frequently discuss any gaps in the literature that they discovered while conducting their research. They can serve as evidence of the importance of your research.

2.1.10 Definition of the Keywords

The author has to define the discipline specific keywords theoretically and operationally. The keywords are nothing but the different variables of the thesis. The theoretical definitions come from earlier publications in the respective area of research, where the author has to quote and cite definitions. This is also a process of placing the study in the research area. Then the task is to define the selected keywords, and what they mean in the present study. This can be called an operational or empirical definition. The whole study will be abiding by the operational definition, its meaning, and scope.

2.1.11 Limitation and Delimitation

Although they appear to be synonymous, limitation and delimitation are not. Particularly in research, their meanings, scope, and effects differ. They are essential components of any study that spans time. Some members of the scientific community have the incorrect idea that they would like to conceal it or not document it, which is an unacceptable practice. They are not as bad as people think they are. They are essential to record not only to demonstrate the study’s shortcomings, but also to demonstrate the research’s clear understanding, methodology, focus, and scope. The study’s deficiencies are primarily the result of external factors or factors beyond the researcher’s control. They could be the researcher’s theoretical and practical constraints. Delimitation is a factor that is entirely within the researcher’s control and is used to define or focus on a specific research problem or incident. It mostly talks about the research question and the scope of the research aim.

The author is obligated to document all factors beyond their control, such as the duration of the study, access to funding, equipment, participants, and so on under the limitation section and the consideration of the limitations with a clear comprehension of the study’s requirements as outlined in the delimitation section.

2.2 Literature Review

All literature cannot be covered in the introduction chapter. Usually, a separate chapter with a detailed literature search on the problem statement, and existing literature related to the proposed work and methodology will be included. The students become more familiar with the ideas and works of others through the literature review process. It is, therefore, imperative to read relevant literature from reliable sources as much as possible. It is a segment that is present in a Ph.D. programme from the start to the finish, and thus it becomes vital to compile literature and information as and when it is gathered from the standard databases. Furthermore, it is crucial to understand that every claim will have a counterargument. Therefore, preparing for it will aid in effectively shaping the thesis. The next point that ought to cross the student’s mind is HOW am I going to approach my study so that I can find a solution? It is important to consider WHY you want to conduct the study. What is the theoretical foundation of the research problem’s investigation? To conduct the study scientifically, students must establish a research or experimental design [ 8 ]. If the student wants to use any figures and tables in the literature section of their thesis, permission from the publisher is required.

2.3 Aims and Objectives

The literature review is followed by defining the problem statement and arriving at the objective(s) of the study. The possible solutions for the unanswered questions are to be discussed to derive a hypothesis.

One of the most crucial components of the thesis is how the research aim and objectives are developed. This is so because the purpose and goals of the research dictate its depth and scope [ 9 ]. The goals would then be focused on how to accomplish the proposed study’s goals [ 10 ]. Aims are declarations of intention. They are typically expressed in broad terms. They outline the results you anticipate getting from the endeavour. Contrarily, objectives should be clear statements that outline measurable consequences, such as the procedures that will be followed to bring about the intended result.

Aims and objectives usually describe the main focus of any research project. Basically, objectives are the action that the researcher will undertake to achieve the specified aspect of the research or project. In other words; the outcome researcher wants to achieve by conducting research is called the research objective. Objectives are the guiding force for any research or project. There may be multiple objectives in a research or project. The author must write clearly and specifically what the study answer or give the solution for a problem as an aim of the study and the specific mention how those answers or solutions were achieved as objectives. It means breaking up the most important ideas or aspects of your research aim into several smaller parts that together represent the whole.

Objectives may be designed based on the SMART approach; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time constrained [ 11 ].

Specific: Does the action you plan to take have any ambiguity, or is it focused and clear?

Measurable: How will you track your progress and determine when the action has been completed?

Achievable: do you have the help, assets and offices expected to do the activity?

Relevant: Is the action crucial to achieving your research objective?

Time-bound: Are you able to finish the action in the time you have available while still working on other research projects?

It is also a best practice of using verbs at the beginning of the objective writing that help convey your intent, in addition to following SMART. For example;

In the case of Understanding and organising information verbs can be used Review, Identify, Explore, Discover, Discuss, Summarise, and Describe.

In the case of solving problems using information verbs can be used Interpret, Apply, Demonstrate, Establish, Determine, Estimate, Calculate and Relate.

Reaching conclusion from evidence verbs can be used Analyse, Compare, Inspect, Examine, Verify, Select, Test, Arrange.

2.4 Materials and Methods

The methodology is the most crucial part of the research design. Knowing the difference between methodology and method is important for researchers. While method relates to the systematic organisation and measurement of your research, methodology describes the theoretical interpretation of the research. The approaches used for various studies vary depending on the subject [ 8 ].

The methods used for data collection and analysis must be discussed and explained in your research methodology in the past tense. The methodology chapter or section is an essential component of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper. It explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to assess the reliability and validity of your research and the topic of your dissertation. This provides the opportunity for sharing how you directed your examination and why you picked the tools, methods, and techniques you picked. It is also where you should demonstrate that your research was rigorously carried out and that it can be replicated.

In experimental research, chemicals, equipment, biosamples, and other materials are used as materials and methods. You describe the study in detail in this section. If it’s a plant or animal, include its scientific name. For a better understanding, you can look at previous theses or publications that are closely related to your research. The following are some examples: Specify the location from where the chemicals/samples were purchased, obtained, or harvested. Include information about the age, sex, group size, treatment and control groups. For reproducibility, this information will provide precise recommendations. Chemicals require information such as brand and manufacturing location, food or chemical/analytical grade, the molarity of chemicals concentration and enzyme activity.

2.5 Results

It is always beneficial, to begin with, a brief abstract-style introduction outlining the goals of the chapter. A brief description would enable the reader in recalling the research topic, questions, and hypothesis so they could comprehend the findings more fully while reading this chapter. Write a summary paragraph that is comparable to the introduction at the end of the Results chapter [ 8 ]. Theoretically, everything must have been planned out from the beginning, but in practice, things may not have turned out as intended, and a student may need to embellish their work with a narrative [ 3 ].

The output of the experiments is to be disseminated to the reader with good clarity. Three to four years of efforts of the candidates can be recognized by the way of representing the results obtained in the experiments. Compiling the results after completing the entire duration of Ph.D., will be a tedious task and it may not be ideal. Candidate should be capable of analysing the experimental results as and when performed and data collected. At the same time, the data is to be processed and interpreted and documented in written format. This will assist and show the way for the next experiments. The flow of writing the results may vary with the disciplines. However, the results should follow the methods mentioned in the previous section, ideally with the same titles and subtitles. This will help the reader to follow the stepwise process and link to the previous experiments. A systematic way of representing data is the beauty of writing skills.

