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Thesis / dissertation formatting manual (2024).

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  • Preliminary Pages Overview
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication Page

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures (etc.)
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The Table of Contents should follow these guidelines:

  • ​All sections of the manuscript are listed in the Table of Contents except the Title Page, the Copyright Page, the Dedication Page, and the Table of Contents.
  • You may list subsections within chapters
  • Creative works are not exempt from the requirement to include a Table of Contents

Table of Contents Example

Here is an example of a Table of Contents page from the Template. Please note that your table of contents may be longer than one page.

Screenshot of Table of Contents page from Dissertation template

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Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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Table of Contents

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.

PhD Thesis Editing Plus

Want some support during your PhD writing process? Our PhD Thesis Editing Plus service includes extensive and detailed editing of your thesis to improve the flow and quality of your writing. Unlimited editing support for guaranteed results. Learn more here , and get started today!

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How to create a table of contents for a dissertation (apa), published by steve tippins on june 20, 2022 june 20, 2022.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 05:06 am

content page of phd thesis

APA Dissertation Table of Contents Format Guidelines

  • The table of contents should be double spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. 
  • It should be written in the same font and size as the rest of your dissertation.  
  • At the top of the page, write Table of Contents , centered and in bold.
  • Although in the body of the paper you can use up to five levels of headings, up to three levels are usually provided in the Table of Contents. Including lower-level headings is optional. 
  • Indent each subheading five spaces. 
  • Write all text in title case. In title case, the first letter of major words is capitalized.
  • Provide the page number where the main headings and subheadings begin, and provide dotted lines between the heading and the page number.
  • Page numbers for the Dedication, Acknowledgements, and Preface should be in lower case Roman Numbers (i, v, x, l, c, d and m.). The page numbers for the rest of the text should be in Arabic numerals (1,2, 3, 4, etc.).

How to Create an APA Table of Contents Using Microsoft Word

Step 1. Instead of manually trying to write and format the table of contents, you can create a generated one using Microsoft Word. To do this, first go to the Home tab. This is where you will choose the styles for the table of contents. 

Step 2. The top-level headings will be your chapter titles, so on the right side of the tab, apply the Heading 1 style. 

Step 3. The second-level headings will be your subheadings, so apply the Heading 2 style. This will place your subheadings underneath your main headings.

screenshot of formatting a heading in Microsoft word

Step 4. You will now produce page links to your document. In the top ribbon, click on the References tab and select Table of Contents . 

content page of phd thesis

Step 5. If the style does not indicate APA, such as the one below, use the drop down arrow to select APA. 

Step 6. Next, choose the number of levels that you want. In this case, you want to be able to have up to three levels, so choose Automatic Table 2 , which has the appropriate heading for a dissertation. 

Step 7. Click ok , and you are all set. Microsoft word will automatically generate your dissertation’s table of contents as you write it.

screenshot of table of content formatting in microsoft word

List of Tables and Figures

Your list of tables and figures will be written at the end of the list of information in the body of your paper. You will create these lists the same way that you created the main table of contents. 

However, the headings will be different. 

Instead of the heading “Table of Contents,” the headings will be “List of Tables” and “List of Figures.” (An example is provided in the table of contents example below.)

Example of Table of Contents

In the example below, there are three level headings. The list of tables and figures are provided at the bottom of the other contents. The sections in your table of contents may be different depending on your college’s requirements. 

screenshot of APA Dissertation Table of Contents formatting

Updating the Table of Contents

As you continue working on your dissertation, you will need to update the page numbers because they may change. 

content page of phd thesis

To update the page numbers, right-click on the table of contents in your document and select the Update field . Then, the Update Table of Contents box will appear. 

You can choose to Update page numbers only or all the information in the table of contents by clicking on Update entire table . 

screenshot of updating page numbers in microsoft word

Note: For more information, refer to the APA Manual 7 th edition , sections 2.2-2.27.

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Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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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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Thesis and Dissertation Guide

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  • Introduction

Copyright Page

Dedication, acknowledgements, preface (optional), table of contents.

  • List of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations

List of Abbreviations

List of symbols.

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  • Font Type and Size
  • Spacing and Indentation
  • Tables, Figures, and Illustrations
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  • Sample Pages

Thesis and Dissertation Guide

I. Order and Components

Please see the sample thesis or dissertation pages throughout and at the end of this document for illustrations. The following order is required for components of your thesis or dissertation:

  • Dedication, Acknowledgements, and Preface (each optional)
  • Table of Contents, with page numbers
  • List of Tables, List of Figures, or List of Illustrations, with titles and page numbers (if applicable)
  • List of Abbreviations (if applicable)
  • List of Symbols (if applicable)
  • Introduction, if any
  • Main body, with consistent subheadings as appropriate
  • Appendices (if applicable)
  • Endnotes (if applicable)
  • References (see section on References for options)

Many of the components following the title and copyright pages have required headings and formatting guidelines, which are described in the following sections.

Please consult the Sample Pages to compare your document to the requirements. A Checklist is provided to assist you in ensuring your thesis or dissertation meets all formatting guidelines.

The title page of a thesis or dissertation must include the following information:

Title Page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • The title of the thesis or dissertation in all capital letters and centered 2″ below the top of the page.
  • Your name, centered 1″ below the title. Do not include titles, degrees, or identifiers. The name you use here does not need to exactly match the name on your university records, but we recommend considering how you will want your name to appear in professional publications in the future.

Notes on this statement:

  • When indicating your degree in the second bracketed space, use the full degree name (i.e., Doctor of Philosophy, not Ph.D. or PHD; Master of Public Health, not M.P.H. or MPH; Master of Social Work, not M.S.W. or MSW).
  • List your department, school, or curriculum rather than your subject area or specialty discipline in the third bracketed space. You may include your subject area or specialty discipline in parentheses (i.e., Department of Romance Languages (French); School of Pharmacy (Molecular Pharmaceutics); School of Education (School Psychology); or similar official area).
  • If you wish to include both your department and school names, list the school at the end of the statement (i.e., Department of Pharmacology in the School of Medicine).
  • A dissertation submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Public Policy.
  • A thesis submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in the School of Dentistry (Endodontics).
  • A thesis submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in the Department of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
  • A dissertation submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Education (Cultural Studies and Literacies).
  • The words “Chapel Hill” must be centered 1″ below the statement.
  • One single-spaced line below that, center the year in which your committee approves the completed thesis or dissertation. This need not be the year you graduate.
  • Approximately 2/3 of the way across the page on the right-hand side of the page, 1″ below the year, include the phrase “Approved by:” (with colon) followed by each faculty member's name on subsequent double-spaced lines. Do not include titles such as Professor, Doctor, Dr., PhD, or any identifiers such as “chair” or “advisor” before or after any names. Line up the first letter of each name on the left under the “A” in the “Approved by:” line. If a name is too long to fit on one line, move this entire section of text slightly to the left so that formatting can be maintained.
  • No signatures, signature lines, or page numbers should be included on the title page.

Include a copyright page with the following information single-spaced and centered 2″ above the bottom of the page:

Copyright Page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

© Year Author's Full Name (as it appears on the title page) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This page immediately follows the title page. It should be numbered with the lower case Roman numeral ii centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Inclusion of this page offers you, as the author, additional protection against copyright infringement as it eliminates any question of authorship and copyright ownership. You do not need to file for copyright in order to include this statement in your thesis or dissertation. However, filing for copyright can offer other protections.

See Section IV for more information on copyrighting your thesis or dissertation.

Include an abstract page following these guidelines:

Abstract page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading “ABSTRACT” in all capital letters, and center it 2″ below the top of the page.
  • One double-spaced line below “ABSTRACT”, center your name, followed by a colon and the title of the thesis or dissertation. Use as many lines as necessary. Be sure that your name and the title exactly match the name and title used on the Title page.
  • One single-spaced line below the title, center the phrase “(Under the direction of [advisor's name])”. Include the phrase in parentheses. Include the first and last name(s) of your advisor or formal co-advisors. Do not include the name of other committee members. Use the advisor's name only; do not include any professional titles such as PhD, Professor, or Dr. or any identifiers such as “chair” or “advisor”.
  • Skip one double-spaced line and begin the abstract. The text of your abstract must be double-spaced and aligned with the document's left margin with the exception of indenting new paragraphs. Do not center or right-justify the abstract.
  • Abstracts cannot exceed 150 words for a thesis or 350 words for a dissertation.
  • Number the abstract page with the lower case Roman numeral iii (and iv, if more than one page) centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Please write and proofread your abstract carefully. When possible, avoid including symbols or foreign words in your abstract, as they cannot be indexed or searched. Avoid mathematical formulas, diagrams, and other illustrative materials in the abstract. Offer a brief description of your thesis or dissertation and a concise summary of its conclusions. Be sure to describe the subject and focus of your work with clear details and avoid including lengthy explanations or opinions.

Your title and abstract will be used by search engines to help potential audiences locate your work, so clarity will help to draw the attention of your targeted readers.

You have an option to include a dedication, acknowledgements, or preface. If you choose to include any or all of these elements, give each its own page(s).

Dedication page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

A dedication is a message from the author prefixed to a work in tribute to a person, group, or cause. Most dedications are short statements of tribute beginning with “To…” such as “To my family”.

Acknowledgements are the author's statement of gratitude to and recognition of the people and institutions that helped the author's research and writing.

A preface is a statement of the author's reasons for undertaking the work and other personal comments that are not directly germane to the materials presented in other sections of the thesis or dissertation. These reasons tend to be of a personal nature.

