1.2.6 In-Text References, Footnotes and/or Endnotes

References to the sources cited and/or quoted in a thesis should appear throughout the thesis. Depending on the discipline, university and department guidelines and the requirements of the individual thesis, in-text citations may take the form of numerical references, be based on the last names of authors (usually along with publication dates) or appear in footnotes or endnotes. Footnotes and endnotes can also be used to provide a wide variety of material beyond bibliographical references, such as summaries of the scholarship on a topic, suggestions for further reading, alternative or contradictory editions and arguments, and further details on anything discussed in the main text.

Both kinds of notes are usually indicated by superscript Arabic numerals, with the numbering often beginning again at the start of each chapter, and the notes themselves are generally set in a slightly smaller font than that of the main text of a thesis. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant pages, but endnotes can appear either at the end of each chapter or in the final matter of the thesis. For more information on footnotes, endnotes and in-text references, see Sections 1.4 and 3.4 as well as Chapter 7.

1.3 Tables and Figures

The tables and figures included in a thesis will often appear in the main body of the thesis with each one placed as close as possible to the discussion of it in the text, or to the report or description it enhances or illustrates. This is not always the case, however: some universities, departments, thesis committees and doctoral candidates will want tables and figures placed at the end of the thesis (or the tables and figures for each chapter placed at the end of that chapter), which simplifies the layout of the text itself and is particularly appropriate for especially long tables or large figures.

In some cases, certain tables and figures might be embedded in the main body of the thesis while others will be tacked on at the end. As a general rule, each table or figure should be able to stand on its own, which is to say that all the information necessary to understand the table or figure without recourse to other parts of the thesis should be provided in the context of the table or figure. For guidance on designing, incorporating and listing tables and figures, see Sections 1.1.8 and 1.1.9 and Sections 4.4.1 and 4.6.

1.3.1 Tables

Tables consist of columns and rows and are used to present data in a visually effective way that more readily allows for comprehension, calculation and/or comparison than describing the same data in text could. Tables should be numbered, usually with Arabic numerals (Roman numerals or letters are much rarer), in the order in which they are first mentioned in the thesis (see Section 4.6.1 for advice on numbering tables that appear in appendices), and each table should bear a title or main heading that indicates exactly what the table shows.

Each table must be referred to in the text by its number along with some indication of what the reader will find in the table, and the tables themselves should appear in their order of mention whether they are embedded in the text or placed at the end of a chapter or the end of the thesis as a whole. Headings on columns and rows within a table define the data presented and, if necessary, notes at the bottom explain aspects that might otherwise be unclear to readers, such as abbreviations and probability values. There may be specific university or department guidelines for the use and layout of tables, but, generally speaking, clarity, accuracy and consistency are the keys to well-designed tables.

1.3.2 Figures

Figures take many forms including charts, graphs, plots, boxes, photographs, drawings and maps that illustrate or clarify aspects of the research and results presented in a thesis. Like tables, figures should be numbered with Arabic numerals (more rarely Roman numerals or letters) in the order in which they are first mentioned in the thesis (see Section 4.6.1 for advice on numbering figures that appear in appendices), and each figure should bear a caption describing exactly what the figure shows. Each figure should also be referred to in the text by its number along with some indication of what the reader will find in the figure, and the figures themselves should appear in their order of mention, whether they are embedded in the text or placed at the end of a chapter or the end of the thesis as a whole.

Labelling within a figure identifies aspects of the illustration, a key can be used to provide scales and define tints, and explanatory notes for abbreviations and the like can be included in either the caption or a legend. University or department requirements should always be consulted for specific guidance on the use and format of figures, but as a general rule, an attractive appearance clearly incorporating all the information needed to enable the reader’s comprehension of its significance is central to the design of a successful figure.

1.4 Final and Supplementary Matter

1.4.1 Appendices

Appendices (occasionally called appendixes or annexes) are not required in a thesis, but they may certainly be used if necessary. Material that supports or is closely related to the information provided in the main body of a thesis but too long or detailed to be included there or in notes, or material relevant to more than one chapter or section of a thesis is usually placed in an appendix unless university or department requirements do not allow appendices. Appendices sometimes appear in a slightly smaller font than the main text of a thesis and are often labelled with uppercase letters (‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ etc.) rather than numbers, but Arabic or Roman numerals are also acceptable. 

Each appendix should be referred to by its letter or number in the thesis along with some indication of what the reader will find in the appendix, and the appendices themselves should be arranged according to the order of mention. Appendices always appear in the final matter and generally precede any endnotes as well as the reference list, but in some fields the appendices will be the last items in a thesis. For more information on appendices, see Sections 3.5.3 and 4.6.1.

1.4.2 Endnotes

If endnotes are used instead of footnotes for references in the main text of a thesis, for supplementary material or for a combination of both, they appear at the end of the thesis before the list of references or at the end of each chapter. If they are placed at the end of each chapter, the layout clearly indicates to which chapter the notes apply, but if they appear at the end of the thesis, headings within the endnotes should indicate to which chapter each group of notes apply. Endnotes often use a font slightly smaller than that of the main text of the thesis and are usually indicated by superscript Arabic numerals, but if both footnotes and endnotes are necessary (the first for supplementary material, for instance, and the second for textual notes), different indicators should be used for the two kinds of notes (superscript Arabic numerals for footnotes, for example, and bracketed Arabic numerals for endnotes). For more information on endnotes, see Section 1.2.6 above and Sections 3.4 and 7.2.3 below.

1.4.3 List of References, List of Works Cited or Bibliography

Every thesis requires a list of the sources used while writing the thesis, usually even if full bibliographical references are provided in footnotes or endnotes. A list of references or works cited normally contains only those sources actually cited in the thesis, whereas a bibliography can also contain any additional sources consulted. The list is usually arranged either alphabetically (by the last names of authors) or numerically, depending on the referencing system used, although it can also be subdivided into sections with headings such as ‘Primary Sources,’ ‘Secondary Literature’ and ‘Randomised Controlled Trials.’ Disciplines and departments tend to prefer specific referencing systems and styles, so do check any relevant guidelines and follow them carefully. Accuracy and thoroughness are paramount in reference lists, and, as much as possible, the style and content of the references should remain consistent throughout the list. For more information on lists of references, see Section 3.5.4 and Chapter 7 below.

PRS Tip: If you find that you are having difficulties designing an appropriate structure for your thesis, your supervisor and perhaps other members of your thesis committee should be able to help you determine the topics, chapters, sections and, more generally, material that are required for your discipline and department. Your department may have guidelines or templates outlining the structure of doctoral theses that will prove helpful, so do check into this, and if not, looking at successful theses that have recently been completed in your department to determine how they are organised can provide sound examples. You may also find it helpful, however, to send an early draft of your thesis or proposal chapters to PRS for proofreading. PRS not only uses professional proofreaders who specialise in a wide range of academic and scientific areas, but can also provide proofreaders who work primarily on doctoral theses. Such proofreaders are well versed in what theses in different disciplines should contain and how they should be arranged, and they are also able to read your work within the broad context of the many doctoral theses they encounter each month. Their advice should not, of course, take precedence over that of your supervisor and committee members, who are experts in your area of study and usually also examiners of your thesis, but the objective perspective of a professional proofreader who is familiar with academic and scientific writing and alert to details of all kinds can be immensely helpful. You can also send along with your work any instructions you may have been given regarding the structure and organisation of your thesis so that your proofreader can help you tailor your thesis with precision.

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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