Critical Components of a Thesis paper

By Shruti Datt on March 15, 2012

As per the definition given in A guide to the preparation and writing of thesis and dissertation, “A thesis is a primary publication that describes new original research and contains information that enables peers to identify objectives, assess observations and evaluate conclusions.”

Thesis is an important part of any degree as it initiates the student into independent work, and since supervision is less during this part of study it is necessary to understand the details in order to correctly structure and format the thesis. Once the entire process is outlined, it becomes much easier to implement.

A typical thesis has five major critical components:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Experimental methods or model development
  4. Results
  5. Conclusions

Other than these major components, thesis also includes Preparatory pages (title page, acknowledgement page, table of contents, List of tables and figures and the abstract), References and Appendices.

  1. Introduction: The introduction gives clear insight about one’s core research question i.e. one can give an overview of the problem statement and approaches of how they have been solved in the course of study. Since it is written for wider audience it should written in a way that it can be understood by college-educated person. It should also be able to justify that the answer to one’s problem statement is not known from previous research and that the answer has value.
  2. Literature Review: The second part of thesis serves three main purposes, to justify one’s work, to prove the reader that the one understands the context of their work and to introduce newcomers about the important research relevant to the subject. It is basically the survey about what other professionals have written or demonstrated about the problem that one is addressing.
  3. Experimental methods or model development: This is the easiest part of any thesis because it tells what, how, why and when one has done his/her work. This section is written in past tense as one describes specifically what one has done in past. The research design should be such that it is able to explain a set of questions like, what experiments were used in the study and what the purpose of those experiments was.
  4. Results: This is an extremely important section which gives the detailed overview of what happened along with the interpretation of what happened. This chapter of the thesis should be written in a way that it is able to unfold a story weaved through appropriate figures and tables. The layout of result part can take different forms but the basic rule is that one should follow proper chronological order of the happenings. After the results have been presented, explained and interpreted in chronological order, a globalized interpretation to the thesis is advisable.  During this interpretation one can discuss how the results changed compared to previous studies and how these have been able to fill the gaps if any in the literature review section and applications of these results in real world.
  5. Conclusions: Conclusion part should act like a summary to the whole thesis for the readers. Conclusion must contain a very brief synopsis of research and design, summary of the approach used and glimpse of results. One has to make sure that the conclusion part is brief, crystal clear and very concise with absolutely no new information.
Shruti Datt
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