Any of the pages must be prepared following these guidelines:

  • Do not place a heading on the dedication page.
  • The text of short dedications must be centered and begin 2″ from the top of the page.
  • Headings are required for the “ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS” and “PREFACE” pages. Headings must be in all capital letters and centered 2″ below the top of the page.
  • The text of the acknowledgements and preface pages must begin one double-spaced line below the heading, be double-spaced, and be aligned with the document's left margin with the exception of indenting new paragraphs.
  • Subsequent pages of text return to the 1″ top margin.
  • The page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals (starting with the page number after the abstract) centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Include a table of contents following these guidelines:

Table of Contents page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in all capital letters, and center it 2″ below the top of the page.
  • Include one double-spaced line between the heading and the first entry.
  • The table of contents should not contain listings for the pages that precede it, but it must list all parts of the thesis or dissertation that follow it.
  • If relevant, be sure to list all appendices and a references section in your table of contents. Include page numbers for these items but do not assign separate chapter numbers.
  • Entries must align with the document's left margin or be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • Major subheadings within chapters must be included in the table of contents. The subheading(s) should be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • If an entry takes up more than one line, break up the entry about three-fourths of the way across the page and place the rest of the text on a second line, single-spacing the two lines.
  • Include one double-spaced line between each entry.
  • Page numbers listed in the table of contents must be located just inside the right page margin with leaders (lines of periods) filling out the space between the end of the entry and the page number. The last digit of each number must line up on the right margin.
  • Information included in the table of contents must match the headings, major subheadings, and numbering used in the body of the thesis or dissertation.
  • The Table of Contents page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Lists of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations

If applicable, include a list of tables, list of figures, and/or list of illustrations following these guidelines:

Lists of Figures page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading(s) in all capital letters, centered 1″ below the top of the page.
  • Each entry must include a number, title, and page number.
  • Assign each table, figure, or illustration in your thesis or dissertation an Arabic numeral. You may number consecutively throughout the entire work (e.g., Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.), or you may assign a two-part Arabic numeral with the first number designating the chapter in which it appears, separated by a period, followed by a second number to indicate its consecutive placement in the chapter (e.g., Table 3.2 is the second table in Chapter Three).
  • Numerals and titles must align with the document's left margin or be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • Page numbers must be located just inside the right page margin with leaders (lines of periods) filling out the space between the end of the entry and the page number. The last digit of each number must line up on the right margin.
  • Numbers, titles, and page numbers must each match the corresponding numbers, titles, and page numbers appearing in the thesis or dissertation.
  • All Lists of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

If you use abbreviations extensively in your thesis or dissertation, you must include a list of abbreviations and their corresponding definitions following these guidelines:

List of Abbreviations with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS” in all capital letters, and center it 1″ below the top of the page.
  • Arrange your abbreviations alphabetically.
  • Abbreviations must align with the document's left margin or be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • If an entry takes up more than one line, single-space between the two lines.
  • The List of Abbreviations page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

If you use symbols in your thesis or dissertation, you may combine them with your abbreviations, titling the section “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS”, or you may set up a separate list of symbols and their definitions by following the formatting instructions above for abbreviations. The heading you choose must be in all capital letters and centered 1″ below the top of the page.

Previous: Introduction

Next: Format

  • How it works

How to Create the Best Table of Contents for a Dissertation

Published by Owen Ingram at August 12th, 2021 , Revised On September 20, 2023

“A table of contents is an essential part of any article, book, proceedings, essay , and paper with plenty of information. It requires providing the reader’s guidance about the position of the content.”

When preparing a  dissertation , you may cram as much information into it as appropriate. The dissertation may be an extremely well-written one with a lot of valuable information to offer. Still, all that information could become perplexing if the reader cannot easily find the information.

The length of dissertations usually varies from a few pages to a few hundred pages, making it very difficult to find information that you may be after.

Instead of skimming through every page of the dissertation, there is a need for a guideline that directs the reader to the correct section of the dissertation and, more importantly, the correct page in the section.

Also read:   The List of Figures and Tables in the Dissertation .

What is the Table of Contents in the Dissertation?

The table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper’s contents.

Depending on the detail level in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader concerning which page the said information may be found.

The table of contents is essentially a list found at the beginning of a  dissertation , which contains names of the chapters, section titles and/or very brief descriptions, and page numbers indicated for each.

This allows the reader to look at the table of contents to locate the information needed from the dissertation. Having an effective table of contents is key to providing a seamless reading experience to the reader.

Here in this article, we will uncover every piece of information you need to know to write the dissertation’s abstract.

This article helps the readers on how to create the best table of contents for the dissertation. An important thing to note is that this guide discusses creating a table of contents in Microsoft Word.

Looking for dissertation help?

Researchprospect to the rescue then.

We have expert writers on our team who are skilled at helping students with dissertations across a variety of disciplines. Guaranteeing 100% satisfaction!

quantitative dissertation

Styles for Dissertation Table of Contents

Making an effective table of contents starts with identifying headings and designating styles to those headings.

Using heading styles to format your headings can save a lot of time by automatically converting their formatting to the defined style and serves as a tool to identify the heading and its level, used later when creating a thesis table of contents .

Each heading style already has predefined sizes, fonts, colours, spacing, etc. but can be changed as per the user’s requirements. This also helps once all headings have been created and you intend to change the style of a certain type of heading.

All that is needed to change the style of a type of heading is automatically reflected on all headings that use the style.

Below is how the styles menu looks like;

Style-menus

To allocate a style to a heading, first select a heading and then click on one of the styles in the ‘Styles’ menu. Doing so converts the selected heading to the style that is selected in the Styles menu.

You can style a similar heading level in the same style by selecting each heading and then clicking on the style in the Style menu.

It is important to note that it greatly helps and saves time if you allocate styles systematically, i.e., you allocate the style as you write.

The styles are not limited to headings only but can be used for paragraphs and by selecting the whole paragraph and applying a style to it.

Changing Appearance of Pre-Defined Styles

To change the appearance of a style to one that suits you,

  • You would need to right-click on one of the styles to open a drop-down menu.

Changing-Apperance-of-Predefined-Styles

  • Select ‘Modify’ from the menu. This would display a window with various formatting and appearance options. You can select the most appropriate ones and click ‘OK.’ The change that you made to the style reflects on all headings or paragraphs that use this style.

Changing-Apperance-of-Predefined-Styles

Further changes can be made to headings, but using styles is an important step for creating the table of contents for the thesis. Once this step is completed, you can continue to create a thesis table of contents.

Also Read:  What is Appendix in Dissertation?

Things to Consider when Making APA Style Table of Contents

  • The pages before the body of the dissertation, known as the ‘Prefatory Pages,’ should not have page numbers on them but should be numbered in the Roman Numerals instead as (i, ii, iii…).
  • Table of Contents and the Abstract pages are not to contain any numbers.
  • The remaining pages would carry the standard page numbers (1,2,3…).
  • The section titles and page numbers in the dissertation table of contents should have dotted lines between them.
  • All the Prefatory pages, Sections, Chapter Titles, Headings, Sub Headings, Reference Sections, and Appendices should be listed in the contents’ thesis table. If there are a limited number of Tables or Figures, they may be listed in the dissertation’s table contents.
  • If there are many figures, tables, symbols, or abbreviations, a List of Tables, List of Figures , List of Symbols, and List of Abbreviations should be made for easy navigation. These lists, however, should not be listed in the thesis table of contents.
  • The thesis/dissertation must be divided into sections even if it is not divided into chapters, with all sections being listed in the table of contents for the thesis.

Generating Dissertation Table of Contents

First, to generate the Table of Contents, start by entering a blank page after the pages you need the table of contents to follow.

  • To do so, click on the bottom of the page you want before the Table of Contents.
  • Open the ‘Insert’ tab and select ‘Page Break’.
  • This will create a page between the top and bottom sections of the Table of Contents area.

Generating-Table-of-Contents-for-Your-Dissertation

By the time you reach this section, you would have given each heading or sub-heading a dedicated style, distinguishing between different types of headings. Microsoft Word can automatically generate a Table of Contents, but the document, particularly the headings, needs to be formatted according to styles for this feature to work. You can assign different headings levels, different styles for Microsoft Word to recognize the level of heading.

How to Insert Table of Contents

  • Place the cursor where you want to place the Table of Contents on the page you added earlier.
  • On the ‘References’ tab, open the Table of Contents group. This would open a list of different Table of Contents designs and a  table of contents sample.

Inserting-Table-of-Contents

  • You can select an option from the available Table of Contents or make a Custom Table of Contents. Although the available Table of Contents samples is appropriate, you may use a custom table of contents if it is more suitable to your needs. This allows you to modify different formatting options for the Table of Contents to satisfy your own

Inserting-Table-of-Contents-1

Updating the Table of Contents

As you proceed with editing your dissertation, the changes cause the page numbers and headings to vary. Often, people fail to incorporate those changes into the Table of Contents, which then effectively serves as an incorrect table and causes confusion.

It is thus important to update the changes into the table of contents as the final step once you have made all the necessary changes in the dissertation and are ready to print it.

These changes may alter the length of the  thesis table of contents , which may also cause the dissertation’s formatting to be altered a little, so it is best to reformat it after updating the table of contents.

To update the table of contents,

  • Select ‘Update Table’ in the References tab.
  • This would open a dialogue box. Select ‘Update Entire Table’ to ensure that all changes are reflected in the contents table and not just the page numbers. This would display all changes and additions you have made to the document (Anon., 2017).

Using this guide, you should understand how to create the best table of contents for the dissertation. The use of a Table of Contents, while being important for most written work, is even more critical for dissertations, especially when the proper methodology of creating the table of contents is followed.

This includes the guidelines that must be considered to correctly format the table of contents so that it may be shaped so that it follows the norms and is effective at helping the reader navigate through the content of the dissertation.

The use of Microsoft Word’s Table of Contents generation feature has greatly helped people worldwide create, edit, and update the table of contents of their dissertations with ease.

Here in this article, we will uncover every piece of information you need to know  how to write the dissertation’s abstract .

Are you in need of help with dissertation writing? At ResearchProspect, we have hundreds of Master’s and PhD qualified writers for all academic subjects, so you can get help with any aspect of your dissertation project. You can place your order for a proposal ,  full dissertation paper , or  individual chapters .

Is it essential to add a table of content to the dissertation?

