Writing a PhD thesis or a dissertation can be challenging for students, especially when it includes a number of independent chapters. Additionally, the combination of all these chapters must support and build on your overall research question. Most readers would feel lost going through chapters with around 80,000 to 1,00,000 words.
Irrespective of the chapter content or the research topic, each chapter can have some basic building blocks that writers can use for conveying their information:
- Linking to the previous or next chapter.
You can start (or even conclude) every chapter with a brief of your previous (or next) chapter respectively. Do not make it too lengthy to sound repetitive to the reader. Alternatively, concluding any chapter with a summary of the discussion in the next chapter enables you to start each chapter on a fresh note.
Additionally, link the discussion in each chapter with the overall research question and how it contributes the overall argument. Links to prior material in your thesis can elaborate how this chapter builds on your arguments in the earlier chapters.
- Include the focus point of each chapter.
Inform your reader on what is the focus of each chapter and its objective. Build an argument of how each topic in your chapter can lead to your discussion in the next topic. The combined set of topics can ultimately contribute to your overall chapter focus.
- Break up your chapter into sections.
Each section of text must have an appropriate heading (and sub-headings) that can indicate the purpose of the section. Do not use redundant headings like “Introduction” or “Overview” in chapter beginnings, as the start of any chapter always serve this purpose.
Include a paragraph (or two) of a framing text before getting into the main body of the section. Chapters with 8000 to 12000 words can usually have 2, 3, or even 4 sections in the main body.
- Provide a summary or conclusion.
Each chapter must include a substantial summary or conclusion of the discussion points and findings. Assuming that the reader has limited time to read through your entire chapter, the summary can be a brief collection of the key points that you want the reader to remember.
Chapters with a consistent flow and structure can not only be helpful to readers, but also help you, as a writer, to not navigate away from the central focus point of each chapter.