At about the time of the first supervision meeting, have a think about the Table of Contents for the thesis.  For example:


–  How many chapters might there be?


–  What would go into each chapter?



A good place to start at here would be to take a look at previous theses that are available to you.  You can get access to previous theses that have been examined in the institution previously.


Take some time when you are in College to visit the room that houses these theses – spend time looking through them and getting an idea of what a thesis looks like when it is finished.  You’ll notice that there will be lots of commonalities in the theses that you look at.


They are also invaluable when you want to see, for example, what a methodology chapter looks like – how did they write up the bit about ethics, the bit about focus groups, etc.



An example of a generic structure / Table of Contents could be:



Chapter 1 – Introduction


Chapter 2 – Literature Review


Chapter 3 – Literature Review


Chapter 4 – Methodology


Chapter 5 – Results


Chapter 6 – Discussion


Chapter 7 – Conclusion








A good beginning to this piece of work is to start “populating” the indicative chapter structure.  For example, I might decide that Chapter 2 could “house” all of the background contextual information for the thesis . . . and the review of the theory / theories that will be used (well, as far as I can determine at this early stage).


So, at this stage in the process, this won’t be a perfect exercise – but at least you’ll feel as if you’ve started the research.



So, in my example, I might start to have the following:



Chapter 2


2.1 Introduction to Chapter Two


2.2 Overview of the structure of education in Ireland

2.2.1 The primary and post-primary sector

2.2.2 The further education sector

2.2.3 The higher education sector

2.2.4 Conclusion


2.3 Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory

2.3.1 Introduction to ecological theory

2.3.2 Bronfenbrenner: Usefulness in an Irish context

2.3.3 The microsystem

2.3.4 The mesosystem

2.3.5 The macrosystem

2.3.6 The chronosystem

2.3.7 Greene and Greene and Moane: From 1994 to 2000

2.3.8 Post 2000 work using Bronfenbrenner’s model

2.3.9 . . . and so on . . .

2.3.10 Conclusion


2.4 Freud’s Theory of Development

2.4. . . . as above


2.5 Integrating Bronfenbrenner and Freud

2.5.1 Introduction

2.5.2 . . . section demonstrating how / why the theories are useful together . . .

2.5.3 . . . as above





Similarly, Chapter 3 might “house” all of the literature review regarding the empirical work in the area:



Chapter 3


3.1 Introduction to Chapter Three


3.2 Review of Incidence Rates of Bullying Among Students


3.3 Introduction

3.3.1 Incidence – The primary and post-primary sectors

3.3.2 Conclusion


3.4 Introduction

3.4.1 Incidence – The further education sector

3.4.2 Conclusion


3.5 Introduction

3.5.1 Incidence – The higher education sector

3.5.2 Conclusion


3.6 . . . as above




As noted, this doesn’t have to be perfect.  But, it really does help to clarify in your mind what the finished piece of work will look like, what the important literature, methods, etc. are.


Importantly, the better developed the Table of Contents is, the easier it is to see how the whole project can be easily broken up into very manageable smaller pieces of work.


So, have a go at starting this piece of work – it gives you something to chat with your supervisor about!


Conor  🙂




Posted on 2nd October, 2015.  Copyright Conor Mc Guckin