Yes, it is important to add a table of content in a dissertation .

How to make an effective table of contents for the dissertation?

Using heading styles to format your headings can save a lot of time by automatically converting their formatting to the defined style and serves as a tool to identify the heading and its level, used later when creating a thesis table of contents.

How do I update the table of contents?

You may also like.

Here are the steps to make a theoretical framework for dissertation. You can define, discuss and evaluate theories relevant to the research problem.

Make sure to develop a conceptual framework before conducting research. Here is all you need to know about what is a conceptual framework is in a dissertation?

Make sure that your selected topic is intriguing, manageable, and relevant. Here are some guidelines to help understand how to find a good dissertation topic.

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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 Table of Contents in Word | Instructions & Examples

Dissertation Table of Contents in Word | Instructions & Examples

Published on 15 May 2022 by Tegan George .

The table of contents is where you list the chapters and major sections of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, alongside their page numbers. A clear and well-formatted table of contents is essential, as it demonstrates to your reader that a quality paper will follow.

The table of contents (TOC) should be placed between the abstract and the introduction. The maximum length should be two pages. Depending on the nature of your thesis, dissertation, or paper, there are a few formatting options you can choose from.

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Table of contents

What to include in your table of contents, what not to include in your table of contents, creating a table of contents in microsoft word, table of contents examples, updating a table of contents in microsoft word, other lists in your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, frequently asked questions about the table of contents.

Depending on the length of your document, you can choose between a single-level, subdivided, or multi-level table of contents.

  • A single-level table of contents only includes ‘level 1’ headings, or chapters. This is the simplest option, but it may be too broad for a long document like a dissertation.
  • A subdivided table of contents includes chapters as well as ‘level 2’ headings, or sections. These show your reader what each chapter contains.
  • A multi-level table of contents also further divides sections into ‘level 3’ headings. This option can get messy quickly, so proceed with caution. Remember your table of contents should not be longer than 2 pages. A multi-level table is often a good choice for a shorter document like a research paper.

Examples of level 1 headings are Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, and Bibliography. Subsections of each of these would be level 2 headings, further describing the contents of each chapter or large section. Any further subsections would be level 3.

In these introductory sections, less is often more. As you decide which sections to include, narrow it down to only the most essential.

Including appendices and tables

You should include all appendices in your table of contents. Whether or not you include tables and figures depends largely on how many there are in your document.

If there are more than three figures and tables, you might consider listing them on a separate page. Otherwise, you can include each one in the table of contents.

  • Theses and dissertations often have a separate list of figures and tables.
  • Research papers generally don’t have a separate list of figures and tables.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

All level 1 and level 2 headings should be included in your table of contents, with level 3 headings used very sparingly.

The following things should never be included in a table of contents:

  • Your acknowledgements page
  • Your abstract
  • The table of contents itself

The acknowledgements and abstract always precede the table of contents, so there’s no need to include them. This goes for any sections that precede the table of contents.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, be sure to first apply the correct heading styles throughout the document, as shown below.

  • Choose which headings are heading 1 and which are heading 2 (or 3!
  • For example, if all level 1 headings should be Times New Roman, 12-point font, and bold, add this formatting to the first level 1 heading.
  • Highlight the level 1 heading.
  • Right-click the style that says ‘Heading 1’.
  • Select ‘Update Heading 1 to Match Selection’.
  • Allocate the formatting for each heading throughout your document by highlighting the heading in question and clicking the style you wish to apply.

Once that’s all set, follow these steps:

  • Add a title to your table of contents. Be sure to check if your citation style or university has guidelines for this.
  • Place your cursor where you would like your table of contents to go.
  • In the ‘References’ section at the top, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Here, you can select which levels of headings you would like to include. You can also make manual adjustments to each level by clicking the Modify button.
  • When you are ready to insert the table of contents, click ‘OK’ and it will be automatically generated, as shown below.

The key features of a table of contents are:

  • Clear headings and subheadings
  • Corresponding page numbers

Check with your educational institution to see if they have any specific formatting or design requirements.

Write yourself a reminder to update your table of contents as one of your final tasks before submitting your dissertation or paper. It’s normal for your text to shift a bit as you input your final edits, and it’s crucial that your page numbers correspond correctly.

It’s easy to update your page numbers automatically in Microsoft Word. Simply right-click the table of contents and select ‘Update Field’. You can choose either to update page numbers only or to update all information in your table of contents.

In addition to a table of contents, you might also want to include a list of figures and tables, a list of abbreviations and a glossary in your thesis or dissertation. You can use the following guides to do so:

  • List of figures and tables
  • List of abbreviations

It is less common to include these lists in a research paper.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract   in the table of contents.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  • Apply heading styles throughout the document.
  • In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

George, T. (2022, May 15). Dissertation Table of Contents in Word | Instructions & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 15 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/contents-page/

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Table of Contents – PhD Success

Posted by Rene Tetzner | Oct 2, 2021 | PhD Success | 0 |

Table of Contents – PhD Success

Chapter 1: The Essential Components and Requirements of a Doctoral Thesis

1.1. Preliminary Matter

1.1.1 Title 1.1.2 Abstract 1.1.3 Keywords 1.1.4 Dedication 1.1.5 Table of Contents 1.1.6 Acknowledgements 1.1.7 List of Abbreviations 1.1.8 List of Figures or Illustrations 1.1.9 List of Tables

content page of phd thesis

1.2 The Main Body of the Thesis

1.2.1 Introduction 1.2.2 Literature Review 1.2.3 Methodology Chapter(s) 1.2.4 Results Chapter(s) 1.2.5 Discussion and Conclusion Chapter(s)

1.2.6 In-Text References, Footnotes and/or Endnotes

1.3 Tables and Figures

1.3.1 Tables

1.3.2 Figures

1.4 Final and Supplementary Matter

1.4.1 Appendices

1.4.2 Endnotes

1.4.3 List of References, List of Works Cited or Bibliography

content page of phd thesis

Chapter 2: Progressive Writing from the Start

2.1 Writing to Record, Remember, Think and Reuse

2.1.1 Jotting Down and Developing Ideas

2.1.2 Taking Accurate, Critical and Reflective Notes while Reading Sources

2.1.3 Reviewing the Relevant Literature in a Preliminary Way

2.1.4 Recording the Results of Trials, Experiments, Surveys and Interviews

2.2 Writing and Revising for Your Supervisor: The First Piece(s) of Formal Text

content page of phd thesis

Chapter 3: Writing and Revising the Proposal Chapters

3.1 Writing the Introduction for the Proposal

3.2 Writing the Literature Review for the Proposal

3.3 Writing the Methodology Chapter(s) for the Proposal

content page of phd thesis

3.4 Using Footnotes or Endnotes for Supplementary Material

3.5 Constructing the Title, Table of Contents, Timeline and List of References

3.5.1 The Title

3.5.2 The Table of Contents

3.5.3 The Timeline

3.5.4 The List of References

3.6 Revising the Proposal Draft

3.7 Writing the Proposal Presentation and Anticipating Questions

3.8 Taking Notes and Resolving Problems before Moving On

Chapter 4: Drafting and Completing the Thesis

4.1 Preparing an Outline or Thesis Plan: The Working Table of Contents

4.2 Title, Abstract and Keywords: Setting the Stage

4.3 Revising the Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology Chapter(s)

4.4 Writing the Data Analysis Chapter(s): Results and Evidence

4.4.1 Designing Tables and Figures: The Visual Presentation of Information

4.5 The Final Chapter(s): Discussion, Conclusion, Limitations and Implications

4.6 Appendices, References, Acknowledgements and Other Final Things

4.6.1 Appendices

4.6.2 Other Final Things

4.7 Revising, Proofreading and Polishing the Thesis Draft: How Many Times?

4.8 Writing and Revising before and after the Thesis Examination

4.8.1 Preparing for and Surviving the Examination

4.8.2 Final Corrections and Revisions: Minor or Major?

Chapter 5: Finding Your Scholarly Voice in Correct and Consistent Written English

5.1 British versus American Spelling

5.2 The Perils of Hyphenation

5.3 Specialised Terminology and Jargon

5.4 Word Use, Syntax and Sentence Structure

5.4.1 Using Words in a Scholarly Fashion without Bias

5.4.2 The Precise and Appropriate Use of Pronouns

5.4.3 Nouns and Agreement

5.4.4 Both, Either, Neither, Nor and Only

5.4.5 Beginning Sentences Correctly and Avoiding Dangling Participles

5.4.6 Adjectives, Adverbs and Split Infinitives

5.4.7 Verbs: Tense, Voice and Contractions

5.4.8 Consistency and Variation in Word Use

5.5 Paragraphs and Lists: Effective Separation and Transition

5.5.1 Structured and Fully Developed Paragraphs

5.5.2 Using Lists Effectively

5.6 Punctuating Correctly and Consistently: Errors and Preferences

5.6.1 Commas

5.6.1 Semicolons and Colons

5.6.2 Stops, Question Marks and Exclamation Marks

5.6.3 Apostrophes and Quotation Marks

5.6.4 En Rules and Em Rules

5.6.5 Brackets and Slashes

Chapter 6: Formatting Matters: Presenting Your Writing Effectively and Consistently

