Thesis, exegesis and journal article styles and structures: The research story line


Notwithstanding the diversity among theses, exegeses and journal articles, all academic writing aims to persuade the reader of an idea, or to report a key finding. This central claim or finding is sometimes referred to as the ‘thesis’, and it is the ‘significant original contribution to knowledge, and/or to the application of knowledge within the field of study’ that is referred to in research degree guidelines and regulations.

This resource will introduce two written styles in theses, exegeses and journal articles, and the different structures or research story line which is used to frame the thesis. Although there are differences in the length, naming, chapter breakdown, combining, and content of the steps in the research story line, almost all theses and exegeses include the same steps, very typically in the order shown below:

  • Step 1: problem statement
  • Step 2: review of literature
  • Step 3: method/methodology
  • Step 4: results/evidence/discussion of creative work 
  • Step 5: discussion and/or conclusion

These steps carry the thread within large and complex academic texts. Each step or element is discussed in detail in the following topics within this resource. This topic focuses on the whole of thesis or journal article/chapter level, attending to the writing strategies and structure or research story line used to set up the 'thesis' in a variety of thesis and journal article types.

The research story line

Although researchers often work alone on their research, research is fundamentally a collective activity. The knowledge, practices and values of the collective are embodied within published papers within organised fields of inquiry, and they come to life when researchers from all over the globe meet to discuss their research in international conferences. Research questions are framed within discipline literature to communicate to specific discipline audiences, and data and conclusions are read in relation to the findings and conclusions of researchers in a field. Data is read to highlight what was new or 'significant' to the research audience. In short, a thesis or an exegesis is not simply a record of the outcome of an investigation, but a tailored story written for a specific audience.  

Consider the different meanings of the terms 'report' and 'story' in thinking about crafting your 'thesis'. According to the dictionary 'to report' means to provide an account of a matter after a thorough investigation. 'Story', on the other hand, means, not simply to 'report facts pertinent to a question', but to craft or create a narrative that interests or engages the reader, and to construct a plot line.

There are implicit conventions that underpin research writing in the international or English speaking research context; often unspoken expectations around how to tell a research story. There are also important differences among disciplines in research writing conventions and practices, as well as many similarities. And what is considered appropriate changes over time as researchers in a discipline collectively take up new writing practices, or drop old ones. The important thing to understand is that research writing, as a generalised, and as a discipline-specific practice, has associated patterns, steps or narrative styles that researchers have developed to fit the unique purpose or practice of communicating their research to one another.

The steps in the story line and how they fit together is the focus of this topic which is designed to highlight some of the differences and commonalities in research writing across disciplines within the social sciences and humanities.

Although the story line does not usually come together until the later stages of drafting, crafting the story line happens throughout the drafting process. The final shape of the story is the result of considerable intellectual labour and creativity on the part of the author, comprised of many small decisions and revisions across the research and writing journey.

Thesis and exegesis styles

Metcalf (2002:6-7) has identified two thesis 'styles', what he calls 'hypothesis testing', also known as the 'informative' style, and the 'descriptive' or 'argument' style. Your discipline may use one or both of these styles. It can be helpful to be clear about the style you are aiming for in the writing process.

Informative style

‘The cops discover who did it’ (Metcalfe, 2002:6-7).

The informative style of writing opens with a question, usually in the form of a statement of the aim or objective, typically in the introduction following the outline of the problem and the gap in the literature. The thesis then tells a story about how the question or aim was investigated or achieved (methodology), and presents the evidence that was collected to reach the thesis conclusion (results). The conclusion or answer to the question is not presented until the end of the thesis, although it does appear in the abstract. Metcalf refers to this story telling sequence as 'the cops discover who did it' because the thesis does not provide the answer to the question, or wrap up what was found in relation to the research aim or objective (and say 'who did it'), until after the investigation is planned and executed. In this kind of thesis the 'clues to the crime' (or results) are revealed gradually in the middle part of the thesis, and a final conclusion or wrap-up of all the evidence or results is not provided until the end of the thesis; just as, in a police investigation, the answer to the question at the centre of a crime is not revealed until the end of the investigation.

The implicit line of thought or rationale underpinning the informative style of writing is helpfully articulated in the short handout entitled 'The story of a research study'.  

‘Descriptive’ or argument style

‘The lawyers convince a jury’ (Metcalfe, 2002:6-7).

The descriptive style thesis or exegesis does not pose a question, but instead provides a statement of the main proposition or 'argument' of the thesis in the introduction and in the abstract. This statement typically appears in the same place that an objective or aim statement would within the introduction of the informative style thesis; that is, after the problem outline and the summary of what the 'gap' or what the thesis will contribute to the relevant literature. Each chapter and section within the main body of the thesis or exegesis then works to support the main proposition by developing one aspect of it and providing specific substantiation for it (reasoned debate, evidence, presentation of data, reflective commentary on creative practice). Metcalf refers to this style as 'the lawyers convince a jury' because the case or conclusion ('who did it') is provided in the introduction. The thesis then goes about persuading the reader that the case is a good one, just as a lawyer will tell the court what they will argue in their opening remarks to the court, and then go about providing evidence to support their case.

The rationale underpinning the construction of 'argument' in the descriptive style is helpfully discussed in the Vitae training resource entitled 'argument construction'.

