When is a thesis ready for submision

The quality of a thesis is dependent on criteria of originality, but also; writing, depth and thoroughness in each component and in the way components are integrated seamlessly throughout the thesis (Lovitts, 2007), showing critical thinking.

The final stages are about ensuring your PhD matches these requirements when all your work is brought together.

These pages look at what to focus on during the last stages of the PhD. It explores

  • thesis requirements
  • thesis structures
  • thesis coherence
  • thesis writing as a genre
watch video iconIn this short video Prof Mark Turner explains what a finished thesis – should look like.

 What counts as originality and significance ?

Doctoral theses are generally expected to develop original and significant knowledge. But what does this mean?

Originality can come from (Tinkler and Jackson, 2004):

  • Research on something new: study area, topic, question, hypotheses, problems
  • Research processes: new application of known tools, refinement of existing tools, new perspectives
  • Research outcomes: new or revised solutions, products, theories, knowledge, interpretations, approaches, ways of doing research, new ways of doing research, opening up of new areas for research.


Originality and innovation can be achieved by moving an ‘obvious’ idea from one context and applying it in another (Dunleavy Patrick, Nov 2015).

Done all that work – but has this thesis really got anything to say?!: Strategies to regain perspective on research contribution  (Aitchison, Claire, November 2016 in Doctoral Writing SIG)

But the contribution has to be more than original, it also has to be significant


Baptistaa  A., Frickb L., Holleyc K., Remmikd M.,Tesche J. and G. Âkerlind (2015). ‘The doctorate as an original contribution to knowledge: Considering relationships between originality, creativity, and innovation’,  Frontline Learning Research 3/3, 51 – 63 

Bringing the sections of the thesis together

The final stages of thesis writing are always longer than anticipated – allow at least 6 months for process from final draft to submitting.

You will need to make sure that:

  • the different sections are linked together, talk to each other
  • everything is logically presented
  • every chapter fits in an overarching structure.

You can do this by accordingly paying attention to:

  • overall structure of thesis
  • table of contents, introduction, conclusion, abstract
  • how chapters follow each other
  • how paragraphs follow each other
  • keywords, sentences throughout the text
  • signposting: show how thesis is organised and presented as an argument in headings, paragraphs, topic sentences, closing  sentences.

Button-important-iconYour thesis has to be directed by your argument

  • You need to make some conclusions – not just describe data!
  • You need to argue one main point. What is your thesis? What is your contribution to knowledge?
  • Through your writing you are participating to a conversation and you are influencing and potentially changing the nature of that conversation. Make sure your writing is establishing a position, but also shows understanding of other ideas and positions, and that you position yourself in relation to these other ideas and positions.
  • Every bit of the thesis needs to fit in with this overarching argument.
  • Help readers/examiners understand how it all fits together. They need to be told important things more than once. You have to remind them of the story you tell, where you are coming from and where you are going to.


Gibney, Elizabeth “Half of Theses Fail to Show How They Advance Knowledge” Times Higher Education Supplement [online][“18 April 2013”][last accessed 29 April 2013]. Available on the Internet: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/half-of-theses-fail-to-show-how-they-advance-to-knowledge/2003278.article.

A thesis is an ugly, clunky, conservative genre, so write in an ugly, clunky and conservative way. You can’t be too obvious. Don’t worry about spelling things out, writing repeatitively, or aiming for elegant prose. I don’t want surprises, and I certainly don’t want to have to read it twice. Source:Firth, K/(2014) Rethinking academic writing.

More information about how to do this is in


Dunleavy, Patrick (2003). Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral dissertation or thesis. Palgrave Macmillan.

Kamler & Thomson (2006). Helping doctoral students to write. Pedagogies for Supervision. Routledge, Milton Park.

Lovitts. Barbara E.(2007). Making the implicit explicit. Creating performance expectation for the dissertation. Stylus Publishing: Sterling Virginia. (UC Library LB 2369.L6.2007).

Partridge, B. & Starfield, S. (2007). Thesis and dissertation writing in a second language: A handbook for supervisors, Routledge: London & New York.

Tinkler, P & Jackson, C. (2004). The doctoral examination process: a handbook for students, examiners and supervisors, SRHE/Open University Press: Maidenhead.

toolboxUseful resources

Chandler, D. (1995) Writing Strategies. Aberystwyth University.  This page offers some insight on strategies people use to start composing a text and is available from Http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/strats.html.

Doctoral Writing SIG, a blog on writing available from http://doctoralwriting.wordpress.com/ Check for example Aitchison (2016), ‘Done all that work – but has this thesis really got anything to say?!: Strategies to regain perspective on research contribution’ 11 November 2016.

Dunleavy, Patrick (2015). ‘Becoming more creative in academic work – a menu of suggestions’, Writing for research (blog).

Ivory Research (n.d) How to transform your dissertation – an overview of what needs to be in a dissertation to make it successful.

Mewburn, Inger (2013). The Thesis Whisperer verb cheat sheet available at https://sites.google.com/site/twblacklinemasters/verb-cheat-sheet.

Morley, John (2012) Academic Phrasebank . Provides examples of sentences that operate as ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing. Available from http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/.

Sword, Helen (n.d), The writers diet. This great resource is available from http://www.writersdiet.com/WT.php?home. Check the The Writers Diet Test to help you write simply and clearly. Then check out the Intelligent Editing program (in resources ) that can help with consistency and style.

Popova, Maria (n.d). The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses: Walter Benjamin’s Timeless Advice on Writing available at http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/04/15/the-writers-technique-in-thirteen-theses-walter-benjamin/.

Resources for achieving a great look

Bonneville, Douglas ( 2011). How To Choose A Typeface — A Step-By-Step Guide

Bonneville, Douglas (2013) 19 best fonts in 19 top combinations

Friedlander, Joel (2010). 3 Great Typeface Combinations You Can Use in Your Book

Lupton, Ellen (n.d.) Thinking with type is useful if you want to explore various uses of typography

Swartz, Corinne (2013). Typography Basics: Pairing Fonts for the Web