6.1 Titles, Headings and Subheadings: Not Just Fancy Words

6.1.1 Using Word’s Heading Styles and Constructing an Active Table of Contents

6.2 Capitalisation and Special Fonts: Order or Chaos?

6.2.1 Capitalisation for Names, Titles and Other Elements

6.2.2 Special Fonts for Emphasis: Italic and Bold

6.3 Understanding Abbreviations

6.3.1 Lowercase or Uppercase Letters in Abbreviations

6.3.2 Full Stops with Abbreviations

6.3.3 Punctuation after Abbreviations

6.3.4 Using ‘a’ or ‘an’ before Abbreviations

6.3.5 Spacing Associated with Abbreviations

6.3.6 Plurals and Possessives of Abbreviations

6.3.7 Adding Italic Font to Abbreviations

6.3.8 Abbreviations at the Beginning of a Sentence

6.3.9 The Ampersand

6.3.10 Common English Abbreviations Used in References

6.3.11 Latin Abbreviations

6.4 Using and Formatting Numbers Appropriately

6.4.1 Words or Numerals?

6.4.2 Arabic Numerals

6.4.3 Roman Numerals

6.4.4 Dates, Decades, Centuries and Eras

6.4.6 Currency

6.4.7 Number Ranges

Chapter 7: References: Using and Documenting Sources Effectively and Accurately

7.1 Why, When and Where References Should Be Provided

7.2 The Three Main Systems of In-Text Citation

7.2.1 Author–Date and Other References Based on Author Surnames

7.2.2 Numerical References

7.2.3 Footnote and Endnote References

7.3 The Basic Components of Complete Bibliographical References

7.3.1 Author’s Name

7.3.2 Editor’s Name

7.3.3 Translator’s Name

7.3.4 Title of the Source

7.3.5 Edition

7.3.6 Volume Number

7.3.7 Book in Which the Source is Contained

7.3.8 Journal in Which the Source is Contained

7.3.9 Page Numbers

7.3.10 Date of Publication

7.3.11 Publisher and Place of Publication

7.3.12 Type of Source

7.3.13 Conference Paper

7.3.14 Thesis or Dissertation

7.3.15 Audiovisual Sources

7.3.16 Web Site, Web Page or Online Document

Chapter 8: Direct Quotations: Presentation, Integration and Accuracyctively and Accurately

8.1 Formatting and Acknowledging Quotations

8.2 Integrating Quotations: Punctuation, Sentence Structure and Argument

8.3 Accuracy and Alterations in Quoted Material

8.4 Quoting and Translating Languages Other than English

Why PhD Success?

To Graduate Successfully

This article is part of a book called "PhD Success" which focuses on the writing process of a phd thesis, with its aim being to provide sound practices and principles for reporting and formatting in text the methods, results and discussion of even the most innovative and unique research in ways that are clear, correct, professional and persuasive.

content page of phd thesis

The assumption of the book is that the doctoral candidate reading it is both eager to write and more than capable of doing so, but nonetheless requires information and guidance on exactly what he or she should be writing and how best to approach the task. The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples.

content page of phd thesis

The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples. PhD Success provides guidance for students familiar with English and the procedures of English universities, but it also acknowledges that many theses in the English language are now written by candidates whose first language is not English, so it carefully explains the scholarly styles, conventions and standards expected of a successful doctoral thesis in the English language.

content page of phd thesis

Individual chapters of this book address reflective and critical writing early in the thesis process; working successfully with thesis supervisors and benefiting from commentary and criticism; drafting and revising effective thesis chapters and developing an academic or scientific argument; writing and formatting a thesis in clear and correct scholarly English; citing, quoting and documenting sources thoroughly and accurately; and preparing for and excelling in thesis meetings and examinations. 

content page of phd thesis

Completing a doctoral thesis successfully requires long and penetrating thought, intellectual rigour and creativity, original research and sound methods (whether established or innovative), precision in recording detail and a wide-ranging thoroughness, as much perseverance and mental toughness as insight and brilliance, and, no matter how many helpful writing guides are consulted, a great deal of hard work over a significant period of time. Writing a thesis can be an enjoyable as well as a challenging experience, however, and even if it is not always so, the personal and professional rewards of achieving such an enormous goal are considerable, as all doctoral candidates no doubt realise, and will last a great deal longer than any problems that may be encountered during the process.

content page of phd thesis

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Rene Tetzner

Rene Tetzner's blog posts dedicated to academic writing. Although the focus is on How To Write a Doctoral Thesis, many other important aspects of research-based writing, editing and publishing are addressed in helpful detail.

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  • 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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Writing Top-Notch Dissertation Table Of Contents

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What is a PhD dissertation table of contents? A table of contents of a dissertation is an outline of the major chapters and sections of your graduate dissertation. It points readers to the exact page numbers they must reference to find information that is important to their research. While it may seem like an APA dissertation table of contents is easy to put together, there are many things that students must consider.

If you are writing a contents section for a discipline within the American Psychology Association, you should include all level one and two headings. Some people include level three headings, but this is optional and should be avoided if the section goes over two pages in length.

The section helps your readers easily sort through your document which may run hundreds of pages. It helps them save time by being able to turn precisely to the part of your dissertation that relates to the information they are gathering for research or their interests.

How To Make a Table of Contents PhD Dissertation?

We have mentioned MS Word as a tool for creating a dissertation table of contents APA. It is certainly a fast and efficient way of getting your table of contents put in order accurately. But there are occasions when you may need to put the table of contents by yourself.

table of contents

APA Style Dissertation Table of Contents Formatting Rules

You can easily create a table of contents for an APA document using a technical tool. A dissertation table of contents word is a reliable tool for doing this. Some general formatting rules you should be aware of are as follow:

The table of contents in a dissertation document should come between the abstract and the introduction sections. The table of contents should always be written in the same size and font as the rest of the dissertation document. Depending on the length and structure, you can use up to five heading levels. But as stated above it is best to remove lower levels when the table of contents goes beyond two pages. Each heading level should be formatted different and be consistent throughout the dissertation document. For example:

You can find a good dissertation table of contents template on the web by visiting an academic writing and editing site or by visiting your department’s home page. Both places have a lot of templates to fit various types of assignments.

Dissertation Contents Page Writing Tips

Graduate students must recognize that they need to shift some of their energies away from other projects and responsibilities to focus on their respective dissertation projects. They are someplace in the middle of being undergraduate and professionals. Their work as graduate students often defines the kind of work they will be doing in the following decades. A contents page may not seem that important on the surface, but it is an essential component to a well-written dissertation that will be noticed by your peers. Here are eight great tips to follow to put a great table of contents dissertation together:

  • It is Easy to Write the Contents at the End, But Wait Don’t Too Long

Most students find it easier to wait until after they complete their dissertation before creating the table of contents. This is because students will write several drafts and make several changes throughout the dissertation process. Just make sure you don’t wait until the last minute. Creating a table of contents requires the same attention to detail you apply when doing the rest of the dissertation. You need to take your time and leave room to thoroughly review and proofread.

  • If You Are Going to Hire a Proofreader, the Contents Cannot Be Ignored

If you hire a professional proofreader, you need to make sure that he or she reviews the entire document. This can be addressed beforehand so that it is clear what it is you’re expecting and paying for. Don’t send individual sections because you can easily overlook the need to send the table of contents.

  • Be Precise When You Make Changes in Your Dissertation Document

When you make changes to your dissertation as you write your second and third drafts, you need to be precise about pagination changes that come along with adding, rearranging, or deleting content. You might consider a separate document of notes to remind yourself of checking each section to ensure you are aware of pagination changes.

  • Make Sure You Include All Sections, Chapters, and Sub-Sections

Your Table of Contents should include all sections, chapters, and sub-sections to start, then you can begin to remove them in reverse order if your table of contents goes over the recommended two pages. For example, if the table of contents reaches three pages, remove all of the sub-sections starting with the lower levels (5 th level, 4 th level, etc.) until you bring the table of contents to two pages.

  • Even If You Use a Tech Tool, You Should Always Verify the Info

We’ve stated several times throughout the article that there are several technical tools you can use to automatically number your pages and then create a table of contents. This can save you a lot of time when writing the first and second drafts. But before you submit a final copy of your dissertation, you need to ensure the table of contents was created accurately by doing a visual check.

  • Ask Someone to Review the Accuracy of Your Table of Contents

It’s always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes to check your work from start to finish. Ask them to double-check the accuracy and consistency between the table of contents and the pages that appear throughout your document. If you have stayed on schedule, the person reviewing can be careful and point out what you need to fix.

  • Check that Your Document (Page Numbers) Prints Out Correctly

Your dissertation should have Arabic page numbers (1, 2, 3…) from the start to finish except in your introductory and closing sections (e.g., abstract, table of contents, appendix, and bibliography) which should use lower case roman numerals (i, ii, iii,…). When you review a printed copy, go page by page to ensure everything is in order and appears in the right place (e.g., top or bottom of the page).

  • If You Use Tabs in Your Document Make Sure They Are Placed Correctly

Further Dissertation Contents Assistance

For more help with a dissertation table of contents, you can contact our customer support team 24/7 by chat, email, or phone. They can direct you to more free resources on our site or put you in contact with one of our academic experts. Each expert holds a higher education degree and specializes in a specific discipline. So no matter what field you are working in, we are sure to have someone that has the knowledge and experience to put together a great table of contents for dissertation to suit your exact needs.

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A [perfect] PhD Thesis for London University / Computer Science UCL.

A thesis is:, a phd thesis must contain:, a phd thesis is not:, typical phd thesis layout.

Abstract 1. Introduction Set the scene and problem statement . Introduce structure of thesis, state contributions (3-5). 2. Background Demonstrate wider appreciation (context). Provide motivation . The problem statement and the motivation state how you want the PhD to be judged - as engineering, scientific method, theory, philosophy, &c. 3. Related Work Survey and critical assessment. Relation to own work. 4-6. Analysis, design, implementation and interpretation of results 7. Critical assessment of own work State hypothesis, and demonstrate precision, thoroughness, contribution, and comparison with closest rival. 8. Further Work 9. Summary Conclusions Restate contribution Appendix Bibliography

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The PhD Proofreaders

How To Structure A PhD Thesis

Nov 21, 2019

How To Structure A PhD Thesis

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.  It can also waste a lot of time and money as you engage in a process of trial and error working out what goes where.

If you go to your university’s library, you’ll find whole shelves of   books on how to structure or write your PhD . Many of these are great, and I highly recommend you check them out, but here I want to present to you a thesis structure 101 lesson.

I’ve read those books,   proofread hundreds of PhDs   and   coached   dozens of students and want to take what I know and run you through a basic introduction to structuring your PhD   thesis .

