Main Body of the Thesis
In the main body of the thesis, the author presents the narrative argument. The text is divided into major divisions (Sections or Chapters), each presenting a main point in the argument. Each major division usually contains subdivisions that will aid the reader in understanding the given information.
In Biomolecular Sciences, major thesis sections are typically the Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion. In a longer thesis, the first chapter might be a general Introduction, followed by chapters with subdivisions of Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion, and a final chapter on Conclusions. Often the format one chooses is that used in the leading scientific journal in the particular field of biology. Consultation with the thesis advisor and committee will help you to select a thesis format to fit your topic.
First pages of a major section should have the section title, centered and in capitals, two inches from the top of the page. Each new major section should begin on a separate page. The main body of the thesis is double-spaced, and begins three spaces below chapter or major section headings. For subdivisions, aim for consistency throughout the text, using your model journal as a guide, perhaps. First-order subdivisions, for example, may be in all capital letters, flush against the left margin, on a separate line. Second-order subdivisions (if needed) may be in all capitals, underlined, indented, and in line with the text. Third-order subdivisions (if needed) may be in capital and lower-case letters, underlined, and in line with the text. (See Appendix 8 and 8B). (You may note that a different subdivision system is being used in this text!)
The Introduction gives the background information on the general problem or area that was investigated. You should tell why the question is of interest and the significance of the ideas presented. This will involve reporting what others have found in the past, and putting your hypotheses into context. In many cases, the Thesis Proposal that you have already written and had approved by your committee will strongly resemble at least the bulk of your thesis Introduction.
Materials and Methods
This section should concisely describe the materials, equipment and procedures used. Clearly state the controls, treatments and design of the experiment. Someone should be able to repeat your experiments based on what you write here, so you’ll need to include things like the number of times each subject was tested, how results were scored, gender, age, etc. Be sure to report your procedures as past events, not as a set of directions. Reagent recipes, or program or equipment parameters might be better shown in an example below.
Present your results in a logical order, not necessarily chronologically. Emphasize the major results, those most pertinent to the hypothesis in question. In general, results are not interpreted in this section, but rather in the Discussion. However, sometimes strict adherence to this rule interferes with clarity. In many cases, Results and Discussion are best combined in the same section, and then followed by a Conclusion section. Consultation with your advisor will be your best guide in determining the ideal structure for your thesis. You main goal is to be as clear as possible, while avoiding redundancy.
Here you will interpret the data presented in the Results, and relate the findings to your original hypothesis. Perhaps begin with a brief summary of the major findings of the study, and follow with a discussion of each important point, from the most general to the most specific. Don’t repeat the Introduction, but you may want to bring in some of the work you mentioned there, to show how your work relates to, integrates with, or extends knowledge in the field. Perhaps discuss ambiguities or problems with your data. Were some questions left unanswered by your study? Were new questions raised? Perhaps suggest further studies, experimental modifications or other approaches that might help with unanswered questions.
The name-and-date system for text citations should be employed. Its use is demonstrated in Appendix 9, but other styles may also be acceptable. Consult your advisor, and be strictly consistent. Do not use footnotes. Descriptions of Figures and Tables are to be included in the legend of the figures or tables (see below).
As with text structure, your guide for tables may be that format used by the model journal in your field. Here are some general guidelines, and an example of an acceptable table is shown in Appendix 10.
All tables are numbered consecutively throughout the thesis (including the Appendix). Roman or Arabic numerals may be used, but must be used consistently. Titles should appear at the top of tables. The title proper may be all in capitals, or a mixture of capitals and lower-case letters (i.e. capitals for the first letter of main words, or composed like a standard sentence), but must be consistent throughout the thesis. The first and last lines of the table should be solid lines. Legend and footnotes for the table are placed at the bottom of the table (not the bottom of the page). The table and its description are intended to help the reader, and, as such, should be self-explanatory but not redundant or overly simplistic.
Each table should be placed in the text as soon after its first citation as is possible. The very next page is preferred. In general, each table is placed on a separate page. No table should be presented before the first discussion of its contents.
When a table is too big for one page, it may be continued on the next page. In this event, the last line on the first page should indicate “Table continued on the following page”. The first line of the next page should read “Table #, continued.” The table will resume two spaces below this line. It may be necessary to place some tables broadside on the page. Standard margin regulations must still be followed.
All figures are to be numbered consecutively throughout the thesis. Arabic numbers are to be used. Figures must be numbered and labeled at the bottom of the figure. The title proper may be all in capitals, or a mixture of capitals and lower-case letters (i.e. capitals for the first letter of main words, or composed like a standard sentence), but must be consistent throughout the thesis. Any notes describing the figures’ contents should directly follow the figures title. See Appendix 11.
Each figure should be placed in the text as soon after its first citation as is possible. The very next page is preferred. In general, each figure is placed on a separate page. No figure should be presented before the first discussion of its contents.
When a figure is too big for one page, the title and legend may be placed on the following page. Standard margin regulations must be followed.
It is preferred that references cited in the narrative text be combined into a single list at the end of the text, and not at the end of each section. The title “Literature Cited” is used for a list that contains only those items that you actually referenced in your text. (The title “Bibliography” is reserved for a list of all sources consulted that are relevant to your topic.) Full citations (including journal article titles, for example) should always be used. References to unpublished material must clearly indicate where the material may be found.
On the first page of the listing should have the title, “LITERATURE CITED” in capitals, centered, located two inches from the top of the page. The listing begins three spaces below this title. References are typically arranged in alphabetical order in an underhung, single-spaced form. Each entry begins flush against the left margin, and the second and any additional lines are indented. Entries are separated from each other by a line space.
Appendix 12 shows a typical citation format as described above, but other formats may be acceptable, provided that each listed source is accurate and complete enough for the reader to find in a library. It is most important that your citation format is used consistently throughout your Literature Cited section.
Appendices may include any material necessary to present information to the reader. Each Appendix should begin with a title page in the same format as the first page of a Chapter or major Section (for example “APPENDIX 1”, centered and two inched below the top of the page). When explanatory text is required, it should begin three spaces below the title. Examples of material suitable for an appendix are listings of chemical reagents, extensive sequence information, etc.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Theses based on experiments using animals should include a copy of the signed Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval form in an Appendix. Theses based on experiments using human subjects should include a copy of the Human Research Approval Form from the Human Studies Council (HSC) in an Appendix. The CCSU Graduate Thesis Handbook (see link at left) describes these committees (Appendix A) and includes the forms needed for Committee review (Appendices B and C).
Include a short Biographical Note as the last page of your thesis. You should summarize your academic background, any honors, publications, pertinent employment or professional history. You may also wish to include the date and place of your birth or additional personal information about your interests or goals.
The Biographical Note is formatted like the Abstract Page, Acknowledgment Page and First Chapter or Section pages, with the word “BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE” centered and resting two inches from the top of the page, followed by your full name, centered three spaces below. The text - single spaced - begins two spaces below your name. While this page is numbered, it is not listed in the Table of Contents; see the example in Appendix 13.(Note: this is depicted as Appendix I in the Graduate School Thesis Handbook; see links at left).