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Structure of Theses and Dissertations

On November 17, 2010, the College of Graduate Studies Council accepted the thesis and dissertation single structure and format endorsed by the UBC Vancouver campus . The new structure provides considerably more flexibility than the previous structures outlined for traditional and manuscript-based theses and dissertations. For example, manuscript-based chapters can now be incorporated into theses and dissertations that otherwise follow the structure and format of the former traditional thesis.  Students using submitted journal articles or published articles as research chapters in their thesis/dissertation should be aware the articles must be revised as noted.  Please keep in mind any copyright requirements for published articles.
  • Remove the introduction from each chapter (you may have a brief synopsis). There is only one introduction at the very beginning of the thesis.
  • Remove the conclusions from each chapter (you may have a brief heading of remarks or something along those lines). There is only one conclusion in the whole thesis.
  • Remove the reference/bibliography section from each chapter. There is only one reference/bibliography section in the whole thesis. 

1. Title page (required) 

2.  Abstract (required - maximum 350 words)

The abstract is a concise and accurate summary of the research contained in the dissertation. It states the problem, the methods of investigation, and the general conclusions, and should not contain tables, graphs or illustrations. There is a single abstract for the entire dissertation, and it must not exceed 350 words in length.

3.  Preface (required if the research has been partly or wholly published in articles, was part of a collaboration, or required the approval of one or more of UBC's Research Ethics Boards)

The Preface must include only the following:

  • A statement indicating the relative contributions of all collaborators and co-authors (including supervisors and members of the supervisory committee) of publications or material submitted for publication, emphasizing details of the student's contribution and stating the proportion of research and writing conducted by the student. The statement should include details about the student's contribution to the following:
    • Identification and design of the research program
    • Performance of the various parts of the research
    • Analysis of the research data
    • Preparation of manuscripts, if any
  • A list of any publications or submissions arising from work presented in the dissertation including the title of the article and name of the publisher (only if the article has been accepted or published), and the chapter(s) of the dissertation in which the work is located
  • The name of the particular UBC Research Ethics Board, and the Certificate Number(s) of the Ethics Certificate(s) obtained, if ethics approval was required for the research

Acknowledgements and introductory material do not belong in the Preface.

NOTE: If students are including their own material from solely- or co-authored journal articles or other research publications, they must follow the guidelines under "Including Published Material in a Dissertation".

If the research involved collaboration with others, including supervisors or members of the supervisory committee, the Preface must include details about the student's contributions to the following:

  • Identification and design of the research program
  • Performance of the various parts of the research
  • Analysis of the research data
  • Preparation of manuscripts, if any

The content of the Preface is verified and endorsed by the student's supervisor by checking the box on the Approval of Dissertation for External Examination form. The Preface may be updated at the time of final submission of the dissertation.

4. Table of contents (required)

5. List of tables (required if dissertation has tables)

6. List of figures (required if dissertation has figures)

7. List of illustrations (required if dissertation has illustrations)

8. Lists of symbols, abbreviations or other (advisable if applicable)

9. Glossary (optional)

10. Acknowledgements (optional)

The following are usually mentioned in the Acknowledgements:

  • Supervisor and committee
  • Grant support
  • Helpful fellow students, lab mates etc.
  • Family support

11. Dedication (optional)

12. Introduction

The introduction to the dissertation must outline the theme, hypotheses and/or goals of the dissertation and provide sufficient information to enable a non-specialist researcher to understand these. It must contain the elements listed below. The way in which these elements are incorporated will depend on the particular discipline.

  • A thorough review of relevant literature
  • A clear statement of the research question – the hypotheses and/or goals of the research

13. Research chapters

The account of the research should be presented in a manner suitable for the field and include the following:

  • A coherent structure that flows logically and smoothly from chapter to chapter
  • A brief synopsis at the beginning of each research chapter
  • A description of methods used, in sufficient detail to enable a reader to understand how the data were gathered and to apply similar methods in another study
  • A complete account of the research presented in a systematic manner typical of the field of study

Students should consult with their supervisors for further guidance about how to structure their particular thesis.

14. Conclusion

In this section the student must demonstrate his/her mastery of the field and his/her contribution to knowledge in the broader discipline.

The section includes the following:

  • Overall analysis and integration of the research and conclusions of the dissertation in light of current research in the field
  • Conclusions regarding goals or hypotheses of the dissertation that were presented in the Introduction, and the overall significance and contribution of the dissertation research
  • Comments on strengths and limitations of the dissertation research
  • Discussion of any potential applications of the research findings
  • An analysis of possible future research directions in the field drawing on the work of the dissertation

15. Bibliography (mandatory)

There must be only one Bibliography or References section for the whole dissertation.

16. Appendices

Appendices must be limited to supporting material genuinely subsidiary to the main argument of the dissertation. They must only include material that is referred to in the dissertation.

The following are appropriate for inclusion in the appendices:

  • Additional details of methodology and/or data
  • Diagrams of specialized equipment developed
  • Copies of questionnaires or surveys used in the research

Please do not include copies of the Ethics Certificates in the Appendices.

Last reviewed shim5/3/2016 2:13:45 PM