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How to organise your thesis or paper logically

Something that perhaps might be giving you real headaches when it comes to academic writing is how to appropriately organize your thesis or your paper. That’s why in this video I wanted to go through the necessary sections, or chapters if you’re writing a thesis, that you definitely MUST include regardless of the field that you’re in.

So even if your English is already very good, you’re not going to write a good thesis or a paper without the necessary structure and organization. By understanding which sections or chapters every thesis or every paper needs to contain, you will also be better able to structure your thoughts and write that thesis or paper much more quickly, because you will have a framework that you can follow and refer to.

Section 1: Introduction

So the first section of a paper or thesis is always the introduction. In in the introduction you want to provide us some background and some context, and explain the importance of the study. That would usually be the first element.

And then you also definitely need to present the research gap and also state the aim. That would be the last section of your introduction. Afterwards, you’re going to move on to the literature review.

Now a quick side note here.

Sometimes the literature review will be just one section, and sometimes it can be two separate sections. This really depends on the field that you’re in or on the preferences of a particular journal, or your supervisor. And no way is better or worse than the other. They are just simply different.

So always check in that journal you’re writing for or in your department what you should do: whether literature review and introduction should be two separate sections, or if they should be together.

Section 2: Literature Review

Now it is also possible to divide your literature review into separate chapters, so you might find that some people for example have two three or maybe even four shorter literature review chapters. That’s perfectly possible as well. Or you might have one bigger chapter with all of the literature reviewed.

If you want a step-by-step guide to writing a great literature review FAST, watch this video.

Section 3: Methodology

Once you review the literature, we’re getting into the methodology section. In the methodology section you basically need to tell us how your study was conducted. In other words, you need to tell us step by step what you did in your study.

I’m emphasizing the past tense because this section will be written in the past tense.

What are some of the typical elements in a methodology section?

  1. Well, first of all, you need to tell us who or what you studied. In other words, you need to present the sample or the materials that you studied in your study.
  2. Then you need to also present the research tools or the things that you used in order to conduct your study.
  3. You also need to present the research procedures, so step by step how your study was conducted.
  4. Finally, you need to give us a presentation of how you analysed your data.

Results and discussion: one or two sections?

Once you’ve presented the methodology, we’re getting into the results and discussion. Similarly to introduction and literature review, they can be two separate sections: so first you’ve got a results chapter or section and then you’ve got discussion chapter or section. Or they can be together as results and discussion. And this really depends. No one is better than the other. They’re just different ways of doing exactly the same thing.

Section 4: Results

And when it comes to results, you basically need to clearly present what results you obtained. So you might need to use figures or tables especially if you’re doing more quantitative studies.

If you’re doing something that’s more qualitative, then you need to present extracts from what the participants said. So you need to present us the exact words of the participants to show us what results you’re obtaining.

Section 5: Discussion

Now, when it comes to discussing those results, first of all you want to compare your results with those obtained in previous studies. So you want to show similarities and then show differences between yours and previous results.

The second thing that you really need to do is explain and interpret your results. So you basically want to tell us what you think these results mean, what they suggest, what they imply, what practical implications they have.

Section 6: Conclusion

Finally, the last section would be the conclusion section. Sometimes in papers conclusion and discussion would be put together, so you want to check if in your field this is done as well.

But in the conclusion section you basically need to:

  • restate the main aim
  • highlight the main result of your paper
  • state practical implications (if applicable)
  • point out the limitations of your study.

The last point is really important because you need to show us that you’re being critical of your own work and you understand that your own work also has limitations, which then lead us obviously to:

  • suggestions for future research.

And this is very often the last paragraph in the conclusion.

So to wrap up, the necessary elements that you need to include in your paper or thesis are:

  1. introduction
  2. literature review
  3. methodology
  4. results
  5. discussion
  6. and conclusion.

As I said, some of these elements can go together or separately. This really depends on the field, but if you follow this framework you will write your paper or theses much more quickly. And your writing will also be much easier to follow, it will be organized much more coherently.

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