Thesis structure

Unit 2

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should:


Activity 1

Work in pairs or small groups. Take it in turns to give a one-minute presentation that introduces you, your lab, your research field and your research topic.

Your professor may ask you to present to the whole class, so use this as an opportunity to practise.

Activity 2

Reflect on your presentation. Award yourself a grade on each of these three criteria.

# Criteria Very good Good Fair Poor Very poor
1 Content (i.e. enough details) 5 4 3 2 1
2 Fluency (i.e. no dead air) 5 4 3 2 1
3 Eye contact (i.e. looking at the audience) 5 4 3 2 1

Graduation Thesis

Activity 3

Read this section carefully so that you can answer any questions set by your professor.

Each area of computer science and engineering adopts different conventions and guidelines to follow regarding format, layout, organisation and language. The structure of your graduation thesis will depend on the type of thesis.

There are four common types of graduation thesis.

  1. practical (e.g. develop and evaluate software),
  2. experimental (e.g. hypothesis testing),
  3. theoretical (e.g. mathematical proofs) and
  4. empirical (e.g. usability studies that use observation and surveys).

The following example of the structure of a graduation thesis is given as a guide and not a prescriptive model.

Section Details
Front matter Title, author, contact detail, supervisor
Abstract Abstract
Introduction Background
  Hypothesis or research question
Method Data identification
  Data collection
  Statistical analysis
Results Most important results
  Second most important results
  Third most important results
  Summary of results
Discussion Comparison and contrast, explanations, generalizations 1
  Comparison and contrast, explanations, generalizations 2
Conclusion Summary of most important results and their related explanations and generalizations
  Future work
References Bibliography of cited works

There are several headings which are commonly used in graduation theses. This table provides some generic headings that are commonly used. However, you are recommended to refer to graduation theses of seniors in your laboratory to familiarize yourself with the headings that you are most likely to use.

IMRD structure Possible headings and subheadings
Introduction Background, Problem, Related works
Method Experiment, Instruments, Participants, Protocol, Specifications
Results Findings
Discussion Conclusion, Future work

Example graduation thesis

Activity 4

Skim read a graduation thesis. This may be one from your lab, available online or provided by your professor. Hard copies of all UoA graduation theses are available in the library and can be accessed online within the university campus via the UoA Intranet.

Focus on the headings. Do not try to understand each sentence. Identify which headings could be classified as introduction, method, results or discussion.

Activity 5

Work in pairs or small groups and compare your answers.

How do you eat an elephant?

Many students find that is is difficult to write around 2500 words, and so they delay and delay writing as long as possible. Writing a graduation thesis is like eating an elephant. They are both huge tasks. Both are difficult to do. The usual answer to the question: "How do you eat an elephant?" is "One bite at a time". The same can be said for your thesis. "How do you write your thesis?" "One word at a time".

how do you eat an elephant?

Your very first aim is simple: write just one word, and then your next aim is the second word, and so on. This course aims to help you break 2500 words into smaller managable chunks of writing. To finish 1% of your thesis, you just need to write 25 words.

Activity 6

Write answers to the questions set by your teacher. The answers will help you write the introduction to your thesis. Some possible questions are:

  1. (lab) Who is your supervisor?
  2. (research field) What is the general area of research for your lab?
  3. (importance) How can this research help people?
  4. (research topic) What is the specific area of research for your Graduation Thesis project?
  5. (rationale) Why are you interested in this? Why is this important?

Try to expand each answer by adding more information. For example, the answers to the first and third questions could be expanded like this.

Unit review

Answer these questions.

  • Can you introduce your research in detail, with no dead air and without reading your notes?
  • What is the usual order of words in this set? {discussion, method, introduction, results}
  • How many common types of graduation theses are there in this university?
  • Which type do you plan to write?
  • What headings will you use?
  • Did you start writing your thesis yet?

Find the answers to any questions that you could not answer. In some cases, you need to decide.

Motivate me

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” Zen proverb

“When writing, write. When not writing, think about writing.” Your new motto