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Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know

Trying to complete a PhD thesis in time for the October deadline? We share some advice on getting over that final hurdle

  • The key to a successful PhD thesis? Write in your own voice

Many PhD students are now in the final throes of writing their thesis. Turning years of research into a single, coherent piece of work can be tough, so we asked for tips from supervisors and recent PhD graduates. We were inundated with tweets and emails – and @AcademiaObscura helpfully created a Storify of the tweets. Below is a selection of the best tips.

1) Make sure you meet the PhD requirements for your institution “PhD students and their supervisors often presume things without checking. One supervisor told his student that a PhD was about 300 pages long so he wrote 300 pages. Unfortunately the supervisor had meant double-spaced, and the student had written single-spaced. Getting rid of 40,000 extra words with two weeks to go is not recommended.” ( Hannah Farrimond, lecturer in medical sociology, Exeter University)

2) Keep perspective “Everyone wants their thesis to be amazing, their magnum opus. But your most important work will come later. Think of your PhD as an apprenticeship. Your peers are unlikely to read your thesis and judge you on it. They are more likely to read any papers (articles, chapters, books) that result from it.” ( Dean D’Souza, PhD in cognitive neuroscience, Birkbeck, University of London)

3) Write the introduction last “Writing the introduction and conclusion together will help to tie up the thesis together, so save it for the end.” ( Ashish Jaiswal, PhD in business education, University of Oxford)

4) Use apps “ Trello is a project management tool (available as a smartphone app) which allows you to create ‘boards’ on which to pin all of your outstanding tasks, deadlines, and ideas. It allows you to make checklists too so you know that all of your important stuff is listed and to-hand, meaning you can focus on one thing at a time. It’s satisfying to move notes into the ‘done’ column too.” ( Lucy Irving, PhD in psychology, Middlesex University)

5) Address the unanswered questions “There will always be unanswered questions – don’t try to ignore or, even worse, obfuscate them. On the contrary, actively draw attention to them; identify them in your conclusion as areas for further investigation. Your PhD viva will go badly if you’ve attempted to disregard or evade the unresolved issues that your thesis has inevitably opened up.” ( Michael Perfect, PhD in English literature, University of Cambridge)

6) Buy your own laser printer “A basic monochrome laser printer that can print duplex (two-sided) can be bought online for less than £100, with off-brand replacement toners available for about £30 a pop. Repeatedly reprinting and editing draft thesis chapters has two very helpful functions. Firstly, it takes your work off the screen and onto paper, which is usually easier to proof. Secondly, it gives you a legitimate excuse to get away from your desk.” ( James Brown, PhD in architectural education, Queen’s University Belfast)

7) Checking is important “On days when your brain is too tired to write, check quotations, bibliography etc so you’re still making progress.” ( Julia Wright, professor of English at Dalhousie University, Canada)

8) Get feedback on the whole thesis “We often get feedback on individual chapters but plan to get feedback from your supervisor on the PhD as a whole to make sure it all hangs together nicely.” ( Mel Rohse, PhD in peace studies, University of Bradford)

9) Make sure you know when it will end “Sometimes supervisors use optimistic words such as ‘You are nearly there!’ Ask them to be specific. Are you three months away, or do you have six months’ worth of work? Or is it just a month’s load?” ( Rifat Mahbub, PhD in women’s studies, University of York)

10) Prepare for the viva “Don’t just focus on the thesis – the viva is very important too and examiners’ opinions can change following a successful viva. Remember that you are the expert in your specific field, not the examiners, and ask your supervisor to arrange a mock viva if practically possible.” ( Christine Jones , head of school of Welsh and bilingual studies, University of Wales Trinity St David)

11) Develop your own style “Take into account everything your supervisor has said, attend to their suggestions about revisions to your work but also be true to your own style of writing. What I found constructive was paying attention to the work of novelists I enjoy reading. It may seem that their style has nothing to do with your own field of research, but this does not matter. You can still absorb something of how they write and what makes it effective, compelling and believable.” ( Sarah Skyrme, PhD in sociology, Newcastle University)

12) Remember that more is not always better “A PhD thesis is not a race to the highest page count; don’t waste time padding.” ( Francis Woodhouse, PhD in mathematical biology, University of Cambridge)

13) Get a buddy “Find a colleague, your partner, a friend who is willing to support you. Share with them your milestones and goals, and agree to be accountable to them. This doesn’t mean they get to hassle or nag you, it just means someone else knows what you’re up to, and can help to check if your planning is realistic and achievable.” ( Cassandra Steer, PhD in criminology, University of Amsterdam)

14) Don’t pursue perfectionism “Remember that a PhD doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Nothing more self-crippling than perfectionism.” ( Nathan Waddell, lecturer in modernist literature, Nottingham University )

15) Look after yourself “Go outside. Work outside if you can. Fresh air, trees and sunshine do wonders for what’s left of your sanity.” ( Helen Coverdale, PhD in law, LSE)

Do you have any tips to add? Share your advice in the comments below.

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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

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Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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Table of Contents

In your academic career, few projects are more important than your PhD thesis. Unfortunately, many university professors and advisors assume that their students know how to structure a PhD. Books have literally been written on the subject, but there’s no need to read a book in order to know about PhD thesis paper format and structure. With that said, however, it’s important to understand that your PhD thesis format requirement may not be the same as another student’s. The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines.

But, let’s take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We’ll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We’ll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections. As you read through this toolkit, compare it to published PhD theses in your area of study to see how a real-life example looks.

Main Sections of a PhD Thesis

In almost every PhD thesis or dissertation, there are standard sections. Of course, some of these may differ, depending on your university or department requirements, as well as your topic of study, but this will give you a good idea of the basic components of a PhD thesis format.

