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A Brief Tutorial To Understanding PhD Thesis Structure

The PhD Thesis can seem like a difficult task, primarily because of the length. As you begin to work through your thesis and complete chapter after chapter, you will notice that what started as dread can manifest into enjoyment. Below you will find a brief tutorial on the structure of your PhD thesis.

Title Page

It all starts with the title page. This will vary based on institution, so it is imperative that you check to see what is required for your institution. Typically this page includes the name of the thesis, the name of the institution, and the author name.


This section is the most widely published part of your thesis, and often the most widely read because of its concise nature. The abstract is meant to be self-contained and it describes the problem you addresses, the method you used to solve it, the results, and the conclusion in 200-350 words, again, based on institution. This is meant to be a resume for your thesis, providing a grand overview of the greatness inside. It might be listed at the beginning of your paper, but you will go through several drafts at the end to get it right.


Some institutions require an acknowledgements page, and even if they don’t, many authors include one to provide thanks to those who helped them.

Table of Contents

The exact format of your table of contents is based on your institutions requirements.


This area states what your topic is and why it is important. You should introduce the reader to the topic and any necessary background they need to understand your thesis.

Literature Review

This is where you describe the birthplace of the problem. This is where you summarize other literature that is relevant, what has been done to address your problem, and what methods have been used.

Middle Chapters

This is where you include the materials and the method that you used, your theory, and the results and discussion section. The results and discussion sections are often combined, but you can make them separate chapters if your institution requires it. Here you should describe what conditions gave you your results. Then list the importance of your findings and whether they provide new insights, or pave the way for further research.


This is where you briefly summarize your findings and state whether your work could be improved in some way in the future, or if it provided further avenues for investigation.


This is where you list your references as per your institutions’ requirements.


This is the section meant for any diagrams you referenced in the thesis, copies of questionnaires or surveys you used, etc…

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