The data presented should be clear, precise and concise. Usually while writing the results, a question may arise about whether or not to include negative results. The positive results are those which are in agreement with the hypothesis. If the results are not as per the hypothesis, then it may require further study. After reperforming the experiment, if the results are not good or relevant, they can be considered negative results. It is always preferred to include the negative results. This may be of marginal interest, however, it may help future scientists, so that such experiments need not be repeated by others. Hence always mention the limitations of the experiments in the Results and Discussion sections.

The results that can not be adequately presented in text form, can be represented either in table or graphics (figure) form. The tables are used to represent numerical data, and figures are used for comparing the meaningful relationships between the groups or to study the trend. Figures are easy to understand and convey the message quickly. It is always better to avoid duplicating the results in tables and figures. Sometimes, due to unavoidable reasons, tables and figures may be required, especially when qualitative and quantitative/numerical comparison is involved in the results (for example, see Chap.  45 ). While representing the values in a table, restrict it to two decimal points and maintain uniformity throughout. The tables and figures must be simple and self-explanatory. Figures may be a line graph, scattered plot, bar chart, histogram or pie chart (see Chaps.  29 and 44 ). Special emphasis is to be given to the table title, subtitles, units, figure axis titles and magnification. Also, the abbreviations used in tables and figures are to be defined. User friendly colour codes are to be used in the figures. More importantly, cite the tables and figures at appropriate text locations.

The statistical comparison of all the results (see Chaps.  29 and 30 ) is a must to include in a thesis. The number of repeated trials, statistical terminologies (mean, standard deviation, standard error of the mean, measure of variability, p value, F-value), symbols, colour codes if any, are to be given as footnotes in the table and the figure legends.

2.6 Discussion

Writing the discussion in a thesis is a very crucial and difficult part. The discussion section is the most significant part of the thesis. The thesis’s central argument and the culmination of results can be found here. Here the student will discuss why the issue raised is important, what people have done to address it, where opportunities exist, and what novelty was chosen about contributing to this area. Here candidates will discuss their ideas, criticisms, comprehension, experimental strategy, data analysis and summary, visualisations, insights, and conclusions.

The discussion of the results includes the explanation for the practical experimentations or interpretations of the results, such as their usefulness and relevance to the current situation. The results are linked to the hypothesis. The discussion should address whether the results are fully or partially related to the hypothesis. Do not repeat the results, instead highlight the significant aspects. The discussion part should give information on the findings of the experiments and the reason for those results with supporting literature if any. Why the results are important and how they may affect the outcome of the research, is there any added value for the existing knowledge to be discussed? The scientific basis/evidence from the experiment is to be provided while discussing every aspect of the results. If there is no supporting literature, it should be clarified that the results obtained are unique and/or different from the existing ones.

It is very important to maintain research integrity while discussing the thoughts on the results. If the results are not according to the existing literature, in spite of repeated experiments, the researcher should have the courage to write the rebuttals to the literature in the thesis. Sometimes the published literature might not have been done under proper experimental conditions or authors might have missed the step(s) in the methodology section. Rebuttals will help to correct such errors. Occasionally, some of the candidates may tend to do falsification of data if the results are not according to the literature. Such kind of misconduct is an unethical practice and may ruin the future of the candidate (see Chaps.  58 and 59 ). Instead, write the limitations of the experiments and the possible reasons for obtaining different results [ 10 ]. Publishing the research work in the journals before thesis submission will also help in writing a good discussion for the thesis. The reviewers comments will help to improve the quality of the representing the results.

Statistical differentiation of data and discussion will enhance the confidence level of the thesis presentation. Further, the inclusion of scope for future studies or suggestions to improve the results will also encourage to take the study forward and corrections to be made in the method/procedure followed [ 12 ]. Future perspectives can also be a part of the conclusion of the study.

2.7 Summary and Conclusions

Writing the introduction and the conclusion sections is equally difficult. One significant distinction, though, is that in the conclusion chapter, questions raised in the introduction are addressed. Even if the “Conclusions” requires a paragraph that may describe the entire argument, it is crucial to keep in mind that it is not a synopsis of the Introduction. It could be helpful to quickly recapitulate the study questions and hypotheses in the conclusion chapter to connect them to the discussion of the results. In order for the scientific community to accept and acknowledge the thesis’ contribution, the Conclusion part, like the other chapters, should be written in a scientific style. Instead of discussing the limitations, it is preferable to emphasise that the thesis has a valid and measurable result [ 8 ].

The conclusion section should also summarize the entire research including the problem statement, methodology, results and discussion in a concise manner. The conclusion should indicate whether objectives are fulfilled and the hypothesis is confirmed or refuted. Only the important research findings are mentioned without repeating the sentences. How the results are encouraging for the clinical settings is to be discussed. The conclusion should also include the future directions of the study. As readers usually prefer to see the abstract and conclusion, the outcome of the study must be conveyed in such a way that readers agree with the researcher’s views.

2.8 Referencing Section in the Thesis

Studies in science are motivated by earlier work. Therefore, no one can claim that their research was carried out independently, without referencing the work of other scholars. The information sources that were used by researchers must be listed under the References chapter. They are the key components of research as they link various information sources and help the readers spot knowledge gaps and deepen their understanding of a particular subject. They also help in verifying the originality of the arguments presented in the thesis. As a result, every researcher needs to cite sources to support their findings [ 13 ].

Any research in the modern era begins with the earlier work, or there will be some reading material for their hypothesis, and they are called references for the work [ 14 ]. The references can be anything that is referred to obtain the data for the thesis work. The primary source of references are journals or periodicals and sometimes books. Books are said to be a lesser priority as the change in knowledge is higher in journals and magazines than in textbooks. However, in recent days, the references can be a diary or a lab notebook of a scientist, photographs, figures, diagrams, or even videos. Every statement which brings forward the point of discussion should preferably have a reference. In the research communications, except the abstract, results (there could be an exception) and the conclusion will have references as they originated from the thesis work. Depending on the design of the thesis outline, generally, the references will be at the end. However, some universities accept the references chapter-wise. The chapter-wise referencing will make the references repeat and end up in extra pages in the thesis. Traditionally, the references come under the side heading of the bibliography. However, in recent days the most acceptable side-heading is ‘References’. Whatever the outline format of a thesis, the critical aspect is citing those references in the right place, and keeping the references at the end of the thesis is challenging. Hence, the method of citing plays an essential role in being learned and interpreted before starting the thesis. There are several standards referencing styles to cite the works. However, it is ideal to follow the referencing style suggested by the respective Universities where the Ph.D. work is being done.

Citing references in research communication plays an important role. It validates the idea of the argument in the hypothesis, enables the readers or future researchers to follow the original work, provides credit to the original author or scientist, or inventor, avoids plagiarism to a certain extent, keep-up the academic honesty and the research integrity, and it proves the extent of reading and interpretation that has happened over time [ 15 ].

