PhD thesis
Graduate Career: PhD Studies and PhD Thesis

PhD Thesis: Content and Structure
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A PhD thesis is a research manuscript designed to describe acquisition of and disseminate new knowledge necessary to establish the corresponding graduate career. The author must demonstrate understanding of the current state, strengths and weaknesses of the field(s) of science, engineering or technology addressed in the PhD thesis. In a PhD study described in the PhD thesis the autor has to formulate and address one or more of problems or hypotheses in the field(s) addressed by the PhD study, suggest a systematic method, methodology or approach to solving these problems or evaluating the hypotheses, and demonstrate that the chosen approach(es) is appropriate, necessary and sufficient to provide the desirable solution(s) or evaluation(s) with some expected accuracy. 

Novelty and timeliness of the knowledge gained by the author in the process of the PhD study has to be confirmed by analysis of and comparison with the existing scientific, engineering and/or technological approaches, theories, methods, facts, data and findings. Originality, novelty, the development of new ideas, approaches, insights and understanding are the most important features of a PhD study. Publication and conference presentation of research papers, books, abstracts, texts, etc. in professional media demonstrate novelty and originality of the PhD study and its results described by the PhD thesis, and thus is highly desirable. It also simplifies the defense process.

The structure of a PhD thesis is similar to that of a research manuscript and closely resembles that of a book. Chapters of the PhD thesis have to be well organized and written in a fashion designed to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the research field by the author. Introduction, Background and Related Work chapters have to contain a description of the current state of the PhD study field(s) and critical analysis of knowledge and data available in professional literature. It is very important to include into this analysis the major publications in the field and cite them in Bibliography chapter in the end of the PhD thesis. Relevance and importance of the research of the author have to be supported by these analysis and citations. The PhD study itself and its results are detailed in several chapters (Methods, Results, etc.) of the PhD thesis. The author’s contributions have to be clearly stated in Abstract, Introduction, addressed in Critical Assessment (of the completed work) chapters and  re-stated in Summary section, as well as detailed in chapters describing Methods and Results of the PhD study. Appendix or Appendices in the end of the PhD thesis may include additional information (such as raw data sets, figures, detailed proofs of theorems, etc.) that would take too much space in the text itself. Supervision of senior scientists and collaboration with colleagues should be acknowledged in Introduction, and also in Acknowledgements section.

A typical size of a PhD thesis is about 150 pages. Additional pages (up to 50) may be used for Appendices and Bibliography.

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A typical Table of Contents of a PhD thesis


1. Introduction

should include (i) a description of the current state of field(s) of research addressed in the PhD study, (ii) outline the structure of the PhD thesis, and (iii) clearly state contributions of the autor to the PhD study field(s).

2. Background
should demonstrate wider understanding and contain critical analysis of the research field(s) of the PhD study, brief history of the problem(s) addressed, describe motivation of the author and the type (scientific, engineering, technological, methodological, experimental, theoretical, computational, interdisciplinary or not) of the PhD study.

3. Related Work
should include survey of the existing literature, approaches, methods, theories, facts, data and findings in the field(s) of the PhD study, critical assessment of those field(s) focusing on problems that have to be addressed, and demonstrate relation to the PhD study.

4, 5, 6. Method(s) and Results
chapters should contain a description of the PhD study work and its progress, its analysis, related design work (if any), and interpretation and implementation (if any) of the obtained results.

7. Critical Assessment of the Completed Research
should re-state chosen hypothesis, methods and approaches, emphasize novelty, value and importance of contributions to the field(s) achieved by the PhD thesis author, and underline thoroughness and accuracy of the results in the context of the existing state of the field(s) of research addressed in the PhD study.

8. Future Work
should describe projects of future research based on the achieved PhD study results, and the contemplated benefits to the wide circle of research fields in science, engineering and technology

9. Summary
should re-state contributions of the PhD study to the field(s) of research addressed in the PhD thesis, and an impact of the PhD study results on related fields of science, engineering and technology.

contain a short paragraph acknowledging help and advice of the supervisor(s), colleagues and sponsors that contributed to a success of the PhD study.

Appendix (or Appendices)
may contain supporting information, such as detailed proofs of theorems, raw experimental or computational data lists, table and figures discussed in the PhD thesis text.

contains numbered literature citations in the order corresponding to their first appearance in the PhD thesis.

A PhD thesis is not: 

a diary of completed PhD studies,
a collection of papers or publications describing PhD studies,
a term paper, or
an individual work completed without any collaboration.

For more information, contact us today (free initial consultation) or follow the links below.

•   Writing a research manuscript
•   30 simple writing rules

•   Writing a research manuscript: common errors
•   The Structure of a research manuscript