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Thesis & Project Guide: Writing & Formatting

Thesis/Project Templates

One of the more important and often overlooked aspects of preparing a thesis/project is proper formatting.  Download, Save As, and write your thesis/project using one of the templates below to help simplify the process!

Other Common Parts of a Thesis/Project

A dedication (for example, "To my wonderful partner, ___") or a longer acknowledgments page or pages are both optional.  That said, no one gets through graduate school and writes a thesis on their own, so it is important to recognize the help others, including but not limited to your advisors, professors, family, friends, etc., who provided support along the way.  They will appreciate it!

A thesis/project should almost always include some sort of literature review, a short summary and analysis of what other scholars have written on your topic and/or methodology in secondary sources.  A literature review is an opportunity to set up the originality of your thesis/project: others may have already studied your topic, studied similar topics, or used your methodology, but no one has studied this particular aspect of the topic or used the methodology in this particular way.  This often appears in the introduction, but depending on the scope of your literature review and your topic, it could be an early chapter.

Whether you are approaching your topic as an insider, an outsider, or some combination thereof, you as the author are expected to be up front and direct about any potential biases or conflicts of interest in studying your topic.  Such reflectional writing typically appears in the introduction.

Data and numbers are not just for the sciences, but can be used in the humanities and religious studies.  If you can quantify or visualize your research findings in any way, you should present those findings in figures, tables, or charts.  All tables/charts/figures should include a descriptive title that gives the reader a good sense of what the data is showing.  If you have multiple tables/charts/figures, you should include a list with page numbers after your table of contents.  For more information, and for guidelines on formatting your tables or figures, see our Writing Guide's Tables & Figures guide.

Your thesis/project must include a conclusion, which is typically a few pages.  In your conclusion, you should restate your thesis statement, although it is better to reword it here instead of just cutting and pasting it from the introduction.  For a DMin Project, you should discuss the impact your project has had on your ministry.  If, in your introduction, you started with a hypothesis, then you should explain to what extent you proved or disproved your hypothesis, and why it turned out this way (there is no shame in your hypothesis being disproved!).  Other things you might consider addressing in your conclusion include (but are not limited to):

  • A discussion of the ramifications and potentials of your research findings
  • Why, do you think, your research findings turned out as they did?
  • A reflection on areas of inquiry for future researchers:
    • Any of your original research questions that may still remain
    • New areas of inquiry that arose in the course of your research

If you have a very long (i.e., multiple page) table/figure, a consent form, a survey form, interview script, or a relatively long document you have the permission to reproduce, you should include it as an appendix after your conclusion and before your bibliography.  Like a table/chart, an appendix should include a descriptive title that tells the reader what the appendix is.  If you have multiple such works, then make multiple appendices, labelled Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C, etc.

The very last part of your thesis/project will be your bibliography, the list of all the sources you utilized in researching your thesis/project.  Your sources should formatted according to Chicago Style (unless you receive approval to use another style from your advisors) and be listed alphabetically with hanging indentations; for more information on formatting your bibliography, check out our Citations guide.

Abstract v. Introduction v. Thesis Statement

Your thesis/project must have an abstract, an introduction, and a thesis statement. Students sometimes confuse the three of these, or think that they can just cut and paste some or all of one into another, when in fact they all serve different yet important purposes:

An abstract is a very short (100 words or less) summary of your entire work as a whole. A good abstract gives the reader a sense of what you will do and cover in your thesis/project. This includes your topic (whether a research question or a problem), your methodology (how you have gone about researching your topic), and your findings (what you discovered about your topic using your methodology, essentially your thesis statement). In general, do not use first person pronouns (I, me, or my); for example, instead of writing “I will demonstrate,” write “this project will demonstrate.”

An introduction is a relatively long (several pages) set up for your thesis statement.  In an introduction, you should focus on what is the research question, or what is the problem you for which you seek to find an answer?  Typically, you will also discuss your methodology here as well (unless you specifically need to do so in a later chapter).  You may also have a literature review here, if not in another chapter.  Your introduction must include a thesis statement (see below), but otherwise, the introduction is not the place to spend too much time writing about your research findings.

A thesis statement is a one/few sentence summary of the original arguments you make in your entire work as a whole.  In other words, it is a summary of your research findings.

A thesis/project is not a work of suspense.  You tell the reader the question/problem, how you will approach that question/problem, and the answer up front in the abstract. Then in the introduction, you detail the question/problem and note the answer.  In the rest of the thesis, you detail how you came to your answers, explaining what aspects of the question/problem remain.

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