  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary that quickly outlines your research, touches on each of the main sections of your thesis, and clearly outlines your contribution to the field by way of your PhD thesis. Even though the abstract is very short, similar to what you’ve seen in published research articles, its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The abstract is there to answer the most important question to the reviewer. “Why is this important?”
  • Introduction : In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it’s important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.
  • Literature Review : Within the literature review, you are making a case for your new research by telling the story of the work that’s already been done. You’ll cover a bit about the history of the topic at hand, and how your study fits into the present and future.
  • Theory Framework : Here, you explain assumptions related to your study. Here you’re explaining to the review what theoretical concepts you might have used in your research, how it relates to existing knowledge and ideas.
  • Methods : This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design. Here you’ll discuss the specific techniques you used to get the information you were looking for, in addition to how those methods are relevant and appropriate, as well as how you specifically used each method described.
  • Results : Here you present your empirical findings. This section is sometimes also called the “empiracles” chapter. This section is usually pretty straightforward and technical, and full of details. Don’t shortcut this chapter.
  • Discussion : This can be a tricky chapter, because it’s where you want to show the reviewer that you know what you’re talking about. You need to speak as a PhD versus a student. The discussion chapter is similar to the empirical/results chapter, but you’re building on those results to push the new information that you learned, prior to making your conclusion.
  • Conclusion : Here, you take a step back and reflect on what your original goals and intentions for the research were. You’ll outline them in context of your new findings and expertise.

Tips for your PhD Thesis Format

As you put together your PhD thesis, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips that might keep you on track.

  • Don’t try to write your PhD as a first-draft. Every great masterwork has typically been edited, and edited, and…edited.
  • Work with your thesis supervisor to plan the structure and format of your PhD thesis. Be prepared to rewrite each section, as you work out rough drafts. Don’t get discouraged by this process. It’s typical.
  • Make your writing interesting. Academic writing has a reputation of being very dry.
  • You don’t have to necessarily work on the chapters and sections outlined above in chronological order. Work on each section as things come up, and while your work on that section is relevant to what you’re doing.
  • Don’t rush things. Write a first draft, and leave it for a few days, so you can come back to it with a more critical take. Look at it objectively and carefully grammatical errors, clarity, logic and flow.
  • Know what style your references need to be in, and utilize tools out there to organize them in the required format.
  • It’s easier to accidentally plagiarize than you think. Make sure you’re referencing appropriately, and check your document for inadvertent plagiarism throughout your writing process.

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Want some support during your PhD writing process? Our PhD Thesis Editing Plus service includes extensive and detailed editing of your thesis to improve the flow and quality of your writing. Unlimited editing support for guaranteed results. Learn more here , and get started today!

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What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

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  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service , AI proofreader or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.


The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

Socrates' methods can still help university student in the battle with misinformation

How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

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Five tips to improve your PhD thesis

Jun 7, 2019

6 tips to improve your PhD

Many of the guides, templates and tips on The PhD Knowledge Base are oriented towards specific sections of the thesis. That’s because each section presents its own challenges and needs its own approach.

However, there are five tips to bear in mind that apply across the whole thesis. These are tips you can use regardless  of what stage of the writing process you’re at, or what section of the thesis you’re writing. They’ll help you reach the standard required and, hopefully, produce higher quality writing. 

Be critical

A key outcome of the doctoral journey is the  development of your critical thinking and writing skills . You should hone them early, and approach everything you read critically. Critical thinking is  one of the hardest skills to master  in the entire PhD. 

When we say, ‘You must be critical’, we mean that you must critically evaluate whatever it is you are discussing. Your job when critically evaluating is to think analytically, rather than descriptively. You need to think like an investigator. This involves asking f ive standard questions of each thing you read:

Asking these questions means we don’t just take what is written at face value. Instead, we evaluate, interpret, explain, analyse and comment on the text. These questions are a starting point for you to do that. 

Read our   guide to being critical   for more.

Acknowledge your limitations

Acknowledging the things that are wrong with your thesis shows a level of maturity that your examiners are looking for. No study is perfect and, despite your best efforts, there will be limitations with yours. These may be with your methods, the generalisability of your findings, or some other aspect of your contribution, but a failure to acknowledge them shows the examiner that you haven’t fully grasped the significance and implications of your study. 

This goes against our instinct, which is to present ourselves – and our research – in the best possible light. However, there is such a thing as being overly-confident in your thesis. Every thesis will have areas for improvement, and a key part of the doctoral training is the  ability  to both recognise them and talk about them. 

This has two additional advantages. First, it will allow you to preempt criticism that may come up in your viva. By acknowledging problems in the text, you avoid any nasty surprises in the viva because you are already aware of the problems with the thesis. 

Second, you can respond to and address the limitations and shortcomings in a post-doc, if relevant.

Write early and write often

Your thinking evolves through the art of writing, so the earlier you can get words on paper, the quicker your thinking will evolve. You can always edit drafts, so you’re not committing yourself to anything final. Not everything you write will be for your examiners; it’s okay to write just for yourself.

There is a danger of spending too long reading or too long conducting fieldwork, and too little time writing. Remember: some words on the page is better than no words on the page.

phd thesis tips

Your PhD thesis. All on one page. 

Use our free PhD structure template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis. 

You must let your study evolve

Chances are, the thesis you submit won’t look like the one you initially discussed in your application proposal. As we read and collect data, we learn about our discipline and our own study’s place within it. It’s impossible to understand the field in sufficient depth before we set out on our PhDs, so it’s inevitable that we’ll discover new things or realise we made false assumptions. 

Don’t become too attached to your thesis and don’t be scared to let it go where it wants, even if it means shifting focus, asking different questions or adopting a different methodology. 

Introduce and conclude your chapters well

Hello, doctor….

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back. 