There are multiple ways of citing references in the text and the bibliography. For details, readers should read Chap.  39 . There are many referencing styles, such as the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the Vancouver system, the Harvard system, the American Medical Association (AMA) Style, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Style, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Style, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Style, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Style, the Turabian style, the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) style, Oxford system, etc. [ 16 ]. The most common one is Vancouver and Harvard referencing method in biomedical sciences. However, American Psychological Association (APA) format is also followed in many instances. Both Harvard and Vancouver reference styles are parenthetical referencing in which the references in the text are inserted using parenthesis or brackets. The Harvard system is also called ‘Author–Date system’, the text citation uses using sir name followed by the year, and in the bibliography, references are sorted alphabetically and then chronologically. The Vancouver system uses numbers for citation in the text, and the references are sorted numerically in the bibliography [ 15 ].

To simplify the citing to reduce the ambiguities, a large group of publishers and societies came forward and introduced Digital Object Identifier (DoI) with the ISO standard (ISO 26324) by forming International DOI Foundation (IDF) ( https://www.doi.org/ ) [ 17 , 18 ]. The DoI connects digitally to the article of origin. Hence, DoI will play the most important role in the future referencing system. Before we understand the important components to be cited in the reference, we need to understand the fundamental need for references in the thesis or any research communication. To know the basic objectives of referencing one needs to know the different components to be cited in the references, following are a few important ones.

Journal article: Authors name, the title of the article, year, volume, issue, page number/article number (for online journals), DoI (for digital archives).

Textbook/book: Editors, book title, publisher, place and year of publication. DoI or ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

Book-Chapter: Author names of the book chapter, followed by writing ‘in’ Title of the book, publisher, place and year of publication. DoI or ISBN (International Standard Book Number), page range.

Websites/blogs/social media: Author name, year, page title. Available at: URL (Accessed: Day Month Year).

Images/videos/ podcasts: Author/presenter name, year, title (video/podcast). Day/month/year. URL with accessed day month year.

Overall, managing references is the most crucial Herculean task. However, nowadays, computer tools make it easier. Hence, the researcher should have proper knowledge of these tools, and it is also essential to have the skills to manage them. Looking at the complexity of citing and managing references, scientists in informatics have developed electronic tools for managing references in the thesis and journal publications. These tools are highly versatile and convenient in modern-day science communication. Many such tools include EndNote, Mendeley, RefWorks, Zotero, and ReadCube [ 19 , 20 , 21 ]. Most Universities across the world used EndNote and Mendeley. EndNote is a product by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), currently a subscription-based product. However, EndNote is one of the best reference tools with high compatibility with almost all journals and publishers [ 22 ]. Currently, Mendeley is not just helping to manage references, but it also helps as social media for the researcher to share their findings or research updates.

3 Concluding remarks

Writing a thesis or dissertation is a scientific art, that involves the depiction of the research skills of a scholar. After performing detailed experiments for 1 to 3 years, it is extremely difficult to summarize the results in a crisp manner. It is obvious that the candidate might be struggling for the selection of required data to be included in the thesis. For a decision to be made, the candidate has to check the results against the objectives and hypotheses. Special attention must be paid to ethics as well. Most ethical issues have unique codes of conduct, such as how to handle human/animal or tissue samples or carry out clinical trials. If these regulations apply, they must be followed precisely within the thesis. Even without evidence of deceit, plagiarism can result in the revocation of a Ph.D. award years after it has been granted. Hence care must be taken while writing the thesis and including the reported literature. Special attention is to be given during the final checking of the thesis. The candidate should ask someone else to read the thesis who is not familiar with the current research problem, for readability and grammar check. Overall, the meticulous planning and execution of the research work may help in writing a good thesis.

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Nayak, U.Y., Hoogar, P., Mutalik, S., Udupa, N. (2023). Writing a Postgraduate or Doctoral Thesis: A Step-by-Step Approach. In: Jagadeesh, G., Balakumar, P., Senatore, F. (eds) The Quintessence of Basic and Clinical Research and Scientific Publishing. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1284-1_48

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Sample Pages

The Sample pages provided below are in MS Word. The samples are for your Dissertation, DMA Document, DNP Project Report, or Thesis. Please review the Dissertation/Thesis manual for specifics on each of the samples. 

The Land Acknowledgement and Labor Acknowledgement pages can be included at the student's option. The Title page and Approval page are required pages. Please review the Dissertation/Thesis manual for specifics on each of the samples. 

Please remember to update the title page and approval page of these samples with your own information (Title, Name, Type of Document, etc.).

Please have committee members sign the approval page at the time of the defense.

Students should include the signed approval page as page 2 of their dissertation or thesis when submitting the final document to ETD ProQuest.

Optional Pages

  • Land Acknowledgment page

Required Pages

Adobe sign approval pages.

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Doctoral Samples

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Doctor of Philosphy in Molecular Medicine Approval Pages

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Doctor of Musical Arts Approval Pages

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Doctor of Musical Arts Critial Essay with Creative Project  Approval Pages

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Doctor of Musical Arts Critical Essay without Creative Project Approval Pages

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Note:  Ph.D candidates in Neuroscience should consult the department for the specific format of the dissertation approval page.

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Master's Samples

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How Long is a Thesis or Dissertation: College, Grad or PhD

How long is a thesis

How long is a thesis

As a graduate student, you may have heard that you must complete a certain comprehensive project, either a thesis or a dissertation. In this guide, we will explore how long a thesis should be, the best length for a dissertation, and the optimal length for each part of the two.

If you read on to the end, we will also explore their differences to understand how it informs each length.

Both terms have distinct meanings, although they are sometimes used interchangeably and frequently confused.

doctoral thesis pages

Structure-wise, both papers have an introduction, a literature review, a body, a conclusion, a bibliography, and an appendix. That aside, both papers have some differences, as we shall see later on in this article.

How Long Should a Thesis be

Before discussing how long a thesis is, it’s critical to understand what it is. A thesis is a paper that marks the end of a study program.

Mostly, there is the undergraduate thesis, a project that marks the end of a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s thesis that marks the end of a master’s program.

A thesis should be around 50 pages long for a bachelor’s degree and 60-100 pages for a Master’s degree. However, the optimal length of a thesis project depends on the faculty’s instructions and the supervising professor’s expectations . The length also depends on the topic’s technicalities and the extent of research done.

How long is a thesis

A master’s thesis project is longer because it is a compilation of all your knowledge obtained in your master’s degree.

It basically allows you to demonstrate your abilities in your chosen field.

Often, graduate schools require students pursuing research-oriented degrees to write a thesis.

This is to demonstrate their practical skills before completing their degrees.

In contrast to undergraduate thesis, which are shorter in length and coverage area, usually less than 60 pages. A master’s theses are lengthy scholarly work allowing you to research a topic deeply.

