A thesis outline is a detailed description of the major parts of your thesis – from introduction, literature overview, thesis problem and methodology to the results, discussion, and conclusion sections.
- Introduction: Describe the large problem to be solved.
Introduction answers the question: Which problem area this thesis is about to address?
- Literature Overview: Review the existing research in this problem area.
Answers the question: How did the previous researchers deal with this problem?
- Thesis Problem: Define your intended contribution to solving this problem and make the promise of the thesis.
Answers the question: What will be your contribution to the current work on solving this issue?
- Method Section: Describe the protocol you’ve followed to obtain the results.
Answers the question: What methods have you chosen for the research and why are they suitable for this study?
- Results: Present your findings.
Answers the question: What are the outcomes of this research?
- Discussion: Question your findings from the different perspectives, discuss their significance.
Answers the question: How can the research results be interpreted? (it is advisable to use such expressions as “on one hand/on the other hand, instead, nonetheless, however, etc.”)
- Conclusion: Summarize your findings and answer the research question.
Answers the question: What is your major contribution to the research problem and what are the directions for future research?
The thesis statement outline or main outline is an important blueprint used to guide the process of organizing and writing your thesis or dissertation. These works are usually required in pursuit of a master’s or Ph.D. degree in many academic fields. What you choose to do depends on your school’s requirements as well as the type of degree you are seeking to earn.
When students ask “what is a thesis?” or “do I have to create an outline?” we respond by explaining that the thesis a study that can range anywhere between 100 to 300 pages that address a specific problem or answers a question in a specific area of study. It is considered an authoritative work that other researchers and academics will build upon and use in their own studies. Something of this depth and scope can get pretty messy without the aid of a well-crafted outline. So, while an outline is not a prerequisite to completing the assignment, it most certainly helps to create one before attempting to write.
In this article, we provide a standard template for you to use as well as detailed instructions on how to write a thesis outline. There are a number of resources available on the web, but this no-nonsense approach is a great start and provides you with all the information you need.
A Thesis and Outline Should Be Mirror Images
Your thesis proposal outline is something you need to do before you start your research in earnest. It needs to be approved by your graduate advisor as it will guide your study for the next several months. However, the paradox about creating a proposal outline is that you likely don’t have a well-developed plan and should actually conduct a little background research before trying to put one together. After you receive this approval, you can get to work, and after you’ve accumulated tons of notes including quotations, paraphrases, questions, responses, data, and more, you will be ready to create the thesis outline.
How to write a thesis? It’s not much different from writing a long research study – but will likely require a lot more of your time and dedication. When writing an outline you can draw from the dissertation proposal outline so that it is basically a mirror image of the work you were granted approval to do. Of course, the revised outline at this stage will have far more detail but it should follow the same chapter or section order as well as meet any of the specific department requirements.
Thesis Outline Template for Free Use
This thesis paper outline lays the foundation for the entire assignment. While you may find very slight differences and may even need to adhere to specific departmental guidelines, the thesis outline example we provide here should help to organize your capstone project in most disciplines.
Unlike the research or term papers, you are experienced with, an academic work of this scope requires a lot more. You shouldn’t be intimidated by this statement, but you should take the time to become familiar with all that is expected that you include and reference. The best place to start is to create a thesis chapters outline touching on all of the major sections. These include a title page, an abstract, an introduction, methods and discussion, conclusions, and a bibliography. Here’s a thesis outline sample you can use for free:
- General Introduction of the Research Study
- Research Problem or Questions with Sub-Questions
- Reasons or Needs for the Research Study
- Definition and Explanation of Key Terminology
- Context of Research Study within the Greater Discipline (Area of Study)
- Chapter 2: Hypothesis (Theory)
- Brief Overview of Theoretical Foundations Utilized in the Study
- Brief Overview of Literature Reviewed, Discussed and Applied
- Study Model and Process Aligning with Literature Reviewed
- Hypotheses and Justifications Tied to Prior Sections or Statements
- The Scope of Your Study with Theoretical Assumptions and Limitations
- Introduction and General Description Study Method and Study Design
- In-Depth Description of the Study Design (Study Materials to Be Used)
- Explanation of Sample to Be Used in the Study
- Explanation of Measurements, Definitions, Indexes, etc. and Reliability and Validity of Study Method and Study Design
- Description of Analytical Techniques to Be Applied and Justification for Them
- Reliability and Validity of Internal/External Design and Related Subtypes
- Assumptions of Study Method and Study Design with Implied Limitations
- Brief Overview of Material
- Findings (Results) of the Method of Study and Any Unplanned or Unexpected Situations that Occurred
- Brief Descriptive Analysis
- Reliability and Validity of the Analysis
- Explanation of the Hypothesis and Precise and Exact Data (Do Not Give Your Opinion)
- Brief Overview of Material
- Full Discussion of Findings (Results) and Implications
- Full Discussion of Research Analysis of Findings
- Full Discussion of Hypothesis and of Findings
- Post Analysis and Implications of Hypothesis and of Findings
- Summary of Academic Study
- Reference to Literature Review
- Implications of Academic Study
- Limitations of the Theory or Method of Research
- Recommendations or Suggestions of Future Academic Study
- Complete List of all Sources Used Regardless of Citation or Inclusion
How to Make a Thesis Outline
You can use the template above to save time – but we thought a simple process on how to write a thesis outline and getting started with organizing your material before applying the information to the appropriate section would be equally beneficial.
- Start with your hypothesis. Place it right at the top of the page – all of the subsequent sections will need to relate or address this in some way. The page doesn’t have to be too detailed since you are the only one who will be looking at these notes. Just make sure you understand it.
- Work down the template in the order it is presented above. Fill in all top-level sections and add sub-sections as necessary (e.g., I.a, I.b. II.a, II.b., II.c., etc.). We recommend you use a combination alpha-numerical dissertation outline because you will have a lot of information to organize, but this is a matter of personal preference. Use whatever format with which you are most comfortable.
- You might consider using a master outline for the entire work and working outlines for each chapter. The latter will help you focus on just one section at a time, a strategy which can help you stay organized and productive throughout the months-long writing process.
- Review each of your outlines and make adjustments prior to filling it in with all the remaining research content notes you have. It’s easier to do this now before you have to rethink and reorganize large pieces of text. The outline for thesis is a tool to facilitate your writing – but it won’t be of much help if you don’t structure it in a logical manner before getting to work.
- Now, you can flush out all of the details with key terms, phrases, and sentences to guide you through your first draft. Most students should look towards revising the outline(s) after completing the first draft. This may seem a little tedious but it really does help (as we’re certain you will see after completing the draft).
Professional Services to Help with Writing Outline
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