A successful thesis adds pertinent knowledge to the discipline and offers beneficial information for the practice. Developing a scholarly product that stimulates pride and the satisfaction of your thesis committee requires adherence to a few guidelines. While all theses may not look the same, it’s important to include the relevant parts of the thesis in order to satisfy the requirements within your graduate program. A well-written thesis also provides the groundwork to successfully produce journal articles or conference proposals arising from your study. The thesis is an important document; it’s critical to understand the sections of the thesis, including the introduction, literature review, methods, findings, and discussion.
An effective introduction (chapter one) opens the thesis, draws the reader into the story, and highlights the impetus for the study. The introduction should delineate your research questions, and include some version of the following headings: problem statement, significance, purpose, and background. The problem statement highlights a current problem in the practice and identifies a gap in the literature, while the significance section emphasizes the rationale for conducting the study. Reflect on provocative and meaningful reasons to explore this topic. The purpose section crystalizes the goals for this study. What impact will understanding this topic have for the practice and this body of knowledge overall? The background section foreshadows the literature review.
The literature review (chapter two) is the backbone of your study. In this chapter, present the current and seminal work for your topic. This chapter is organized into relevant headings based on your topic. Begin with a road map that describes the content of the chapter. Synthesize the relevant work by summarizing and analyzing the studies for specific, relevant headings; choose articles that provide the underpinnings for your study. Overall, the literature review identifies the research already present in the field and lays the foundation to describe how your study fills a gap.
The methods section (chapter three) includes the specific methodology that you employ in your study. This chapter varies based on the type of study that you are conducting (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods), but should include the procedures, participants, instrumentation, and data analysis plan. After including your road map, restate your research questions so the reader has a lens through which to understand your methodological approach. Describe the individuals partaking in your study in the participants section. The procedures section identifies the steps used to conduct the study. The instrumentation section includes the tools used in the data collection, such as the interview protocol or the validity and reliability of specific instruments. In the data analysis, describe your plan to analyze the data. Consider if you will develop themes inductively or deductively (often used in qualitative research) or if statistical procedures will facilitate the data analysis (descriptive and inferential statistics are often present in quantitative research).
Chapter four highlights the findings of your research. Begin with the road map. When sharing the findings, include the data to support the themes you uncovered. In qualitative research, the data may include quotes or observations from interviews or focus groups, while quantitative data may include numerical results based on statistical testing. Chapter four includes a presentation of the findings, but isn’t a discussion of the implications of these findings.
In the discussion chapter (chapter five), share the impact of the research; begin with the road map, and include the implications, limitations, recommendations for future research, and conclusion. This chapter highlights the implications, including how your results add to the literature and the importance of your findings for the practice. The limitations of the study are also described in this chapter to help readers understand the context of your research. Identify recommendations for future research based on limitations or extensions of the study. The conclusion of this chapter summarizes the study’s significant points.
As you develop your thesis, endeavor a topic that meets the following qualifications: feasibility, accessibility, and passion. Is your idea feasible? Do you have access to the population or topic that you want to study? Finally, are you passionate about your subject, such that you can devote time and energy to the process of writing the thesis? A successful writing process culminates in a meaningful, academic thesis.