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phd thesis tips

9 Tips to write your PhD thesis

Writing a thesis to complete your PhD degree can be an exacting task that you may struggle to accomplish. As you must condense years of research into a single document, it can be difficult to know where to begin, how to begin, what exactly you should write, and so on.

Even though the best advice you can get on this subject from your supervisor and fellow researchers, we have compiled a list of 9 tips to help you write your PhD thesis.

These are the most common tips for developing a thesis structure. There is a chance that you may overlook some details while preparing your thesis. Thus, in order to keep everything in place and to assist you, we have come up with a list of 9 crucial tips in this article.

9 tips for Writing Your PhD Thesis Before you begin, consider the following:

  • Structure your idea

Make a proper structure of your concept. What you want to write, how you want to write it and so on. Brainstorm and create a detailed map of the idea. Don’t worry about the order at first; just write down whatever comes to your mind. This will allow you to keep a track of important details you want to include in your thesis and ensure that you do not neglect them while writing.

  • Make a scheduled

A schedule allows you to complete your work on time. Set a proper time limit for each chapter or section. Try to finish it within the set time limit. This will make it easier for you to maintain your focus and keep track of your learning. Make it a habit to write some pages every day. Take into account how many pages you can write per day and which time of the day you feel more productive. Make your schedule with these points in mind, and work according to your routine. This method will greatly help you to simplify your work.

  • Remember the first draft is not the final draft

This is an extremely important point to remember, your first draft is not your final draft. As a result, it does not have to be perfect. The sentence can be incorrect, and the arguments do not have to be appropriate. Everything can be refined later in another draft. So, don’t expect perfection from the first draft. The primary goal of the first draft is to get everything down on paper not perfection. Once you have finished the first draft, you can edit, add, or remove points that you believe are unnecessary in the first draft.

  • Take breaks

Writing a thesis is a time-consuming process that requires you to devote a lot of time to it, in order to complete it by the deadline. But that doesn’t mean you have to go above and beyond your limit. Set aside a specific time to write and stick to the timetable. Your mind requires rest in order to process information and produce beneficial results. If you continue to work beyond your capacity, you will become tired and irritable. Taking proper breaks between tasks is essential for your mind and body.

  • Write an introduction in the last

Writing the introduction first may be difficult and confusing as you may become unsure of what you should write. Hence, it is best to write the body of the chapter first; this will help you clarify what you want to introduce and will allow you to write a better introduction. The same rule applies to dissertation writing too.

  • Get feedback early

Nothing beats having a supportive and kind supervisor who provides frequent and early feedback. You can share your work with him or her frequently and solicit feedback. He or she will detect the issue early on and assist you with the difficult sections. This way, you can finish your work on time and avoid having to rewrite a chapter right before the deadline.

  • Include your personal experience

If you have done an internship and have extensive experience, you can incorporate it into your thesis. You can write about what motivated you to choose the specific subject for research or your personal experience with the problem of the specific field you are discussing in your thesis. However, remember to back up every statement you make with a proper reference or evidence, as statements without proper reference or evidence are not acceptable in the PhD thesis.

  • Don’t forget to proofread

When you’ve finished writing your thesis and have your final draft in hand, don’t forget to proofread it before submitting it. Look for spelling and grammatical errors. Read the entire document carefully and thoroughly. Reading aloud will help you catch mistakes more easily. Reread the sentences that sound incorrect, incomplete, or unusual. If you are not satisfied, rewrite them. Never skip proofreading your thesis because even minor errors can cost you dearly.

  • Most important – start writing

We’ve covered most of the aspects of writing a thesis, but the most important thing to remember is to just start writing. You may believe that your research is incomplete or that you require additional data to begin writing your thesis. However, there is never a set amount of research or data that is sufficient to start writing a thesis. So stop making excuses and start writing with whatever data you have. Because getting everything on paper is the best way to know what works and what doesn’t.

These are some general tips to keep in mind as you write your PhD thesis. Remember that writing a thesis is an important part of your PhD degree, and it may stress you out, but stay calm and focused. Don’t burn yourself out, and if you’re stuck, seek advice from your supervisor or a fellow researcher.

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13 Tips to Prepare for Your PhD Dissertation Defense

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How well do you know your project? Years of experiments, analysis of results, and tons of literature study, leads you to how well you know your research study. And, PhD dissertation defense is a finale to your PhD years. Often, researchers question how to excel at their thesis defense and spend countless hours on it. Days, weeks, months, and probably years of practice to complete your doctorate, needs to surpass the dissertation defense hurdle.

In this article, we will discuss details of how to excel at PhD dissertation defense and list down some interesting tips to prepare for your thesis defense.

Table of Contents

What Is Dissertation Defense?

Dissertation defense or Thesis defense is an opportunity to defend your research study amidst the academic professionals who will evaluate of your academic work. While a thesis defense can sometimes be like a cross-examination session, but in reality you need not fear the thesis defense process and be well prepared.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/c/JamesHaytonPhDacademy

What are the expectations of committee members.

Choosing the dissertation committee is one of the most important decision for a research student. However, putting your dissertation committee becomes easier once you understand the expectations of committee members.

The basic function of your dissertation committee is to guide you through the process of proposing, writing, and revising your dissertation. Moreover, the committee members serve as mentors, giving constructive feedback on your writing and research, also guiding your revision efforts.

The dissertation committee is usually formed once the academic coursework is completed. Furthermore, by the time you begin your dissertation research, you get acquainted to the faculty members who will serve on your dissertation committee. Ultimately, who serves on your dissertation committee depends upon you.

Some universities allow an outside expert (a former professor or academic mentor) to serve on your committee. It is advisable to choose a faculty member who knows you and your research work.

How to Choose a Dissertation Committee Member?

