Getting on with it - Structure

Now that you've identified who the audience is and the key points that you want to communicate, it's onto pulling together the content, beginning with the structure.

Theses have standard structural elements such as a literature review and methodology section. Whilst they are expected in a thesis, they do not belong in a book. Be prepared to delete or strip them right back.

Below is a comparison of the main structural elements between a thesis and a book.


Not required for a book but points could be included in the introduction.


A book introduction introduces the content, without necessarily summarising the content of each chapter, and presents the argument for why readers should care. Sometimes authors may include a preface (which sits before the introduction) which is essentially about the how and why of a book. An introduction may also function as a preface in which case it forms part of the preliminary to the book rather than as part of the body. Also see book structure below.

Literature review

If some points are essential to the main argument weave these through the chapters. Otherwise, remove. A general readership is not that interested in an evaluation of the relevant literature.


Strip it right back to only include main points to establish for readers the soundness of your work. For example, if your research is based on surveys and interviews it would be useful for the reader to know your approach, the sample size, demographics etc. This could be included in your introduction.


Theses tend to end abruptly. In a book the conclusion ties everything together.

Extensive referencing and use of quotations

Limit the use of quotations and only include necessary referencing. Include notes as endnotes rather than footnotes. Theses tend to defer to the scholarship of others. You need to find the right balance between positioning your work within a scholarly context and also letting it stand on its own.

Signposting - this chapter will, this chapter has, the following chapter will…

Books should have a logical progression of ideas with an overarching narrative. Introducing the next chapter may be appropriate in some circumstances but it should just whet the reader's appetite for what's to come.

Book structure

  • Half title page
  • Reverse half title page
  • Title page
  • Reverse title page (often the imprint page)
  • Foreword
  • Contents
  • List of illustrations and tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Text
  • Appendices
  • List of shortened forms
  • Glossary (if they are short and/or are essential to understanding the content this and the list of shortened forms can be included in the prelims)
  • References or endnotes
  • Index

Note that not all of the components listed here will be needed — it will depend on the subject matter and the degree of formality required.


  • Begin with your findings, why it’s important that the reader should know about them, and then how you got there.
  • Sometimes a chronological approach to your narrative is best, but not always. Provided there is adequate signposting, describing someone’s life or a series of events doesn’t need to follow a strict chronological order.
  • Some time may have lapsed between writing your thesis and preparing the work for book publication. Ensure that your work includes recent events, publications etc. This is something that will be noted by publishers and their peer assessors.
  • Don’t include a first person account or testimonial and then repeat what was said (despite it being in your own words) or spend the next two paragraphs explaining what it means. Not only is it patronising to the person providing the account it is also irritating to the reader.
  • Remember the important thing is that there is an overarching narrative with a common thread throughout. Write down what the overarching narrative is and how each chapter links into that.

"Readers will become quickly frustrated if it's not clear how and why something relates to the topic or where the narrative is heading."

Last reviewed: 9 Nov 2018