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6.4 Writing the Subsequent Chapters of Your PhD Thesis

Basically, the structure of each of the chapters should follow the same format. You are aiming throughout to build an argument throughout which will address different aspects of the central topic.

In many ways, the structure is similar to that of an academic essay or a dissertation but of course, as this is a much longer and more intensive piece of work, you will need to be much more aware of controlling the direction of the structure.

Perhaps the main difference – apart from the depth of thinking and the sheer originality of the thesis – is the way that evidence is used within the Ph.D. thesis, as it is vital that it is used both to supplement and to expand your ideas.

As you begin each new chapter, consider the list of questions applied to the introductory chapter with special reference to the following:

  • What am I hoping to achieve in this chapter?
  • What methods am I going to use to ensure that my writing engages the reader?
  • How do I intend to use evidentiary support in this chapter?
  • What makes this chapter different from the others?
  • What do I hope to have achieved by the time this chapter is complete?
  • How do I envisage this chapter fitting into the thesis as a whole?

Brief responses to each of these have been given in the previous section but you need to keep asking these questions every time you begin to construct a new chapter because the answers will – or at least should – be different each time.

You will notice (if you’re paying attention!) that the word ‘construct’ has just been used in relation to the writing of chapters. This is an important distinction because - whatever subject your Ph.D. thesis is covering - you need now to build each chapter not just write it.

Indeed, it is a good idea to have an individual plan for each chapter, having a working title for each one, and showing how this particular chapter is unique in its approach yet a cohesive part of the whole.

This applies as much to evidentiary support as to content, as you will be using evidence differently in each chapter according to the different nuances of each. Much reference has been made to the way in which evidence can add to the ideas and be incorporated within your methodology and it is equally applicable throughout your thesis, whatever subject area you are researching. However, do not let the interesting ideas that this kind of inferential analysis invites distract you too far from the central argument, however tempting it might be.

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