A thesis is the material form of a sustained program of research that has produced original findings. The thesis is the evidence upon which examiners evaluate the quality of the research, the candidate’s ability to communicate the significance of the research, and the candidate’s ability to work as an independent researcher.
The thesis, in the broadest sense, constitutes a coherent and cogent argument that communicates the significant aspects of research and writing undertaken in a period of time equivalent to three to four year’s full time work for a PhD or one to two
years of full time work for a MPhil. When writing your dissertation it is important that you bear in mind the following:
• Your dissertation has to be analytical rather than
• Your dissertation will be assessed as a piece of
academic work and not as a business report and
therefore the dissertation must follow academic
conventions in terms of content and approach.
Work undertaken and published prior to candidature cannot be included in the thesis although some reference may be made to it if deemed appropriate. Candidates must write clearly and concisely: theses must be written in a style and format that is
consistent with the conventions and best practice for scholarly communication in their field of research.
It is in the interests of neither the candidate nor the examiner for a thesis to be longer than it needs to be. Candidates should write in such a way that the work in the thesis might be readily edited into papers to be submitted to quality journals in the field; in some cases, the thesis as a whole may be submitted to a book publisher. In either case, long-windedness and repetition will make publication less easy to achieve.
The Uiversity has set an upper limit on the length of a PhD thesis of 80,000 words (400 pages). This upper limit may be exceeded only in exceptional cases where written approval has been given by the Director of the Graduate School on application from the candidate with the strong support of the Principal Advisor and the School Postgraduate Coordinator.
Order and Format of Contents
The first page of the thesis must carry:
• the thesis title (and any subtitle) followed by,
• A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy at The University of Queensland in
• the candidate’s full name and School,
• the total number of volumes, if more than one,
and the number of the particular volume,
• A box (60 x 80 mm) must be printed in the
middle of the first page for the certification stamp
and signatre to be inserted.
The pages following the first page must be headed
and ordered as follows:
1. Candidate’s Statement of Originality,
incorporating Candidate’s Statement of
Contribution to Jointly-published Work, and
Statement of Contributions by Others. Both the
candidate and the Principal Advisor must sign at
the end of the three statements.
2. Acknowledgements, including reasons for
undertaking the study, and acknowledgement
of assistance, for example, support such as
scholarships and grants, and people who have
guided your thesis development and provided
assistance, such as advisors and colleagues.
3. List of publications and presentations, including
subheadings, if appropriate, such as Publications
by the Candidate Relevant to the Thesis and/
or Additional Publications by the Candidate
Relevant to the Thesis but Not Forming Part of it.
4. Abstract of at least 300 but no more than 700
words, giving a synopsis stating the nature
and scope of the work undertaken and of the
contribution made to the knowledge of the
subject treated. It should appear on its own on a
5. Table of Contents giving, in sequence, with page
numbers, all relevant subdivisions of the thesis
including the following:
– the title of the chapters, sections and
– the list of references;
– the bibliography, and other functional parts
of the whole thesis;
– the index, if appropriate.
If the thesis comprises more than one volume,
the contents of the whole thesis should be
shown in the first volume and each subsequent
volume should have its own separate list of
6. List of Figures, Tables and Illustrations following
the sequence of the table of contents.
7. Main text of the thesis, including content as
The introduction sets the context and briefly explains the focus and nature of the subject being examined, the nature of the approach adopted, the overall question being examined, and perhaps the sub-questions, and the structure of the thesis (the
The introduction is vitally important in setting the reader off in the right direction and with the right expectations. While you may produce drafts early on, you would be well advised to reconsider the contents in the Introduction after you have written the other chapters.
The first element of the introduction often sets your research in context. For example, if you are looking at how seasonality in hotel occupancy might be countered by the management, your contextual section could describe the hospitality sector in general and/or provide an overview of seasonality in hotels and its causes and implications. The second element of the introduction generally sets out the overall questions you are asking, why you are asking them (the rationale for the investigation) and your overall aims and objectives. A brief description of how you achieved these aims and objectives should
include the approach you took and the methods that you used such as “The thesis findings are based on a series of in-depth interviews with managers… who were randomly selected….”). The overall question is often labelled as the hypothesis and should match your title. It is vitally important that the hypotheses are clear in your mind during the course of your work and
are set out clearly in your introduction. They provide a framework through which both you and your examiners can judge whether your objectives have been met.
