- Study at Deakin
- Campus life
- Industry and community
- About Deakin
The term thesis has two related meanings: an extended piece of argumentative writing, presenting the results of research, and a position you wish to argue, sometimes called the thesis statement or claim. Every thesis must contain at least one thesis!
The thesis, or rather a good thesis, is not simply a description of the research process or the events under scrutiny but a highly structured and coherent body of prose which systematically relates theory and evidence. This claim ... is not intended as a definition of the thesis but rather as one of its key attributes ... the thesis has and should have other qualities, such as originality, a demonstrated grasp of the 'state of the art' and a contribution to knowledge in a particular field, but it is the task of systematically relating theory and evidence which represents the stumbling block for most students....
(Lewins 1990, p. 1).
As Phillips and Pugh (1987, p. 38) point out, a doctoral or masters thesis must argue a statement of claim - 'a coherent thrust that pushes along an argument, an explanation, a systematic set of inferences derived from new data or new ways of viewing current data'. If your argument has a number of sub-arguments, you must relate them to each other to maintain the general thrust of your argument. They must all add up to a coherent argument as this is one of the main criteria by which your thesis document will be judged.
Traditionally, a thesis was a long written document in hard copy, following the academic conventions which are discussed here. More recently, however, various other forms have become part of the postgraduate arena, such as the exegesis or electronic texts. For guidance on these forms you should consult your supervisor, and always look at previous theses produced in your area.
The Library has a special collection at the Waterfront campus, Geelong, and can help you find theses in your discipline within Deakin. The Library page on research support also provides links to theses and dissertations which allows you to search for samples of theses from universities around Australia. You should always seek further guidance about the requirements of your discipline from your supervisor, your Faculty HDR coordinator and your Faculty Research web pages.
The Guide to candidature outlines the following thesis elements which are required by the university:
However there are other sections which may conventionally be found in a thesis within the preliminary material, the substantive material and the final sections.
This includes the title of the thesis, the full name of the author and previous degrees, the degree for which it is submitted, Deakin University and the month and year it was submitted.
To ensure that the material being submitted complies with plagiarism requirements, the thesis should include a signed statement that the work is your own and, where relevant, identifying any material submitted for previous qualifications.
Any library, research or financial assistance should be acknowledged here, as well as the contribution of other postgraduate students, academics, including your supervisor or supervisors, family and friends.
This is optional but it is your chance to honour an influential person in your life and work.
List chapters, sections and subheadings only.
Present a numbered list for figures, tables and illustrations.
The abstract is designed to give the reader an indication of what the thesis is about. A handy way of compiling it is to include a sentence about its aim, the questions that have been pursued and the results that have emerged from the project. This is usually 300-500 words for a PhD.
A glossary is a list of technical terms, special names and abbreviations used throughout the thesis. Inclusion of a glossary is optional.
This should mention any part of the thesis which has been previously published.
The introduction of the thesis should outline for the reader its purpose, the research questions addressed and give an overview of what to expect.
A thesis should include a discussion of the current knowledge in the field.
It should help explain how your research adds to, contradicts, or augments this existing knowledge. A separate chapter may be devoted to the literature review or it can be placed at the beginning. Alternatively, the review of the literature may take place progressively throughout the thesis.
The chapters of the thesis present the 'story' of your project. They contain the main content of your research from the beginning to its end. Chapters may cover aims, methodology, results and discussion.
The conclusion is a crucial chapter of the thesis and needs to be written to complement your introduction. This means it should restate the research questions, summarise your arguments, and state your conclusions and recommendations. It is the place to argue for the significance and originality of your work.
This is a list of sources that are not cited in the thesis but are relevant to the subject. A bibliography may or may not be included in a thesis.
The reference list comes under the title of ‘References’ and is placed at the end of your thesis. It is an alphabetical list of all sources (authors, tables, diagrams) that you have used in supporting and presenting your work. It is important that there is agreement between the in-text citation and the reference list. This means that the reference list should not contain a reference that has not been used in your thesis. The main purpose of a reference list is to show how your work has been supported by documented evidence. It is also to enable readers to locate the works mentioned if they wish to read more on a particular issue.
These are optional and are used to present extra material, which is not considered of central importance, in support of your thesis. For example, an appendix might be a list of the questions that were asked of interviewees for your project. Appendices should be numbered and you should refer to them in the body of your thesis.
Lewins, F 1993, Writing a thesis: a guide to its nature and organisation, 4th edn, Bibliotech, ANUTECH, Canberra.
Phillips, E & Pugh, D 1987, How to get a PhD: a handbook for students and their supervisors , 3rd edn, Open University Press, Buckingham.