  • Avoid popular and eminent faculty member
  • Choose the one you know very well and can approach whenever you need them
  • A faculty member whom you can learn from is apt.
  • Members of the committee can be your future mentors, co-authors, and research collaborators. Choose them keeping your future in mind.

How to Prepare for Dissertation Defense?

dissertation defense

1. Start Your Preparations Early

Thesis defense is not a 3 or 6 months’ exercise. Don’t wait until you have completed all your research objectives. Start your preparation well in advance, and make sure you know all the intricacies of your thesis and reasons to all the research experiments you conducted.

2. Attend Presentations by Other Candidates

Look out for open dissertation presentations at your university. In fact, you can attend open dissertation presentations at other universities too. Firstly, this will help you realize how thesis defense is not a scary process. Secondly, you will get the tricks and hacks on how other researchers are defending their thesis. Finally, you will understand why dissertation defense is necessary for the university, as well as the scientific community.

3. Take Enough Time to Prepare the Slides

Dissertation defense process harder than submitting your thesis well before the deadline. Ideally, you could start preparing the slides after finalizing your thesis. Spend more time in preparing the slides. Make sure you got the right data on the slides and rephrase your inferences, to create a logical flow to your presentation.

4. Structure the Presentation

Do not be haphazard in designing your presentation. Take time to create a good structured presentation. Furthermore, create high-quality slides which impresses the committee members. Make slides that hold your audience’s attention. Keep the presentation thorough and accurate, and use smart art to create better slides.

5. Practice Breathing Techniques

Watch a few TED talk videos and you will notice that speakers and orators are very fluent at their speech. In fact, you will not notice them taking a breath or falling short of breath. The only reason behind such effortless oratory skill is practice — practice in breathing technique.

Moreover, every speaker knows how to control their breath. Long and steady breaths are crucial. Pay attention to your breathing and slow it down. All you need I some practice prior to this moment.

6. Create an Impactful Introduction

The audience expects a lot from you. So your opening statement should enthrall the audience. Furthermore, your thesis should create an impact on the members; they should be thrilled by your thesis and the way you expose it.

The introduction answers most important questions, and most important of all “Is this presentation worth the time?” Therefore, it is important to make a good first impression , because the first few minutes sets the tone for your entire presentation.

7. Maintain Your Own List of Questions

While preparing for the presentation, make a note of all the questions that you ask yourself. Try to approach all the questions from a reader’s point of view. You could pretend like you do not know the topic and think of questions that could help you know the topic much better.

The list of questions will prepare you for the questions the members may pose while trying to understand your research. Attending other candidates’ open discussion will also help you assume the dissertation defense questions.

8. Practice Speech and Body Language

After successfully preparing your slides and practicing, you could start focusing on how you look while presenting your thesis. This exercise is not for your appearance but to know your body language and relax if need be.

Pay attention to your body language. Stand with your back straight, but relax your shoulders. The correct posture will give you the feel of self-confidence. So, observe yourself in the mirror and pay attention to movements you make.

9. Give Mock Presentation

Giving a trial defense in advance is a good practice. The most important factor for the mock defense is its similarity to your real defense, so that you get the experience that prepares for the actual defense.

10. Learn How to Handle Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. However, it is important to carry on. Do not let the mistakes affect your thesis defense. Take a deep breath and move on to the next point.

11. Do Not Run Through the Presentation

If you are nervous, you would want to end the presentation as soon as possible. However, this situation will give rise to anxiety and you will speak too fast, skipping the essential details. Eventually, creating a fiasco of your dissertation defense .

12. Get Plenty of Rest

Out of the dissertation defense preparation points, this one is extremely important. Obviously, sleeping a day before your big event is hard, but you have to focus and go to bed early, with the clear intentions of getting the rest you deserve.

13. Visualize Yourself Defending Your Thesis

This simple exercise creates an immense impact on your self-confidence. All you have to do is visualize yourself giving a successful presentation each evening before going to sleep. Everyday till the day of your thesis defense, see yourself standing in front of the audience and going from one point to another.

This exercise takes a lot of commitment and persistence, but the results in the end are worth it. Visualization makes you see yourself doing the scary thing of defending your thesis.

If you have taken all these points into consideration, you are ready for your big day. You have worked relentlessly for your PhD degree , and you will definitely give your best in this final step.

Have you completed your thesis defense? How did you prepare for it and how was your experience throughout your dissertation defense ? Do write to us or comment below.

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The tips are very useful.I will recomend it to our students.

Excellent. As a therapist trying to help a parent of a candidate, I am very impressed and thankful your concise, clear, action-oriented article. Thank you.

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16 Proven Tips to Write a Thesis for PhD

“A PhD thesis is a written draft of the entire work you have done during your doctorate degree.” 

Writing a thesis for PhD is the toughest part of the PhD degree, however, achieving a PhD is itself the toughest task to complete. The PhD- doctor of philosophy is the top privilege in any education system. The reputation of universities is built from its PhD candidates, how good they will do in the real world. 

The reason why the PhD degree is so important is that once a candidate has awarded it, he or she has the responsibility to solve the real-world problem with their logical intelligence. 

So it is obvious that getting a PhD is a tough job. A PhD thesis is a key element of the entire academic program because it is a written proof of your work. A good thesis should be clear, self-explanatory, and errorless. 

A thesis of your PhD clarifies to the reviewer how you perform your research during the tenure. If you have done an excellent piece of research but aren’t able to demonstrate it properly through your writing, believe me, you have to pass another year. 

So, writing a PhD thesis is undoubtedly a key to success in a doctorate or PhD. Here in the present article, I will give you sixteen proven tips for writing a thesis for a PhD. 

