How to Prepare a Thesis or Dissertation

How to prepare your thesis or dissertation

What does a university or examiner expect of a thesis or dissertation?

Often a thesis or dissertation may need to be written in a different style depending on the field of study, as universities normally apply similar criteria when examining theses or dissertations submitted.

It is common for universities to send examiners a list of criteria as a guide for examiners responsible for assessing the theses or dissertations of students. The criteria often vary, based on to the level of study related to the thesis or dissertation.

However, the following are common criteria applied in such cases, and students should bear these in mind.
  • Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of previous relevant research on the chosen topic
  • Present a critical review/analysis of previous research on the chosen topic
  • Present a clear, well defined and comprehensive investigation of the chosen topic
  • Demonstrate the application of appropriate research methodology and techniques
  • Provide a comprehensive and in-depth presentation and interpretation of the research results
  • Present suitably developed conclusions and implications which are relevant to the research framework and research findings
  • Demonstrate a high quality of written presentation
  • Provide a well defined contribution to existing knowledge on the chosen research topic

The final point (contribution to existing knowledge) is particularly important for PhD students, as examiners are frequently required to decide if the thesis ‘provides a significant and original contribution’ to existing work in the specific area of research.

Experts have identified common attributes or qualities associated with high quality theses (i.e. a thesis which is not required to be resubmitted). These are as follows:

General Criteria for High Quality Thesis/Dissertation

Thesis topic and approach

    Importance and challenge of the chosen topic.
    Synthesis of originality of approach with production of a significant and original contribution in terms of the chosen topic and the field of discipline.

Literature review

    Expertly makes use of the existing literature in the overall design of the study as well as the discussion related to the findings of the research study.
    Clear and comprehensive reporting and appraisal of existing literature in the field.

Communicative competence

    Excellent written communication ability.


    Acknowledgement of need for early publication of the study and related findings.