Structure of thesis report

When you have a good structure for your thesis, you are already half way in writing your thesis. Since writing a report involves structuring your results and ideas, it is advised to start writing your thesis before the end of the period. You can already start with writing your background, introduction, materials and methods without having any results. This will help you structure your plans. Don’t underestimate the time you need to write your thesis. When you have to do everything at the end, most people run out of time, or lose their concentration.

A thesis should be nice to read by the reader, so turn it into a story to guide the reader through it. Avoid a summation of just facts..


The thesis should contain the following chapters:

-          Title page

-          Summary/abstract

-          Table of content

-          Introduction

-          Background information

-          Materials and methods

-          Results and discussion (or separate chapters)

-          Conclusion

-          (recommendations)

-          References


Summary: The summary should contain a brief overview of the research and the most important results (usually half a page)

Introduction: Your introduction contains information about why you do the work. It should contain a short description of the problem.  If possible, what has already been done (literature). What is still missing in the research, and how you are going to contribute to that field. So it should end with an aim or goal. It could also include a hypothesis, if you are expecting something specific to come out. The introduction section is usually about 1 page.

Background information: The background information contains all information needed to understand your results. This contains information about the ingredients that you use. The background of the methods that you use. Start with the more general concepts and go into more detail from there. This chapter involves the use of literature. Try to turn it into a logical story. Do not just put different literature statements after each other (5-10 pages).

Materials and Methods: The chapter starts with materials. Name all materials and where they were bought, purchased, received as a gift, etc. The methods contain all information about how you did the experiments. This contains all the settings of the equipment as well: temperature, how long you stirred, settings of the equipment. All information should be there, so someone else can do redo your experiment. The material and method section is always written in the past.

Results and Discussion: Since it is very difficult to separate results with discussion, they are often combined in one chapter. This often also makes the flow of the story better. Results are often represented in figures and tables. Not just show the raw data. The figures should be self-explanatory. In the text, do not repeat the data from these tables and figures, but interpret the results. Be critical. What have I measured. Did I do duplicates? What are the error margins? What do the results tell me? How can I explain them? And what do I learn from it?.

In the results section, you should also compare your results with those in literature. What has been done by others, what do they find? And is that similar to my results? At the end, your results should be used to answer your aim/questions or hypothesis that you had at the beginning of your thesis.

Conclusion: this section should contain your most important findings. Start by mentioning your aim, so people know why you did the work. Do not mention all the results again in detail, but describe the results as an overview. You could end the conclusion what kind of implications your results have (in terms of new product development or something. Or use in other field of science). The conclusion is usually max. 1 page.

References: There are a lot of different ways to make a reference list. Check some articles that you read to see the different versions. It is up to you to choose one. However, when you choose one, stick to it. Do not use different version in your list. Since it is easier to know the relevance of a paper, also include the title of the article!


Use of Figures:

-          Figures should contain names on both axis with their unity in brackets:  Force (N)

-          They should not contain any lines on the inside, only if they have a function.

-          Remove the lines around the complete Figure (standard in excel)

-          Make sure that the size of the symbols and letters are large enough so you can read them.

-          Use scientific numbering:     1.105

-          Avoid very large numbers for clarity: 10000000 should be 1.107

-          Figure numbering should be underneath the Figures


Use of Tables:

-          make sure all tables have the same lay-out

-          Table columns should contain the parameter with unity in brackets

-          Table numbering should be above the Table.


Length of the thesis: There is not a standard length of the thesis. In general a BSc thesis is 25-35 pages, and a MSc thesis between 30-50 pages. Only relevant information should be presented in the thesis itself. Less relevant information and additional info (pre-testing for example) could be presented in the appendix.