My question is not about the structure of an entire thesis, but just about the Introduction chapter. At the moment, it consists of the following sections:

  • Objective [where I briefly introduce the aim of my thesis]
  • Area of Research [where my thesis collocates in a more general pipeline]
  • Conclusion [where I very briefly summarize the content of each chapter].

It's very short (I'm trying to keep the complete thesis below ~50 pages), but there is more or less everything I wanted to say.

My supervisor suggested me to:

  • Expand it by adding more details, which is fine I can do it
  • Remove the sections in order to have just one big chunk of text and remove eventual images because the introduction should not contain any.

I disagree on the second point. Since I'm introducing different stuff, it's nice to be able to quickly understand what I'm talking about. Second, I never read that you should not put images or tables in the Introduction. So my questions are: (1) should I remove the Sections? and (2) should I remove the only image I have in the Introduction (it's more of a diagram that I describe in the main text)?

P.S. My supervisor does not work in academia and I'm not sure how many theses he has supervised. Moreover, my Department does not have any sort of guidelines for writing a thesis.

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How to write a Ph.D. thesis Introduction chapter?
    – M'vy
    Sep 26 '19 at 14:20
  • Usually introductions don't have images as a general rule. Usually introductions are written to outline the conceptual background. Images tend to be in the results and discussion..
    – Poidah
    Sep 26 '19 at 14:20


The introduction needs to answer three questions. WHY, WHAT & HOW.

Declare why the problem needs solving, what the problem is and what a solution will look like, and how you have intended to go about the business of getting from the former to the latter. In addition to this, it can be relevant to quote specific earlier research that you will be building your thesis upon. Maybe a reaction path, a lemma, whatever depending on which field it of course is.


I think your instincts are OK, but would tweak it somewhat.

Abstract (unnumbered)

  1. Introduction

1.1. Background: Basic issues in the field and history/related science. Few pages, WITH numbered subsections of 1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc. (Subsections are good--don't do a text splat!) A few basic clarifying images (from the field, not from your research) are totally fine here. In a teaching, explanatory mode, "here's the lay of the land", but not a deep analysis. If you feel the need/tendency to debate or discuss the historical work (or images) versus your results, I would do that in the results chapters, in the context of comparison to your research, not in Background. But simple clarifying images of the basic background are fine and even desirable.

1.2. Research objective: What you tried to do. And/or how the study evolved over time. E.g. narrowing/shifting scope, pursuit of a discovery. This should be a single short paragraph. No images or tables.

1.3. Thesis overview: This is also a single short paragraph, with no images or text. Do NOT call it "conclusion". And don't really summarize the findings. That belongs in the meat of the report, in the abstract or in the actual Conclusions CHAPTER. All you are doing here is giving a road map, describing the document. For example:

"Chapter 1, Introduction, reviews the history of dilithium research and the objectives of this project. Chapter 2, Experimental Methods, describes how the research was conducted. Chapters 3 through 5, respectively discuss the microstructure, macrostructure and Scottish dialect responsiveness of dilithium. Chapter 6, Conclusions, contains a brief summary of key findings as well as ideas for future research."

[rest of the thesis]

  1. Experimental methods [May not need to be a separate chapter. If you have methods that go from chapter to chapter, then I would do a methods chapter. For instance if you do a test that is used in 3 systems. But actually in this dilithium example, the methods are probably more different by section, so you might be better off doing them within the individual results chapters.]

2.1. X-ray

2.2. Microscopy

2.3 or more (etc.)

  1. Microscture

3.1. blabla

3.2. blablabla

3.3. more blas

  1. Macrostructre (with numbered subsections)

  2. Scottish dialect experiments (with numbered subsections)

  3. Conclusions. [This chapter is optional, for a short document.]

6.1. Key findings (Will have a lot of overlap to Abstract. But no worries.]

6.2. Future research ideas (extension of the work, fixing things you couldn't fix during the project, etc.)

6.3. Implications [A carefully caveated discussion of how the research might affect dilithium vendors or spaceship captains/engineers. The idea is not to claim something you haven't proven, but also not the "hide the light under a bushel". Try to translate something to people in other fields. Of course with ample caveats if you have not done economic or operational assessments.]


One thing to keep in mind with suggestions from your supervisor is that your supervisor is (I assume) the person that will decide your final grade. A relatively minor change like this is something that I would accept as personal preference from your supervisor and change for now. In the end you want them to have a good experience reading it. When I read something that I have given feedback on earlier and nothing changed, I remember that it bothered me the first time already and it could set the tone for the rest of the thesis.

  • He will not grade it and he will not be able to even give any advice on the final grade. But thanks!
    – wrong_path
    Sep 27 '19 at 7:57
  • 1
    Ah in that case I would ignore my answer and structure the introduction however you see fit. I would agree that from an academic point of view sections definitely make sense.
    – Jeroen
    Sep 27 '19 at 7:59

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