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Centria Guide for Thesis and Academic Writing

Guidance for the final thesis writing at Centria

3 STRUCTURE MODELS AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The structure of the thesis report is determined by the topic, the problem setting and the theoretical framework of the thesis. The thesis project in a university of applied sciences can consist of research work, product or production tasks. In many fields of education the thesis can also be practice-based work, eg. artistic or pedagogical assignments or events.

The thesis consists of three larger parts:

The first part

‚ÄčTitle page, abstract, contents, (concept definitions)

The body

Introduction, theoretical framework, methods and data, results, discussion and references

The last part

Appendices

Next in this chapter, different structure models are presented. When writing a thesis, these structure models can be applied depending on the nature of the task and the approach to the research problem. In other words, this chapter is about the structure and inside order of the different sections in the thesis report.

THE STRUCTURE OF A RESEARCH-BASED THESIS

The structure of a research-based thesis mostly follows the three main parts presented in Chapter 3. Different fields might still have some established outlining practice that slightly differ.

Research-based work often uses the next structure model:

1.  Introduction

2. Theoretical framework based on references

3. Methods and data
- short section on methods
‚Äč- data materials include the conducted research, data collected from other research, literature (including articles), data from a survey or interview data

4. Results

5. Discussion and conclusions

6. Summarizing conclusion

Research-based thesis methods can be quantitative, qualitative, theoretical (based on available data), or a combination of the three (triangulation).

The starting point of research work is to aim for both methodological and linguistic objectivity, even if the text is always the writer’s own interpretation of certain sources or data (Hirsjärvi, Remes & Sajavaara 2018, 292, 295.). Therefore, the research-based thesis report often uses the passive voice and the third-person pronoun (rather than “I”).

Hirsjärvi, S., Remes, P., Sajavaara, P. & Sinivuori, E. 2018. Tutki ja kirjoita. 22. painos. Helsinki: Tammi.

 

A thesis can also be reported as a practice-based work. The starting-point of a practice-based thesis is to produce new information through the student’s own activity or in a project with partners. (Vilkka & Airaksinen 2004, 11.)

The student’s approach should be investigative and developing and this should be visible in the practice-based thesis report. Therefore, also in practice-based theses, the practical implementation has to be anchored to a theoretical framework and to the central research literature. (Vilkka & Airaksinen 2004, 79.)

Practice-based theses often follow the next structure model:

1. Introduction

2. Overview of the phenomenon or description of the environment
- What is produced, where, why, for what organization and how?

3. Theoretical framework based on references

4. Process description
- description of the product or event

5. Evaluation and discussion

6. Conclusions

Due to the personal character of the practical task, in these practice-based theses, a general, objective way of writing is replaced by the subjective voice of reporting using the writer’s own observations. Consequently, it is recommended to use the first-person pronoun (I, we) in the reporting instead of the passive voice. (Vilkka & Airaksinen 2004, 79.) In the theoretical framework, however, the use of the passive voice is still recommended. 

Vilkka, H. & Airaksinen, T. 2004. Toiminnallisen opinnäytetyön ohjaajan käsikirja. Helsinki: Tammi.

 

Besides traditional research-based and practice-bases reports, also other structure models for theses have been developed recently. A thesis can also be implemented as a so-called diary-based thesis.

A diary-based thesis is also often a practice-based work. Diary-based theses have been written for example when a student is already in working-life and the thesis topic is connected to their work. The topic and the problem or the development task is connected to the student’s own work. The aim of a diary-based thesis is to enhance the student’s preparedness for independent professional development also after graduating (Lagerstedt & Kotila 2015).

In a diary-based thesis the student observes a certain issue at the place of work for some weeks and documents it in diary writing format, through which previously set questions can be answered. A diary-based thesis has to be analytical, critical and it will be assessed the same way as other theses.

A theoretical framework is needed also in a diary-based thesis. Only giving an account of events or describing the situation is not enough, but demonstrating professional expertise through the thesis requires usage of sources, defining concepts and arguing for choices and decisions.

The structure of a diary-based thesis is often the following:

1. Introduction

2. Description of the starting point

3. Diary reporting

4. Discussion and conclusions

When writing a diary-based report the usage of the first-person pronoun works better than the passive voice, just as in a practice-based thesis. However, it is important to keep in mind that the aim of the thesis is to produce new information that can be generalized and not only to give an account of personal subjective experiences and observations. The diary-part can most easily be connected to a larger context and to the theoretical framework in the discussion and conclusions.

Lagerstedt A.& Kotila H. 2015. Päiväkirjamuotoinen opinnäytetyö vauhdittaa valmistumista. Teoksessa Kotila, H. & Mäki, K. 2015. 21 tapaa tehostaa korkeakouluopintoja. Helsinki: Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu.

A thesis always needs a theoretical framework, i.e. a theoretical foundation that the research or development task is connected to. The theoretical framework is based on previous information on the topic, meaning literature related to the topic, articles (in any language) and trustworthy Internet sources. The theoretical framework can also consist of expert interviews, lecture materials and theses.

The literature used should be summarized for the thesis. The student should also include personal reflection about the information. In other words, the student paraphrases the read information and gives references to the sources used inside the text. Quotations without correct references (copy-paste) are not allowed. Plagiarism is strictly forbidden. Plagiarism means all such activity where someone presents a script, article or text written by someone else as one’s own piece of text without properly naming the source (Hirsjärvi, Remes & Sajavaara 2009, 26). It is also plagiarism to directly copy a text into the thesis, even if the source is given. The theoretical framework only includes necessary information, which means the information needed for the practical part. Unnecessary background information should be left out. No conclusions are drawn yet at this point.

The ethical guidelines for writing a thesis can be found in chapter 9 of this guide.

The theoretical framework can be written in many different ways. Below you can find two structure models that can be used in connecting the theoretical framework with the practical part.

a) Research-based thesis

The thesis is clearly based on the theoretical framework and the practical study. The practical study is closely connected to the theoretical information and source literature.

b) Practice-based thesis

When writing a working life report or a project report, the theoretical framework is not as comprehensive as in a research-oriented thesis, but instead it includes all the essential information for the activity or services to be developed. The theoretical framework also includes the information needed for handling the collected data and literature on research methods.

Hirsjärvi, S., Remes, P., Sajavaara, P. & Sinivuori, E. 2018. Tutki ja kirjoita. 22. painos. Helsinki: Tammi.