In what follows, I’ll talk you through the basic outline of a typical thesis. This mirrors and expands upon the   PhD Writing Template   I’ve created. If you haven’t already downloaded it, you can find it   here .  

Now, I want to make an important observation: what I present below is an outline of the   typical   thesis. Yours may differ, whether considerably or just a little. That’s fine. The purpose is to give you an overarching summary so that when you do approach the books and guides that exist, you’ve already got a basic understanding of what goes where and why.

So, in what follows, I’ll walk you through each of the main sections and talk about what the purpose of each is, offer some tips for planning and writing them, and show you how they relate to one another.

At the end, I’ll tell you about an   email based course   I’ve put together that will teach you how to plan, structure and write your thesis. It goes into a lot more detail than I’ve presented here, so check it out if you’d like to learn more. 

How to Structure an Abstract

Your abstract should be a short summary at the beginning of the thesis that sums up the research, summarises the separate sections of the thesis and outlines the contribution.

Above all, your PhD abstract should answer the question: ‘So what?’ In other words, what is the contribution of your thesis to the field?

  • What is the reason for writing the thesis?
  • What are the current approaches and gaps in the literature?
  • What are your research question(s) and aims?
  • Which methodology have you used?
  • What are the main findings?
  • What are the main conclusions and implications?

One thing that should be obvious is that you can’t write your abstract until the study itself has been written. It’ll typically be the last thing you write (alongside the acknowledgements).

The tricky thing about writing a great PhD abstract is that you haven’t got much space to answer the six questions above. There are a few things to consider though that will help to elevate your writing and make your abstract as efficient as possible:

  • Give a good first impression by writing in short clear sentences.
  • Don’t repeat the title in the abstract.
  • Don’t cite references.
  • Use keywords from the document.
  • Respect the word limit.
  • Don’t be vague – the abstract should be a self-contained summary of the research, so don’t introduce ambiguous words or complex terms.
  • Focus on just four or five essential points, concepts, or findings. Don’t, for example, try to explain your entire theoretical framework.
  • Edit it carefully. Make sure every word is relevant (you haven’t got room for wasted words) and that each sentence has maximum impact.
  • Avoid lengthy background information.
  • Don’t mention anything that isn’t discussed in the thesis.
  • Avoid overstatements.
  • Don’t spin your findings, contribution or significance to make your research sound grander or more influential that it actually is.

How to Structure an Introduction

The introduction serves three purposes:

  • Establish your territory.
  • Establish and justify your niche.
  • Explain the significance of your research.

The reader should be able to understand the whole thesis just by reading the introduction. It should tell them all they need to know about:

  • What your thesis is about
  • Why it is important
  • How it was conducted
  • How it is laid out

How to Structure a Literature Review

Imagine you’re making a new model of mobile phone. You’d need to look at old models to see how other people are designing them (and so you know how yours will differ) and to see how they are made. You’ll need to look for their flaws, and get an idea of where they can be improved.

That’s because you can’t make something new if you don’t know what the old one looks like.

The literature review is the same. You use it to make the case for your research by surveying the work that’s already been done in your discipline (and sometimes beyond). It’s a bit like a family tree. You use it to trace the lineage of your study. Putting it in its place.

A literature review has three objectives:

  • Summarise what has already been discussed in your field, both to demonstrate that you understand your field and to show how your study relates to it.
  • Highlight gaps, problems or shortcomings in existing research to show the original contribution that your thesis makes.
  • Identify important studies, theories, methods or theoretical frameworks that can be applied in your research.
  • Pick a broad topic
  • Find the way in
  • Who’s saying what and when
  • Narrow down the field
  • Narrow does the sources
  • Think about questions that haven’t been asked
  • Write early, write quickly and write relevantly

content page of phd thesis

Your PhD Thesis. On one page.

Use our free PhD Structure Template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis.

How to Structure a Theory Framework Chapter

The theory framework is the scaffolding upon which your thesis is built. When you’re done writing your theory framework chapter or section, your reader should be able to answer these questions:

  • What theoretical concepts are used in the research? What hypotheses, if any, are you using?
  • Why have you chosen this theory?
  • What are the implications of using this theory?
  • How does the theory relate to the existing literature, your problem statement and your epistemological and ontological positions? How has this theory has been applied by others in similar contexts? What can you learn from them and how do you differ?
  • How do you apply the theory and measure the concepts (with reference to the literature review/problem statement)?
  • What is the relationship between the various elements and concepts within the model? Can you depict this visually?

That means that a theory framework can take different forms: 

It can state the theoretical assumptions underpinning the study.

  • It can connect the empirical data to existing knowledge.
  • It can allow you to come up with propositions, concepts or hypotheses that you can use to answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions.

Broadly speaking, a theory framework can be used to either derive certain testable assumptions or as a way of making sense of your data. In both cases, it structures your data collection by focusing your attention on a small subset of concepts.

You can, therefore, think of it as a toolbox. In your literature review, you outlined the problem that needs ‘fixing’. The theory framework is a toolbox stuffed full of concepts, variables, or hypotheses (your tools) that you’ll then use to address the problem and do the fixing.

You can find an   extended guide on creating your theory framework . Check it out if you’re still struggling.

When you discuss theory, you are seeking to provide a background examination of what other researchers think about a phenomenon and how they have conceptualised it. You should discuss the relevance of particular theoretical approaches for your study, and you should take care to consider the dominant theoretical schools in your field. This shows the examiner you have understood the state of the art.

But, you should do so critically, and question the suitability of any theories that exist or that you are creating to your particular study. That means that you should discuss previous applications of theory in order to discuss what implications they have for your own research.

The reason you do this is that your discipline likely has accepted and ’tried and tested’ ways of doing things. In many cases, this is an advantage, because it can serve as inspiration for your choice of concepts, hypotheses or variables, and can influence your choice of methods.

In other cases, it may be that the existing theory is ill-equipped to account for your particular phenomenon. In either case, you need to demonstrate a good understanding of what that theory is discussing, both to demonstrate your skills as a researcher and scholar, but also to justify your own theoretical and methodological position. 

How to Structure a Methods Chapter

The job of a methods chapter is:

  • To summarise, explain and recount how you answered your research questions and to explain how this relates to the methods used by other scholars in similar contexts and similar studies
  • To discuss – in detail – the techniques you used to collect the data used to answer your research questions 
  • To discuss why the techniques are relevant to the study’s aims and objectives
  • To explain how you used them

Your reader should be able to answer the following questions when they’re done reading it:

  • What did you did do to achieve the research aims?
  • Why did you choose this particular approach over others?
  • How does it relate to your epistemological and ontological positions?
  • What tools did you use to collect data and why? What are the implications?
  • When did you collect data, and from whom?
  • What tools have you used to analyze the data and why? What are the implications? Are there ethical considerations to take into account?

How to Structure an Empirical Chapter

  • What are the results of your investigations?  
  • How do the findings relate to previous studies?  
  • Was there anything surprising or that didn’t work out as planned?  
  • Are there any themes or categories that emerge from the data?   
  • Have you explained to the reader why you have reached particular conclusions?
  • Have you explained the results?

Having your PhD proofread will save you time and money

Our top-rated PhD proofreaders check your writing, formatting, references and readability. The goal? To make sure your research is written and presented in the most compelling manner possible. 

That way, you’ll have complete peace of mind prior to submission and save yourself months of costly revisions. 

How to Structure a Discussion Chapter 

The discussion chapter is the place in which you discuss your empirics. Many people find it the hardest chapter, primarily because it’s the stage at which you start to flex your academic muscles and speak like a doctor. It is here that you start to push the boundaries of knowledge.

That’s a hard thing to do, largely because you’ve probably never had to do it before. All through your masters and undergraduate work you’ve learnt what other people have found. Now you’re finding out things that no-one else knows.

The difference between a discussion and an empirical chapter is subtle, but I’ve written   a detailed guide   that will clear up any confusion you’ve got.

How to Structure a Conclusion

The job of the conclusion is to:

  • Fully and clearly articulate the answer to your research questions
  • Discuss how the research is related to your aims and objectives
  • Explain the significance of the work
  • Outline its shortcomings
  • Suggest avenues for future research

It is not the place to introduce new ideas and concepts, or to present new findings.

Your job is to reflect back on your original aims and intentions and discuss them in terms of your findings and new expertise.

Three things to do in a conclusion:

  • Own your research by speaking with authority! You’ve earned the right to do that by the time you reach your conclusion 
  • See the thesis and not the detail. Drive home the contribution that the thesis has made. Whatever it is, you need to shout about it. Loudly. Like an expert.
  • Each chapter is a piece of the puzzle and only when they are all slotted together do you have an entire thesis. That means that a great conclusion is one that shows that the thesis is bigger than the sum of its individual chapters. 
  • By the time the reader has finished reading the conclusion, they should be able to answer the following questions:
  • Have you briefly recapped the research questions and objectives?
  • Have you provided a brief recount of the answer to those questions?
  • Have you clearly discussed the significance and implications of those findings?
  • Have you discussed the contribution that the study has made?
  • Do the claims you are making align with the content of the results and discussion chapters?

Wrapping Up 

There’s clearly a lot more that can be said about how to structure each of these sections. Go to your university library and you’ll find dozens of books on how to write a PhD. Google it and you’ll find thousands of posts. It’s hard to know where to start.

That’s why  I’ve put together an  email based course on How To Write Your Thesis . Over twelve emails you’ll get detailed chapter guides that expand on the above, a ton of templates, checklist and worksheets, and lots of curated videos and external resources to really cement your learning. By the end, you’ll understand what goes where and why and would have saved yourself a bunch of time and energy sifting through all those books and posts.

That way, you can write more, worry less and graduate sooner.

To sign up,   click here . 

Hello, Doctor…

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back. 

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26 comments.

Abdullahi

This is seriously and absolutely helpful but some terminologies used may not be understood by most beginners in research methodology. Beginners would better understand the use of chapter1, etc. Thank you.

