Our PhD Writing Template is a way to visualise every element of your PhD on one page. Once you have filled it in you will have an overview of each section of the thesis and an executive summary of the thesis as a whole. It’ll show you how to write a PhD. If you haven’t already download it for free now and then come back to this post. 

We’re really proud of it and we’ve got great feedback from people who have used it. 
It’s the most useful guide to structuring a thesis there is.
In this post, I explain how to use the template. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just started your PhD or you’re about to submit, you’ll find it useful. 

What is the PhD Writing Template?

The PhD Writing Template is a way for you to visualise your PhD on one page. It guides you through creating a synopsis for each chapter and an overall outline of the thesis using simple questions to structure and guide your thinking. If you haven’t already download it for free now.

Whilst no two PhDs are the same, they share a number of core sections.
Ten, in fact:
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Theoretical framework
  • Methodology
  • Empirical chapters
  • Discussion chapters
  • Conclusion
  • References
It’s true that some PhDs may place greater emphasis on each of these elements than others. The theoretical framework, for example, may or may not be a standalone chapter. The methods may just be one or two paragraphs. But however they’re presented, you’ll find these ten sections in practically every PhD. 
The PhD Thesis Template contains eleven elements: one for each of the nine sections above and one (at the very top) detailing the overarching aims and objectives of the thesis. 
Within each element is a number of questions. By answering each of these questions in order, you will have a synopsis for each particular element. By combining all of these, you will have an outline of the thesis as a whole.
The very top element – ‘Aims and Objectives ‘ – is where you detail the headlines of the thesis. Think of these as the answer you give when people at parties ask what your research is on. They also form the thread that runs through the entire thesis. That’s why they’re discussed first. By coming up with solid answers to the questions in this first section, you’ll have an anchor on which to rest at every stage in the thesis itself. 

How do I write a PhD using the template?

It’s simple to use. First, print it out.

Then, answer each of the questions in each section.

Answer on Post-it notes. One for each box. That way you can change your answers over time.

But aren’t Post-it notes too small? No! Small is good here. It means you have to be clear and concise. If you can’t fit your answers onto a Post-it note, you need to refine them.

To save space, use bullet points, but make sure you carefully think about and respond to each point.

Start with the ‘Aims and Objectives’ box, where you will list down the core headlines of the entire thesis. This is the big-picture stuff. You  should have this completed and refined before you move on. Without solid answers to these questions, the thesis will be disjointed and unclear.


Then, work through the boxes one by one. You may want to leave the abstract and acknowledgements to last. You may also want to work on the introduction last. That’s fine. Work in the way that suits you.

As you fill the template in, you will start to see the bigger picture. Each Post-it note will contain a synopsis for that particular element. Together, they can be combined to form an executive summary of the thesis as a whole.


Why do you need the template?

The template will allow you to understand:
  1. All of the elements required in a thesis.
  2. Where they fit and how they relate to one another. 
Because the template is contained on one page, you can easily refer to it for an overview of a particular chapter and the thesis as a whole. Print it out, stick it to the wall above your writing desk and use it to clarify your thought process. The PhD writing process is messy and complex. It’s easy to lose track of where you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it. 
You can use it at any stage in the PhD process. 
If you’re just starting out, you can use it as a mind-map, jotting down answers and refining them over time as your knowledge and understanding develops. If that’s you, expect to go through a lot of Post-it notes!
If you’re writing up, you can use it to make sure you’re hitting the target in every chapter and not putting things in the wrong place. 
Or, if you’ve just written your thesis (well done!) you can use it as a resource to help you edit and to help you prepare for your viva. 

Blog Posts That Can Help You

Our PhD Knowledge Base is growing and we have a number of posts that can help you as you fill out the template.


Writing a PhD is rarely a straightforward process. At times you’ll feel lost and you’ll be drowning in pages and words. You’ll struggle to see the wood for the trees. Having something as simple as this template pinned to your notice board can help you to remember what it is you are doing. It can anchor you, when otherwise you’d be drifting. 
See it as a work in progress, you’ll re-write each of the Post-it notes again and again. That’s fine – that’s just how PhDs work. 
Now that you know how to fill in the template, you can turn your attention to each particular section. 

Hello, Doctor…

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