It is important to realise that all sections of your thesis should contain reviews of relevant literature – not just in one chapter. Use the literature to make your arguments and support your findings throughout. The literature review provides a critical account of previous work in the area. This should include mention of all the literature which you think is relevant to your topic (unless the quantity of literature is vast), but should not resemble an annotated bibliography. The purpose of this section is firstly to define your subject in terms of previous research, and secondly to show how your work differs from or is better than anything that has been done before. The reader should be led from your critical remarks to look forward to the advances in knowledge that you will be presenting in the body of the thesis. This is also the place to indicate your reasons for choosing your particular research subject as a topic for study, perhaps in terms of its theoretical or practical significance.
Make the literature work for you. The literature review allows you to reveal your familiarity with the general literature on the particular topic. Reference to previous work on the topic will normally form the basis of the second chapter of the thesis, although reference will be made in all chapters. You must relate your findings to the existing body of knowledge at the end of the study to avoid your thesis becoming merely descriptive. The literature review sets your work in the context of:
• A specific part of an academic discipline or
subject (such as tourism);
• A specific approach to a topic (a type of analysis
such as the use of semantic differentials to
discover people’s perceptions of different holiday
locations, for example);
• Commentaries on what has been found about
the general context in which your subject area is
set (for example, analysis of general trends in a
specific type of tourism).
Generally a literature review will be from a broad base of related writings, and then will narrow down to focus in more detail on the more specifically related writings. You should not simply write a number of summaries of other people’s work, but identify the general themes, or the differences between writers, in the explanations advanced. Most importantly, make sure that you relate the consideration of themes to what you are doing (state in your text the relevance of the work you are commenting on, or to which you are referring, to your own work). If you cannot state the relevance of a paper then perhaps it should not be included. You should try to make the literature review build towards point from which your actual work on the overall objective can be broken down into a number of sub-objectives or questions that you will answer as a result of your review of the literature.
Finally, in many, but not all theses, it is appropriate to include a section which discusses the historical background to your topic. However, you should be careful that this historical discussion does not overwhelm the rest of the thesis and that you relate the history to the problem at hand. For example in discussing the management of historic sites in Tasmania, a section on the history and significance of the sites would be appropriate.
An account of the methods that you used to gather your data is an important part of your dissertation. Here, you should re-visit the aims and objectives of your research and outline the methods that you used to achieve those aims and objectives. Unless it is obvious that the choice of method was dictated by the topic you have addressed, you should include some discussion of the alternative ways in which you might have gathered your data, and a justification of the method you actually selected. This is also the place to discuss the selection and size of the sample used and to consider its representativeness (if such issues are relevant to your study). In this chapter, you should also include an account of your analysis of the primary and secondary data collected. You should also include mention of any difficulties in gathering data that you met and how you overcame them.
If your overall question is one of ”evaluating” something, remember that you need to detail the way in which you will do the evaluation. This means that you must provide the criteria on which you will base the evaluation and the reasons for adopting those criteria. Thus, simply describing two alternatives (different airline computer reservations systems, for example) is not the same as conducting an evaluation. Such an evaluation would involve defining the viewpoints you are assessing (the customers, the company which owns the system, the companies which make use of the system, and so on) and the criteria used (for example, efficiency, effectiveness and economy).
You should include in the main body of the thesis only those results which are relevant to the overall case that you are making. Data and results which you would like to record, but which are not strictly relevant to your argument, should be consigned to an appendix. For instance, an appendix is the place for tables of raw data.
Your thesis will set out the findings of your work and your interpretation of the work you have undertaken in the context of the questions you have posed. Thus, be selective in your use of information. Simply because you have done a survey is no reason to give every single possible result from the questionnaire you have used. You are trying to draw out and use the data as part of a logical and convincing presentation of the answers to the questions you have posed. Information should be used to effect rather than simply be given.
