The Final Chapters of your Thesis

At this stage, you have already collected as much data as you can and are ready to process and analyze such a huge amount of information. However, expect a lot of changes in your process, methods and chapters. These changes can come from your research adviser, too.

The first step you need to do is to revisit the first three chapters of your thesis. Here, you would need to make the necessary corrections to some of the sections presented during the proposal stage. For example, you might have to fine-tune your research questions and objectives based on the data you have gathered or what you have found during the research process. The Scope and Limitations of the Study section in Chapter 1 would now have to be included in Chapter 3. Another section, Organization of the Study, must be added in Chapter 1.

Check the figure below for the main parts of a thesis. Variations from the general format can be decided with your adviser.

Figure 1: Main parts of a thesis or dissertation

Components Verb Tense
Title page
Acknowledgments simple present and past
Abstract simple present and past
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
List of Tables and Figures
Introduction Chapter I simple present and past
Literature Review Chapter II present but mostly past
Methodology Chapter III mostly simple past
Results and Discussion can be divided into several chapters with different chapter titles simple present, past and present perfect
Conclusion and Recommendations last chapter of the thesis simple present and present perfect
References Follow the APA style guides.
Appendices

Results and Discussion

If this chapter is generally brief, presenting the results, and explaining and interpreting them can be combined in one chapter. Otherwise, the Results and Discussion section should be in separate or defined sections or chapters. Start with a brief introduction of this chapter.

Results: answers to the research questions which are generated from the collected data. In this section, evidence is presented through graphical and/or textual form organized in sub-sections. Your opinion should not be included when presenting the results.

Descriptive or frequency statistical results of all variables must be reported first before specific statistical tests (e.g., regression analysis). For instance, the profile of participants or respondents, or characteristics of the sample is presented first if available. Results from a regression and/or correlation analysis are presented after all the descriptive and frequencies for all variables, or summaries of the data set have been presented.

Specific quotes from interviews must be presented under a specific theme or sub-theme in the same way results from focus group discussions are reported. When reporting results from observations, present the conversation, behavior or condition you have noticed first. Then, write your comments.

Discussion: explains the meaning of the results presented in specific sections and links them to previous research studies. It explains why the findings are weak, strong or significant, and their limitations. A further review of the literature might be required to enhance the discussion of results.
End each chapter with a summary.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Introduce this chapter. First, refer back to the problem or topic that you have presented in Chapter 1 and what you hoped to achieve at the beginning of the research. The research questions you tried to answer must also be reviewed in this chapter as well as your hypotheses, if applicable. It is important to also reexamine the methodology followed in the research and show how the objectives were achieved (or were not achieved) with the application of different methods and techniques.

As suggested by Hopkins and Dudley-Evans (1988), six possible components can be included in the concluding chapter of quantitative dissertations: “statement of hypothesis (or purpose), summary of main points / findings (whether they support the hypothesis; whether they align with, or differ from, other researchers’ findings), possible explanations for the findings and/or speculations about them, limitations of the study, implications of your findings, recommendations for future research, action or policy changes, and practical applications.”

End this chapter with some reflections and final words.

Abstract

When all the chapters have been finalized, you are now ready to prepare the abstract. It is written in the form of a summary, describing briefly the research problem, the aims of the research, the methods used to achieve them, and the main findings and conclusions. Although the abstract is very short (approximately 1-2 paragraphs), it can be considered as the most significant part of your thesis or dissertation. The abstract provides a general impression of what your research is about, and allows other researchers to have a broad understanding of your work. When applying for conferences, your abstract is assessed by an organizing committee for relevance and quality. Make sure to create an impact—write an impressive abstract.