Likely Topics Diagram Abstract Research Methods Conclusion Appendices References Home Page

Writing a Thesis: The Write up Itself

The content and structure of a research report, thesis or dissertation is informed by the nature of the research, and will therefore vary from report to report. The following notes are intended as a guide and should not be considered as the definitive structure or document layout. Never-the-less, there are concepts that can be noted, and guidelines that should be followed, the content of a report is likely to contain material covering all or at the least most of the content covered within the headings illustrated in figure 1. A possible generalised structure is shown. While the actual structure of a particular thesis or dissertation will vary, the structure is likely to follow the same general outline.

Your particular topic may need cover of other special subject areas, or it may be that one or more of the particular areas noted in the outline below have no meaning within the context of your research.

Illustration of the likely chapters 
for a thesis

Fig 1. General guidelines to topics for the thesis write up


It is important to remember that this is written after everything else has been completed. It cannot be the first thing that is written because It is a one page summary of the complete write-up. Anyone reading the abstract should have a good idea of the content of the dissertation, and be able to assess whether the detail within the report is of interest to them or not.

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This should be clearly laid out reflecting the numbering system used to identify the sections of the report. The style of numbering (or section identification) used, can be any that is suitable to the nature of the report, providing it shows consistency. The contents should show the chapter and section headings and their start page. This does imply that the pages of the document are properly numbered.


This section should note the need for the research that you have undertaken. Your dissertation should answer a question that will be of benefit to some person group or body. By answering the research question you will have provided a solution to the noted need. The introduction is likely to include the aims and objectives of the thesis. If it is considered that this is not the most appropriate place for them, then they should be placed at an early stage in the report. At the very least the introduction should include a description of the topic and the problem area. It may be better to consider the objectives in terms of outcomes. Every outcome will have a deliverable. The deliverable may be a report or a product of some sort. Equally valid as an outcome deliverable would be a set of references, a graph, or an analysis. Production of the deliverable will ensure completion of the outcome. Completion of all the outcomes, if they have been properly formulated, will lead to fulfilment of the aim.
Any limitations that apply to the research whether they be imposed by the client, the nature of the research, or the depth of research possible within the time limit, need to be noted. Include any other issues applying to the project that would be best noted within this section. If there are any special features of the research or data collection methods they should be included here with references to good academic sources.
Literature surveys must not be confined to the Internet. A large percentage of websites are not peer reviewed and tend to express opinion not fact. Search engines like Google Scholar contain peer- reviewed work. This means that the articles, books, web sites have been examined by an expert third party to ensure the information is correct.

Research Methods

A critical review of the research methods used in the research, and the rationale, is covered in this section. The content will set out how the aims and objectives will be achieved. The chapter will compare possible research methods and justify the choices made. It will show their significance to the research question.

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Analysis and Development

The research will culminate in a set of conclusions based upon the analysis and development of the data and material collected. It is in this section that the logic analysis and development is described. While the collected material refers to other researchers ideas, this section describes the concepts and thinking of the researcher. It is therefore an extremely important section in proving the worth of the research, and an essential part of the report. Any experiments undertaken as part of the research will be described in this section and the results also noted and analysed.


The final section of the main body of the report is the conclusion and recommendations section. This section of the report may well refer to any report provided to the client. It is however more than the client report. It is here that the final culmination of the research will be found. The conclusion will provide the evidence of client satisfaction, or where there is no real client, evidence of a satisfactory end result to the research activities. A satisfactory result is achieved when the original objectives have been met, and all the outcomes fulfilled. Thus it is always useful to relate the concluding paragraphs to the objectives, showing how each have been met. Recommendations are expected in this section. The limitations of the research can be noted and this in turn may give rise to further recommendations. It is expected that the section will cover further research that could extend or expand upon the work described in the dissertation. Good research has boundaries of time and space, and thus further research is likely to be appropriate. During the course of the research it is also likely that fresh ideas for further work are discovered.


A reference list is expected at the end of every thesis or dissertation. All sources cited within the body of the text should be included in a consistent and proper format in the reference list. Both the in-text references and the reference list must comply with the University protocol, however if a paper is written for a conference or journal the protocol may be different, and it will be necessary to follow the format dictated by the appropriate body. Note that it is not sufficient to put 'The Times' or <>, the reader must be able to use the reference to find the original article. Coventry University expect that their version of Harvard style referencing is used.(caw 2011)
Other sources that have been used to develop the research but not cited can be covered within a bibliography or within the reference list. Some authorities expect two different lists, keeping the bibliography separate. Other authorities however consider that one list is easier to maintain and search.
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The main body of the report should flow. Where data or extended explanation provides necessary evidence to support the report, it should be placed in an appendix if it would otherwise interfere with the flow. Where such material is placed in an appendix to avoid disruption of the logical flow a reference to the appendix and summary of the information or findings should be place at an appropriate point in the main body of the text.
The whole report needs to be written in good English in a clear and well constructed form. It is normal to write in the third person and in the past tense. e.g. 'it was found that the data …' NOT 'I find the data …' All spelling and grammatical construct should be to standard British English usage, and not American usage. It is always worthwhile ensuring that the work is proofread before finalisation. Writers read what they intended to write. Independent readers read what is actually written. The proof-reader does not have to be an expert in the subject area, it is however a good idea if they have a good language abilities. Many aids to good writing exist and while they are not all specifically designed to cover research reports, most of the material covered is applicable. The Internet is a source for many of these aids and University sites contain trusted material, well worth perusing.

Additional Guidance Notes


caw (2011) [online] available from
<> [07-09-2011]
UNSW (2008) [online] Report Writing FAQ, University of New South Wales Learning Centre, available at
< >[08-09-2011]

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