A common complaint I hear from PhD students is that they find it hard to structure chapters and to ensure that their writing flows.

Can you relate?

If you struggle to find the thread in your chapters or your thesis as a whole, here’s some advice: think hard about the key argument you are trying to make in each chapter/the thesis. Then, don’t over-complicate things.

Broadly speaking, the term thesis itself means ‘a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved’, so it stands to reason that your PhD thesis as a whole exists to elaborate upon one or a small number of central points. It’s job is to make the case for something, whether a new theory, new insight, new methods, and so on.

Looking at individual chapters, they all have a specific job to do: the methods is there to show how you conducted your study, your theory framework is there to show the hypotheses/concepts that informed it, and so on.

In other words, in each chapter there will be a central, core argument or point you want to get across (e.g. the lit review: there’s a gap in the literature; the methods: this is what the study looked like, and so on). Sure, you’ll have lots of smaller arguments that you’ll be developing in each chapter, but they’ll all be nested in a key, central argument.

So when you next struggle to find the thread in your writing, sit and think: what one key point am I trying to make in this chapter?

Once you answer that question, you can structure the rest of the chapter around developing and backing up that point.

Good luck!