Dr. Max Lempriere

Thanks for the useful feedback. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Lallé M. ZOUBA

Wonderful…. It is really practical to have such tips… Many thanks….

You’re welcome!

Ahmed aldhafeeri

Well done Max, very informative post.

Great. Thanks for the kind words.

Dean -

Cheers Max! Sent it on to many friends starting the journey

Great. Thanks Dean!

Maureen

Hi Dr Lumpriere,

Thanks for creating this website, it is really helpful to situate oneself – I am really new to this. In your experience, how many hours does one (roughly. – of course depending on the scope of the project) have to dedicate to a PhD weekly on average?

Thanks again, Maureen

Hi Maureen – it really depends on so many factors, including how much familiarity you already have with research and how quickly you want to finish. It’s hard to say! I devoted around 3/4 of full time to mine per week – so roughly 30 hours. But then I had never conducted research before, didn’t have any caregiving responsibilities, and wanted to complete quickly.

Felix

Thanks a lot for dedicating your time and effort to helping those who are still struggling with writing up their PhD!

Best, Felix

You’re welcome Felix.

Adebayo Adeleye

Good job. Thanks for the information here.

You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful.

Eric

This is great, I am impressed by the guideline. I shall consult these steps as I work on my Thesis for my PhD.

Iram

Thanks for this information keep it up.

Carlo Butera

Very interesting and useful job!

Stephen Ubah

Well done Dr Max. Quite helpful, thanks

Adebanjo Babawale

I am really grateful for this tip. God bless the writer in Jesus’ name

Iyua Mbah

Thank you for this guide.

Salin Gurung

Thank you very much for the information. It’s very useful.

Marta

This article is insanely helpful. Especially the questions that should be answered in each part. Even though I was aware of most of it, seeing it all put together so neatly helps a lot. Thank you!

Wow. Such great praise. Thanks!

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How to Write a PhD Thesis: 13 Tips For PhD Thesis Writing 

13 Tips for writing a PhD Thesis - Paperpal

Completing a successful PhD research thesis is extremely challenging, and how to write a PhD thesis is often a question in students’ minds. Fret not, there are many ways to make the process of PhD thesis writing less bumpy. This article will provide some PhD thesis writing tips to simplify the writing process and help you complete your thesis on time, while keeping your sanity mostly intact. 

Only about 50% of students enrolled in a PhD program ever complete it 1 . They drop out at many different points during the process for many different reasons. Some leave because the course work is too difficult or time consuming. Some leave for personal or financial reasons. One common cause of non-completion, or late completion, is the daunting spectre of PhD thesis writing. 

PhD thesis writing tips: How to overcome the challenge of writing your PhD thesis

First, remember that although writing a PhD thesis is difficult, this can be accomplished. Here are some things to consider that will increase your confidence and make the task of PhD thesis writing a bit less scary. 

  • Create an outline before you start writing – The most effective way to keep your work organized is to first create an outline based on the PhD thesis structure required by your university. Using an outline for your PhD paper writing has tremendous benefits. It creates a handy space to keep and organize all the little snippets of information and questions you will have during your preparation. It allows you to effectively plan your work and manage your time and makes the actual writing much easier. A thesis is shaped more than written, and an outline provides it the required PhD thesis structure. 
  • Follow all university guides – Be careful to ensure that you are meeting all the requirements of your university. This includes everything from topic selection to structure to writing style. It is extremely frustrating to spend a lot of time and effort on a section only to have to do it over because you didn’t follow the proper guidelines. Read all relevant material from your university over and over until you have it memorized. Then, check it again. 
  • Section order – It is usually best not to do your PhD thesis writing in chronological order. For researchers, the easiest parts to write are usually the Method and Results. So, gain some confidence first and write the Introduction and Conclusion last to tie it all together. 
  • Work extensively with your supervisor – Don’t forget that in the process of PhD thesis writing, help is right there when you ask for it. Do not hesitate to ask for guidance from your supervisor, advisors, or other committee members when you get stuck. Clear and regular communication with these important resources can save you untold heartache during the PhD research and thesis writing processes. This should not be a solo exercise; they have all been where you are now. 
  • Plan carefully, create rough drafts, and refine 2 – This is so important and basic to all academic research that it bears repeating. You will not write the final PhD thesis on your first try. Do not become frustrated, trust the process. 
  • Produce quality writing – Make sure your ideas flow easily and are clear and easy to read. This is not a strong skill for most beginning researchers, but it’s a skill that can be learned with a lot of practice. Therefore, edit, edit, and edit some more. If you need it, there are many places to get PhD thesis writing help and assistance. 
  • Details matter – Pay attention to the small things, especially with the document formatting. If you start out using the proper format, you will be saving a tremendous amount of time and grief later. 
  • Avoid plagiarism – Quote accurately, otherwise paraphrase. There is no excuse for being a lazy writer. Consider using a smart tool or service to check for plagiarism during your PhD thesis editing process to make sure you did not unintentionally copy any material. 
  • Rein in the references – Use a database, such as EndNote or Mendeley, to keep them organized and under control; check and double check citations and references with the bibliography to ensure they all match. Don’t forget to use the PhD thesis style required by your university. 
  • Keep it simple – Remember, this is only the start of your career, not your ultimate work 3 ; perfectionism can be a disaster. 
  • Make consistent progress – Try to write at least a little every day; check quotations and references when writing seems too difficult. 3  
  • Keep your reader in mind – As with all writing, your PhD thesis is meant to be read, so be considerate of those who read it; be concise, include all necessary data/information to support your argument but nothing extra. Strive to be understood and avoid unnecessary words. 
  • Be persistent and eager – Writing a doctoral thesis becomes easier if you are consistent and dedicated. All other things being equal, your attitude will ultimately determine your success. Have patience and work hard. Create work you will be proud of for a lifetime. 
  • Cassuto, L. Ph.D. attrition: How much is too much? The Chronicle of Higher Education.    https://www.chronicle.com/article/ph-d-attrition-how-much-is-too-much/?cid=gen_sign_in [Accessed 20 July 2022]
  • Curl, I. 10 tips for writing a PhD thesis. Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/10-tips-writing-phd-thesis [Accessed 20 July 2022]
  • Thomas, K. Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/aug/27/finishing-phd-thesis-top-tips-experts-advice [Accessed 20 July 2022]

A PhD thesis includes several key components, that are essential for the work to be considered seriously. These may vary depending on the research field and specific requirements of the institution, but generally include: ·         an introduction that presents the research question and context, ·         a literature review that surveys existing knowledge and research, ·         a methodology section describing the research design and methods employed, ·         a presentation of findings or results, ·         a discussion section interpreting the results and their implications, and ·         a conclusion that summarizes the main findings and contributions. Additionally, appendices may contain supplementary materials such as data, charts, or technical details.  

The time required for writing a PhD thesis can vary significantly depending on factors such as the research topic, the individual’s research progress, the specific requirements of the institution, and the researcher’s writing process. On average, it can take several months to a few years to complete a PhD thesis. The research, data collection, and analysis stages can span several years, with the PhD thesis writing phase itself often lasting several months. Here, AI writing assistants like Paperpal, designed for academics, can help you write better. Explore Paperpal and see the difference for yourself!

To select a suitable topic for your PhD thesis, start by identifying your research interests and areas of expertise. Consider the gaps or unresolved questions in your field of study and explore potential research avenues and read extensively in your area of interest. Consult with your advisor or mentors, who can offer guidance and help narrow down your options. Once you have a tentative topic, conduct a literature review to ensure its novelty and feasibility. It’s important to choose a topic that aligns with your passion, has potential for meaningful contribution, and is feasible given available resources and time constraints.

Paperpal is an AI writing assistant that help academics write better, faster with real-time suggestions for in-depth language and grammar correction. Trained on millions of research manuscripts enhanced by professional academic editors, Paperpal delivers human precision at machine speed.

Try it for free or upgrade to  Paperpal Prime , which unlocks unlimited access to premium features like academic translation, paraphrasing, contextual synonyms, consistency checks and more. It’s like always having a professional academic editor by your side! Go beyond limitations and experience the future of academic writing.  Get Paperpal Prime now at just US$12 a month!

Related Reads:

  • 6 Simple Steps to Convert a PhD Thesis Into a Journal Article
  • How to Write a Research Paper Title
  • Good Writing Habits: 7 Ways to Improve Your Academic Writing

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Writing and submitting your dissertation or thesis are among the final steps leading to the award of the PhD or Research Master’s degree. 

At the University of Pennsylvania, a doctoral candidate presents and defends the dissertation publicly, and then, with the approval of the dissertation committee and graduate group chair, submits the final manuscript for publication.  Finally, the PhD degree is awarded to the candidate upon the recommendation of the Graduate Council of the Faculties.

Deposit Appointment

Depositing your finalized dissertation is the final step to obtain your degree. Degree candidates must confirm with their  graduate group coordinator that all required forms have been submitted in  Penn Graduate Forms  before the date of their deposit appointment. 

View the  PhD Graduation Checklist  for instructions on how to deposit and guidelines for a  final formatting check . 

Doctoral degree candidates will schedule a deposit appointment; however, this is not a meeting, and you will not be present when your dissertation is reviewed. Deposit appointments are scheduled to manage the flow of degree candidate submissions received from all schools.

Deposit appointments are scheduled via Calend.ly and available during the deposit periods listed on the Graduation Calendar. Students who wish to schedule deposit appointments during peak times (the last three weeks of a term) will be required to attend a formatting pre-check appointment with a Graduate Fellow prior to their appointment. Email  [email protected]  to sign up for peak appointment times.

During the time of your scheduled appointment these graduation requirements will be examined to determine if you are eligible for publication approval and degree clearance:

  • required benchmarks and milestones in  Penn Graduate Forms
  • bursar balance and holds on the  Penn.Pay account
  • completion of two PhD surveys
  • final, approved dissertation submitted in  ETD Administrator

In preparation for the submission of a dissertation, degree candidates should consult the  PhD Dissertation Formatting Guide  and  Formatting Templates  early and often for assistance with the formatting of their work. Formatting will likely take longer than you anticipate, so please set yourself up for success by following the formatting guideless for your own document early in the process or using the dissertation template provided. 

