How to structure a doctoral thesis

Writing a doctoral thesis is not an easy task, because it is not the simple fact of writing paragraphs in an organized way; a doctoral thesis implies an extensive investigative exercise that includes long hours of reading, few hours of sleep, great motivation, and an academic and personal goal that is unparalleled.

Therefore, we do not come to tell you that building your final thesis document will be a simple process, however, with the tips you will find in this article, you can prepare your mind and resources for this challenge, which is not easy but fully achievable.

These tips are based on the formats for presentation of doctoral theses from the following universities:

  • Complutense University of Madrid
  • University of Alcalá
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University JNU
  • Metropolitan University of Education, Science and Technology
  • National University of San Marcos
  • Ortega y Gasset University Research Institute

At the end of the article we leave a basic doctoral thesis structure, which can serve as a guide to build yours.

  1. Methodological recommendations

Build a tentative index

To build a tentative outline or index of your final document, use brainstorming first, since ideas written on a paper prompt writing. In this way:

  • Make a list of notes, ideas or keywords.
  • Group the ideas that are related to each other.
  • Sort the list by elements in main and secondary ideas.
  • The latter will then represent the headings of their chapters by levels.

Remember that a well-defined scheme must have the following characteristics:

  • The main headings (titles 1) must have the same level of importance.
  • The information of the main headings must be more general than that of the secondary, tertiary headings, etc.
  • Each header must be divided into two or more parts.

The most advisable thing is to go from the general to the particular, for that reason, it is recommended to group the ideas in the following basic categories:

  • Introduction: what was done, how it was done, why it was done, etc.
  • Theoretical / referential framework: conceptual bases of the problem, how the problem has been addressed before, what solutions have been found.
  • Methodology: what was done in the study, how was it investigated.
  • Results: what was found.

Discussion: what the results mean

However, you can also organize them according to their level of importance according to the researcher’s criteria, for which it may be more important to find the results first, and then investigate the theory; or vice versa.

Keep in mind that drawing a rough sketch before you start writing helps you organize your ideas so that you can present your material in a logical way, likewise, doing it while taking notes helps locate important information and eliminate the useless. While this exercise is to organize and develop the chapters, it can also be used to search for the research topic.

Create a research plan organized in stages

You should know that there is no general rule that applies to all investigations, because each plan will depend on the subject, the objective, scope, methodology, in short, the particularities of your research. However, all studies have a common factor and that is that they must have a series of steps to reach the final result. Before you start to write, sit down and take the time to define the route that would take you to the final result in the best way.

Try measurable goals and plan activities, all with a task calendar.

Divide the problem into subproblems, this will allow you to make a more detailed plan.

Build a schedule of activities where systematize each specific objective, goals, activities and responsible, here we leave a downloadable template that can be of great help.

Select a topic, sources and an appropriate methodology. When selecting the topic, evaluate its possibilities and resources, there are investigations that involve long trips, or excessive reading; Therefore, before starting, think about how you would like the process to be.

Take into account your research problem, remember that it is not the same to study correlations between variables, theoretical deepenings or surveys of population groups. Each type of study has its method. Take the time to define yours. Lean on your review of the state of the art.

The sources of information are very important. Remember that establishing an appropriate documentation to develop the theme is key so that the research has an adequate support. “It’s so bad that the documentation is reduced as it occurs in excess and is repetitive.”

Remember that the thesis must have a theoretical-conceptual contribution with a clear methodology and through the execution of an innovative program. It must contribute in a clear way to improve the knowledge of a subject related to the area of ​​studies. And the theme must be original.

Document your findings

In doctoral research the process is as important as the findings, even if it came to a negative or unexpected result, if its investigative exercise was adequate, this process will be useful as learning and also leave teaching on methodological issues. Therefore, you must ensure that you document step by step what you are doing.

We advise you to have a folder where you periodically write your progress in the research process. In this way, when the time comes to write your final document, you will only have to organize some points and copy and paste this information into your methodology.

Throughout the insurance doctorate you wrote articles related to your subject, use them as chapters in your thesis. If you have not written any yet, start writing about your research, I assure you it will be of great help. Do not leave everything for the last minute.

The annexes are very important

The annexes or appendices include the endorsements that attest to the evidences and testimonies of your investigation, for this reason, keep them in an orderly manner so that you can add them to the final document and mention them throughout it. Remember that the annexes are photographs, transcripts of interviews, questionnaire formats, among others.

  1. Style aspects

  • Use an impersonal writing style.
  • When writing your final thesis report, write it in the past tense.
  • Do not abuse the acronyms and explain their meaning in parentheses.
  • Use the least possible amount of sustained capital letters.
  • Use italics for expressions in other languages.

Avoid plagiarism, as long as you take the ideas of others, cite it. Do not abuse quotations, always prefer paraphrasing.

Our recommendation on this point is that you do not spend much of your time worrying about topics such as spelling, grammar, correct use of APA, ICONTEC, VANCOUVER, among others. Better occupy all your time in building a complete content, worry about the details in research topics, application of questionnaires, presentation of results, and other parts of your thesis. It is best to hire the services of a style editor, so avoid adding a little more stress to your research process.

Remember that even the best writers in the world leave their final texts in the hands of experts in this area to correct and leave them perfect.

We recommend you read these testimonies from doctors from different countries, who provide useful advice according to their experience to build a successful doctoral thesis.