I'm considering having six chapters in my PhD thesis:

  1. General Introduction (including literature review)
  2. General Methods
  3. Study 1 (as a published paper)
  4. Study 2 (as a published paper)
  5. Study 3 (as a published paper)
  6. General Discussion

and each chapter should have its own references list at the end.

  • 1
    It's common to only write the absolute minimum necessary around your three publications. The three publications are what is important. Nobody cares about the rest of the thesis. Have you asked your advisor for their recommendation? – Roland Nov 26 '19 at 15:37
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    As always, you should ask your advisor - they're the one who will be evaluating it. – Nuclear Hoagie Nov 26 '19 at 15:38
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    This is entirely up to your advisor and committee. No one here has anything for you but an opinion. And the opinion will be worthless if it disagrees with your advisor. – Buffy Nov 26 '19 at 15:38
  • Yes. – Dan Romik Nov 26 '19 at 16:28
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    That's between you and your advisor. I've seen dissertations with four short chapters and I've seen them with seven long chapters. – TaliesinMerlin Nov 26 '19 at 18:37

tl;dr: Yes, but...

In general, the dissertation can be organized as needed to convey the information in the best way possible for the reader. Your structure is common in many fields. Proactive communication with your advisor and rest of committee should provide the definitive answer for you individually.

As noted in the comments, if your dissertation includes 3 published papers, it is common to wrap this with a broad intro & conclusion. Inclusion of additional material beyond that may be discretionary.

An obvious caveat is that committee must be on board, though this usually amounts to the chair (or co-chairs) being on board with your organization. As typical for things like this, the answer individually depends on your specific research, your writing ability, your committee, and your departmental or institutional policies.

While you could look at previous dissertations (related & recent) from your department, note that this isn't an authoritative perspective for what yours has to look like.

As for References, I have seen dissertations with References at the end of each chapter, and others with one large Reference section for the entire document. I personally prefer the former, but this is largely up to you and your advisor.


Even less if you can. Legendary mathematician John Nash and Nobel prize in 'Economic Sciences' (Nash's equilibrium anyone?) PHD thesis had 26 pages and whole 2 citations.

Contrary to what many teachers imply, a thesis is supposed to have only the info it needs. No hundreds of useless references added only to enlarge it or the unneeded history of theoretical frames and terms.

You should check the school's rules for thesis, they normally say what exactly they request. (I also suggest Humberto echo's book 'how to write a thesis', its the shortest, most tot he real point book about writing a thesis I've find. Avoid any 'research methodology' book because in those the authors sin of being unable to get to the damn point, be precise, and be concrete.) . Also check other thesis written at your school to see their index and learn what is expected of the contents.

In any case, what you normally need to write for a thesis is:

  1. Presentation page, dedicatories, legal stuff, localization data
  2. Index of contents
  3. Introduction

  4. CHAPTER 1- Literature review/theoretical frame divided by 1.1 variable 1, 1.2 variable 2, 1.3 historical junk of prior researches (I say junk because you cant just mention it happened, you need to explain it and why its important for your research and it will just add pages that have nothing to do with your actual results or research)

  5. CHAPTER 2- VARIABLE 1 (Your dependent variable)
  6. CHAPTER 3- VARIABLE 2 (your independent variable)
  8. CHAPTER 5- Results and conclusions
  9. Annex/extras
  10. Bibliography/references

Depending on your thesis, CHAPTER 2 & 3 can be mixed and your variables be instead subheadings like 2.1 and 2.2

Personally, I would suggest to find a titulation/graduation method different than a thesis if its possible.

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    As to the last sentence, I am pretty sure there is no way to obtain a (reputable) PhD other than by writing a thesis. It's basically the definition of the PhD degree. – Nate Eldredge Nov 26 '19 at 18:07
  • @Nate Eldredge. By respectable I assume you mean government and internationally approved and certified. In this regards many universities around the world in the last years have requirements for a title (Masters and Doctorate level) have been opened to other options to publishing articles, Work experience/research with a dissertation/exam on it, publishing book/chapters or a science book, Posdoctorals, etc. – deags Nov 26 '19 at 20:15
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    Well, I wouldn't in general accept governments as arbiters of what makes a "reputable" degree, but rather the international academic community. But I would be interested in seeing specifically a recognized PhD program that doesn't require a thesis or major written work of comparable magnitude. (I'm well aware that there are masters programs, or even doctoral programs other than PhD, that don't.) – Nate Eldredge Nov 26 '19 at 21:41
  • I also know about "stapler theses" where the requirement is a set of published articles, and I still consider that a thesis. – Nate Eldredge Nov 26 '19 at 21:43
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    @Nate Eldredge I would NOT accept a non government registered and recognized program as even valid because then you have for-profit schools with definitely non reputable programs, meanwhile the government certificate is out on international standards to make sure program is internationally valid. I have never heard of 'stapler theses', however I've seen the requirements on top 200 universities world wide and in many countries a traditional thesis is just one of the title options. – deags Nov 27 '19 at 16:44

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