How to Write a PhD Thesis

Writing a PhD Thesis

A PhD thesis is a concentrated piece of original research carried out by all PhD students to earn their doctoral degree. Its fundamental purpose is to explain the conclusion reached through the research project.

Here’s what you should know:


  • Briefly overview your research project’s purpose and goals.
  • Explain the structure of your thesis.

Literature Review:

  • Contextualize your research by discussing existing knowledge in your field.
  • Identify gaps in knowledge.

Main Body (Chapters of Original Work):

  • Research/Data Collection Methodologies: Describe how you conducted your research.
  • Results: Present your findings.
  • Analysis: Thoroughly analyze your results.
  • Discussion: Discuss your findings and their implications.

Your thesis must be an original contribution to your field, defending your argument and providing unique insights. The typical word count ranges from 70,000 to 100,000 words.

Common types of PhD theses

There are two main types of PhD theses:

Monograph Format:

  • A monograph thesis is a single, comprehensive document that presents all your research findings, analysis, and conclusions.
  • It follows a linear structure, with chapters covering different aspects of your research.
  • Common in fields like humanities and social sciences.
  • Advantages: Provides a cohesive narrative and allows in-depth exploration of a specific topic.
  • Disadvantages: Can be lengthy and may require extensive editing.

Article-Compilation Format:

  • An article-compiled thesis consists of several research articles or papers you’ve published during your PhD.
  • These articles are interconnected by an overarching introduction and conclusion.
  • Common in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
  • Advantages: Allows for incremental publication, showcases your ability to contribute to scholarly journals, and provides a concise format.
  • Disadvantages: Requires careful organization and coherence across articles.

The choice between these formats often depends on your discipline, university guidelines, and personal preferences.

What are the pros and cons of each thesis format?

Let’s explore the pros and cons of each PhD thesis format:

Monograph Format:


  • Cohesive Narrative: A monograph provides a single, comprehensive document that presents your entire research journey in a linear manner.
  • In-Depth Exploration: You can delve deeply into a specific topic, allowing for thorough analysis.

Traditional Approach: Common in humanities and social sciences.


  • Lengthy: Monographs can be quite long, requiring extensive writing and editing.
  • Editing Challenges: Ensuring consistency and coherence across chapters can be challenging.

Article-Compilation Format:


  • Incremental Publication: You showcase your ability to contribute to scholarly journals by including research articles you’ve published during your PhD.
  • Concise Format: The thesis is shorter, as it consists of interconnected articles.
  • STEM-Friendly: Common in STEM fields.


  • Organization Complexity: You need to carefully organize the articles and maintain coherence throughout.
  • Limited Depth: Each article may cover a specific aspect, potentially sacrificing in-depth exploration.

Both formats have their merits, so consider what aligns best with your research and communication goals.

Structure of a PhD thesis

The structure of a PhD thesis typically includes the following main sections:


  • A brief summary outlining your research, main sections, and contribution to the field.
  • Despite its brevity, the abstract is crucial for conveying the importance of your work.


  • Expands on the abstract, providing context for your entire dissertation.
  • Describe your research topic, its significance, methodology, and overall layout.

Literature Review:

  • Surveys existing research related to your topic.
  • Demonstrates how your study fits into the broader scholarly conversation.

Theory Framework:

  • Explains theoretical concepts relevant to your research.
  • Relates your work to existing knowledge and ideas.


  • Detailed description of your research design and data collection methods.
  • Justify the appropriateness of your chosen methods.

How to present the research methods effectively?

Presenting your research methods effectively is crucial for a well-structured PhD thesis. Here are some key steps to guide you:

Explain Your Methodological Approach:

  • Clearly state the approach you’ve chosen (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods).
  • Discuss the theoretical underpinnings of your methodology.

Describe Data Collection Methods:

  • Detail how you collected data (e.g., surveys, interviews, experiments).
  • Explain the rationale behind your chosen sampling procedure.

Discuss Data Analysis:

  • Describe the techniques you used to analyze your data.
  • Justify why these methods were appropriate for your research.

Evaluate and Justify Choices:

  • Reflect on why you made specific methodological decisions.
  • Consider ethical considerations related to your research.

Clarity and coherence are essential. Make your presentation engaging by connecting it to your original research question or the tension built in your introduction.