Then you are required to write, expand the topic, and demonstrate what you have learned throughout the program. This is part of why you must write a thesis for some undergrad in some of the courses.

A Master’s thesis necessitates a large amount of research, which may include conducting interviews, surveys, and gathering information ( both primary and secondary) depending on the subject and field of study.

For this reason, the master’s thesis has between 60 and 100 pages, without including the bibliography. Mostly, the topic and research approach determine the length of the paper.

This means that there is no definite number of pages required. However, your thesis should be long enough to clearly and concisely present all important information.

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How long should a dissertation be.

A dissertation is a complex, in-depth research paper usually written by Ph.D. students. When writing the dissertation, Ph.D. Students are required to create their research, formulate a hypothesis, and conduct the study.

On average, a dissertation should be at least 90 pages at the minimum and 200 pages at the maximum , depending on the guidelines of the faculty and the professor. The optimal length for a dissertation also depends on the depth of the research done, the components of the file, and the level of study.

How long is a dissertation

Most Ph.D. dissertations papers are between 120 to 200 pages on average.

However, as we said earlier, it all depends on factors like the field of study, and methods of data collection, among others.

Unlike a master’s thesis, which is about 100 pages, a dissertation is at least twice this length.

This is because you must develop a completely new concept, study it, research it, and defend it.

In your Ph.D. program, a dissertation allows you the opportunity to bring new knowledge, theories, or practices to your field of study.

The Lengths of Each Part of a Thesis and Dissertation

Factors determining the length of thesis or dissertation.

As we have seen, there is no definite length of a thesis and dissertation. Most of these two important academic documents average 100 to 400 pages. However, several factors determine their length.

rules and regulations

Universities- we all know universities are independent bodies. Also, it’s important to know that each university is different from the other. As a result, the thesis and dissertation length varies depending on the set rules in a certain college or school.

Field of study- some fields of study have rich information, while others have limited information.

For example, you may have much to write about or discover when it comes to science compared to history.

As such, if you are to write a thesis or a dissertation in both fields, one will definitely be longer than the other. Check the time it takes to write a thesis or a dissertation to get more points.

Other factors that affect the length of a thesis or a dissertation include your writing style and the instructor’s specifications. These factors also come into play when it comes to the time taken to defend a thesis or your dissertation.

Tips for the Optimal Length for a Thesis or Dissertation

Instead of writing for length, write for brevity. The goal is to write the smallest feasible document with all of the material needed to describe the study and back up the interpretation. Ensure to avoid irrelevant tangents and excessive repetitions at all costs.

The only repetition required is the main theme. The working hypothesis seeks to be elaborated and proved in your paper.

The theme is developed in the introduction, expanded in the body, and mentioned in the abstract and conclusion.

Here are some tips for writing the right length of thesis and dissertation:

  • Remove any interpretation portion which is only tangentially linked to your new findings. 
  • Use tables to keep track of information that is repeated.
  • Include enough background information for the reader to understand the point of view.
  • Make good use of figure captions.
  • Let the table stand on its own. I.e., do not describe the contents of the figures and/or tables one by one in the text. Instead, highlight the most important patterns, objects, or trends in the figures and tables in the text.
  • Leave out any observations or results in the text that you haven’t provided data.
  • Do not include conclusions that aren’t backed up by your findings.
  • Remove all inconclusive interpretation and discussion portions. 
  • Avoid unnecessary adjectives, prepositional phrases, and adverbs.
  • Make your sentences shorter – avoid nesting clauses or phrases.
  • Avoid idioms and instead use words whose meaning can be looked up in a dictionary.

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Difference between a Thesis and a Dissertation

dissertation vs thesis

The most basic distinction between a thesis and a dissertation is when they are written.

While a thesis is a project completed after a master’s program, a dissertation is completed at the end of doctorate studies.

In a thesis, you present the results of your research to demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of what you have studied during your master’s program.

On the other hand,  a dissertation is your chance to add new knowledge, theories, or practices to your field while pursuing a doctorate. The goal here is to come up with a completely new concept, develop it, and defend it.

A master’s thesis is similar to the types of research papers you’re used to writing in your bachelor’s studies. It involves conducting research on a topic, analyzing it, and then commenting on your findings and how it applies to your research topic.

The thesis aims to demonstrate your capacity to think critically about and explain a topic in depth.

Furthermore, with a thesis, you typically use this time to elaborate on a topic that is most relevant to your professional area of specialization that you intend to pursue.

In a dissertation, on the other hand, you use other people’s research as an inspiration to help you come up with and prove your own hypothesis, idea, or concept. The majority of the data in a dissertation is credited to you.

Last but not least, these two major works differ greatly in length. The average length of a master’s thesis is at least 100 pages.

On the other hand, a doctoral dissertation should be substantially longer because it includes a lot of history and research information, as well as every element of your research, while explaining how you arrived at the information.

It is a complex piece of scholarly work, and it is likely to be twice or thrice the length of a thesis. To know the difference, check the best length for a thesis paper and see more about it.

Here is a Recap of the Differences

  • While the thesis is completed at the end of your master’s degree program, a dissertation is written at the end of your doctoral degree program.
  • Both documents also vary in length. A thesis should have at least 100 pages, while a doctoral dissertation is longer (over 200 pages)
  • In the thesis, you conduct original research; in the dissertation, you use existing research to help you develop your discovery.
  • For a thesis, you have to add analysis to the existing work, while a dissertation is part of the analysis of the existing work.
  • In comparison to a thesis, a dissertation requires a more thorough study to expand your research in a certain topic.
  • The statements in a thesis and a dissertation are distinct. While a thesis statement explains to readers how you will prove an argument in your research, a dissertation hypothesis defines and clarifies the outcomes you expect from your study. Here, you apply a theory to explore a certain topic.
  • A dissertation allows you to contribute new knowledge to your field of study, while a thesis makes sure you understand what you have studied in your program and how it applies.

A thesis or a dissertation is a difficult document to compile. However, you should not be worried since your school assigns you a dissertation advisor who is a faculty member.

These advisors or supervisors help you find resources and ensure that your proposal is on the right track when you get stuck.

Check out my guide on the differences between a research paper, proposal, and thesis to understand more about these issues.

Josh Jasen working

Josh Jasen or JJ as we fondly call him, is a senior academic editor at Grade Bees in charge of the writing department. When not managing complex essays and academic writing tasks, Josh is busy advising students on how to pass assignments. In his spare time, he loves playing football or walking with his dog around the park.

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How Many Pages is a Thesis or Dissertation: Masters to PhD

  • by Judy Jeni
  • January 30, 2024

Length of your thesis

A thesis is a written document by a student in support of candidature for professional qualifications or academic degrees.

It presents the student’s research and findings. A thesis has its structure and presentation styles. But one may ask, how many pages is a thesis?

