Finally, my phd thesis in natural science is coming to an end and I am facing the problem of structuring the concluding chapters. Since my faculty/university does not dictate anything, I have to decide this on my own. Now, I am realizing a slight chaos in my thoughts which I would appreciate to reduce with your help.

How would you conclude the thesis? What are the differences and overlaps between summary, discussion, outlook, conclusion, etc.? May I, for example, leave out a "Summary" chapter if I write a "Discussion" chapter which in particular summarizes my work? Could the outlook be part of the discussion, or shouldn't it?

I know that this is a matter of taste, and lots of things can be said here. Nevertheless, I am hoping for some advices and opinions on that topic.

Note: Unfortunately, neither talking to my professor or other phds, nor searching in the internet really clarified this question for me.


Scientific writing in major journals generally take on the form of

Abstract > Introduction (question to be answered if not In the title) > Materials and methods > Results (statistical analysis usually occurs here but can appear elsewhere) > Discussion > Conclusion (was the question answered?, yes or no) > Suggestions for future research (often skipped)

You can see where this nomenclature overlaps yours. I would suggest using patterns of scientific writing familiar with professors. It shows you have acceptable knowledge about how to present data, and it flows nicely. Some of this may be metaphorical.


Keep In Mind What Writing Is

At the very bottom, writing is simply thinking onto paper in an attempt to show others what you think.

The Best Writing Is Structured

However, the best writing is structured so that others are drawn into your explanation in steps. It is focused thinking.

Reveals the Challenge of Writing

Thinking about everything is impossible and yet that is what they tell you to do as they tell you to consider the subject from every angle and consider all data. Unfortunately, that type of thinking can never be written down.

What You've Said May Indicate That You Feel Overwhelmed

It seems that you feel overwhelmed by the outside direction that forces you to think in a certain way. You are thinking about the thinking more than you are thinking about the subject itself.

Wasting What You Are Writing

We often feel like we are wasting our writing by simply writing things out which do not directly relate to the thesis, but sometimes it's a good idea to free write (free think onto paper) to learn where you really go with the subject.

How can I know what I think until I see what I say. ~E. M. Forster

A Possible Way In

Forget about structure of the thesis and all of that. Instead, for a little while, concentrate entirely on your subject and ask some questions like:

What exactly is it that I am writing about? What conclusion am I driving toward?

Write A Mini-Dissertation

Now take that information and write an extremely short version of your dissertation as fast as you can. Call it Draft Zero.

Simply write one line for each paragraph which should be in your dissertation.

Write the introduction, body, summary and conclusion.

Keep in mind the reason they do not exactly describe what should be in each part of the dissertation is because it is expected to be different from different authors.

There Are Books To Help Too There's even a "Dummies" book Writing A Dissertation for Dummies - amazon link

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