Complete the  PhD Dissertation Formatting Checklist  and make sure your title page looks like the  sample dissertation title pages . 

One-on-one Formatting Support

One-on-one formatting support is available via Zoom for PhD students with our Dissertation and Thesis Graduate Fellow. The Graduate Fellow is available to meet with students who have formatting questions, need technical support in Word, or just for peace of mind before a deposit appointment. Students can book an appointment directly with the Graduate Fellow at:  https://calendly.com/elwebb/graduatefellow .

Students can also attend weekly drop-in hours in person at the Graduate Student Center for formatting help; check the  Graduate Student Center calendar  for the current schedule. 

Students who plan to deposit during peak periods will be required to attend a pre-deposit appointment with the Graduate Fellow. The dissertation does not need to be finalized for this pre-check appointment, but students should have their preliminary pages (title page, optional copyright notice, table of contents, etc.) ready with their draft of the main text.

Additionally, any student who uploads a dissertation with significant formatting errors will be required to meet virtually with our Graduate Fellow for support before they submit a new draft.

Requirements to Graduate

In the final term of their program, the Research Master’s degree candidate must complete these steps to graduate:

1. Apply to graduate using the  Graduation Application

2. Schedule a  thesis deposit appointment

3. Upload the final, approved, and properly formatted thesis  in this Qualtrics form

4. Meet all graduate degree requirements within the program of study

5. Clear their bursar bill in  Penn.Pay .

Graduate Groups that Deposit a Thesis

Only Research Master’s students in the following graduate groups may be required to submit a thesis to the Degree Office.

The Research Master’s thesis must follow the formatting procedures in the  Master’s Thesis Style Guide .

Research Master’s candidates will  schedule a deposit appointment ; however, this is NOT a meeting and you will not be present when your thesis is reviewed. During the time of your scheduled appointment, these graduation requirements will be examined to determine if you are eligible for thesis approval and degree clearance:

  • required benchmarks and milestones
  • bursar balance and holds on the account
  • formatting of final,  submitted  dissertation

For more details, view the graduation checklist for  Research Master’s Students .

Once a dissertation has been submitted and approved in ETD Administrator, it will be delivered in a batch once per term to ProQuest and ScholarlyCommons subject to any embargoes. It may take additional time for dissertations to appear online after submission.  Learn more about embargo options here .

Dissertations at the University of Pennsylvania are available through three primary venues: ProQuest, ScholarlyCommons, and for dissertations prior to 2020, the Penn Libraries stacks. More information about ProQuest and Scholarly Commons can be found in  Dissertation Embargo Guidelines . 

Penn Libraries

Penn Libraries provides physical access to dissertations prior to 2020 on its shelves or through off-site storage and delivery on demand. Any member of the public may come to the Penn Libraries and  access  physical dissertations prior to 2020. Members of the Penn community and members of other US-based libraries participating in interlibrary loan may additionally request and check out dissertations. 

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Exploring polymer behavior: from crystallization to filament breakup

Jessica Pepe defended her PhD thesis at the Department of Mechanical Engineering on February 8th.

content page of phd thesis

With her PhD research Jessica Pepe marked a significant advancement in polymer research. Pepe’s pioneering work focuses on understanding polymers in extensional flow, encompassing processes from crystallization to filament breakup. Her findings shed light on fundamental aspects of polymer behavior, paving the way for improved processing techniques and applications in various industries.

content page of phd thesis

Pepe developed two experimental setups that allow in-situ characterization in extensional flow. One enables in-line microstructural characterizations while following the rheological response to a controlled uniaxial extensional deformation. This opens new horizons in the extensional flow induced crystallization field and helps verifying existing theories as well as introducing new fascinating questions. The other allows to perform experiments on the actual processing flow and to investigate the macrostructure of the dispensed fluid. The results help building new knowledge about the use of high viscous and viscoelastic materials for jetting and provide a better awareness of the challenges as well as of new possibilities.

Understanding polymer behavior

Polymers are widely used in various applications and their behavior and final properties strongly depend on the processing conditions such as temperature, presence of pressure and type of flow. Among these, flow is one of the most difficult parameters to fully understand and control. Two model types of flow are shear and extension. They can be present separately in different parts of the process or simultaneously, generating, in this case, a complex flow. When semicrystalline polymers are processed, crystallization during flow becomes a dominant factor in determining the final properties. In order to characterize and understand the effect of flow on the final properties of a polymer, its rheological behavior (i.e. response to an applied flow field) and structure development in model flows should first be studied.

Challenges in characterization

Shear flow is relatively easy to apply, therefore rheometers have been developed wherein controlled shear experiments with well-controlled temperature profiles can be applied and the material response can be studied. Innovative setups have been developed that capture simultaneously the rheological response as well as the evolution of the crystalline microstructure, thereby utilizing in-situ X-ray characterization. On the other hand, a pure and controlled uniaxial extensional flow is difficult to realize and therefore the challenge to design suitable measurement devices is higher, especially when in-situ structure characterization is required. The existing extensional rheometers do not allow for both controlled uniaxial extensional flows and in-situ structure characterization generating a lack of knowledge in the field.

Investigating material jetting

In free surface flows the interplay between flow, interfacial properties and extensional rheology, for instance during filament stretching and breakup, becomes crucial for understanding and accurately controlling the process. Material jetting is one of such processes during which tiny droplets of a material are deposited, on demand, on a specific position of a substrate. The material choice will affect the droplet formation as well as the deposition mechanism. Despite being a mature and consolidated technique used in different fields, it has a strong limitation in handling very highly viscous fluids like polymers with a consequent scarcity of studies on the matter despite the benefit they could offer for specific applications.

Research goals and findings

Given the limitations of the current technologies to fully characterize uniaxial extensional flow induced crystallization, the first goal of this research is to provide a tool to study the effect of extensional flow on the rheology and crystalline microstructure evolution of semi-crystalline polymers. A filament stretching extensional rheometer has been designed and built in-house with the capability of applying well controlled uniaxial extensional deformations while performing in-situ X-ray experiments. After validation of the measurement capability of the novel setup, the flow enhanced crystallization of a branched semicrystalline polymer has been investigated with a systematic study of the effect of flow parameters (i.e. strain and strain rate) under isothermal conditions. A clear correlation between flow strength, degree of orientation of the polymer chains and crystallization rate was found. Moreover, fitting the experimental scattering data with a model for shish-kebab growth, a detailed analysis of the microstructure development during crystallization was performed.

In the second part of the research, the jetting and deposition process of highly viscous polymers have been investigated with a new generation dispensing machine using a piezoactivated plunger above the dispensing nozzle. The effects of crucial parameters such as fluid viscosity, distance between nozzle and substrate and substrate properties have been studied. A rheological characterization of the fluids together with optical visualization of the filament breakup process and spreading on the substrate reveals new insights of drop on substrate deposition when highly viscous fluids are used. An understanding of the interplay between filament stretching and spreading is key for a full control of the process thereby opening new possibilities in the jetting field.

Title of PhD thesis:  Polymers in extension: from crystallization to filament breakup . Supervisors: Prof. Patrick Anderson, Prof. Ruth Cardinaels, and Em. Prof. Gerrit Peters.

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Congratulations to Aziz for Successfully Defending his PhD Thesis

Aziz's PhD work was related to lowering atmospheric CO 2  using electrochemical methods. He investigated molecules that could be used for the homogenous capture of CO 2  from air and other CO 2 -rich sources as well as pathways towards more valuable fuels and chemicals. Aziz was a stalwart of the Musgrave group; he was heavily involved in training new students and facilitating collaborative efforts both within CU and from beyond. His contributions to the group will be dearly missed.

Aziz is returning to Kuwait to accpet a position as an assistant professor at Kuwait University. Congratulations Aziz, and best of luck on your future endeavors!

aziz being introduced to his Phd defense by Charles Musgrave

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How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

Published on September 7, 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes. Revised on November 21, 2023.

The introduction is the first section of your thesis or dissertation , appearing right after the table of contents . Your introduction draws your reader in, setting the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose, and direction on a relevant topic .

Your introduction should include:

  • Your topic, in context: what does your reader need to know to understand your thesis dissertation?
  • Your focus and scope: what specific aspect of the topic will you address?
  • The relevance of your research: how does your work fit into existing studies on your topic?
  • Your questions and objectives: what does your research aim to find out, and how?
  • An overview of your structure: what does each section contribute to the overall aim?

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Table of contents

How to start your introduction, topic and context, focus and scope, relevance and importance, questions and objectives, overview of the structure, thesis introduction example, introduction checklist, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about introductions.

Although your introduction kicks off your dissertation, it doesn’t have to be the first thing you write — in fact, it’s often one of the very last parts to be completed (just before your abstract ).

It’s a good idea to write a rough draft of your introduction as you begin your research, to help guide you. If you wrote a research proposal , consider using this as a template, as it contains many of the same elements. However, be sure to revise your introduction throughout the writing process, making sure it matches the content of your ensuing sections.

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Begin by introducing your dissertation topic and giving any necessary background information. It’s important to contextualize your research and generate interest. Aim to show why your topic is timely or important. You may want to mention a relevant news item, academic debate, or practical problem.

After a brief introduction to your general area of interest, narrow your focus and define the scope of your research.

You can narrow this down in many ways, such as by:

  • Geographical area
  • Time period
  • Demographics or communities
  • Themes or aspects of the topic

It’s essential to share your motivation for doing this research, as well as how it relates to existing work on your topic. Further, you should also mention what new insights you expect it will contribute.

Start by giving a brief overview of the current state of research. You should definitely cite the most relevant literature, but remember that you will conduct a more in-depth survey of relevant sources in the literature review section, so there’s no need to go too in-depth in the introduction.