  • Read things: thesis, reviews and articles
  • Create a rough draft 
  • start writing
  • Avoid spelling and punctuation mistakes 
  • Defeat grammar mistakes 
  • Proper citation 
  • Listing the references 
  • Review it by your colleague first 
  • Include objective, abstract and annexures 
  • Number properly 
  • Title page and front matter 
  • Backup the thesis 
  • Make thesis impressive and attractive 
  • Avoid all other stuff 
  • Print it and note it!
  • Don’t try fancy things

Read things- thesis, reviews and articles:

The very first tips before writing a thesis is to start reading things. Read as many articles and thesis as you can in the initial period. Why to read first? 

Trust me, if you write your thesis without reading others, at least after completing the entire thesis you will regret that I could do better than this. So many PhD theses are now available on various online platforms, go and download it and start reading it. Understand their writing style and content. 

Read articles, research papers and thesis related to your topic and make notes on which topics and points they have covered in it. Now in the next step-

Create a rough draft: 

You are not an expert and that is why you have allocated a PhD supervisor to guide you throughout your PhD. Create a rough draft, note down what you will write in which chapter. 

Divide your thesis in chapters like introduction, review of literature, material & method, result & discussion, conclusion and references. Next, decide which piece of information you want to write in which chapter. For example, some general overview and information can be written in the introduction part. 

Your method, instruments you used, SOPs and other related information are written into the material and method part. While all your results should be written into the consecutive chapter or in the results and discussion part. 

Based on that, mark the information when you are reading the stuff. Like this, see the image. 

Start writing: 

To do all these things we have discussed in the above section, you may have passed two years of your PhD, if so, immediately start writing your dissertation from anywhere. 

It is not necessary that you have to start writing the “introduction” first. You can start from anywhere, for example, start with the “material & methods” , write up all the information of the method, process, SOP, protocol, materials, instruments and other things you have used. 

And then write other chapters as you read various articles.

Spelling and punctuations: 

Your thesis should be free from spelling and punctuation mistakes. A punctuation in the wrong place can misinterpret the sentence.    

“According to one survey only 20% of the world’s population can speak and write english.” 

Writing a draft of 300 to 400 pages for a non-English speaking person is the toughest task. Spelling mistakes and punctuation are common mistakes that annoy your supervisor more. 

Don’t panic, there are some intelligent tools that make your writing assignments like thesis, report, dissertation and research paper spelling and punctuation error-free. 

“Grammarly” is one of the most trusted, widely accepted, intelligent and fastest tools that help you to do so. After the next section which is also related to writing, I will show you how you can use Grammarly. 

Related article: How long does it take to get a PhD?

Prevent grammatical mistakes: 

Grammar is yet another problem for non-English speaking people, verbs, nouns, adjectives, tenses, speeches and voices are the common mistakes noticed. 

Grammatical errors make your thesis worsen! Even your research paper can’t be accepted in reputed and peer-reviewed journals. 

 Proper use and balance of active and passive voice and the appropriate use of direct and indirect speech is very crucial. 

Again, thanks to Grammarly, you do not need to bother about grammar. Grammarly will itself suggest to you what to do with your sentence. Also, it will indicate grammatical mistakes and suggest to you how to correct them. The auto-correct option of it is smarter than any other. 

How to use grammarlay? 

The first option is to ‘use the Grammarly extension’ for your browser. For Chrome, you can download it from the chrome store and install it. Once you are done just turn it on. 

For all your docs, email, social media handles and other stuff, it will suggest grammar, spelling, and punctuation in real-time. 

The Grammarly add-on is also available for MS office and Pages (PC and Mac), You can purchase it here: Grammarly premium . 

In addition to this, you can use the Grammarly for your mobile keyboard for iPhone and Android. Download Grammarly for free: Download

We have covered an amazing article on grammarly; what is it, how to download it, prices and benefits. Go and read it here: Grammarly: Your PhD writing assistant.

Mentioning someone in your report, paper or thesis for his own work is known as a citation. Cite every piece of information properly and correctly, experts always check the citations, first. 

Your citations dictate how correctly and sincerely you have done your searcher. That is why in the first point I had mentioned that, read every article and make a note on it; who wrote it, date and what they had researched?

You can cite it with the number and name of scientists & year of publishing.

Listing the references: 

Now in the next step, you have to arrange the references you have used in the citation. For instance, what information you cited as (1), the same you have to mention in the reference as (1). 

The reason for doing this is to give proper navigation to cross-check the information. Remember, if you have not done accurate citation and referencing it will be included in plagiarised content and your thesis will not be considered for submission. 

Again don’t be panic, Use the online tool “ Mendeley ”. It will take care of your citations and references. It will work as you write. It automatically creates the citation at the end of the sentence and creates another file to reference it. 

You can use a citation method recommended by your university either numbering or name & year for citation. Down load Mendeley from here its free.

  • Download mendeley

Review with your colleague or friend: 

Before submitting your thesis to your supervisor, please review it properly with your colleague or friend whose English is good. Although Grammarly had corrected all your grammar and spelling mistakes.

Still, make a quick check with your friend and get applause from your guide. 

Include objective, abstract and annexures:

Until and unless you don’t have included your objectives to thesis, how can someone understand your results? 

Enlist general and specific objectives of your study in the objective section or introduction (whatever suggested by your university or as per the guidelines). 

Also, at the beginning of the thesis, include a 250 to 500 words abstract which is the brief and comprehensive overview of whole research. 

Besides this, at the end of the thesis make annexures for calculations and other. These three things should be there in your thesis because objective, abstract and annexures give ideas to a reviewer regarding the background of your thesis. 


You will not be there while the reviewer reviews your thesis thus all things that make the navigation easy should be there in the draft or thesis. Numbering is one of them. Based on the number given in the index section to each chapter, the reviewer examines the thesis. 

For example, if he wants to read the material and method first, then he will go through the page number given to that chapter in the index. If he didn’t find it on that page number, then, only God will save you. 

What I mean to say, check and recheck all the page numbers of all chapters, tables and images to make it easy for the examiner to navigate. 

Related read: Doing part-time PhD .

Title and front page matter: 

Your thesis should be in accordance with the recommendations given by universities to write a thesis. However, matters like abstract, introduction, materials & methods, results & discussion and interpretations are common for all. Although the matter for the front page may vary among universities. 

But the common formats include the title of our PhD, your name, university and department name, your supervisor’s name and designation. 

Backup thesis:

While writing, it is very important to autosave your content, first, and second, make copies and back of your write up in multiple devices. Let me tell you, if somehow your computer stops working, you will be in a big problem, trust me. 

Always make a habit to save your PhD thesis on multiple devices. Use google drive or cloud storage. Also, send a mail of your everyday work to yourself or to your supervisor, so that you can excess it from anywhere. 

Making thesis impressive and attractive: 

I know a thesis is an education written draft but still it should look attractive, use images, charts, pies and tables to dictate results and other points. Also, try to explain things by flowcharts. 

Usually, images and photos can be used in introductions and reviews, flowcharts and workflows can be used in material-methods and charts, pie charts and graphs are used to indicate results. It makes your thesis more interesting to read. 

After all, a reader should be engaged with your thesis. 

One of the important things while using an image you have to take care of is the source of the image. If you are using someone else’s image or picture, make sure to give them credit, moreover, you can also use your own images.   

Avoid all other stuff: 

While writing a thesis, try to concentrate fully on the content because writing is a hard thing. Avoid checking mails, social media, messages and other things while writing. 

In addition to this, always prefer to write in a calm place, noisy places distract you. 

Print it and note it: 

Print chapters once you think you have completed it, on the next day morning when you feel fresh, read it on your high tea, take pencil and note down the mistakes. 

The point of doing all these things to make the thesis nearer to perfect before submitting it to your supervisor. 

Don’t try fancy things!

Keep in mind that you are preparing a professional write up, not some personal blog post or facebook note. Therefore, the thesis or dissertation should look professional, simple and straightforward.  

Try not to fill fancy, lengthy words and phrases or wordy sentences. Avoid complex sentences. Write to the point. 

My opinion: 

Writing a PhD thesis is not a one day process. You can’t write your entire thesis in a day, week or month. It required time. As per my personal opinion, start writing your thesis from the first week of your PhD. 

You have to pass at least three year to get a PhD. You think it is more than enough but trust me it is not! So don’t wait, start reading and writing. 


This is all for writing the thesis guys. I hope it will help you. Also, use grammarly premium, it will help you not only in PhD thesis but also in future to write research papers and other stuff. 

Download the free version from here or purchase it. 

Dr. Tushar Chauhan is a Scientist, Blogger and Scientific-writer. He has completed PhD in Genetics. Dr. Chauhan is a PhD coach and tutor.

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PhD Project 101: The Truth about choosing PhD Project Topics

Blog summary.

A PhD requires distinct skill sets from a master’s and a bachelor’s. The biggest obstacle for PhD candidates is choosing a project subject or problem statement. This blog article aims to inform readers about how to select and complete their PhD projects. Your inner motivation and areas of interest should be the top considerations while selecting your specialization. Never start a PhD program without getting clarification on the research labs you should choose. For application alerts, while enrolled in your master’s program, register with PhD Portals. Select an interest-provoking subject, then read everything there is to know about it. A successful thesis requires adhering to the “Write, Rewrite, and Write” cycle.

How Do I Choose a PhD Project?

What makes a good phd project, tips to apply for a phd project, tips to write your phd thesis, why tsl-ucn, start your journey to obtaining a phd.

Pursuing a PhD, unlike your master’s or bachelor’s program, demands altogether different skill sets. You have a fixed set of subjects with some open elective and core-elective to study in those programs. But in a PhD program , you are aware of your stream of study like computer science, management, finance, humanities, etc.

But the PhD project topics on which you carry out research are wide open. You are supposed to narrow down to a particular thesis topic idea or field of study. Selecting a PhD project topic or problem statement is the biggest challenge for PhD students. This blog post attempts to educate scholars on selecting a PhD project of their choice and completing it.

Choosing a PhD project topic is the primary work in pursuing a PhD program. It is not like choosing an undergraduate or postgraduate program. It demands patience. So, take your time.

Next, you should be in a position to decide what type of PhD project you want to pursue. Broadly there are three types of PhD projects:

  • Advertised PhD projects
  • Self-proposed PhD projects
  • Professional Doctorates

The Advertised Projects are common in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM) . Research groups and Well-established laboratories offer these programs.

The Self-proposed projects are common in the Humanities and Arts arena. Here, you are free to choose a thesis topic as long as it falls in the purview of a research topic.

Professional Doctorates in vocational subjects like Business and Management awarded to practitioners are not academic qualifications.

A PhD project should, first of all, have a clear goal. So, it starts with a proposal. A PhD proposal is a clear and concise document illustrating the problem statement and the goals of your work. It should also highlight why it is worth pursuing?

A typical PhD project involves Five steps:

  • Identifying a problem statement
  • Carrying out a comprehensive literature review
  • Conducting Original Research and finding out results
  • Producing a Thesis that documents your results
  • Writing the thesis and taking up Viva-Voce 

Tips for choosing a PhD project and topics

Here you have two sets of Tips:

  • Tips to Apply for a PhD project and choosing a PhD project topic

1. Be Aware of Your Niche

Just because you are a computer science postgraduate and AI or Data Science is the trend; You needn’t select these areas. What matters is your interest and inner drive that should be the priority in choosing your niche.

2. Your Comfort Level to Relocate to Another City

Once you have identified your niche and the University/Research Labs, you may have to relocate to a new city. Make up your mind to relocate and also be decisive in making your choice.