Your interpretation of the results and your conclusions are the final part of the thesis. The latter should clearly be tied to the introductory literature review section, so that the reader can see that you have in fact done what you initially said you were aiming to achieve. It is conventional to include a measure of self criticism here, indicating what you might do differently if you were to do the research again, and also to provide suggestions for further research on your topic. Do not underestimate the importance of a well crafted conclusion. Your conclusion draws together your findings and the conclusions you have drawn from the information you have collected and presented. The important point is that your conclusions should
be made on the basis of what you have presented and not on what you hope might be the case.
You should refer to where in your dissertation the information supporting your conclusion can be found. The conclusions should make clear how you have answered the questions you posed and possibly whether or not you can make any general
observations which have wider implications than the specific work you have undertaken.
If you include recommendations in your conclusion the same applies. They should not just be listed but should be explained in terms of the information you have presented. A shopping list of recommendations is not satisfactory as a conclusion to your thesis.
Bibliography or List of References. Appendices and Text Pages
The thesis, both examination copy and final copy, must be printed on both sides of the paper with the sole exception of non-standard page sizes (e.g., some maps) or illustrations on photographic paper. As far as possible, the thesis should be free of blank pages. Good quality paper of adequate thickness (90 gsm) must be used. The archival copy must be printed on acid free paper. Line spacing of at least 1.5 and 12 pt font are required. All pages of the main text must be numbered consecutively. The left margins should be no less than 30 mm, the right margins no less than 20 mm, and top and bottom margins no less than 20 mm to allow for binding and trimming.
Tables, Diagrams and Figures
Tables, diagrams and figures must be inserted in the text as soon as possible after the first reference to them in the text. Captions for tables must be inserted above the table; legends to figures must be placed below the figure. For large figures which occupy the whole useable area of a page, the legend may be inserted at the base of the facing page. If a table, diagram, or figure needs to occupy 2 pages, then these pages should face each other. If a still larger size is needed for a map or diagram, the large illustration should be folded and securely bound into the back of the thesis so that when opened it can
be read or viewed conveniently. The left hand margin should be at least 30 mm. The use of good quality printing techniques for production of archival copies will allow reproduction of both black-and-white and colour photographs on normal text pages. However, if it is necessary to include original photographs, these must be firmly bound into the thesis (if full page), or securely glued onto text pages. In special circumstances, where a thesis includes a large number of photographs or electron micrographs cited at various places in the text, figures may be bound into a separate volume with the permission of the Head of School.
Many theses contain non-textual material: illustrations, maps, designs, etc. This material may often be more conveniently included in the thesis in another medium (usually digital or electronic) such as CD, DVD, video-, or audio-recording. Any additional material, such as computer disks, CDs, DVDs or video cassettes, large maps or diagrams (see above) must be included in a secure pocket at the back of the thesis.
Any source from which information is derived must be clearly, concisely and accurately cited in any scholarly work. While there are no University-wide rules for the form of citation of references, the UNiversity prescribes to the Harvard style of referencing. A candidate must cite in the bibliography all sources from which information is derived and all works quoted or referred to in the text or notes to the text.
The Harvard style must be followed consistently and should be established early in the preparation of a thesis to avoid time-consuming editorial work at final manuscript stage. Details on the Harvard citation style are available from the University Library and listed in a range of Use its. For more details see the website of the library:
The minimum bibliographic citation for books must include : author(s), title, edition (if other than first), place of publication, publisher, date of publication and page span. The citation for periodical articles must provide at least author(s), title of article, name of periodical, volume number, part number (if volume is not paginated continuously), date of publication and page span. In some fields of research more detailed citation may be required, and candidates should consult their advisors on this matter. Citation of electronic or digital sources must include date accessed, or in the case of TV or radio material, date broadcast. The use of bibliographic management software such as Endnote is encouraged for the creation of the bibliography as it allows you to format your bibliography in the requisite Harvard Style. For details, go to the Endnote website: