4.6 Appendices, References, Acknowledgements and Other Final Things

4.6.1 Appendices

As I mentioned in Sections 1.4.1 and 3.5.3, appendices are not required in a thesis, but they are often included. If you are considering appendices for your thesis, check your university or department guidelines or discuss the idea with your supervisor to be certain that they will be received positively. It is also a good idea to revisit at this point any length or word count requirements or limitations set for doctoral theses by your university or department, because if you have already reached the upper limit, including appendices may require cutting other material, and in such situations appendices should only be considered if they are absolutely necessary. However, appendices are often preferable to extensive or overly long footnotes or endnotes or too much supplementary information in the main text of a thesis, both of which can distract readers from your main argument. For this reason, an effective strategy may be to move such material from the main text or notes into an appendix, since this sort of revision will not significantly alter the overall length or word count of your thesis. If, on the other hand, your thesis is a little shy of the minimum length requirement, you may want to add an appendix or two for supplementary information that you originally cut out of the thesis, but that could usefully be included: this can help you increase the word count to meet requirements. Your decision regarding the inclusion of appendices may also be simplified by the following information and advice.

As a general rule, appendices present subsidiary or supplementary material that is directly related to the material in the thesis itself and potentially helpful to readers, but which might prove distracting or inappropriate or simply too long were it included in the main body of the thesis or in notes (long footnotes in particular can make the layout of pages unattractive and should be avoided). An appendix is also a good format for material that is mentioned or discussed in more than one chapter, part or section of a thesis, because it helps the author avoid repetition while rendering the information readily available to readers. Appendices can contain a wide variety of material, such as texts discussed in the thesis, translations, chronologies, genealogies, examples of principles and procedures, descriptions of complex pieces of equipment, survey questionnaires, participant responses, detailed demographics for a population or sample, lists (particularly long ones), tables and figures, explanations or elaborations of any aspect of a study and any other supplementary information relevant to a thesis.

This material should not be included in an appendix simply because it is interesting and you happen to have it, however; instead, appendices should be included ‘only if they help readers to understand, evaluate, or replicate the study or theoretical argument being made’ (Publication Manual of the APA, 2010, p.40). An appendix ‘should not be a repository for odds and ends that the author could not work into the text’ (Chicago Manual of Style, 2003, p.27). Ideally, each appendix should have a specific theme, focus or function and gather materials of a particular type or relating to a particular topic, and it should bear a main heading that describes its content (e.g., ‘Appendix: Questionnaire 3 in Spanish and English’). If more than one theme or topic requires this sort of treatment, additional appendices should be preferred to subdividing a single long appendix, although appendices can certainly make use of internal headings and subheadings if necessary (on headings, see Section 6.1).

It is also best if appendices, like tables and figures, are able to stand on their own, so all abbreviations, symbols and specialised or technical terminology should be briefly defined or explained within each appendix, enabling the reader to understand the material without recourse to definitions and explanations in the rest of the thesis. All information in appendices that overlaps material in the main body of a thesis should match that material precisely in both content and format. Appendices can be set in the font size used in the main body of a thesis or a slightly smaller font to save space and they normally appear in the final matter before the endnotes (if there are any) or before the reference list or bibliography, although in some cases the appendices will be the last items in a thesis, so do check guidelines to determine if a specific position is required. The first appendix in a thesis usually begins on a new page, and subsequent appendices sometimes do the same, though they can run on instead with a little extra spacing between the end of one appendix and the beginning of the next. If there is only one appendix in a thesis, it will not need to be identified by a particular number or letter, but if you intend to include two or more appendices, they will need to be labelled with uppercase letters or with Arabic or Roman numerals according to the order in which the appendices are mentioned in the main text of the thesis, which should match the order of their appearance in the final matter (‘Appendix A,’ ‘Appendix B,’ ‘Appendix C’ etc., or ‘Appendix 1,’ ‘Appendix 2,’ ‘Appendix 3’ etc.). Appendices should always be referred to by these labels when they are discussed in the thesis, and each appendix should be referred to at least briefly in the main text of the thesis.

If a single table or figure makes up the whole of an appendix, the appendix label and heading are sufficient for the table or figure as well, but if an appendix contains more than a single table or figure, each table and figure will need to be numbered (and given a heading or caption), and this numbering should be separate from the tables and figures associated with the chapters of the thesis. If there is only one appendix, a capital A (for ‘Appendix’) should be used before each table or figure number – ‘Table A.1’ and ‘Figure A.2’ – but if more than one appendix is included, the specific letter or number of the appendix should be used as well as the table or figure number: ‘Table C.3,’ ‘Figure B.2,’ ‘Table II.4’ and ‘Figure IV.2.’ Please note that if you have more than one appendix in your thesis and any of those appendices contain more than one table or figure, the appendices should be labelled with letters or Roman numerals; if such appendices use Arabic numerals, it will be difficult to distinguish between tables and figures in chapters and those in the appendices (e.g., ‘Table 3.3’ could be the third table in Chapter 3 or the third table in Appendix 3, whereas ‘Table C.3’ is clearly the third table in Appendix C). Tables and figures may be embedded in appendices that also include text or they may appear at the end of each appendix, but if the university or department guidelines you are following indicate that tables and figures in general should be placed at the end of the thesis, those associated with appendices may need to appear there as well. For further information on tables and figures, see Sections 1.3 and 4.4.1.

4.6.2 Other Final Things

If you have not yet added (or revised and expanded since your proposal) any footnotes or endnotes that you intend to use for supplementary information in the thesis, now is the time to add them (see Section 3.4 above). It can be helpful to construct (or review) the supplementary notes and any appendices you plan to include at the same time so that you can decide which format is most appropriate for different kinds of material. If any ancillary lists are required – a list of abbreviations, for instance, or lists of tables and figures – these should be added at this point as well, either in the preliminary or final matter depending on university or department guidelines and/or personal preferences (see Sections 1.1.7–1.1.9). A list of abbreviations is usually arranged alphabetically by the abbreviations (rather than the full versions) with a colon between each abbreviation and its definition (see also Section 6.3):

ANOVA: Analysis of variance

CI: Confidence interval

ES: Effect size

Lists of tables and figures (on which, see also Sections 1.1.8 and 1.1.9), on the other hand, are arranged numerically according to the table or figure numbers and usually include the page number each table or figure appears on:

            Table 1: Items in Questionnaire 1    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     67

            Table 2: Items in Questionnaire 2    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     71

            Table 3: Items in Questionnaire 3    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     74

Tables are usually listed separately from figures, and shortened forms of table headings and figure captions are often used in these lists, especially if the headings and captions are long (consisting of more than a single sentence, for instance), but the table and figure numbers must match exactly the labels that appear on the tables and figures themselves and the order in which the tables and figures appear in the thesis. When tables and figures are reproduced or adapted from other sources, acknowledgements of those sources are sometimes included in such lists. For general advice on constructing lists, see Section 5.5.2.

Acknowledgements of any assistance you received in writing the thesis and in some cases of any materials you used from previous publications should be added to the thesis as well (see Section 1.1.6). Acknowledgements generally appear in the front matter of a thesis, but they can instead be added to the final matter, so you will need to determine which location is most appropriate for your thesis. Credits and permissions (if necessary) for material such as images, tables and long quotations borrowed from sources sometimes appear along with the borrowed material itself instead of (or in addition to) appearing in the acknowledgements (see Section 4.4.1, for instance). Acknowledgements in theses tend to be rather informal and sometimes intensely personal when compared with the formal scholarly text used in the rest of a thesis. As a general rule, this is fine – you have, after all, had a great deal of help in achieving the monumental goal of writing your thesis and it is only natural to want to thank with enthusiasm those who assisted you. Do beware, however, of letting your prose style slip beneath the required standard.

The acknowledgements may not be part of the scholarship in your thesis, but they are there for all to read, and a thesis is a professional document, so it is wise to maintain a professional perspective. Try to avoid arbitrary shifts between the first-, second- and third-person voices (e.g., ‘I would like to thank my friend and colleague Vicky for reading each and every chapter with such painstaking care – I wouldn’t have survived this thesis without you!’) and informal usage (contractions, for instance, such as ‘wouldn’t’ in my example, the second part of which would be better as ‘– I would not have survived this thesis without her!’). Keep in mind as well that some supervisors and committee members will feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when reading overly effusive expressions of gratitude aimed at themselves – yes, they have been wonderful, but supervising your work is their job, after all – so maintaining the dignity and comfort of everyone involved, including yourself, while expressing sincere and even enthusiastic gratitude is the best approach. Focussing precisely on exactly what each individual has done that specifically assisted you in completing your thesis will help you keep your acknowledgements relevant and professional.

