I am doing a master thesis and have more or less written my report. My supervisor has from time to time read my paper and from the feedback I get she wants to be able to skip to a later chapter and read it without necessarily reading exactly everything else before. This seems a bit odd to me, but I have not thought about it before as the papers I've read I read from the introduction and onwards.

My outline is introduction, related work, method, results, discussion, conclusion.

So, to what extent should I expect/force a reader to read previous chapters that are relevant but not critical for understanding the paper? Should the method chapter be written in a way that you don't have to read the related work and introduction chapter? Should you be able to skip to the results and discussion and understand them without reading the method chapter?

  • 6
    Since your supervisor is grading it, I think you should, within reason, do as she wants. Ask her directly.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 15:05
  • 2
    What is for example very common, and good practice, is to repeat the research question in the conclusions, so your conclusions have the form: "this is what I wanted to know and this is the answer". Similar repititions can be meaningful in other places of your article. Remember, scientific articles are not meant to earn you a nobel price for literature; They are professional communication, which means that quite often people read only the parts relevant to them, and read in more detail only if interested. Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 15:50
  • 1
    Arguably, a fairly experienced professional in a closely related field might expect to read later portions directly, yes. The point is for you to be aware of what is completely standard (hence, known to professionals) and what is more idiosyncratic to your particular write-up. This awareness is not so easy, and you need advice from ... an experienced professional, such as your advisor. Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 15:52
  • 1
    Your advisor is presumably intimately familiar with the area you are working on. As such, she should be able to read just a chapter and understand what is going on. If she can't, I'd agree that the chapter itself is badly written, and requires better structuring.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 20:17
  • 1
    This question reminds me of a possibly relevant quotation from the preface of the book "Recursion-Theoretic Hierarchies" by Peter Hinman: "... that peculiar brand of obfuscation which results from an author's implicit assumption that the reader has perfectly understood and remembered every detail of what has preceded any given point." Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


The flow of thesis differs in preference from one supervisor to another. The specification provided by your supervisor doesn't seem unreasonable. In fact, I would endorse it myself.

It is natural for most readers to skip the introduction and just cut to the chase. Readers would be particularly interested in the implementation and results. Although that doesn't mean introduction isn't mandatory. You just have to minimise the dependency between the main matter and the introductory matter. The lesser you make the reader to turn back pages, the better would be the reading experience.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .