How to Write a Thesis: A Working Guide
How to Write a Thesis: A Working Guide
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This is a short guide on how to write a thesis at both the undergraduate and
postgraduate levels. It is aimed at students of engineering and science. A thesis
may be analysed into three S’s: structure, substance and style. Structure confers
logical coherence; substance, significance and depth; and style, elegance and appeal.
State your hypothesis clearly, ensuring that it is both reasonable and testable.
Keep meticulous records and write up rough drafts of your work as you go along.
Begin writing your thesis proper with the experimental chapters. Progress to the
literature review, introduction and conclusions. Write the summary or abstract last,
after writing the conclusions.
Write clearly and directly, with the reader’s expectations always in mind. Lead
the reader from the known to the unknown. Write clearly, precisely and briefly.
Think, plan, write, and revise. Follow layout guidelines and check spelling and
grammar. Re-read, seek criticism, and revise. Submit your best effort as your
This is a working guide on writing a thesis. It is intended to assist final year and postgraduate
students in Electrical/Electronic/IT Engineering at the Centre for Intelligent
Information Processing Systems (CIIPS), and the Australian Research Centre for Medical
Engineering (ARCME), at The University of Western Australia (UWA). The guide is
divided into three main parts:
II Substance; and
The structure of a thesis is governed by logic and is invariant with respect to subject. The
substance varies with subject, and its quality is determined by the technical knowledge
and mastery of essentials exhibited by the student. Style has two components: language
and layout. The former deals with the usage of English as a medium of sound technical
communication; the latter with the physical presentation of the thesis on paper, according
to the requirements laid out by UWA. All three components—structure, substance and
style—influence one another. A good thesis will not be found wanting in any of these
What is a thesis and why write one?
thesis/"Ti:sIs/ n 1 a proposition to be maintained or proved. 2 a dissertation esp. by a
candidate for a degree. [Middle English via Late Latin from Greek = putting, placing, a
proposition, etc.] 
hypothesis/h2I"p6TI:sIs/1 a proposition made as a basis for reasoning without the assumption
of its truth. 2 a supposition made as a starting point for further investigation
from known facts. [Late Latin from Greek hypothesis ‘foundation’; Greek hypo ‘under’] 
One might infer from the etymology above that a thesis is an (obligatory) offering
placed at the desk of the examiner by a candidate who wishes to get a degree. This is
the most common, and often only, reason why a thesis is written. But there are other
reasons for writing a thesis.
A thesis is a written record of the work that has been undertaken by a candidate. It
constitutes objective evidence of the author’s knowledge and capabilities in the field of
interest and is therefore a fair means to gauge them. Although thesis writing may be
viewed as an unpleasant obligation on the road to a degree, the discipline it induces may
have lifelong benefits.
The hypothesis underpins the thesis
The hypothesis is all important. It is the foundation of your thesis. It gives coherence
and purpose to your thesis. Go back to section 1.1 to review the meaning and etymology
of this word. If it is hard to grasp what hypothesis means, these explanations might help:
• The hypothesis defines the aim or objective of an experiment, that if some likely
but unproven proposition were indeed true, we would expect to make certain observations
• A hypothesis is an imaginative preconception of what might be true in the form of
a declaration with verifiable deductive consequences [7, p 18].
• Hypotheses are the larval forms of theories [7, p 20].
• ‘In every useful experiment, there must be some point in view, some anticipation of
a principle to be established or rejected’; such anticipations are hypotheses [7, John
Gregory quoted by Medawar, p22].
Indeed, the great French physiologist, Claude Bernard, has written:
A hypothesis is . . . the obligatory starting point of all experimental reasoning.
Without it, no investigation would be possible, and one would learn nothing:
one could only pile up barren observations. To experiment without preconceived
ideas is to wander aimlessly. [7, p 30]