Furthermore, do the college, master’s, and Ph.D. projects have the same page numbers? A typical thesis paper has a title page, abstract, and table of contents. We have chapters like introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussions, and a reference section.

How Many Pages is a General Thesis

From experience, a thesis, in general, is between 40-80 pages long, excluding the bibliography pages. This length however depends on the level of study, the type of research to be conducted, and the expectations of the institution you are presenting it to.

Also, the structure difference is attributed to the areas of study—for instance, arts, technology, social sciences, humanities, sciences, etc.

book pages

In addition, the method of analysis contributes to the increase or decrease of the page numbers. The format of your thesis is presented in three outlines:

  • The first outline consists of the abstract, table of content, and introduction.
  • The second outline has the methods of research you used, your findings, and your discussion of the same.
  • The last outline has your research conclusions, accompanying recommendations, and your list of references.

Even though there are no set standards on the number of pages, the quality of your work precedes your quantity.

How Many Pages is a Thesis for College

A college thesis is from 40 pages and above so that it can cover the contents of the topic and research being undertaken. However, this length depends on your area of study and the teacher’s guidelines dictate the structure of your writing. Although each thesis is different, they all have common elements.

The typical outline has an abstract, an introduction, research methods, and findings, and lastly, a conclusion and a bibliography section.

To be able to have your paper have all the necessary points and required length;

  • Start by arranging your paper as a logical argument before you start to write.
  • Have figures that illustrate your argument
  • The background of your argument is your introduction, describe the information used in your argument as the points in your observation, analyze your issues and come up with your conclusion.
  • Outline the main elements in sections and subsections
  • Start to write your college thesis.

How Many Pages is a Thesis for Masters or PhD

On average, a master’s thesis or a PhD dissertation is between 120 pages and 200 pages long without counting the bibliography and the appendices. However, the length of a thesis is determined by the depth of your research and the technical nature of the research being conducted.

Also, the literature review and discussion sections determine the length of the project. Always remember to write for brevity rather than length.

No matter the length of your dissertation, always remember that you need to follow the instructions and be brief. Your thesis aims to have all the necessary information discussing your work and supporting your interpretation.

A master’s thesis is close to a doctoral dissertation, but it is shorter and has a narrow focus on the topic of discussion. To understand the length of a thesis for both master’s and Ph.D., first, let’s look at the parts that carry the length.

Purpose and Significance of your Study

In chapter one, you start by outlining the purpose of your study and its significance. The significance is shown by explaining how the study adds to the theoretical knowledge and its practical significance.

Master's students graduating

For a Ph.D. thesis, students discuss how their research makes a unique contribution to the knowledge in their disciplines.

Additionally, they discuss the significance of their study to the general people.

Chapter one of your thesis should be well developed to give you a clear focus and direction for your entire thesis.

Literature Review

Chapter two discusses the literature review. Here you discuss the theoretical framework of your literature. Besides discussing what other researchers have found, you should analyze and discuss your body of knowledge.

The aim here should be to expound on what is known and what is not known on your topic of discussion. The above will assist you in writing your research question or the hypothesis.

Methodology

Chapter three expounds on your methodology. Discuss the methods you used to gather data for your thesis. In addition, you will write about how you analyzed your data.

Start by discussing the method you used to gather your raw data and why your preference was appropriate. Remember to cite the reference literature on the technique.

Although this chapter varies based on the method and analysis technique used, give a detailed procedure you used to gather and analyze your data.

The following are the subtopics of this section;

  • Description of research design
  • Description of population and justification for sampling method used
  • Describe the method or instrument of making observations and its administration
  • Description of data analysis, tests performed, and statistical analysis. Also, discuss the qualitative or historical research.

Research findings

In chapter four discuss the results from your data analysis only. Do not include other research findings or the implications of your findings.

Start by explaining any descriptive analysis. For example, factory analysis or reliability tests that were conducted.

Continue to talk about the findings of your hypothesis test. Extensively, use tables and figures to represent numerical data from your findings.

The qualitative and historical research is organized by the themes found in your research.

Lastly, chapter five shows what your findings mean concerning the theoretical knowledge of your topic. Although this chapter is somehow skimmed, it should be seen as important as it answers the question “so what…”

Start by explaining your findings concerning the theoretical passage presented in the literature review. With qualitative research, you may as well introduce new literature. Alongside,doctoral students should demonstrate the pedagogical implications of the findings to mass education.

The chapter also continues to discuss the limitations encountered in your research. Alongside, propose areas of future research. Have a solid final closure with a brief conclusion.

Factors Determining the Length of a Thesis

The following factors determine the length of your thesis

Your Area of Study

Your area of learning or the discipline dictates how long your thesis will be. The subject determines whether you will write longer literature reviews or collection of more data.

It should be noted that this will also affect the time it takes to complete your thesis because the demands of your subject will eat on your valuable time. Both lead to a longer or a shorter thesis or dissertation.

Nature of Your Project

The scope of your thesis will reflect on the length of your thesis. For example, the introduction length is dictated by the total word count of your thesis.

It should not exceed ten percent of your total word count. As an illustration, if your total words are eight thousand, your introduction should be up to 800 words.

Tips on How to Lengthen your Thesis

There are numerous ways you can use to reach the required word count or required pages.  You may increase the margin of your paper, but you might anger your professor. The following are better ways of lengthening your thesis.

1. Ensure you have included Everything

Check whether you have answered all the questions required by your research. In addition, include as much background material as possible. This will give you data that you will use to increase your word count.

Finding something that you have forgotten could be the reason why your thesis is shorter.

2. Intertwine Transitional Phrases in your Writing

Using transitional phrases is a natural way of lengthening your thesis. In addition, they help your reader follow through as they can connect your thoughts. Transition phrases assist you in moving from one idea to the next clearly and concisely.

Quotation marks

3. Use Quotations

When referring to other people’s work, you use quotation marks.

Besides spicing your thesis, you can increase the size of your thesis.

Incorporating other writers’ work strengthens your arguments.

4. Review Your Introduction and Conclusion

Ideas come to you as you reread your work. Go through your introduction again to check whether there is a point you have left behind.

Ensure you have expounded on your points, and you are sure your reader will thoroughly understand your points. Also, do the same to your conclusion.

5. Spell Out Numbers or Contractions

Instead of writing numbers in figures, write them in words. Substitute “8” by writing eight. Instead of “we’re,” write the whole word- we are. However, this is limited by the style you are required to submit your thesis on.

6. Use Break-Up Paragraphs

Your work could be comprised of long paragraphs; break them to ensure a paragraph has fewer sentences. Besides increasing your thesis pages, you will make your work more readable. People prefer reading broken-down content.

Judy Jeni

Doctoral thesis at Aalto University

Table of contents.

Drawing of a stack of books, with notes between the pages of the books.

