Doctoral degrees fall into two main categories: Doctoral programs and PhD (Philosophie Doctor) programs. Both represent the highest level of graduate degree. They share many similarities, such as the encouragement of critical and creative thinking and an intensive and independent research component.

PhD candidates present their research results in the standard thesis format, while PhD candidates present their results in the format of a doctoral study.

Whether you earn a PhD degree or a PhD degree, you’ll become an expert in your field with the flexibility to advance in your current position, shift gears to an academic career, or pursue a position as a consultant or administrator.

PhD vs. PhD

To better understand the difference between a Doctoral study and a PhD, it is best to first define the fundamental differences between a doctoral program and a professional doctoral program.

A doctoral degree, also known as an academic doctoral degree, can be pursued by university graduates who do not yet have relevant work experience or by active professionals who are interested in using their advanced research skills and dissertation to expand the existing body of knowledge in their field.

A PhD is designed for active professionals with hands-on experience in their field. Professionals typically choose a doctoral program to increase their knowledge, advance their careers, and translate their work experience into a higher position of credibility, leadership, and influence. Courses and research allow students to connect existing theories with practice. Professional PhD research focuses more on the application of existing theories and knowledge to address real-world business problems.

Doctoral studies

As a PhD student, you will learn research methods, plan and design your research and present your results in an academic paper. The purpose of the study is to make an original contribution to your field by creating a practical solution to a real problem.

In a PhD study, you will identify a problem, present your methodology, describe your project, make observations on your findings, and present your practical solution. The components of the doctoral study demonstrate their competence in research and design, their expertise in the subject and their mastery of critical thinking and academic writing.

Objectives of the preparation of the Thesis

The culmination of the professional doctoral program consists of:

Create a proposal that describes the problem you want to solve; the purpose of the study; and your research, methodology and design questions.

Present an oral defense of your research proposal to the doctoral committee (a 20- to 30-minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session).

Data collection and drafting of results.

Present a final oral defense of the results of your research before the doctoral committee.

Phases of the elaboration of the Thesis

The first thing you have to do is elaborate a maximum of three sentences that express your thesis. Your committee should agree that your sentences form a valid thesis statement. You must also be satisfied with the statement: it must be what you will tell anyone if they ask you what your thesis is (few people will want to hear a one-hour presentation as an answer).

Once you have the thesis statement, you can start developing the thesis. The abstract, for example, should be a description of a page of your thesis and how you present the proof of it. The abstract should summarize the results of the thesis and highlight the contributions to science that have been made with it.

Perhaps the best way to understand what an abstract should look like is to examine thesis abstracts that have already been accepted. The library of the universities have a collection of them. This is a good method to see how it is structured and presents a full dissertation. Mit Press (the Newsletter of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for example, has published a number of doctoral thesis awards for more than a decade, so you can find some of them as good examples to read, which should be in any large technical library.

The Structure

The doctoral thesis must be structured in 4 or 6 chapters. This is a commonly used structure:

Introduction. This is an introduction to basic terminology, cites appropriate reference papers, and briefly discusses related works that have already dealt with aspects of the problem.

Abstract model. Discuss an abstract model of what you are trying to demonstrate. No specific implementation should be discussed in this chapter.

Validation of the model/proof of theorems. This is a chapter that shows a test of the model. It can be a set of tests or a discussion about building and validating a model or simulation that will be used to collect supporting data.

Measurements/data. It would be a presentation of various data collected from real use, simulations or other sources. The presentation would include an analysis to show support for the underlying thesis.

Additional results. In some works there may be secondary confirmation studies, or it may be the case that important additional results are collected on the way to the test of the central thesis. These would be presented here.

Conclusions and future work. This is where they come together and present the results. Limitations, restrictions and special cases should be clearly stated here along with the results. Some clear extensions for future work can also be described.

Chapter I, Introduction

Here you need to clearly state the thesis and its importance. It is also here that the definitions of the terms and other concepts used elsewhere are given. It is not necessary to write 80 pages of information on the subject. Instead, it can encompass almost everything by saying, “The terminology used in this paper matches the definitions given in [cita] unless otherwise stated.”

Here are some appropriate works that give the definitions you need. The progress of science is that we learn and use the work of others (with due recognition). Assume you have a technically literate audience familiar with (or able to find) common references. Do not refer to popular literature or WWW sites if you can avoid it (this is a matter of style rather than anything else: you should refer to articles from peer-reviewed conferences and journals, if possible, or other theses).

Also in the introduction, it is wise to review any related work that has attempted something similar to yours, or that has a significant supporting role in your research. This should refer only to published references. Cite the work in the references, not the researchers themselves. For example, “The experiments described in [cita] explored the conditions of X and XX, but did not discuss the additional MM problem, the central point of this work.”

You shouldn’t make references like this: “Dr.M believed the same in his research” because you don’t know what they really believed or thought. You only know what the document says. Each factual statement you make must have a specific quote linked to it in this chapter, or it must be common knowledge.