PhD thesis topics 2024

Here are some PhD thesis topics that you might find interesting:

Consequences of Obesity:

  • Investigate the health, social, and economic impacts of obesity.
  • Explore prevention strategies and interventions.

Influence of Social Media:

  • Analyze how social media affects behavior, mental health, and communication.
  • Consider both positive and negative aspects.

Economic Development and Happiness:

  • Study the relationship between economic growth and individual well-being.
  • Examine factors that contribute to happiness.

Feminism in the United States:

  • Explore the evolution of feminist movements and their impact on society.
  • Investigate current challenges and achievements.

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Assess the pandemic’s effects on health, economy, education, and mental health.
  • Propose strategies for resilience and recovery.

Racism in Schools and Colleges:

  • Investigate systemic racism in educational institutions.
  • Suggest ways to promote equity and inclusivity.

Overeducation in the Labor Market:

  • Study the phenomenon of overqualification and its consequences.
  • Analyze mismatch between education and job requirements.

DNA Evidence in Criminal Justice:

  • Explore the use of DNA profiling in solving crimes.
  • Discuss ethical and legal implications.

Examples of STEM-related PhD thesis topics

Here are some STEM-related PhD thesis topics that you might find interesting for 2024:

  1. Gene Editing Technology and its Ethical Dilemmas
    Explore the advancements in gene editing techniques (such as CRISPR-Cas9) and their implications for ethics, privacy, and human health.
  2. The Microbiome and Human Health
    Investigate the role of the human microbiome (the collection of microorganisms in our bodies) in health, disease, and immunity.
  3. Neuroplasticity: Unraveling the Brain’s Potential
    Study how the brain adapts and changes throughout life, especially in response to learning, injury, or rehabilitation.
  4. Cancer Immunotherapy: Current Status and Future Prospects
    Analyze the latest developments in cancer immunotherapy, including checkpoint inhibitors, CAR-T cells, and personalized treatments.
  5. Climate Change and Public Health
    Examine the impact of climate change on health, including vector-borne diseases, air quality, and mental well-being.

Phd thesis writing pitfalls, how to avoid

Writing a PhD thesis can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can avoid common pitfalls. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process:

Break It Down:

  • Divide your work into small, discrete goals.
  • Create a detailed to-do list and prioritize tasks.
  • Focus on achievable milestones each day.

Create an Outline:

  • Start with a draft outline or structure for your thesis.
  • Include an engaging introduction, main research aspects, supporting data, and a thoughtful conclusion.

Adhere to Guidelines:

  • Follow your university’s guidelines for thesis writing.
  • Pay attention to word count, citation style, and other key elements.

Use Active Voice:

  • Write in simple language, avoiding jargon.
  • Opt for active voice and concise sentences.
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors.

Maintain Consistency:

  • Refer to a preferred style guide for spellings, punctuation, and technical terms.

Avoid Poor Investigative Techniques:

  • Ensure robust research design and methodology.
  • Don’t merely summarize existing information; contribute something novel.

Be Mindful of Citations and Plagiarism:

  • Properly cite sources and avoid accidental plagiarism.
  • Familiarize yourself with citation rules.

Focus on Writing Quality:

  • Strive for clarity and coherence.
  • Seek feedback from peers and professors.

Can you provide tips for maintaining motivation throughout the process?

Maintaining motivation during your PhD thesis can be challenging, but here are some effective tips to help you stay driven:

Set Small Goals:

  • Break down your work into manageable tasks.
  • Aim to read a few articles or write a specific number of words each day.

Focus on the Big Picture:

  • Remind yourself why you started your PhD journey.
  • Consider your long-term goals and the impact of your research.

Celebrate Achievements:

  • Acknowledge your progress, no matter how small.
  • Celebrate milestones to boost motivation.

Avoid Perfectionism:

  • Strive for excellence, but remember that perfection is elusive.
  • Finished work is better than endlessly refining.

Prioritize Self-Care:

  • Take breaks, exercise, and get enough rest.
  • A healthy mind and body contribute to motivation.

Define Success Differently:

  • Shift your focus from external validation to personal growth.
  • Recognize your efforts and learning process.

Motivation fluctuates, and that’s normal.

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Good luck with your thesis!