Discussion, conclusions, recomendations, references, appendices, layout

The discussion is the key section of your thesis. The purpose of the discussion is to explain the central results and potential implications of your study. This is where you scrutinize your results and where the choice of method(s) is discussed including the possible influence of methodological biases and errors on data validity. The discussion should also address general limitations and weaknesses of the study and comment on these. Importantly, you have to discuss conflicting explanations for your results and defend your thesis argument by systematically relating your problem formulation and empirical findings to the existing body of knowledge and/or theory as outlined by your literature review. The discussion of your results and final thesis argument should form the basis for your conclusions.

The conclusions section is where you summarize your answer(s) to the questions posed in your problem formulation. What is the strongest statement you can make based on your findings?

Recommendations or perspectives
The final section involves the last part of your academic performance; how to launch the results and conclusions into the future. Is there a need for further investigation and how? What are the perspectives of your results and conclusions? The Perspectives are where you once again broaden the thesis, and point out where your results can be implemented. Recommendations are sometimes included in the Conclusions.

The list of references contains a formalized description of all the sources, e.g. journal articles, reports, books etc. that are cited directly in the text of your thesis. In some cases ‘references’ are interchanged with ‘literature list’ or ‘bibliography’ However, please note that a bibliography may contain additional material of interest, without linking to a direct in-text citation.

You should apply the referencing system suggested/required by your curriculum or thesis guidelines at your Department. See more about referencing systems in in Writing Process, Lesson 2. Make sure all references cited in the thesis appear in the list of references.

In addition to the regular report sections described in the previous modules, you may need to add an appendices section. The appendices section typically includes various materials or data that lend support to your text in the previous sections, but are too lengthy or detailed to be incorporated in these. The type of materials and data to include in the appendices will depend on the discipline and type of study, but could be for example.:

  • Explanatory figures or tables developed by you or other sources such as maps and statistical profiles (e.g. population, country or region)
  • Retrieved documents that are difficult to access through usual sources
  • Details on particular reagents or apparatus (e.g. manufacturer and lot. numbers) used in laboratory or field work
  • Examples of survey and/or other standard forms used for data collection
  • Raw materials and/or data generated by your study (e.g. transcripts of interviews, apparatus print-outs and/or extensive data tables)
  • Any papers or documents published on the basis of your study, which may act as a supplement or be part of the overall assessment.

All appendices should be numbered and directly referenced in the relevant text section.

The different sections of the thesis need to follow the same configuration to ensure a professional appearance. Keep a standard layout (font size, line spacing, display of table/figure etc.) across the entire document – including the appendices, if possible.

It may be helpful to look at some sample theses, including both quantitative and qualitative studies, to determine the best layout for your thesis.

And finally, remember to proofread for spelling and grammatical mistakes before thesis submission!

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