If you are a university student, or planning for your future, you many have heard about a thesis. It can sound like a daunting word, and when looking around you will see pages upon pages of work submitted by students at university. You may have also heard of a dissertation, which has become interchanged in some places.
A thesis in the UK is an extended and long research paper based on a student’s original research and findings. It is done as part of a doctorate. It is the longest writing pieces students complete. The student will also have to demonstrate many skills, along with following a good structure.
Along with this, we will be further looking at statements and the differences between a dissertation and a thesis in the UK. If you want to know more about this, you should read on.
Table of Contents
What is a university thesis?
A university thesis is a long type of research paper that is conducted by the student. On average, it takes PhD students 3 and a half years to complete their thesis.
Within this, they will need to design and plan out their research, collect and robustly analyse their findings, from this, draw conclusions and write in a succinct way. To find out more about this, you can click on this link to the ultimate guide on theses by Scribbr.
The exact word count of a thesis will depend on what your university programmed has set out. However, they typically are between 70,000 and 100,000 words. For more on this, check out this article by Scribbr.
What is the structure of a thesis?
As mentioned above, the typical thesis has between 70,000 and 100,000 words. Due to this, it is also made up of many different sections.
The main written sections of a thesis are:
- Abstract– Here you must give a concise summary of the rest of your thesis, particularly focusing on the aims and outcomes of your thesis. To do this, you will have about 100- 300 words to give a little introduction to your thesis and then to summarise the methodology, results and discussion sections.
- Introduction– Here you must introduce what your thesis is focused on and how and why it is relevant within your wider topic area.
- Literature review– In this, you need to write about the key points and main themes that you came across within the pre-existing research in your field. In this same section, you will need to analyse and evaluate these sources.
- Methodology– The methodology includes both a detailed description about how you gathered your data and an evaluation of the methods you used and a justification as to why you used these methods.
- Results– In this, you must present your main results from when carrying out your research as well as your findings from analysing this data.
- Discussion– Here you will have to analyse and evaluate the importance and relevance of your results to your thesis and wider research area in greater depth.
- Conclusion– The idea of your thesis conclusion is that it’s where you can sum up your main findings and answer your thesis question.
To learn more about the structure of a thesis, check out this Think Student article.
How to write a thesis
One of the best ways to make writing a thesis more manageable is to break it down into specific sections. Check out the following headings to see how to write individual sections of a thesis. The following information comes from this Think Student article, which will give a more detailed explanation of writing a thesis.
How to write a thesis abstract
The abstract is a very concise summary of your thesis. Due to this, to write one, one of the best methods to use is the IMRaD structure.
This means that you will need to give a short introduction and then a brief description of the methods, results and discussion sections. You will only need to write 1 to 3 sentences for each.
How to write a thesis introduction
In the introduction, you will first need to set the scene by talking more broadly about your research area. Then you can zone in on your specific thesis and explain how your research will contribute to what already exists.
You will also need to mention and explain your research aims and hypotheses. As well as this, you will need to give an overview on what your following chapters will cover.
How to write a thesis literature review
In your literature review, you will summarise the key points, concepts and theories across the sources you have looked at to create an overview of the pre-existing research.
Next, you will need to analyse and evaluate these concepts and theories as well as any areas of debate. Then you will need to link this back to your own thesis and identify any gaps that you intend to fill with your research.
How to write a thesis methodology
First, restate your thesis and explain your research approach. This may be qualitative, quantitative or blended.
Then you will need to describe your methods for data collection and analysis. You will also need to explain these and justify why you didn’t use an alternative method.
As part of your methodology, you need to highlight any problems you came across when carrying out your research and explain how you were able to resolve them.
How to write up thesis results
In the results section, you will need to present your results in a detailed and organised way. How you do so will depend on your research approach.
For qualitative results, you will need to identify and comment on the themes within your data and present this alongside extracts of the raw data itself.
For quantitative results, you may instead opt to use graphs, charts or tables to present your finding and then explain the significance of these.
Remember that the commentary shouldn’t be too in depth as this will be done in greater detail in the discussion section.
How to write a thesis discussion
For the discussion, you need to give a summary of your results then explain what it means. You also need to identify patterns and anomalies within your data and explain if these fit in with your hypotheses or not.
Then contextualise your findings into the wider debates in your field and explain what impact your research has on these.
You must also consider the limitations of your own work, such as methodological ones, e.g., sample size. Finally, consider future research and the gaps in research that still need to be filled.
How to write a thesis conclusion
For your conclusion, you need to make sure that you are answering your thesis. To do this, you need to include several elements.
First, you need a summary about the main points of your research and then your own deductions and conclusions from these. Then you need to consider future research and make recommendations and predictions for what this might include.
Also, you need to explain how your work has made an impact on both the pre-existing research you looked at and future research.
How to access past theses
When writing your own thesis, one of the best things you can do is look at other people’s. This is because looking at other theses can help you to better understand how to write them and how each section can fit together.
Your university may allow you to access past thesis. This can be a fantastic way to learn from others about the best way to write a thesis.
To learn more, you should refer to your university’s website. For example, on the University of Birmingham’s website it allows you to view a library of past theses. You can find this by clicking here.
What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?
The two terms both seem similar, but the difference comes depending on the region its being said from. In the UK, a dissertation is to complete an undergraduate or master’s degree. The thesis is used to complete a PhD and gain a doctorate.
In the US, it is the other way round. A thesis is written at the end of a bachelors or master’s degree, while a dissertation is used to complete a PhD.
As a result, both terms have been interchanged, and you may find it confusing.
What is a dissertation in the UK?
A dissertation is a research project that is completed by an undergraduate, or master’s degree students. The research can be done through investigative methods, or experience in the lab. The project is usually based around a question, argument or theme that will need to be answered, or argued for as part of the extended academic report.
To find out more about dissertations and their differences to theses, you can click on this link to a Think Student article.