Most master theses are 80-150 pages, and doctoral theses are often longer. However, students should keep in mind that the quality of the writing (and, of course, the quality of the research itself!) is more important than the quantity of pages. Consult your advisor regarding any questions.

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2.2Front Matter

This part of your thesis contains certain required factual information and optional information:

what readers should expect

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2.3Body of Text

The most typical pattern used in journal writing worldwide today is the IMRAD model: Introduction, Methods/Methodology, Results, And Discussion followed by your Conclusions. Many theses also follow this or a similar pattern, but you should discuss the organizational structure with your advisor at a number of stages, always making sure that you understand what is expected of you and your thesis.

NOTE: The following suggestions for consideration should not be construed as “fixed”. Ideas are listed here merely to provide you with some guidance and direction. You must develop your own organizational structure and have this approved by your advisor … the earlier the better.

what readers should expect


2.3.1 INTRODUCTION generally should …

what readers should expect

  • present the nature and the scope of the problem you investigated
  • provide a concise rationale for your research
  • state your purpose briefly and clearly
  • review the relevant literature briefly to orient the reader
  • refer to the research of other specialists in the field to give you credibility
  • state your method of investigation
  • state main results of your investigation
  • state your main conclusions

avoid a long review of other sources …
this should be done in the Review of Cited Literature part.

Introduction and Discussion sections generally function as a pair.

2.3.2 METHODS generally should …

what you used
what you did
how you did it

  • describe how you will carry out your fact finding
  • be presented in chronological order (most cases)
  • be precise
  • determine a method that is reproducible: provide enough detail so that a competent researcher can repeat the experiment

Is enough detailed information provided so that another competent researcher can replicate the results?

Introduction and Discussion sections generally function as a pair.

2.3.3 RESULTS generally should …

what you found
what you observed

  • present representative data (not endlessly repetitive data)
  • be in chronological order or in order of importance
  • ensure that all results are meaningful
  • describe the new knowledge

Results and Methods sections generally function as a pair.

2.3.4 DISCUSSION generally should …

what you learned

  • answer the questions posed in the Introduction
  • present the principles, relationships, and generalizations shown by the
    results: avoid repeating previous statements
  • point out any exceptions or lack of correlation
  • define unsettled points
  • show how your results and interpretations agree or contrast with
    previously published work
  • discuss both theoretical and practical applications
  • indicate what the findings tell us in relation to proving your hypothesis
  • discuss the significance of the Results

Discussion and Introduction sections generally function as a pair.

2.3.5 CONCLUSIONS generally should …

why the results are important

  • state your conclusions clearly
  • summarize the evidence for each conclusion
  • mention what you believe to be crucial in this line of research

Broad conclusions are sometimes made
about the efficacy or effectiveness of a particular method

2.3.6 RECOMMENDATIONS generally should …

what to do next
  • explain what needs to be done next to take this research to a higher level
  • discuss what type of studies future research should conduct that would likely answer some major remaining questions

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2.4Back Matter

This part of your thesis generally contains required factual information.

2.4.1 Cited References/Bibliography

give credit where credit is due
avoid plagiarism at all costs!

A thesis must include a list of cited literature or bibliography listing all works that are referred to in the text. This section follows the last page of the body of text and precedes the appendices (if any).The styles used for listing sources in the list of cited literature or bibliography are detailed and complicated, and they can vary considerably among academic disciplines. For this reason, follow the most-widely accepted scholarly style manual in your field.

Even though there are many styles on how to cite references, virtually every style includes the minimum following parts:


author’s name(s)
title of article
publication information

  • title of publication (article)s
  • volume number
  • issue number
  • page numbers

author’s name(s)
title of book
publication information

  • city of publication
  • publisher name
  • date of publication

These represent the basic guidelines, yet there are numerous anomalies:

Author variations

  1. author, only one
  2. author, two
  3. author, more than two
  4. editor(s)
  5. group authors
  6. others

Title variations

  1. manuscript in preparation
  2. proper noun use
  3. revisions
  4. subtitles
  5. translations
  6. untitled work
  7. others

Source variations

  1. acts
  2. archival documents
  3. audio
  4. books
  5. doctoral dissertations and master theses
  6. foreign language sources
  7. government
  8. journals
  9. magazines
  10. newspapers
  11. online
  12. organizations
  13. symposiums
  14. technical reports
  15. translations
  16. unpublished work
  17. visual
  18. others

Punctuation styles

  1. hyphenating names
  2. italicizing
  3. quotation marks, double
  4. quotation marks, single
  5. others

Capitalization styles

  1. contemporary
  2. natural science
  3. social science
  4. traditional
  5. others

2.4.2 Appendixes

information that supplements or clarifies information in the body of text, yet is too long

Appendixes (also appendices) should be limited to supporting material genuinely secondary to the main argument of the thesis. They must include only material that supplements or clarifies material referred to in the thesis. This material is put into an appendix because its usually long and complex nature would be distracting in the body of text.

In scientific writing, the appendix usually represents a detailed explanation that is too long for the Methods section of your thesis which would be disturbing to the reader because the excessive detail distracts the reader from the inherent train of thought.

Appendixes typically include:

  1. actual surveys used for data collection (original language and English)
  2. computer programs
  3. instrument diagrams
  4. long calculations
  5. maps
  6. statistical analysis
  7. written comments from surveys
  8. others

REMEMBER: Whenever you have a question or a problem, seek help. Don’t wait!

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