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How to write a thesis for a PhD

“If a man will begin with certainties, he will end up in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties” – Fracis Bacow(1561-1626) “Advancement of Learning”

A Thesis is a written essay or treatise that is prepared as a requirement for the award of a Master’s Degree usually done on a particular subject in which one has done original research. – (

A Dissertation is a written essay, treatise or thesis that is prepared as requirement for the award of a Doctoral degree (Ph.D.). Dissertations demonstrate your ability to build theory, test ideas and/or discover new knowledge – (Kerhner, Charles.T.1994)

Thesis for the Ph.D. must form a distinctive contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality shown by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power.

Research, an academic activity, a sort of formal training which enables you understand the new developments in your field in a better way.

The research process is recursive, meaning that the researcher regularly visits ideas, seeks new information when necessary and reconsiders and refines the research question, topic or approach. In other words, research almost always involves constant reflection and revision.

The essence of dissertation (thesis) is critical thinking not experimental data. Analysis and concepts form the heart of the work. A dissertation (thesis) concentrates on principles: it states the lessons learned, and not merely the facts behind them.

Knowledge Vs Data

The facts that result from an experiment are called “data”. The term “Knowledge” implies that the facts have been analyzed, condensed or combined with facts from other experiments to produce useful information.

What’s a Great Ph.D. Dissertation (Thesis)?

Source: Carnegie Mellon

ONE THAT KICKS THE DOOR OPEN FOR ANOTHER 3-4 FUTURE DISSERTATIONS / Means that you started an area of work or a line of thought that opens many more lines of thought HIGH – IMPACT, i.e. “LOOK, Ma, I…”

  • Have left my mark behind in my field
  • Fundamentally changed the way that something is done today
  • Introduced a new concept that can be “mixed” by others in the future
  • Solved a problem that has plagued the field for years
  • Eliminated a fundamental assumption that has been made in the field
  • Provided strong empirical evidence that the field has been lacking
  • Will continue to influence the field and be cited by others

ACCESSIBLE TO OTHERS IN COMPUTER SCIENCE / ENGINEERING / It’s great if you have a wonderful theory / system but what if no-one except (You your advisor) understands it?

Thesis – the Skeleton
Title (and title page) - Conveys message
Abstract - For the librarian
Content Listing - Shows right things are there
Acknowledgements - Get your supervisor on your side
Introduction - Says – “I am going to look at the following things”
Review of Previous work - Show you know the subject
Philosophy of Approach - Show you can pick out important ideas succinctly
Plan of Attack - Show you approached the problem in a systematic way
Description of the work - Details, so that others can follow what you did
Critical Analysis of the work - Show you know the limitations
Future work - Show you know what is missing
Conclusions - Repetition of the intro. But with reference to detail
References - Cover the field, examiners will look for the key references
Appendices - Nitty Gritty details that would clutter your eloquent description
Thesis – an academic style of writing a draft

The arguments have to flow smoothly into one another and they should all relate back to the central thesis of the paper. Let, in each paragraph you amplify upon your primary claim.

What do you wish to do, Persuade, Inquire or Negotiate?


means you wish to convince the reader that your position is valid and, perhaps, to ask the reader to take action.


is an explanatory approach to a problem in which you examine the issues without the insistence of persuation.


is a search for a solution, the attempt to resolve a conflict by inventing options or a mediated solution.

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement expresses a theory that you hope to support with your evidence and arguments. It performs three tasks:

Set the argument to control and focus the entire paper

Provide unity and a sense of direction

Specify to the reader the point of the research

Be Practical

Write what you know and feel, not what you think somebody wants to hear

Pause now and then to rethink the direction of the paper

Write portions of the paper when you are ready if necessary, leave

Blank spots on the page to remind you that more evidence will be required

Be Uninhibited

Initial drafts are attempts to get words on the page rather than to create a polished document, write without fear or delay.

Be Conscientious about references

Click the names of the sources in your text

Enclose quotations in the text

Supply page numbers to the sources

Thesis Proposal

A statement of

  • the problem to be studied
  • previous work on the problem
  • the software requirements
  • the goals of the study
  • an outline of the proposed work with a set of milestones
  • a bibliography
Thesis – [drafting]
  • Chapter 1 – Introduction
    • A statement of the problem
    • Definition of terms
    • Review of literature
    • Description of the remaining chapters
  • Chapter 2 – Methods Used
    • Requirements and specifications
    • Algorithms and data structures
  • Chapter 3 through N (the middle chapters depend on your particular project)
  • Chapter N – Conclusions
    • Statement of your results
    • Statement of problems left unsolved
  • Appendix A – User’s Manual
  • Appendix B – Maintenance Manual
  • Appendix C – Design Documents
  • Appendix D – Source Code
  • Appendix E – Tool Suite

The completed thesis includes a title page, signature page, abstract, and bibliography. Follow the margin and format requirements exactly.

