Always remember that your thesis needs to be more like a well-managed, walker-friendly forest than a dense and impenetrable jungle!
As you write the words of your thesis on paper or a computer screen, it’s easy to lose track of the overall shape and structure of the thesis. That’s a dangerous thing to do, because not being able “to see the forest for the trees” increases the risk of:
- annoyingly and unnecessarily repeating material, and
- failing to structure arguments and narratives well.
Fortunately, modern word processing software has good tools (such as built-in headings, styles and a built-in outliner) to help you keep in touch with the overall shape and structure of a thesis.
Using headings in your thesis helps keep you sensitised to changes of topic.
Take care to avoid using too many levels of headings. Three levels is usually enough. If you find you are using five or more levels of headings, consider swapping to a flatter structure with fewer levels of headings. Burying important material under too many layers of headings is a disservice to the people who will be reading your thesis.
Using your word processing software’s built-in styles (such as Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3) helps:
- keep your formatting consistent,
- make it easy to use your word processing software’s outliner facility, and
- make it easy to generate a Table of Contents.
Using your word processing software’s outliner facility makes it easy to:
- get a bird’s eye view of your thesis by letting you view just a few levels of heading and hiding the body text that goes with each heading, and
- change the level of a heading, or
- rearrange your headings (and all the body text that goes with each heading) to make your thesis easier to navigate.