Writing a PhD Thesis: Tips for Getting High Grades

Writing GuidesThesis
Apr 12, 2019

Not all students choose to take doctoral studies. Those who do often find writing a PhD thesis as the most challenging task of all. This is not surprising. After all, a PhD thesis is the single most important work you will produce as a doctoral student. But producing a thesis doesn’t have to be confusing and exhausting. Writing a thesis for a PhD degree can be more manageable by following these thesis writing tips.

Basic Tips for Writing a PhD thesis

Learning how to write a thesis is difficult. Follow these reliable thesis writing guides to ensure the highest grades.

Start early

Thesis writing is a long research process . It involves a lot of researching, reading, analyzing, writing, and repeated revising. Such a project usually spans weeks to months. It is thus important for you to begin as early as possible. Rushing a thesis at the last minute will result in poor work that your professor will reject. That said, make sure you also take the time to rest. Forcing yourself to work on your thesis at every given moment may result in exhaustion. Being burnt out, in turn, will only impede your productivity. If possible, create a timeline so that you can check your progress.

Choose a thesis topic you’re interested in

Once you’re ready to do a thesis, you will need to choose a topic or research question. While there are many different topics that you can focus on, it’s best if you choose one that you’re interested in. Having a genuine interest in the topic will help you carry on. Your interest will likewise motivate you when you feel frustrated. Being interested also means that you already have some knowledge on the topic. This will help make the process easier and more engaging for you.

Cultivate good relations with your supervisor

One of the less followed tips is working closely with the supervisor. Your supervisor is there to guide you in writing your doctorate thesis. While you will still do most of the work, your supervisor can provide crucial insight. Having good relations with your supervisor is essential. You and your professor should have good communication channels. Provide regular updates. Show respect even when you disagree.

Write the introduction later

Some professors ask you to write the thesis in the same order that the sections appear. For example, you might be asked to turn in the introduction first, followed by the others. If this is not the case, skip writing the introduction. You may feel unsure how to begin your thesis, especially if the topic’s bigger picture is not yet clear to you. Don’t waste time trying to write an appropriate beginning. Begin on the literature review instead. Researching and reading about your topic will give you a better idea.

Use high-quality sources

Knowledge on the topic serves as the foundation of a good thesis. So make sure that you use high-quality sources throughout the writing process. Relying on poor-quality sources will only result in a thesis with a weak foundation. Apply your research skills to find the most relevant sources. Use academic sources such as peer-reviewed journal articles and the works of experts in the field. While you’re encouraged to gather recent sources, make sure you include seminal works. Basic tips for writing PhD thesis

The Structure of a PhD Thesis

The structure of the thesis varies. It depends on the specific needs of you project or the specifications of your course. The basic structure features the following major sections.

Thesis Title Page

The title page, or cover page, is the first page of your work. Your school will likely provide you with a template to follow. The title page usually includes the full title, your name, school’s name, college or department, date, and adviser among others.


The abstract is a summary of your thesis. It provides an overview of what your thesis is about (i.e. the research question you’re answering). It also states the thesis's goals and purposes as well as why it’s important. The abstract also includes the methods you used, the findings, and your conclusions generated by analysis of the data. This part needs to be clear and concise. While the prescribed length varies, the abstract is usually between 150 and 250 words. As this is the summary of your work, the abstract is often written last.

Table of Contents

The table of contents lists the main sections of the thesis and subsections. Their corresponding page numbers are also included.


The PhD thesis introduction is the first section of the main body. It usually covers chapter one. This section introduces your research as well as the specific research question. The introduction provides context for your research. That is, it provides adequate background about the topic chosen. This section also discusses why you conducted the research in the first place, why it is significant, and what you hope to do. This section also usually includes the hypothesis. The introduction also offers an overview of the other chapters. As stated earlier, the introduction doesn’t have to be written first. But once it gets written, it should be clear, well-grounded, and interesting.

