How to format a thesis paper: Understanding the thesis outline

After settling on the topic that you are going to use for your topic, the next step is to write the outline for your thesis. Learning how to format a thesis paper is relatively easy, as most universities have a guideline on the outline they expect you to use.

This article will give you the general outline that most universities use for formatting their thesis papers. In each section, I will discuss what information you will be required to include there and how to do that.

Do you want to learn how to format a thesis paper? Read on to find out.


The Sections of a Thesis

The following are the elements that are found in most thesis papers in the order in which they should be presented. They may vary depending on the discipline that one is studying and the institution where one is pursuing their graduate degree.

The Abstract and Foreword

The first place most readers are likely to begin at is abstract, and thus this section should be carefully written with the intention of spurring and holding the reader’s interest.

The abstract summarizes the content of your thesis without necessarily covering every aspect of your paper. Professionals who know how to format a thesis paper advice that this section should be written last as by then, you have familiarized yourself with most concepts that have been explored in the paper. However, as you work on the paper, continuously edit your abstract so that by the time you finish the thesis, you have a perfect draft.

A foreword is not necessary for a thesis but is typical in order to give you space to thank every person who played a part in shaping your graduate period. Here, you can thank your supervisors, informants, family, and friends who have helped and supported you in one way or another.

Chapter One: The Introduction

There is two main reason why you write an introduction. First, it is to give the reader an overview of the main points that are in your paper. However, ensure that you don’t get into detailed explanations as these will be found in the specific sections. Secondly, your introduction serves to awaken your reader’s interest which decides whether he will continue reading the thesis or not.

Your introduction and conclusion will probably comprise the same ideas and format. Therefore, give a theme to your introduction, and use it here and at the conclusion as well. In your intro, you could present it from a particular perspective, while in the conclusion, you can give the contrast to it.


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The subsections of an introduction are:

  1. a) The Background

The background of a study is the research, practical considerations and history of the study which you intend to carry out. There are ways to open your discussion. This can be through reference to a contemporary event, outlining a specific problem by using a case study or by reviewing the current research and literature on the said subject to demonstrate the need for that particular type of research.

  1. b) The Scope of Your Thesis

When working on a particular research problem, it is impossible and impractical to attempt defining it within its every scope. This section of the introduction will be used to narrow down the scope of your thesis. The narrower the boundaries of study, the easier it will be for you to do a detailed and interesting research.

  1. c) The Outline

The outline gives your reader an overview of what he or she is to expect within the thesis. For a student who intends to learn how to format a thesis paper, this section is important as it guides your reader on the sections that your paper is divided into. This serves to ensure that he gets an easy guide which helps him navigate a little easier.

Chapter Two: The Theory Section

In most academic papers, this section is referred to as the literature review. This is because, under this section, you will discuss the current literature and research that is available on the subject matter.

It is impossible to include all the available literature in this section. Therefore, concentrate on the one that is most relevant to your paper and within the scope, you chose in the first chapter. However, don’t dwell too long in this section as it doesn’t discuss the main point of your paper.

Chapter Three: The Method Section

In an academic research paper, the method section is one of the most important ones. This is because it is used to validate the data that you have presented to be used in the arguments in the findings section of your paper.

When working on this section, forget the literature. It is a research paper and therefore doesn’t require that you list all types of interviews where the method of research used is interviewing. Instead, show your reader why the method you have used for the collection of data is best suited to answer the research questions of your paper.

Chapter Four: Analysis

Raw data is just a jumble of useless numbers without the appropriate interpretation. In this section, the findings you got when collecting data is presented in a systematic manner.

When analyzing, distinguish the different type of phenomena in order to put your theory to work. The organization of your analysis is dependent on previous theses within your department and your personal preferences.

Chapter Five: Discussion

This is the most important part of your thesis and thus requires enough time and concentration. After reading this section, your reader should be able to understand the significance of the study that you undertook and the data that you collected. At the end of this section, all your research questions should be answered in a clear and detailed manner.

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This is the final part of a thesis, and its form is dependent on the type of paper you are writing. Here, ensure that you mention the most important issues that were raised in the thesis. Where you used a theme in your introduction, maintain it in this conclusion as well.

By following the outline given above and consolidating it with the requirements of your discipline and school, you are well on your way to learning how to format a thesis paper.

You might also like

How to write a good thesis statement with examples

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