Research plan is the basis for thesis work. Doctoral students follow the general quality requirements for doctoral theses at Aalto University and the possible School-specific guidelines.

Doctoral theses are published in the Aalto University publication series and are publicly available.

Topic and language of doctoral thesis

The topic of your doctoral thesis must be approved by the Doctoral Programme Committee of your School. The topic is approved when you are admitted to the programme (except at the School of Business the topic is decided at a later stage).

The language of instruction at Aalto doctoral programmes is, in principle, English but the doctoral thesis can also be completed in Finnish or in Swedish (in the field of business only in English or in Finnish). Normally, the language of your degree is the language in which you write your thesis (English, Finnish or Swedish).

Language of doctoral thesis and degree (aalto.fi)

Changing the thesis topic

If your topic changes, you must get approval for the change from the Doctoral Programme Committee. Always discuss the changes with your supervising professor first. If the research focus doesn't drastically change, you can modify the title of the thesis or the research plan without an official approval.

In case of a major change in your research topic, it is possible that your supervising professor and research field also changes.

Submit the application to your Doctoral programme's Doctoral Education Services (aalto.fi)

The form "Change of supervisign professor, thesis advisor, research field or mode of study" is available at Doctoral student forms (aalto.fi).

Support for thesis writing

Courses and language support.

  • Communication and transferable skills courses
  • Writing Clinic
  • Tutkiva työ & tutkimusraportointi

Aalto University's Harald Herlin Learning Centre's services

  • Library resources and collections
  • Resources guides (libguides.aalto.fi)
  • Information service and information skills training
  • Access to online library resources
  • Learning centre's resources for researchers

Resources and tools

Publishing research and communicating your results (aalto.fi), layout and templates.

You can write your thesis using the Word or LaTeX templates available at the page Publishing doctoral thesis . You can also use your own style or adapt some previously used thesis layout.

Doctoral students at Aalto University publish their thesis through the Aalto Publication Platform. Doctoral students at Aalto ARTS may also apply to publish their thesis through Aalto ARTS Books . The Aalto University publication platform generates the standard front and back covers to the doctoral theses. The platform also generates the title pages and the abstract pages to the doctoral thesis.

References, copyrights and responsible conduct research

If the thesis contains material that has already been published (such as pictures) the doctoral student should refer to it appropriately and obtain the required copyrights.

Copyrights should also be obtained for the separate publications included in an article thesis. Publications in an electronic form should be equivalent in content with the printed publications.

See more at the section Research integrity: Responsible conduct of research

Patents and standards

Patents nor standards may not be used as publications of an article-based thesis. Patents and standards are important results of research work but their publication practices may be in conflict with the principles of scientific publication. Patents can be presented in the summary, and if necessary, be appended to the thesis.

How to use Turnitin to improve and protect your doctoral thesis?

The idea of scientific writing with references and source information is to show your own contribution (new research results) in relation to what was already known.

The requirement is that you write in your own words and give credit to the authors of the sources you have utilized. Besides being a skill, this requirement is also an ethical principle. Disregarding this principle means for example unacknowledged borrowing or plagiarism. Plagiarism is not accepted in doctoral theses. You should practice skilful writing and make sure beforehand that your text is following good practices of academic writing.

It is highly recommended to utilize Turnitin in order to identify unintentional and intentional plagiarism.

How to start using Turnitin?

The most fruitful way of taking advantage of Turnitin is to use it in co-operation with your supervising professor. You can check if your supervising professor already has a workspace in MyCourses . If your supervising professor doesn’t have a workspace, they can order a ready-made personal workspace for thesis supervision.

See detailed instructions below.

Aalto University Code of Academic Integrity and Turnitin usage includes the handling procedure in the case of suspected plagiarism

Draft versions of the thesis

The purpose of using Turnitin for draft versions of the thesis, is to improve the scientific writing of the doctoral student and to prevent unpleasant surprises later in the process. The doctoral student submits a draft version of the thesis in a "Draft" activity in MyCourses. The supervising professor can utilize the Turnitin report for assessing the draft. At the same time she/he can also give feedback to the doctoral student with the Turnitin feedback tools or with some other preferred tool. The doctoral student revises the draft with help of the Turnitin report and the feedback from the supervising professor. It is also possible to get a Turnitin similarity report on your draft on your own, see Turnitin instructions for independent usage.

Final version of the thesis to be sent to pre-examination

The purpose of using Turnitin on the final version of the thesis manuscript to be sent for pre-examination is to check that the thesis sent to the pre-examiners doesn’t contain plagiarism. The doctoral student submits the final version of the thesis for pre-examination in the pre-examination activity in MyCourses.

The supervising professor interprets the Turnitin similarity report at the same time as she/he assesses other aspects of the content.

  • If the interpretation of the Turnitin report indicates plagiarism, a procedure of handling plagiarism is started (this unfortunate step is unlikely if Turnitin has been used with the drafts version)
  • The pre-examiners can be informed that the thesis has been checked for plagiarism.

Final version of the thesis to be published (permission for defence has been granted)

The purpose of Turnitin usage for the final version of a thesis is twofold:

  • to make sure again that there is no plagiarism in the final version (if the previous steps are done with Turnitin this is highly unlikely and barely needed).
  • a thesis published in Aaltodoc will automatically be indexed into the Turnitin repositories (most cases).
  • if the thesis is not published in the Aaltodoc (e.g. in cotutelle cases) the doctoral student should submit the final published version of the thesis in the "Version for grading" activity in MyCourses. In this activity the submission is archived in Turnitin student papers repository.

General quality requirements for doctoral theses at Aalto University

  • A doctoral thesis shall contain new scientific knowledge in the field it represents. In the field of art and design, the doctoral thesis may also contain new methods of artistic creation or products or transactions, which fulfil high artistic demands.
  • The doctoral thesis must present the new results clearly and in a manner meeting the criteria set for scientific texts.
  • The independent contribution to the research shall be sufficient and clearly demonstrable.
  • The research methods used shall fulfil the criteria set for scientific or art-based research.
  • A doctoral thesis shall conform to the principles of responsible conduct of research and adhere to ethically sustainable principles.

Doctoral dissertations at Aalto University, Decision of the Aalto University Academic Affairs Committee, 1 December 2015

Different formats of doctoral theses

Schools may approve doctoral thesis in the forms described below. Schools take the decision on the acceptable formats of thesis and give further guidelines on the requirements for doctoral thesis as needed.

1. Article-based doctoral thesis (all Schools)

An article-based doctoral thesis consists of a set of publications on a related set of problems, and a summary of the findings.

The articles included in the doctoral thesis are published or submitted for publication in an acknowledged peer-reviewed forum in the discipline (for example a scientific publication series, conference proceedings or other work). Articles not yet accepted for publication can also be included in the doctoral thesis. The number of publications required for the thesis depends on their extent, scientific significance and quality as well as on the weight of the independent contribution of the doctoral student to the publications.

