Writing Thesis/Dissertation Chapters, Paragraphs, and Sentences
Academic writing should be clear,
cohesive, coherent, and suitable for the
type of paper intended.
Cohesive: it should function as a
Coherent: it should be logical and consistent and
united whole because its elements
therefore it makes sense. It is an interpretive
are linked together structurally. It is
element that is achieved by means of linking the
a formal element of a text and is
ideas expressed by the text and also connecting
achieved by means of lexical,
them to the context in which they are expected to
grammatical, and signal words and
communicate the message.
Both concepts are related in the sense that a text needs to be structurally well written but
also it needs to make sense.
Writing, especially academic writing, is concerned
with communicating meaning, both in content and
through relationships. Therefore , it is basically
semantic and cognitive.
Writing is a process that students can learn how to do, using
their cognitive skills already developed
Ideas come first: what you want to say needs to be clear in
your mind before attempting to manipulate it
Two things to keep in mind: what you want to say and how you
organize what you want to say
Two types of vocabulary are used to express ideas: Content
(dealing with subject areas) and structure (dealing with
• Sentences are the basic unit to communicate your ideas. They express
both content and relationships.
• In thesis/dissertations, sentences must be direct and unambiguous.
• They can be topic or supporting.
• Topic sentences: They express the main idea of each paragraph. The
topic sentence is usually written at the beginning of the paragraph, but
it can also be found in other locations.
• Supporting sentences: They provide arguments to support, explain, or
exemplify the idea developed by the topic sentence.
Isolated sentences could not express the complex messages that are expected to be present
in pieces of writing like a thesis/dissertation. They need to be connected to form
paragraphs that discuss main ideas.
A paragraph is the union of two or more sentences that relate to one main theme. In other
words, a paragraph must have just one focus, made evident by sentences that are linked
explicitly or implicitly.
The connection at the paragraph level can be approached from two points:
– How to link sentences to form paragraphs
– How to link paragraphs
Linking sentences explicitly is an easy and
more direct way of connecting them.
The main logical relationships are:
• Chronological order
Doing it implicitly means the existence of a
subtle but strong relationship between the
ideas of the sentences; therefore, meaning is
the connecting tool and that usually opens
the door to different interpretations
(something that should be avoided in thesis/
• Spatial order
• Comparison and contrast
• Generalizations and
To explicitly link sentences, the main tool is
signal words and phrases. They are used
according to the logical relationships you
want to express.
• Cause and effect
Methods of Logical Relationships (I)
Chronological order: Information is linked according to time sequence. If there is
more than one possible order, you should select the most logical one.
Spatial order: Information is connected according to place or relationship in space.
Very frequently spatial order and chronological order are used together.
Classification: Items or data are linked based on similarities and differences in
relation to an established criterion.
Comparison and contrast: They are in fact two different methods of logical
organization. However, they are usually used together due to their intimate
relationship. Comparison is an estimate of likenesses and similarities. Contrast refers
to differences and dissimilarities.
Methods of Logical Relationships (II)
Generalizations and specifics: Generalizations are ideas that can be considered true
and common to more than one situation. They are inferences derived from individual
occurrences of a phenomenon. They should be supported or proved by providing
specifics (facts, examples, statistics, experiences, etc.).
Cause and effect: A piece of information depends on the existence of another one.
Such relationship can be confused with one of chronological order because the cause
always precedes the effect (despite the fact they can be written in the reverse
order), but the main point is the dependence of one item on another one.
Prediction: Inferences are made focused in the future but based on present events or
phenomena. It is possible to make logical inferences based on valid information
though you should remember that future cannot be foreseen accurately .
Signal Words and Phrases (I)
Chronological order: now, nowadays, when, before, after, next, while, during, since,
later, earlier, formerly, between ___and ___, former, latter, previous(ly) first,
second, etc., in the first place, etc., to begin with, to start, at last, in conclusion,
Spatial order: where, in/to/from which, under, over, inside, beside, on top of, along,
through, as far as, to the left, to the right, to the north/south/east/west, etc.
Classification: main/major/basic kinds of, significant, important, primary, secondary,
etc., the principal elements, categories, etc.
Comparison and contrast: too, also, both, similar to, in the same way, similarly,
likewise, the same, as well as. However, but, on the other hand, unlike, different
from, yet, while, whereas, in contrast
Signal Words and Phrases (II)
Generalizations and specifics: generally (speaking), on the whole, all,
every, never, always. For example/instance/one thing, to illustrate, in
other words, as follows, as proof, to illustrate, as an illustration, in
substantiation, as an example, according to, etc.
Cause and effect: so, thus, consequently, therefore, accordingly, for this
reason, as a result, hence, because (of), since, due to, the reason for, if__,
then__, __follows from __, as a consequence, etc.
Prediction: probable result, it is likely, probable outcome, future
implications of, the end result, etc.
Paragraphs can be linked explicitly or implicitly too.
To explicitly link paragraphs, signal words and phrases are also the best possible tool.
Like it happens at the sentence level, signal words and phrases are used in accordance to the methods of logical
relationships that paragraphs express.
Therefore, use the list of words and phrases presented before to connect one paragraph with the next one.
Try to write the topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph so its main idea or focus can be easily
Use supporting sentences to provide the information necessary to prove the validity of your main ideas.
Talk about only one main theme (focus) in each paragraph.
Paragraphs are connected in order to develop sections of each chapter. The main criterion to apply is that the
linked paragraphs refer to the focus of the section.
Sections created by linking paragraphs which have the same focus are connected to
form each one of the thesis/dissertation chapters.
Each chapter has a main goal and therefore its sections should contribute to achieve
– Introduction: Provide a clear picture of the study
– Literature review: Contextualize the study in relation to prior research and identify gaps of
information the study addresses
– Methodology: Provide information about how the study is conducted so evaluation and
replication can be done
– Findings: Present the results of the study
– Discussion, conclusions, and recommendations: answer research questions, summarize
implications, and suggest new applications and studies
There are two main criteria to link sections:
– Follow the order that best assures the achievement of the chapter goal
– Connect the last paragraph of a section to the first of the next section
To link chapters, the main criterion is to restate two pivotal elements of the study:
purpose and research question(s)
If you want to learn more about linking chapters, come to our conference “How to
Approach Each Chapter of Your Thesis/ Dissertation” on November 30th
1. What text cohesion and
2. Implications of writing as a
semantic and cognitive process
3. Levels of connection to take
into account when writing
4. How to link sentences
5. How to link paragraphs
6. How to link sections and
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5. Bundles of Help:
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• Sat 23rd How You Should Cite Sources (APA
• Sun 24th Inspirational Stories
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