Chapter II. Abstract model

Your results must have lasting value. Therefore, the model you develop and write (and advocate) must have lasting value. For example, a thesis in the area of computing, should discuss a model that is not based on Windows, Linux, Ethernet, PCMIA or any other specific technology. It should be generic in nature, and it should capture all the details needed to overlay the model in likely environments.

Here the problems, parameters, requirements, necessary and sufficient conditions, and other factors should be discussed. For example, keep in mind that 20 years ago (around 1980) the common platform was a Vax computer with VMS or a PDP-11 with Unix version 6, and yet the well-crafted theses of the time are still valuable today. Will your thesis be valuable 20 years from now (by 2040), or have you referred to technologies that will only have historical interest?

The model is difficult to build, but it’s really the heart of the scientific part of their work. This is the enduring part of the contribution, and this is what someone might cite 50 years from now when we are all using MS Linux XXXXP on computers embedded in our wrists with subspatial network links.

Chapters III and IV, Evidence

There are basically three testing techniques, depending on the topic of the thesis. The first is analytical, in which the model or formulas are taken and demonstrated, through formal manipulations, that the model is solid and complete. A second test method is stochastic, in which some form of statistical methods and measurements are used to prove that something is true in the intended cases.

With the third method, you have to prove that your thesis is true by constructing something according to your model and showing that it behaves as you claim it will. This involves clearly showing how your implementation model fits the conditions of your abstract model, describing all the variables and why you set them as you do, taking into account confounding factors, and showing the results. Be careful not to spend too much effort describing how the protocols and standard hardware to be used work, if that’s the case (citation of the literature instead). It should clearly express the correspondence between the model and the experiment, as well as the definition of the parameters used and measured.

Chapter V. Additional results

In some theses, this chapter may be integrated into chapter III, or it may be a multiple chapter in a thesis with many parts (as in a thesis based on theory). In this chapter you can discuss the effects of the change on outcomes. It is also the place where you may want to point out the significant results you have obtained in trying to prove your core thesis, but which are not in themselves a support for the thesis. Often, these additional results are published in a separate paper.

Chapter VI. Conclusions and future work

This is where he discusses what he has found in his work, the ideas and incidental results that were not central to his thesis but are nevertheless of value (if he did not have them in chapter V) and other results. This chapter should summarize all the important results of the thesis; keep in mind that it is the only chapter that many people will read, so you should convey all the important results.

This chapter should also outline the possible future work that can be done in the area What are the open problems? Are there any new problems? What are the significant variations that can be investigated in the future?


Appendices are usually present to contain mundane details that are not published elsewhere, but which are fundamental to the development of your thesis. This includes tables of measurement results, configuration details of experimental test benches, limited source code listings of critical routines or algorithms, etc. It is not appropriate to include reading lists by topic, lists of business systems, or other material that does not directly support proof of your thesis.

General Tips for Writing and Editing

Here are some more general tips to keep in mind when writing and editing:

Usually, adverbs should not be used; instead, use something precise. For example, don’t say something “happens quickly.” In the case of a thesis in the area of computing we could take into account the following questions: How fast is it? Do you mean CPU speed? Regarding network speed? Does it depend on connectivity, configuration, programming language, operating system version, etc.? What is the standard deviation?

According to the above, the use of the words “fast”, “slow”, “perfect”, “soon”, “ideal”, “a lot” and the like should be avoided. It should also be avoided “clearly”, “obviously”, “simple”, “like”, “few”, “most”, “large”, etc.

What is written is a scientific fact. Judgments about aesthetics, ethics, personal preferences, and the like should be included in the conclusions chapter, if they are to appear anywhere. With this in mind, avoid using words like “good,” “bad,” “better,” and any other similar discussion. Also avoid saying “in fact”, “actually”, “actually” and any similar construction: everything you write must be a fact, so there is no need to say such things. If you feel compelled to use one of these constructs, carefully evaluate what you are saying to make sure you are not injecting relative terms, opinions, value judgments, or other elements that are inappropriate for a dissertation.

Avoid mentioning the weather and environment. Today’s computers are antiques much earlier than you think. Your thesis should remain valid for many years to come. If a particular time or interval is important, be explicit about it, as in “Between 1905 and 1920” instead of “In the last 15 years”.


Make sure that something you claim as proof would be recognized as such by any scientist or mathematician.

You and your dissertation are supposed to be the highest (current) authority on the topic you are dealing with. Therefore, there should be no case of “to our knowledge and understanding” or “from what we know”. Either you know for sure or you don’t know, and if you don’t know, you don’t have to say it.

Focus on the results and not the methodology. The methodology should be clearly described, but it is not the central topic of its discussion in chapters III and IV.

Keep concepts and instances separate. An algorithm is not the same as the program that implements it. A protocol is not the same as its realization, a reference model is not the same as a working example, etc.

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Sources Consulted

Thomas, Gary (2009) Your Research Project. Thousand Oaks: Sage

Rudestam & Newton (2007) Surviving your dissertation. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Pearce, Lynne (2005) How to Examine a Thesis,McGraw-Hill International.

You might also be interested in: Hypothetical Deductive Method

How to do a PhD thesis

How to do a phD thesis. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Taisiia Stupak @taiamint


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