The articles may also include co-authored publications if the author's independent contribution to them can be demonstrated. An article can be included in several doctoral theses if the separate contribution of the doctoral student can be demonstrated.

The summary of the article-based doctoral thesis is an independent entity, which provides an overview of the thesis contents. The summary shall describe the research problem, research goals and methods, and presents a summary of the key findings. The summary shall assess the significance of the study for the discipline. The summary shall contain a list of the publications included in the thesis and describe the independent contribution of the student in each publication separately.

2. A single research piece or a monograph (all Schools)

A monograph is a coherent writing based on the work of the doctoral student and written by the student. The monograph may contain references to previous works by the doctoral student on the same topic.

The doctoral thesis describes the research problem, the research goals, the used methods and results, and presents a summary of the key findings. The summary shall assess the significance of the study for the discipline.

3. Essay-based doctoral thesis (only BIZ and SCI)

An essay-based doctoral thesis consists of scientific essays and a summary. The essays and the summary shall deal with a single research problem or set of problems so that, when viewed as a whole, the independent contribution of the author meets the requirements set for a doctoral thesis.

Each of the essays shall contain new results and viewpoints, and shall primarily be based on independent research by the author, but also collaboratively written essays may be accepted as part of the doctoral thesis if the independent contribution of the author may be clearly demonstrated.

The number of essays required depends on their extent, scientific significance and quality as well as on the weight of the independent contribution of the author to the essays.

The summary describes the research problem, research goals and methods, and presents a summary of the key findings. The summary shall assess the significance of the study for the discipline. The summary contains a description of the independent contribution of the author in each of the essays.

4. Other works meeting corresponding scientific criteria

At its discretion, the school may also approve as a doctoral thesis some other work meeting corresponding scientific criteria.

In the field of art and design , a doctoral thesis may also include artistic components such as art productions, series of art productions meaningfully connected to each other, or product development projects. More information is available at the page artistic components (aalto.fi).

School-specific guidelines for doctoral thesis

ARTS: Formats of doctoral theses (aalto.fi) CHEM: Instructions for doctoral theses (aalto.fi) ELEC: Forms of doctoral theses (aalto.fi)

Finalising and publishing doctoral thesis

Doctoral students at Aalto University publish their thesis through the Aalto Publication Platform. Doctoral theses are public documents by law and available at Aalto University's open access repository Aaltodoc .

Doctoral thesis: preparation for pre-examination and publication Publishing your doctoral thesis

Publishing doctoral theses

Aalto University has one shared publication series for its doctoral theses.

Doctoral hats in Aalto University Conferment

Public defence at Aalto University

Instructions for planning and arranging public defences (for doctoral student and custos)

Doctoral hat floating above a speaker's podium with a microphone

Awarding doctoral thesis work

Dipoli artwork on the wall by Inni Pärnänen / photo Aalto Unviersity, Mikko Raskinen

Incentive scholarships for doctoral students

A set of 500e and 2000e incentive scholarships are awarded by application for doctoral students who meet the conditions given.

School of Engineering Award

Aalto doctoral thesis awards

Top ten percent of doctoral theses are awarded annually at Aalto University

Find published doctoral theses

Aaltodoc logo

Doctoral theses at Aaltodoc (external link)

Doctoral theses at Aalto University are available in the open access repository maintained by Aalto, Aaltodoc.

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Five things to know about… sylvia ryerson’s ‘calls from home’.

Sylvia Ryerson hosting “Calling from Home” at WMMT-FM and a promotion image from the documentary.

Sylvia Ryerson hosting “Calling from Home” at WMMT-FM and a promotion image from the documentary.

For more than 20 years, a community radio station in the tiny town of Whitesburg, Kentucky, has delivered personal messages of love and encouragement to the many thousands of incarcerated persons being held in the eight state and federal prisons within its broadcast area.

Every Monday at 7 p.m., radios throughout the cellblocks are tuned to WMMT-FM 88.7, “low on your dial but high in your hearts.” The station plays songs requested in letters sent from the prisons, while family and friends of the incarcerated call the station’s “shout-out line” to record their sentiments. Most live far from this Central Appalachian region.

Then, from 9 to 10 p.m., the messages are relayed out across southeast Kentucky, southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia, and parts of east Tennessee and western North Carolina. The broadcast is a lifeline for the incarcerated listeners, who typically have very limited access to telephones to stay in touch.

“ Calls from Home ,” the name of the program, is also the title of a new, 31-minute film directed by Sylvia Ryerson, a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies in the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The film explores the radio show’s role and impact, while also taking aim at mass incarceration by highlighting the vast physical distance between the incarcerated and their loved ones, and how the frequent use of lockdowns and solitary confinement furthers their isolation.

It will be screened at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the New Haven Free Public Library (133 Elm St.). Afterward, Ryerson will be in conversation with Matthew Jacobson, the Sterling Professor of American Studies, History and African American Studies in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and co-director of the Yale Public Humanities Program, and Elizabeth Hinton, professor of history, African American studies, and law. Admission is free.

Yale News talked with Ryerson after previewing the film. Here are five takeaways.

Ryerson herself co-directed and co-hosted “Calls from Home” from 2010 to 2014.

WMMT is part of Appalshop , a community-focused, multi-media arts organization located in Letcher County, Kentucky. Ryerson learned about the organization from a friend, and spent two college summers at the non-profit’s former home in Whitesburg, the first as an intern at the radio station, and then returning the following year to conduct research for her undergraduate thesis on prison expansion in Central Appalachia. After graduating from Wesleyan University in 2009, she returned to work at Appalshop full-time, first as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, then joining the staff of the radio station. Through her years of hosting the weekly radio show she came to know the people who are featured in the film.

“ I wanted to create a piece that could really show the relationships that were being made through the radio show,” she says. “I thought of the film like a triangle — there’s the radio station, there’s where people are calling from, and there are the prisons. How do we show those connections being forged through the airwaves?”

The radio program and the film relate to Ryerson’s dissertation.

Ryerson’s Ph.D. focus is on carceral expansion and modes of resistance to it in Central Appalachia, which now hosts 16 prisons, many built on former coal mines. Building prisons in rural areas “disappears people,” she says; they are neither seen by their loved ones, who often live far away, nor by the residents of the communities in which they are located. “Calls from Home” works to change that.

“ They’re reaching a general listening audience, not just the families and loved ones sending and receiving messages,” she says. “There is a really important role the show continues to play in terms of changing public perceptions of who is incarcerated. If you hear someone’s 5-year-old daughter calling in to say good night, that can really challenge the assumptions we’ve been taught about who is inside of these prisons.”

The film includes the voices of two incarcerated men who are devoted listeners.

Both men were in supermax prisons in Virginia, where filming is not allowed. So Ryerson worked with an animator, Javier Barboza, to create animated scenes building from their audio recordings and artwork.