3. Identify the Departments and Research Labs Succinctly

You are supposed to conduct a lot of research before boiling it down to a particular Department or University. This is a necessity as it is crucial to identify your core interests and ideas.

4. Obtain Clarity from Your Research Supervisor

Never dive into a PhD program without seeking clarity about the Research labs you are supposed to join. If it is a funded project, get clarification about all facts that are not obvious. Have one to one discussion with your Research Supervisor over Skype or any messenger to seek clarity regarding questions like,

  • How many people work in the lab?
  • What are their designations?
  • Are you supposed to collaborate with any of them?

5. Register with PhD Portals to Get Application Alerts

During your Master’s Program, register with online portals that provide information on PhD programs offered by various Labs and Universities. This helps you to be informed about itineraries of multiple institutes.

6. Seek Seniors and Teachers Help

Ignorance is the biggest culprit that sinks your career ship. Regardless of how small your doubt is, get it clarified from your professors and seniors. Discuss issues like how to formulate an email, cover letter, resume, and other application procedures.

7. Understand the Team Well

It is not only the project that should create enthusiasm; it is also the team you will be working with. The team is vital to complete a project. Before diving into a project, try to understand whether you can get along with your teammates. 

8. Different Types of Funding Exists

When you apply for funded projects, you often come across various types. Some are not funded, while some are competition-funded also. Your enthusiasm for getting into the project plays a vital role in the supervisors picking you in competitive funding. So, Love your work to the core. 

9. Always Apply for More than One University/Institute

Prepare as many applications as possible and shoot them to different institutes. This process provides a wide array of experience in how to draft an application and approach the institutes. Such skills will help you in the long term.

10. Failure is the Stepping Stone to Success

You might fail once or twice in getting shortlisted or fail to perform in the interview. The number of interviews you have faced will help nurture your interpersonal skills.

Below are the general tips any PhD scholar should follow to be successful.

  • While choosing a PhD project topic most crucial parameter is to rely on a topic that is interesting for you.
  • Thoroughly read everything about the topic.
  • Find a theoretical basis to support your idea.
  • Be prepared to shift gears as the research progresses and your presumptions about the outcomes change.
  • Be open to taking inputs from others to fine-tune your views.
  • Formulate a committee of researchers,
  • Be diligent in gathering data.
  • The Panache for Effective Thesis Writing is Follow ing the “Write, Rewrite, and Write” Cycle. It doesn’t matter if your writing is good or bad; take tips from professional writers online. Most importantly, Good writing is all about Editing again and again. So, never feel daunted by Thesis writing; enjoy every bit of it.
  • Sit with your Research Supervisor and prepare well-structured content with a Table of Content adequately defined. Regardless of being an expert writer or novice, your first draft always needs tweaking. Never be disheartened by re-editing work patience is key here.
  • Thesis Writing needn’t be boring and monotony work. Bring in flair to your writing by inserting adjectives, says, expert writers.
  • A chronologically written thesis is a misconception. As soon as you complete a piece of experiment or research, document it neatly when it is fresh in your mind. Later it can be integrated into the Final Thesis as per the Table of Contents.
  • Once you research and write a chapter, take a break and come back with a critical perspective to discover possible mistakes. This always helps. Do not write in a marathon-style take breaks.
  • Plagiarism is the biggest enemy of any research document. Whenever you quote an existing work, paraphrase properly and provide references and citations. 
  • All universities have their Templates and Preferred Style of References . Religiously stick to the guidelines given by your university.
  • Follow the same house style of spellings does not club “-ize” with “-ise” styles. If you prefer to use “improvize,” use it in all places, do not mix up with “improvise.”
  • While quoting from other sources, ensure that you do not make spelling mistakes. Copy the quotes exactly.
  • Your thesis is the window to showcase both your professionalism and research abilities to the outer world. Work with diligence and give it a professional appeal.

Taksha Smartlabz in association with the University of Central Nicaragua (TSL-UCN) provides various PhD programs with an advanced blended learning system that is designed with working professionals in mind. It provides the opportunity to study from anywhere and at any time.

Taking up a PhD project involves various steps. Initially, you have to identify the domain of your interest and apply for a university or research lab. On getting selected, get involved in the meticulous work of carrying out research, documenting your findings, publishing papers, coming up with thesis work, and defending your work in research gathering.

The process of selecting your PhD project is the most crucial step in the entire process. Understanding whether you are looking out for Advertised/Self Proposed PhD projects or Professional Doctorates is vital in the initial stages.

Enroll now, to reap the benefits of this program, and obtain a PhD in your niche.

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phd thesis tips

Shortlisting a PhD thesis topic: 4 useful tips for students 

Shortlisting a PhD thesis topic: 4 useful tips for students - Paperpal

The decision to pursue a PhD is in itself a brave and bold step, considering the different challenges that lie ahead in the journey of a doctoral student. However, an even bigger question that may arise after you have decided to embark upon this journey is how to choose a research topic for PhD, one that keeps you motivated enough to overcome all the other challenges. Every doctoral student has their own set of goals and aspirations, especially when it comes to pursuing research that has an impact on society. For many students, it is essential to have a PhD thesis topic that addresses real-world problems in their respective fields. However, finding a novel research topic is no mean task, especially in an era where there is a high output of research papers, talking about every possible topic. So how can you simplify this process? This article talks about some simple pointers that you can keep in mind, while shortlisting a research topic for PhD.

  • Enlist all the real-world issues that matter to you

You can start the process of narrowing down a research topic for PhD, by making a list of all the real-world issues that matter to you, keeping in mind your subject area, skills, experience and personal aspirations. This will allow you to get a broader idea of the kind of impact you want to have on society. An in-depth comparison of different issues combined with your personal goals will help you make an informed decision and enable you to understand how passionate you are about a particular topic. You can keep repeating this step and shorten the list as required, until you get to your final PhD thesis topic.