“Thesis” on Computer Science [common format]

Intro. the topic thesis

Focusing the task

State the usefulness and aim of study

Stating the initial point

State previously developed methods in the research area

Which condition (for execution: hardware and software among others) are present?

Develop a solution model

Critical assessment of the literature: What is possible?

Stating from the previous item: Development of solution concept

Solution concept realization: Comparing the alternatives

How Solution concept would be executed?

Tool section

Documentation of important design decisions

Critical assessment of the implementation



Thesis – [drafting]
Title page
  • – gives readers the first impression of the thesis.
  • It includes the names of the author, the thesis and the organization. The name of the thesis is very important: based on the name the reader decides whether they are interested in the work or not.
  • It has to be informative and tight as well as in tune with the definitions and focuses of the content. The nature of a thesis can be made more explicit with a extension in the name. Naturally, the name must contain the central keywords.
  • summarizes shortly but accurately the essential part of the thesis, its research methods, purpose and findings.
  • The aim of the abstract is to give the reader a more specific idea of thesis’s context.
  • The abstract consists of two parts: bibliographical information and the main abstract. The bibliographical information includes the author’s info; the title, place and number of pages in the research report; the type of the thesis and the name of the supervisor. The type of the thesis refers to whether the research report is for example a bachelor’s or master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation.
  • The abstract explains the purpose and subject of the research, research methods used as well as the findings and conclusions.
  • Its brief – accurate – independently understood – consistent – and written in complete sentences. The language should be based on the terminology used in the research. The style should be declaratory and written in past tense. No tables, figures, unestablished abbreviations, and references should be used.
  • Three to seven keywords describing the research subject should be written after the abstract. The whole abstract must fit on one page and its length is about 250 words.
Conclusion of a Thesis in 3 moves
Move 1
Making a generalization - by reviewing the argument and presenting the findings of the paper
by coming to a firm judgement about the findings
Move 2
Drawing Implications - by pointing out implications, consequences, effects of the findings
Move 3
Looking to the future - by predicting about, what will happen in the future as the result of the finding (if they are true) or
by recommending direction for future research or recommending future action

Besides the 3 moves, the thesis conclusion covers the following areas:
Shortcomings, Benefits, Advantages, Applications of the current Research and Recommendations.

The Thesis – Wrapping up
Future Work
  • Don’t view this necessarily as a list of the limitations of your thesis
  • Think of what you would do if you had an extra year in our Ph.D.
  • Don’t worry – this is not for your advisor to hold your feet to the fire
  • Think of 2-3 other follow -on Ph.D thesis that you can envision
  • Be reflective and honest
  • What were the lessons learned?
  • What were the over all insights?
  • Did you solve the problem completely? How much progress have we made in your field because of your work?
  • Don’t bore the reader with cut-and-paste of your introduction chapter

Final Thoughts…
from – S-Logix, Ph.D. Consultancy
(for direction and support)

Given the rigor and the intricacies involved in the study, coupled with requirement of cross functional knowledge it becomes difficult for a candidate to conduct research and analyze the results and hence the complex process of thesis writing. The complete process of working for the doctoral degree is abound with complexities and quandaries.

But… “believe in yourself”

You are in some of the best universities in the world

Make full use of the opportunities at your University

Don’t be intimidated – every professor was once a student, too

Look around and abreast – Get to know people / Professionals

Learn atleast one new thing everyday. That’s atleast 365 more new things you will know every year!

Be aggressive – What do you have to lose? Nothing ! Is your thesis murky is your mind?

Take the first step… Take them today !

Write down a tentative thesis title today !

All of this will change, but do it today so that you have something inspirational to start changing. Also, great for sporting a smile on your face years from now.

Parting thoughts – to mull ever…

Please revisit them after you complete writing a thesis

“A man may write anytime, if he will Set himself doggedly to it” – Samuel Johnson

“Keep right on to the end of the road” – Harry Lander

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes” – Emily Dickinson


Consult… Construct… Compete.


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