I start my master's thesis the coming fall, and I have started planning how to structure and set up the document (in LaTeX). My thesis is in essence one large laboratory experiment (as analytical chemistry theses often are), and I will most likely structure the thesis in the traditional IMRAD[C] style (Introduction - Methods - Results & Discussion [- Conclusion]).

The thesis will likely be around 60-100 pages, with separate main headings as defined by the IMRAD structure. But, should I divide these headings as separate open-right chapters, or should "2. Methods" just follow "1. Introduction", without starting on a separate page? What follows are some arguments for both alternatives.

The main headings are all interconnected, yet stand on their own, somehow. The preliminary pages all start on their own separate page, and so I thought about carrying that style over to the main matter. Separate chapters give the readers breaks at logical points in very long document, and clearly state to the reader that a new part of the thesis starts.

However, laboratory reports are all written with sections following each other, with no page breaks, and published articles are divided into sections. These documents are not nearly as long as a thesis, though, and chapters here would just make the document very chopped up. Almost all master's thesis from the university are divided into sections, but no formal style guide exists; I am pretty much free to do as I please.

I personally think that separate chapters would benefit the readers more than sections, since the document is so long. Chapters also make nested numbering of tables and figures more logical, in my opinion. I lean towards the chapter style, but I wanted to get input from others who have already been through this.

I appreciate all opinions on the matter.

1 Answer 1


A disproportionate researchers fail to write the thesis. The number is so large that there is an acronym for it ABD - All But Dissertation.

In general projects (PhD can be thought of as project) fail when there is a large untested block of work to be done at the very end.

To succeed in a project that large block must be broken into small chunks that can be accomplished in between the project.

So if instead of writing your dissertation at the very end of your PhD, chapters of the PhD get written earlier and the last 3 to 6 months of the dissertation are spent in re-editing the chapters already written so that they become a coherent whole, you will get past the ABD problem.

Chapters written in open on right hand page will be quickly assembled into the final PhD document.

Take care that the numbering scheme for Tables and figures etc is robust (automated 'seq' fields in Word) and you do not need to renumber anything when it is assembled into the whole document.

  • I will write my thesis in LaTeX, so numbering is automatic. And from experience I know not to wait until the last minute to start writing. Thanks for the advice!
    – Yoda
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 7:45
  • I'm missing the connection here -- what does right-hand-page formatting have to do with when the work is done? If the final document is done by cut/paste or xinclude of all the parts, why does formatting make that easier? Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 15:30

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