Depending on your field, the importance of your research might focus on its practical application (e.g., in policy or management) or on advancing scholarly understanding of the topic (e.g., by developing theories or adding new empirical data). In many cases, it will do both.

Ultimately, your introduction should explain how your thesis or dissertation:

  • Helps solve a practical or theoretical problem
  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Builds on existing research
  • Proposes a new understanding of your topic

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content page of phd thesis

Perhaps the most important part of your introduction is your questions and objectives, as it sets up the expectations for the rest of your thesis or dissertation. How you formulate your research questions and research objectives will depend on your discipline, topic, and focus, but you should always clearly state the central aim of your research.

If your research aims to test hypotheses , you can formulate them here. Your introduction is also a good place for a conceptual framework that suggests relationships between variables .

  • Conduct surveys to collect data on students’ levels of knowledge, understanding, and positive/negative perceptions of government policy.
  • Determine whether attitudes to climate policy are associated with variables such as age, gender, region, and social class.
  • Conduct interviews to gain qualitative insights into students’ perspectives and actions in relation to climate policy.

To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline  of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

I. Introduction

Human language consists of a set of vowels and consonants which are combined to form words. During the speech production process, thoughts are converted into spoken utterances to convey a message. The appropriate words and their meanings are selected in the mental lexicon (Dell & Burger, 1997). This pre-verbal message is then grammatically coded, during which a syntactic representation of the utterance is built.

Speech, language, and voice disorders affect the vocal cords, nerves, muscles, and brain structures, which result in a distorted language reception or speech production (Sataloff & Hawkshaw, 2014). The symptoms vary from adding superfluous words and taking pauses to hoarseness of the voice, depending on the type of disorder (Dodd, 2005). However, distortions of the speech may also occur as a result of a disease that seems unrelated to speech, such as multiple sclerosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This study aims to determine which acoustic parameters are suitable for the automatic detection of exacerbations in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by investigating which aspects of speech differ between COPD patients and healthy speakers and which aspects differ between COPD patients in exacerbation and stable COPD patients.

Checklist: Introduction

I have introduced my research topic in an engaging way.

I have provided necessary context to help the reader understand my topic.

I have clearly specified the focus of my research.

I have shown the relevance and importance of the dissertation topic .

I have clearly stated the problem or question that my research addresses.

I have outlined the specific objectives of the research .

I have provided an overview of the dissertation’s structure .

You've written a strong introduction for your thesis or dissertation. Use the other checklists to continue improving your dissertation.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

Research bias

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The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarize the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

Scope of research is determined at the beginning of your research process , prior to the data collection stage. Sometimes called “scope of study,” your scope delineates what will and will not be covered in your project. It helps you focus your work and your time, ensuring that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and outcomes.

Defining a scope can be very useful in any research project, from a research proposal to a thesis or dissertation . A scope is needed for all types of research: quantitative , qualitative , and mixed methods .

To define your scope of research, consider the following:

  • Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding
  • Your proposed timeline and duration
  • Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size , and the research methodology you’ll pursue
  • Any inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Any anticipated control , extraneous , or confounding variables that could bias your research if not accounted for properly.

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George, T. & McCombes, S. (2023, November 21). How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction. Scribbr. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/introduction-structure/

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Verena Mertes PhD

We are proud and wish to congratulate Verena Mertes with her PhD. She held a fantastic trial lecture before defending her thesis in an excellent manner. 

Kasper Rømer Villumsen, Reidun Øvstebø and Rigmor Solberg acted as opponents. 

Her supervisor team was: Hanne Cecilie Winther-Larsen, Dirk Linke, Duncan Colquhoun, Elia Ciani and Athanasios Saragliadis.

Please check:  Disputation: Verena Mertes - Department of Pharmacy (uio.no)

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  1. Dissertation Table of Contents in Word

    The table of contents is where you list the chapters and major sections of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, alongside their page numbers. A clear and well-formatted table of contents is essential, as it demonstrates to your reader that a quality paper will follow.

  2. Table of Contents

    Here is an example of a Table of Contents page from the Template. Please note that your table of contents may be longer than one page. << Previous: Dedication Page

  3. PDF Guidelines for The PhD Dissertation

    This document provides information on how to submit your dissertation, requirements for dissertation formatting, and your dissertation publishing and distribution options. Please follow the submission and formatting guidelines provided here; do not use previously published dissertations as examples. Advanced Planning of the Dissertation

  4. Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

    Methods: This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design.

  5. A Guide to Writing a PhD Thesis

    A PhD thesis is a work of original research all students are requiured to submit in order to succesfully complete their PhD. The thesis details the research that you carried out during the course of your doctoral degree and highlights the outcomes and conclusions reached.

  6. How to Create a Table of Contents for a Dissertation (APA)

    This is where you will choose the styles for the table of contents. Step 2. The top-level headings will be your chapter titles, so on the right side of the tab, apply the Heading 1 style. Step 3. The second-level headings will be your subheadings, so apply the Heading 2 style. This will place your subheadings underneath your main headings. Step 4.

  7. 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 ...

  8. Order and Components

    The title page of a thesis or dissertation must include the following information: The title of the thesis or dissertation in all capital letters and centered 2″ below the top of the page. Your name, centered 1″ below the title. Do not include titles, degrees, or identifiers.

  9. How to Create the Best Table of Contents for a Dissertation

    The table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper's contents. Depending on the detail level in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader concerning which page the said information may be found.

  10. 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. ... The thesis should be written as a single cohesive document; it may include content from published papers (see ...

  11. Dissertation Table of Contents in Word

    The table of contents is where you list the chapters and major sections of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, alongside their page numbers. A clear and well-formatted table of contents is essential, as it demonstrates to your reader that a quality paper will follow.

  12. Table of Contents

    1.1.1 Title 1.1.2 Abstract 1.1.3 Keywords 1.1.4 Dedication 1.1.5 Table of Contents 1.1.6 Acknowledgements 1.1.7 List of Abbreviations 1.1.8 List of Figures or Illustrations 1.1.9 List of Tables Chapter 1: The Essential Components and Requirements of a Doctoral Thesis 1.2 The Main Body of the Thesis 1.2.1 Introduction 1.2.2 Literature Review

  13. What Is a PhD Thesis?

    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?

  14. Dissertation Table Of Contents: Definitive Writing Guide

    What is a PhD dissertation table of contents? A table of contents of a dissertation is an outline of the major chapters and sections of your graduate dissertation. It points readers to the exact page numbers they must reference to find information that is important to their research.

  15. PhD Thesis Structure and Content

    A PhD made up on only critical assessment may be possible (for UCL) but is extremely difficult. Average, good, size for a thesis is 150 pages all in. Perhaps up to 50 extra pages for a big appendix and bibliography. Beware of the trend to write long and boring doctorates (papers, &c), improve your communications skills.

  16. PDF Sample Thesis Pages

    presented in this thesis may be found in a supplemental file named questionnaire.tif. 110 . If multiple appendices are included, they should be lettered A, B, C, etc. Page numbering should continue from main text. Do . not. re-start numbering at 1. An appendix page must be included in the thesis for each supplemental appendix file.

  17. How To Structure A PhD Thesis

    How to Structure an Abstract Your abstract should be a short summary at the beginning of the thesis that sums up the research, summarises the separate sections of the thesis and outlines the contribution. Above all, your PhD abstract should answer the question: 'So what?' In other words, what is the contribution of your thesis to the field?

  18. How to Write a PhD Thesis: 13 Tips For PhD Thesis Writing

    A thesis is shaped more than written, and an outline provides it the required PhD thesis structure. Follow all university guides - Be careful to ensure that you are meeting all the requirements of your university. This includes everything from topic selection to structure to writing style.

  19. Dissertation Deposit

    PhD Dissertation Deposit At the University of Pennsylvania, a doctoral candidate presents and defends the dissertation publicly, and then, with the approval of the dissertation committee and graduate group chair, submits the final manuscript for publication. Finally, the PhD degree is awarded to the candidate upon the recommendation of the Graduate Council of the Faculties.

  20. Exploring polymer behavior: from crystallization to filament breakup

    Jessica Pepe defended her PhD thesis at the Department of Mechanical Engineering on February 8th. With her PhD research Jessica Pepe marked a significant advancement in polymer research. Pepe's pioneering work focuses on understanding polymers in extensional flow, encompassing processes from crystallization to filament breakup.

  21. Congratulations to Ryan for Successfully Defending his PhD Thesis

    Ryan's PhD work was related to identifying new perovskite-oxide materials for solar thermochemical hydrogen production (STCH). He, along with Zach Bare, created an impressive new library of binary perovskite oxide materials, many which have never been synthesized that show promising properties, both for STCH and other applications.

  22. Congratulations to Yousef for Successfully Defending his PhD Thesis

    Yousef's PhD work was related to developing grand-canonical density functional theory for the modeling of electrified interfaces. He rigorously idenitified the limitations in the more commonly used computational hydrogen electrode approach to modeling the electrochemical interface and explored some interesting phenomena related to potential-induced restructuring of catalyst surfaces and ...

  23. Congratulations to Aziz for Successfully Defending his PhD Thesis

    Aziz's PhD work was related to lowering atmospheric CO 2 using electrochemical methods. He investigated molecules that could be used for the homogenous capture of CO 2 from air and other CO 2-rich sources as well as pathways towards more valuable fuels and chemicals.Aziz was a stalwart of the Musgrave group; he was heavily involved in training new students and facilitating collaborative ...

  24. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    Overview of the structure. To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

  25. Verena Mertes PhD

    We are proud and wish to congratulate Verena Mertes with her PhD. She held a fantastic trial lecture before defending her thesis in an excellent manner. Kasper Rømer Villumsen, Reidun Øvstebø and Rigmor Solberg acted as opponents. Her supervisor team was: Hanne Cecilie Winther-Larsen, Dirk Linke, Duncan Colquhoun, Elia Ciani and Athanasios Saragliadis. Please check: Disputation: Verena ...