William “C Walk” Griffin, who has been incarcerated for more than 27 years, talks about how much he looks forward to the Monday night messages from his wife, Michelle, who lives nearly 400 miles away. When the show airs, he says, “I put my headphones on and it’s like I’m not even here. Like, I feel like I’m soaring. My mind and my soul, my heart ascend beyond this place.”

Peter “Pitt” Kamau Mukuria spent eight years in solitary confinement in southwest Virginia. He talks about he and others using the prison’s vent system to share the show with those without radios. Ryerson was familiar with his talents as an artist and commissioned him to draw a self-portrait for the film. In the drawing, Mukuria sits on his cell cot, his bare back to the viewer, the word “Southside” tattooed across his shoulders. His headphones are plugged into a small radio tuned to 88.7.

The film is meant to be an organizing tool.

Ryerson kept it short for precisely this reason; a screening of a 31-minute film leaves plenty of time for discussion afterward. She is currently working with two different coalitions to build film impact campaigns that will support their advocacy work.

The Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement is planning a 2024 statewide screening tour to support ongoing efforts for the reinstatement of parole (Virginia abolished parole in 1995), an end to extreme sentencing, and an end to prolonged solitary confinement in the state prison system. Michelle Griffin, whose husband William remains incarcerated in southwest Virginia, and other people featured in the film will headline the tour as speakers.

The Building Community Not Prisons Coalition is fighting a proposed 1,400-bed federal prison in Letcher County, Kentucky (notably, the home county of WMMT). Ryerson is a co-founder. They are planning a national screening tour in major cities that are poised to become primary “sending communities” should the facility be built. Ryerson hopes the film can help to build relationships across the vast and diverse geographies of the U.S. carceral state to strengthen what she says the scholar and poet Leanne Betasamosake Simpson describes as “constellations of coresistance.”

“ There’s enormous resistance to this prison,” Ryerson said. “I believe a lot of that resistance is rooted in the ‘Calls from Home’ show and the circles of activism that have grown from that.”

Ryerson helped to develop a similar radio program to reach people in ICE detention in New Jersey.

She and Luis Luna, a New Haven community organizer and artist, co-produced “Melting the ICE/Derritiendo el Hielo,” a bilingual radio show that shared testimonies and strategies against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention and deportation. It ran for about two years, broadcasting to four of the largest detention centers in New Jersey from WPKN-FM 89.5 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and WKCR-FM 89.9 at Columbia University. It is also available here on Spotify.

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  1. PDF Sample Thesis Pages

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    Published on May 19, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023. The title page (or cover page) of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper should contain all the key information about your document. It usually includes: Dissertation or thesis title Your name The type of document (e.g., dissertation, research paper)

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    Introduction Every PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is required to successfully complete and submit a dissertation to qualify for degree conferral. This document provides information on how to submit your dissertation, requirements for dissertation formatting, and your dissertation publishing and distribution options.

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    Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file. Click the OK button. Save the document. Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to "more options" and save as "PDF/A compliant". To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007: Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.

  10. Doctoral Thesis Guidelines

    The Signature Page for DrPH students must be formatted as follows: This Doctoral Thesis, [ Title of Doctoral Project ], presented by [ Student's Name ], and Submitted to the Faculty of The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Public.

  11. PhD Thesis Guide

    Students perform doctoral thesis work under the guidance of a thesis committee consisting of at least three faculty members from Harvard and MIT (including a chair and a research advisor) who will help guide the research. Students are encouraged to form their thesis committee early in the course of the research and in any case by the end of the ...

  12. How To Structure A PhD Thesis

    How To Structure A PhD Thesis Nov 21, 2019 Introduction Universities and supervisors often assume that PhD students know how to structure their PhD theses. But often this assumption is false, which can cause considerable headache and uncertainty.

  13. How Long Is a PhD Thesis?

    A further analysis of 1000 PhD thesis shows the average number of pages to be 204. In reality, the actual word count for each PhD thesis will depend on the specific subject and the university it is being hosted by. This is because universities set their own word length requirements, with most found to be opting for around 100,000.

  14. Dissertation & Thesis Manual

    A master's thesis must be a significant research work that must be approved in its entirety by the master's committee. The final version of the dissertation/thesis must conform to the details outlined in the "Preparation and Submission Manual for Doctoral Dissertations and Master's Theses." For reference, we have provided some highlights ...

  15. Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

    A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) - from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion. The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social ...

  16. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed.

  17. What Is a PhD Thesis?

    What Is a PhD Thesis? Summary This page will explain what a PhD thesis is and offer advice on how to write a good thesis, from outlining the typical structure to guiding you through the referencing. A summary of this page is as follows:

  18. Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

    The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

  19. Writing a Postgraduate or Doctoral Thesis: A Step-by-Step ...

    Writing for a doctoral degree thesis puts candidates through emotional endurance tests, prompts identity changes, and reassigns them to modern social and scholarly networks [ 1 ]. These factors make writing a thesis challenging and call for academic, interpersonal, and emotional guidance.

  20. Sample Pages

    Sample Pages. The Sample pages provided below are in MS Word. The samples are for your Dissertation, DMA Document, DNP Project Report, or Thesis. Please review the Dissertation/Thesis manual for specifics on each of the samples. The Land Acknowledgement and Labor Acknowledgement pages can be included at the student's option.

  21. How Long is a Thesis or Dissertation: College, Grad or PhD

    On average, a dissertation should be at least 90 pages at the minimum and 200 pages at the maximum, depending on the guidelines of the faculty and the professor. The optimal length for a dissertation also depends on the depth of the research done, the components of the file, and the level of study.

  22. How Many Pages is a Thesis or Dissertation: Masters to PhD

    On average, a master's thesis or a PhD dissertation is between 120 pages and 200 pages long without counting the bibliography and the appendices. However, the length of a thesis is determined by the depth of your research and the technical nature of the research being conducted.

  23. Doctoral thesis at Aalto University

    The platform also generates the title pages and the abstract pages to the doctoral thesis. References, copyrights and responsible conduct research If the thesis contains material that has already been published (such as pictures) the doctoral student should refer to it appropriately and obtain the required copyrights. ...

  24. ‎The Pete Quiñones Show: Episode 1017: The Policies That Led to the

    67 Minutes PG-13 Josiah Lippincott is a former Marine officer and is currently a PHD candidate at Hillsdale College. Josiah joins Pete to share some information from his PHD thesis on the causes and effects of the United States war with Japan. Josiah's Substack Josiah's Author's Page at America…

  25. Five Things to Know About… Sylvia Ryerson's 'Calls from Home'

    " Calls from Home," the name of the program, is also the title of a new, 31-minute film directed by Sylvia Ryerson, a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies in the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The film explores the radio show's role and impact, while also taking aim at mass incarceration by highlighting the vast physical ...