What Sections Should A Common Doctoral Paper Contain?

Each doctoral paper should, in theory, be unique. Although it is essential that it display some connection with the existing field, it is also required to demonstrate originality. This blend can make the structure of each PhD a little different. Also, each discipline has its own way of doing things, in that, for various kinds of doctoral award, there are various required sections. But, every doctoral paper does have some common structure, and the elements that they share are:

Introduction / Thesis Statement

Every thesis, from any discipline, must have a section which informs the reader about the topic, scope, and precise argument of the thesis. Your introduction should say: what your topic is; where it fits in existing scholarship, and then a clear discussion of your specific thesis or argument. This, essentially, tells the reader where you are going to take them.

Literature Review

In order to demonstrate that you a) know your subject sufficiently well to be researching, and b) sufficiently well that you have not missed an existing exploration of your thesis, it is essential to cover and discuss all relevant material. If you are discussing African American Fiction and postcolonialism, then read all that you can on this and put the results in a literature review.

Main Body

Then, of course, you have to do what your introduction promised! This will come, generally, in the form of 4-6 chapters, each of which approaches your thesis statement from a slightly different angle, and each one of which is self-contained, with introductions and conclusions. In the end, these should build on the single claim that you are making.


A conclusion is absolutely essential in every doctoral thesis. It is where you clarify exactly what you feel you have done to prove or to argue the position which you established in your introduction via the thesis statement. Make this clear, unambiguous.


Again, this is just essential. In order to allow for use of your references, and checking of sources, and as a means of demonstrating that you have researched effectively, you need to include a list of all books and articles that you have read.

All of these sections are needed in a common or standard PhD paper, regardless of what the field. So, make sure to put them all in!

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