Any dedication you wish to include in the thesis should be added to the front matter at this point as well. More importantly, if you have not yet written your abstract and chosen your keywords, they will need to be tackled, and if you have already worked on these earlier, revising them right after you have finished drafting the entire thesis is a good strategy (see Sections 1.1.2, 1.1.3 and 4.2). Finally, you will need to add or complete all the necessary citations, quotations and references in your thesis and compile the list of references, list of works cited or bibliography that should appear at the end of the thesis (or expand the one you submitted with your proposal: see Sections 1.2.6, 1.4.3, 2.1.2 and 3.5.4). It is very late in the game indeed to be deciding upon referencing methods and styles at this point, but if that is not yet a settled matter, a consistent and effective system must be adopted and applied throughout the thesis before it is considered a complete draft, and it is always wise to check your references carefully to be sure you have met the requirements set by your university, department and thesis committee. In Chapter 7 below I discuss in detail the main methods and styles of in-text referencing as well as reference lists and bibliographies, so please refer to that chapter for specific advice on bringing your references into line with scholarly standards, especially if you do not have specific guidelines to follow. If you use direct quotations in your thesis, see also Chapter 8, where I outline the ways in which direct quotations should be presented and integrated in academic and scientific prose.

Finally, once you have the entire thesis drafted, your table of contents will need to be completed by adding page numbers for the parts, chapters and sections of the thesis (and perhaps removing the summaries you used for your thesis outline if you have not already done so: see Section 4.1), or updated and checked if you are making use of a tool such as Word’s automatic table of contents function (see Section 6.1.1 for advice on creating an active table of contents). Make sure that all page numbers in the table of contents accurately indicate the pages on which those parts, chapters and sections actually appear in the thesis, and check the table of contents carefully to ensure that all titles and headings that appear in it match the corresponding headings in the thesis exactly in terms of order, wording, numbering (if used), punctuation and usually capitalisation as well (see Section 6.1 for further information on headings). Even something as simple as line spacing is important in this final stage. Although you may have single spaced your writing while sharing it with your supervisor and the other members of your committee without earning any complaints, double spacing is usual in the main body or running text of a thesis and it also tends to make your work more legible and easier on the eyes of your readers than single spacing does. Many universities will require double spacing, so do check for that in the guidelines and perhaps pay your readers (who are also your examiners) the courtesy of using it even if it is not required.

Why PhD Success?

To Graduate Successfully

This article is part of a book called "PhD Success" which focuses on the writing process of a phd thesis, with its aim being to provide sound practices and principles for reporting and formatting in text the methods, results and discussion of even the most innovative and unique research in ways that are clear, correct, professional and persuasive.

The assumption of the book is that the doctoral candidate reading it is both eager to write and more than capable of doing so, but nonetheless requires information and guidance on exactly what he or she should be writing and how best to approach the task. The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples.

The basic components of a doctoral thesis are outlined and described, as are the elements of complete and accurate scholarly references, and detailed descriptions of writing practices are clarified through the use of numerous examples. PhD Success provides guidance for students familiar with English and the procedures of English universities, but it also acknowledges that many theses in the English language are now written by candidates whose first language is not English, so it carefully explains the scholarly styles, conventions and standards expected of a successful doctoral thesis in the English language.

Individual chapters of this book address reflective and critical writing early in the thesis process; working successfully with thesis supervisors and benefiting from commentary and criticism; drafting and revising effective thesis chapters and developing an academic or scientific argument; writing and formatting a thesis in clear and correct scholarly English; citing, quoting and documenting sources thoroughly and accurately; and preparing for and excelling in thesis meetings and examinations. 

Completing a doctoral thesis successfully requires long and penetrating thought, intellectual rigour and creativity, original research and sound methods (whether established or innovative), precision in recording detail and a wide-ranging thoroughness, as much perseverance and mental toughness as insight and brilliance, and, no matter how many helpful writing guides are consulted, a great deal of hard work over a significant period of time. Writing a thesis can be an enjoyable as well as a challenging experience, however, and even if it is not always so, the personal and professional rewards of achieving such an enormous goal are considerable, as all doctoral candidates no doubt realise, and will last a great deal longer than any problems that may be encountered during the process.

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