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Thesis structures

Although there is no one standard thesis structure in use across the Faculty of Humanities. Some typical structures are given below. Structures A and B are more likely to be used in Schools where theses are based on empirical or quantitative research, eg Social Sciences. Structure C is more flexible and is more likely to be used elsewhere, eg Arts, Histories and Cultures.

The same is true of the structure of a typical academic article in the Humanities. Models D and E, below, are likely to be found in subject areas that follow thesis structures A/B and C, respectively.

Model F shows the structure of a sample PhD thesis (in Planning and Landscape) and may be considered typical in some disciplines.

Percentages in parentheses give an approximate indication of the respective volume of each section.

It should be noted, however, that many variants of these structures are possible and the structure of most theses is relatively flexible, so you must check with your supervisor to see exactly which structure is required or deemed acceptable by your School/Department. You also need to be aware that individual journals may require a structure different from the ones suggested in D and E.


  1. Introduction (10% of words or space)
  2. Literature review (20%)
  3. Methodology (20%)
  4. Results (20%)
  5. Discussion (20%)
  6. Conclusions and Recommendations (10%)
  7. References
  8. Appendices (if any)


  1. Introduction (10%)
  2. Review of background literature (20%)
  3. Design of the questionnaire and/or Methodology of the research (10%)
  4. Testing of the questionnaire or Implementation of the research (15%)
  5. Presentation and analysis of the data (15%)
  6. Evaluation or Comment and critique of the outcomes/findings (20%)
  7. Summary and Conclusion and Recommendations (10%)
  8. References
  9. Appendices (if any)


  1. Introduction (10%)
  2. Chapter 1 (20%)
  3. Chapter 2 (20%)
  4. Chapter 3 (20%)
  5. Chapter 4 (20%)
  6. Conclusion (10%)
  7. Appendices (if any)
  8. References/Bibliography

Note: The number of chapters will depend on the length of the thesis. Chapters will normally be of a similar length and will be given a title. Literature review sections may well be included in each chapter, rather than be given in a single separate section.

D) An Article  

  • Introduction and Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion and Conclusion
  • References

E) An Article 

  • Abstract
  • Introduction and Literature Review
  • Section 1
  • Section 2
  • Section 3 etc.
  • Conclusion 

Note: The number of Sections will depend on the length of the article: shorter articles may not be divided into sections at all. Section divisions may be indicated in a variety of ways, eg by Roman numerals (I, II, III etc), Headings/Sub-headings, extra space. Introductions and Conclusions might not be explicitly indicated.


  • Front matter (Lists of figures/tables/case studies, Abstract, Preface etc.)
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Literature Review, an Overview of Integrated Catchment Management
  • Chapter 3 Methodology
  • Chapter 4 Challenges of the Water Framework Directive for Participatory Planning
  • Chapter 5 Participatory Planning Methodologies and Ecologically Informed Design
  • Chapter 6 Results of the Process, Irk Valley and Moston Vale
  • Chapter 7 Analysis of Participants’ Experience
  • Chapter 8 Meeting the Challenges of the Water Framework Directive
  • Chapter 9 Discussion and Recommendations
  • Chapter 10 Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendices 1-6

Note: Each chapter is further divided into sub-sections, which are numbered and given headings.

For example:

2.2 Catchment Management
2.2.1 Historical Overview

One important factor to keep in mind when writing your thesis is that your writing needs to be as explicit as possible because your reader is unable to ask you questions about it (except of course in your viva).

Although the information below refers directly to the structures given under A, B, and D, much of it is still relevant and useful for writers using other structures.

Please remember that your School/supervisor might require a different organisation from that which is listed. Ask your supervisor to lend you a few examples of well-written theses and use them as guidance for organisation and language. Also, note that for a journal article the Literature Review is usually included in the Introduction, the Results may include the Discussion, or the Discussion may be separate and include the Conclusion.