Literature Review

The literature review features a summary of the main perspectives on the topic. It also talks about more recent findings and any theoretical underpinnings. Note that the literature review should not just describe what you read. It should synthesize the literature. Identify common themes from your sources. Note any agreements or disagreements. State gaps in the knowledge presented by the sources. A thesis needs to be based on a comprehensive literature review. This is because it provides you with an overview of what is known about your topic. This, in turn, serves as your springboard for conducting your own research. For example, your review shows that the literature has not yet addressed a particular question. Thus, you may choose to conduct scientific research in the thesis to close this gap. You will not be able to include all the literature that relates to your topic. So you need to know which should be included and which can be left out by setting criteria. If you are not sure how to go about this, you may ask for the guidance of your supervisor. You may likewise seek help from those who can provide Ph.D. thesis help.


The next major section is the methodology and this often covers chapter three of the thesis. This section describes the methods that you used in conducting the research. These include the data collection methods, rationale for choosing these procedures or techniques, any exclusion and inclusion criteria, and how the data was analyzed to generate findings and conclusions. The methodology is an important part of the thesis. It details how you gathered and analyzed data. It also allows the reader to evaluate your methods for reliability and validity. This section also enables your readers to replicate your methods in future research.


The methodology section is usually followed by the results section. In this part of the thesis, you present the actual results of your analysis. Note that this section should not yet feature any interpretation of the results. It should focus on providing results in an objective manner. It is important to note that only relevant results should be included. Remaining objective is also necessary. This means that negative results should be included along with positive results. Results can often generate a lot of information that can get confusing. Avoid confusion by using tables and graphs, such as in cases where statistical analysis is used.


The discussion section is sometimes combined with the results section. But there are also times when it is separated. This section is where you describe the significance of your findings. This is done by interpreting your results. The discussion will also discuss whether your findings prove or disprove your hypothesis. This section includes limitations of your study as well as any suggestions for further research.


The conclusion is the final part of the thesis’s main body. This section usually features a summary of your thesis. But more than reviewing the thesis, the conclusion also includes a discussion of the implications. For instance, this section may include the findings’ significance.


The appendices comprise materials that are not essential to the main body of the thesis. Such materials are included if they can provide a better understanding of the research. For instance, sources that are not available may be included in this section to make them available to your reader. Other materials such as raw data and questionnaires can also be included in this section. Structure of a PhD thesis

Writing Style

Because a doctorate thesis is an academic work, it should be written in formal language . This means that you should avoid using informal languages like slang and contractions. Include these only if they are essential to your thesis, such as when quoting direct statements from participants. But using formal language does not mean using complicated language. Keep your language as simple as much as possible. Simplicity allows for better accessibility and comprehension for your reader. Use accurate and precise language because these will help you write a concise thesis. As for the point of view, the prevailing standard is to use the third person. The use of the first person has been gaining wider acceptance lately. If you’re unsure which point of view to use, it’s better to ask your supervisor or professor before you start a thesis.

Role of  Academic Supervisor

The academic supervisor, also known as the adviser, is the person who acts as your guide as you write a PhD thesis . Your supervisor will point you to the right sources. He or she will also offer suggestions for how you should approach your thesis. The supervisor will answer your questions. Once you submit your work, he or she will critique your output. Note, though, that your supervisor is only there to help you; you’re still the one who will write a thesis and complete it. Do not expect your supervisor to always be there for you. Make sure that you communicate and provide updates on your progress. This is to maximize the benefits of having a supervisor.

Formatting and Templates

Formatting should also be consistent with prevailing academic standards. The format usually depends on the citation style prescribed. Some of the more common styles are APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard . Note that the style does not only apply to in-text citations, full citations, and footnotes. There are also guidelines for spacing, labeling tables, and graphs, and writing headings and subheadings. There are instances where your school provides a template for you to follow. If this is the case, then use the template to ensure that your thesis follows the correct formatting.

Proofreading and Language Editing

The thesis should undergo a series of revisions and final proofreading before submission. There is a number of reasons why editing and proofreading are essential . These will encourage concise writing by removing repetitions and irrelevant parts. Revising also helps you clarify any ambiguous parts. Remember, your thesis needs to be accurate, precise, and understandable. Proofreading also weeds out any grammatical and typographical errors. A doctorate thesis is an advanced piece of academic work. It should thus be polished and contain no errors.


Writing a PhD thesis is the single most challenging task you will do as a student. But while difficult, you can excel in this by following these tips. Familiarize yourself with the structure of a thesis. Start early and pay attention to other aspects such as formatting. Collaborate with your supervisor. Do these and secure high grades.

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