Which sections should I include in my Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis


Contents

No matter whether you are writing a thesis for a Psychology, Business, Sociology or Medical Science program: a thesis largely looks the same across all disciplines. A typical thesis has 5 sections:

After the Conclusion your thesis usually is not finished: at the very least, you will have to include a Reference section or so-called ‘Bibliography’. But perhaps you also want to include one or more Appendices. These are discussed at the end of this post, together with a complete overview of the structure of a typical thesis.

1. Introduction

The Introduction section is the first and arguably the most important section of your thesis. Here, you introduce your topic and you discuss how you will study this topic: your research proposal.

Your Topic

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Your Research proposal

What makes your study relevant? Which research question will your thesis answer? And how will you answer this question: what is your research method? Want to know more? Have a look at my online course on How to write your research proposal.


2. Theoretical Framework

In the she second section of your thesis, you present the literature that is available on your topic. In the Theoretical Framework, you show how your study relates to all the other studies that are available. If applicable, you also present your hypotheses in this section.

Your Theoretical Framework

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3. Data and Method

If you plan to write a quantitative thesis, then you will likely use Data and a statistical Method to analyze this data (for example, a regression model). If you are doing a qualitative study, such as for example an interview, the same applies: you will also have data (e.g. the questions you will ask during your interview, or a table with characteristics of your participants), and you will have a method (e.g. a description of the type of interview you will conduct). Both need to be explained in this part of your thesis.

Your Data section

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4. Results and Discussion

In this section, you first present the results that you have obtained, and then you discuss them. What’s the difference? Your Results simply are: your results! You report what you’ve found, usually by posting a table or brief overview. In your Discussion section, you discuss the results you have obtained in relation to the previous literature: the literature that you have discussed in your Theoretical Framework.

Your Results and Discussion

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5. Conclusion

In this section, you provide a 1-2 paragraph summary of your research, and you answer your research question. Additionally, you write 1-2 paragraphs where you discuss some limitations of your study, and/or ways in which the limitations of your study may be solved by other researchers.

Your Conclusion

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Final parts

At least one section of your thesis is still missing at this point: the References-section or so-called ‘Bibliography‘. It typically is not a numbered section of a thesis: it’s simply called “Bibliography” or “References”.

What about the Appendix? Same thing: it usually is not numbered, but simply posted at the end of your thesis. Do you want to include more than one Appendix? Then use letters to break up your Appendix into multiple sections, for example: Appendix A and Appendix B.

Your Conclusion

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Structure of a complete thesis

In short, the sections of a complete thesis could look something like this:

Example structure


1. Introduction
2. Theoretical Framework
3. Data and Method
4. Results and Discussion
5. Conclusion
Bibliography
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

Section names

Although the names I have used in the post are the most common names used for each of these sections, you may encounter different names while reading the literature. Some examples:

Theoretical Framework

Literature
Review of literature
Previous research
Theoretical background

Method

Methodology
Empirical strategy
Research method
Analysis

Splitting sections

Sometimes it’s better to split sections, for example, when a section is relatively large (for example, more than 5 pages long). Typical examples are splitting the Data and Method section into a separate Data and a separate Method section. Or splitting the Results and Discussion section into one Results section, and one Discussion section.

= Another example

Another example-overview of the sections of a thesis, using different names and split-up sections, could look as follows:

Example structure


1. Introduction
2. Literature review
3. Data
4. Empirical strategy
5. Results
6. Discussion
7. Conclusion
References
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

Closing words

I hope this post has helped you get a better idea about the structure of a typical thesis. Good luck with your research, and with writing your dissertation!

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