How to organize your thesis or how long should a thesis be?

This text describes how to organize the written thesis document, which is the central element of your graduate degree. In order to organize the thesis document, you must first understand what the postgraduate research is about. Therefore, this document will be useful both when starting your graduate program, and when you start writing your thesis.

What is the Postgraduate Research?

The postgraduate research is intended to make an original contribution to knowledge. How long should a thesis statement be? The thesis is a formal document whose sole purpose is to show the contribution made. Failure to show the contribution made implies failure to defend the proposed thesis.

The thesis should show two things:

  • That a problem has been identified that is worthwhile, or a question that has not yet been answered, and that the problem has been resolved or the question answered.

  • The contribution to knowledge is usually in the solution to the problem or in the answer to the question.

What is a Postgraduate Thesis?

Since the purpose of the postgraduate thesis is to demonstrate that you have made an original and useful contribution to knowledge, the examiners who read your thesis will try to find answers to the following questions:

Asking the question clearly is essential to prove that a contribution has been made to the knowledge that is original and valid. To prove the originality and value of the contribution, a thorough review of the literature on the subject and on closely related topics should be presented. Then, making a direct reference to his review of the literature, it must be shown that question (a) has not been previously answered, and (b) is valid. Describing how the question was answered is the easiest thing to write, since one has been involved in the details in the course of graduate work.

How long is a thesis statement? If the thesis does not provide adequate answers to the questions mentioned, you should probably make important revisions or even fail in the defense of your thesis. For this reason we will present a generic thesis skeleton, designed to answer our questions by means of a good organization and titles of appropriate sections. The thesis skeleton is generic (it can be used for any thesis). Some teachers may prefer another organization, but the essential elements in any thesis are the same

Do not forget that a thesis is a formal document: each element must be in the proper place, and the repetition of material must be eliminated.

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How long can a thesis statement be: Thesis Skeleton

1. Introduction

It should include a general introduction to what the thesis is about – it is not just a description of the content of each section. Briefly summarize the question (which will be detailed later), describe some of the reasons why it is a worthwhile question, and include a global assessment of its main results. The introduction is a panoramic view about the answers to the main questions answered in the thesis.

2. Background (optional)

It may be necessary to include a brief section giving background information, especially if the work covers two or more fields. In this case readers may not have experience with some basic topics that may be necessary to understand their thesis. A different title must be used.

3. Description of News

How long does a thesis statement have to be? In this section recent developments related to the area of ​​the thesis should be included. Again, a descriptive title should be used. The idea is to present the main existing ideas (a critical analysis of them will be made later), without including material about their own ideas.

4. Research Questions or Problem Statement

Engineering theses usually refer to a “problem” to be solved, while other disciplines consider a “question” to be answered. In both cases, this section should include three main parts:

  • a concise statement of the question attacked by the thesis

  • a justification that your question has not been answered previously, making direct reference to section 3

  • a discussion about why it is worth answering this question.

5. Describe How the Problem Was Solved or the Question Answered

This section of the thesis is much freer. It may have one or several sections and subdivisions, but it has only one purpose: to convince the reviewers that the question could be answered or solve the problem posed in Section 4. Therefore, it must be shown that what was done was relevant to answer the question or solve the problem: if there were dark alleys or dead ends, do not include them, unless they are related to showing that the thesis question was answered.

6. Conclusions

Generally, the Conclusions section covers three parts, each of which merits a separate subdivision:

  • Conclusions

  • Summary of Contributions

  • Future Research

The conclusions are not an overloaded summary of the thesis: they are short and concise statements of the inferences that have been obtained thanks to the work done. It is usually good to organize them in the form of numbered short paragraphs, sorted from largest to smallest in importance.

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The Future Research subsection is included so that other researchers in the future can benefit from ideas generated while working on the project. Again, it is good to use numbered concise paragraphs.

7. References

The list of references is closely linked to the revision of the novelties. Most examiners review their list of references looking for the most important works in the subject. The truth be told, most examiners look for their own publications if they are in the subject area of ​​the thesis, therefore, include them. In addition, reading the articles written by the examiners will give you a clue about the type of questions you are likely to ask.

All the references given must be referred to in the main body of the thesis. Note the difference with a Bibliography, which may include works that are not directly referred to in the thesis. Organize the list of references alphabetically by the surname of the author (preferred), or by the order of appointment in the thesis.

8. Appendices

What enters the appendices? Any material, as well as how long can a thesis be, that impedes the smooth development of the presentation, but that is important to justify the results of a thesis. It is usually material that is too meticulous to be included in the main body of the thesis, but that it must be available to be consulted by the examiners to convince them enough.

Comments about the Skeleton


The best way to start your thesis is to prepare an extensive outline of the content. You start by building a Table of Contents or General Index, in which each section and subdivision to be included is listed. In each section and subdivision, write a brief description of the contents of that section. The entire index should be 2 to 5 pages in length. You and your supervisor should review this outline carefully: is there unnecessary material (that is, not directly related to the definition of the problem)? Take it off is there a lack of material? Add it. It is less painful and more effective to make such decisions early, during the draft phase, rather than after writing a lot of material that should be discarded.

How long does it take to write a thesis and how long are thesis statements?

Even after you have finished the research – built models, full calculations – it is good to take at least a full semester to write the thesis. It is not the physical act of typing what takes so long, but the fact that writing the thesis requires organizing arguments and results. During this formalization of the results in a document capable of withstanding the scrutiny of the specialist examiners is that the weaknesses of the thesis are discovered. Fixing those weaknesses takes time.

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It is also likely to be the first time that your supervisor sees the formal expression of concepts that may have been previously accepted informally. In these moments, mistakes or limitations in informal agreements are discovered. And it takes time to fix them. Students for whom English is not their mother tongue may have difficulty communicating ideas, so numerous revisions are required. And, truth be told, supervisors sometimes delay in reviewing and returning projects.


Always keep in mind the background and profile of the reader. Who is your audience? How much is reasonable to expect him to know about the subject before reading his thesis? Normally they usually know the problem in general, but they have not been, like you, intimately involved in all the details during the last 2 years. Clearly and completely explain the new and difficult concepts. Sometimes it helps to mentally imagine a real person you know, at the appropriate level, and imagine that ideas are explained to that person.

Do not make readers work too hard! This is fundamental. You know for what few questions the examiners need answers. Choose appropriate section titles and write to give them this information clearly. The harder they have to work to find their problem, their defense of the problem, their response to the problem, their conclusions and contributions, the worse they will be, and the thesis is more likely to need revisions.

A corollary of the above: it is impossible to be too clear! Explain things carefully; highlight important parts by means of appropriate titles, etc. There is a huge amount of information in a thesis: be sure to direct readers to the answers to important questions.

Remember that a thesis is not a story: it does not usually follow the chronology of the things you tried. It is a formal document designed to answer only a few important questions.