  • Do a preliminary research to understand gap areas

Once you have made a list of all the possible research topics for PhD, and are ready to start the process of narrowing it down, begin performing some preliminary research of your own to understand specific gaps in each topic. Comparison of gap areas, especially after gaining a thorough idea of all the research that has already been done, will also help you understand how keen you are to work on an unresolved question; this is an important consideration as your research project may go on for months or years. Apart from this, you may also need to consider the economic aspects of choosing a particular PhD thesis topic vis-à-vis the potential and availability of funding throughout your entire period of doctoral journey.

  • Check the feasibility of your problem statement with experts

While choosing a research topic for PhD, one of the common mistakes that students make is gaining very little knowledge about the feasibility and execution of their problem statement and study design. This is where you can consult relevant experts or mentors in that particular field. Having had their own share of ups and downs in the professional journey, they will be able to guide you in polishing your problem statement, in some cases changing it altogether in order to formulate a study design that can effectively address the gap area. Experts are always willing to do their bit and help in choosing research topics for students.

phd thesis tips

  • Avoid excessive focus on technique preference

As prospective PhD students, it is natural to look at the doctoral journey as an opportunity to gain experience in new techniques and to expand your technical portfolio. However, giving excessive importance to the possibility of learning new techniques might not always be helpful when choosing a particular research area for your PhD thesis topic, especially if there is no guarantee that the topic will keep you motivated throughout your PhD. During your doctoral journey you will inevitably develop and grasp new techniques, which will help you expand your technical portfolio even later in your professional journey. However, in order to utilize your fullest potential in solving a particular issue at the doctoral level, you need to know how to choose a research topic for PhD that does justice not only to your technical abilities but also to your creativity, hard work and motivation.

We hope you find the above pointers useful and it helps you understand what needs to be considered while choosing a research topic for PhD, making your doctoral journey a fulfilling and wholesome experience.

Related Reads:

  • 6 Simple steps to convert a PhD thesis into a journal article
  • How to write a research paper title
  • Good writing habits: 7 Ways to improve your academic writing

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    Jun 7, 2019 Many of the guides, templates and tips on The PhD Knowledge Base are oriented towards specific sections of the thesis. That's because each section presents its own challenges and needs its own approach. However, there are five tips to bear in mind that apply across the whole thesis.

  13. PhD thesis first draft: 8 practical writing tips for PhD students

    Maintain consistency in your writing style: One of the most useful writing tips for PhD students is referring to the preferred style guide to ensure consistency in spellings, proper punctuation, correct hyphenation, and the right use of technical terms and phrases.

  14. Tips for Completing Your PhD Thesis on Time

    3 mins read 🔊 Listen Completing a PhD course is undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling pursuits for academics. Recently, however, a new term arose: ABD ("All but Dissertation"). ABD refers to students who have completed their coursework and passed the exam, but have yet to complete and defend their theses.

  15. Eight top tips to help you turn your PhD thesis into an article

    Treating your thesis as a separate, new work. . Paraphrasing where needed to express the same idea in different ways. . Selecting parts of your thesis to repurpose (not all of it) and focusing on the main points you want the reader to understand. Tip 3. Reformat the introduction as an abstract.

  16. 9 Tips to write your PhD thesis

    9 tips for Writing Your PhD Thesis Before you begin, consider the following: Structure your idea; Make a proper structure of your concept. What you want to write, how you want to write it and so on. Brainstorm and create a detailed map of the idea. Don't worry about the order at first; just write down whatever comes to your mind.

  17. 13 Tips to Prepare for Your PhD Dissertation Defense

    5 mins read 🔊 Listen (average: 5 out of 5. Total: 2) How well do you know your project? Years of experiments, analysis of results, and tons of literature study, leads you to how well you know your research study. And, PhD dissertation defense is a finale to your PhD years.


    Abstract Writing a PhD's thesis is a challenging mission in higher education. This work requires in-depth research executed by motivated students. At this level students have to prove their...

  19. 16 Proven Tips to Write a Thesis for PhD

    Here in the present article, I will give you sixteen proven tips for writing a thesis for a PhD. Read things: thesis, reviews and articles. Create a rough draft. start writing. Avoid spelling and punctuation mistakes. Defeat grammar mistakes. Proper citation. Listing the references.

  20. How to finish a PhD thesis quickly

    How do you finish a Ph.D. quickly? Well, it takes a lot of dedication and ruthlessness towards how you spend your time. Follow these 5 tips and you'll be abl...

  21. As a PhD Examiner … My Top 25 Tips for PhD students

    In a PhD thesis, the references should be credible and verifiable references, and references to industry-focused white papers or general Web pages cannot be trusted providing credible viewpoints ...

  22. PhD Project 101: The Truth about choosing PhD Project Topics

    Tips to Write your PhD Thesis; Tips to Apply for a PhD project. 1. Be Aware of Your Niche. Just because you are a computer science postgraduate and AI or Data Science is the trend; You needn't select these areas. What matters is your interest and inner drive that should be the priority in choosing your niche. 2.

  23. Shortlisting a PhD thesis topic: 4 useful tips for students

    Avoid excessive focus on technique preference. As prospective PhD students, it is natural to look at the doctoral journey as an opportunity to gain experience in new techniques and to expand your technical portfolio. However, giving excessive importance to the possibility of learning new techniques might not always be helpful when choosing a ...

  24. Dissertation Writing Service

    1,693 likes, 3 comments - drfred_phd on January 27, 2024: "Photoshoot of the longest labor ever ( THESIS ) Source Sarah Whelan Curtis on Twitter Follow fo..."