The informative style is more typical in social science and science disciplines which are based on empirical research. The descriptive style is more common in humanities disciplines, particularly those based on inter-textual work or creative artefacts. Having said this, discipline writing styles change over time, and disciplines have their own unique conventions. These styles are presented here to give research writers an insight into the expectations research readers have when they read your work. While there is no 'correct' research writing style, it can be helpful to observe and become familiar with written conventions in your discipline area. It is also important to reflect critically on research writing practices, remembering that not all the writing practices you observe in examined or published work should be copied! When in doubt, reflect on writing practices in prestigious journals and publishing houses in your discipline, and on what you think is most effective in terms of communicating effectively with your audience.

Similarities and differences between the informative and descriptive styles

The commonalities in informative and descriptive styles revolve around their shared use of the steps within the research story line. Both styles typically open by outlining a problem or by providing a justification for the research, most often in terms of its real world contemporary significance. Both also situate their inquiry within a review of literature, and then move on to outline what was done to undertake the inquiry, followed with empirical evidence or reasoned debate and explanation in the main body to establish or support conclusions. Both also discuss the implications arising from the research conclusions in the final chapter. 

Some differences in the informative and descriptive styles are outlined below.


One of the key differences between the styles is in the way abstracts are written, particularly for journal articles. For an outline of how the styles differ, go to the topic on abstract writing on this site.


Other differences in the two styles emerge from their association with different methods or methodology. Informative research writing typically has longer methods sections which take the classic scientific form with headings like 'sample', 'materials', 'data analysis', and so on. Descriptive research writing may or may not have a separate methodology section. In some disciplines or types of writing, especially in published journal articles, no distinguishable detail about method and no separate methodology section is provided (this is sometimes, but not always the case in law for instance). When no detail about method is provided this may be because there is consensus about its use in the discipline. That is to say, everyone in the discipline uses and understands the approach and there is not the need, or the space, in a journal article, to outline it. Any discussion of the approach taken to reach conclusions is conveyed within the discussion in the main body. This is however the exception to the rule. In the vast majority of cases, certainly in research proposals, and for most theses and exegeses, methodology is discussed in detail, and this usually occurs in the part of the thesis immediately following the review of literature.

Conclusions and discussions

Another difference between the informative and descriptive style is in the way concluding chapters are written. In informative theses, there is typically a discussion section or chapter, or, if not, conclusion chapters may be a little longer because more space is needed to lay out and discuss conclusions which have not been presented earlier. In the descriptive thesis or journal article, there may not be a 'discussion' section, and conclusions can be fairly short containing just a restatement of the argument and a summary of how it was supported, followed by a discussion of the implications arising from the thesis argument. In descriptive theses, a contrast between the writer's conclusions and the conclusions or arguments of other authors, the main content of research discussion sections or chapters, is usually part of the main body, hence there is no need for a separate discussion section.

The language of argument

Another difference between the styles is language used to signal the thesis or main point. Language choice in research often reflects methodology, as discussed in the topic on methods and methodology and results writing in this resource. Since the two styles, informative and descriptive, emerged because of different discipline methodologies, different research language can often be identified within each. Use of the term 'argument' is rarely found in science fields which arise from a shared epistemological frame in which it is generally assumed that observations of fact are both possible and optimal. The term argue, which seems to imply a level of subjectivity or perhaps uncertainty around the validity of the findings or the central 'thesis', is therefore avoided. In many, perhaps most areas of the social sciences and humanities there is considerable epistemological complexity, and perhaps disagreement, about the methodological means by which valid or 'objective' knowledge can be claimed. For this reason, many research writers in social science and humanities disciplines are comfortable with use of language like 'argue' or 'argument' in signalling the key thesis or 'proposition'.

An important implication of epistemological differences is that terms like 'argument' or 'argue' carry special significance for discipline readers which it is important to be aware of. In the dictionary, 'argue' means 'to provide evidence to support a case'. But in the descriptive research context, the word argue signals something more precise—'to argue' typically means to provide evidence to support the case. That is to say, when discipline readers see this term 'argue' they will often assume that the writer is signalling the main thesis, either that of the author, or, when used in referring to another text, that of another author. For this reason, the term 'argues' and phrases like 'this thesis will argue' or 'such and such argues' should be used only when you wish to signal the key idea of your own or of another author's text. Using the term in its more general dictionary sense to refer to supporting evidence that is tangential to your own, or to another author's key point, will likely confuse the reader about the main point of your own or of another author's text. Using the phrase 'I will argue' in different parts of your writing to signal different ideas could leave the research reader wondering which of the ideas referred to will be your 'thesis' or key proposition. To avoid confusion, use the language of argument sparingly, or only when signalling your 'thesis' or key proposition or finding. 

Thesis structures

From Paltridge, B ‘Thesis and dissertation writing: An examination of published articles and actual practice’, in English for Specific Purposes.

The 'structure' of research writing, and of theses in particular, is diverse. Structure here refers to the length, order of content, and naming of sections and chapters within the thesis, exegesis or journal article. Four basic thesis structures have been identified by researchers and are reproduced below, although there would be blends and further derivations of these in completed theses and exegeses. Type one, two and four would be more typical of the informative style, and three more typical of the descriptive style.

1. Traditional: Simple

  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions

2. Traditional: Complex

  • Introduction
  • Review of the literature
  • Background theory
  • General Methods
  • Study 1
    • Introduction
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and conclusion
  • Study 2
    • Introduction
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and conclusion
  • Study 3 etc
    • Introduction
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and conclusion
  • Conclusions

3. Topic-based

  • Introduction
  • Topic 1
  • Topic 2
  • Topic 3 etc
  • Conclusions

4. Compilation of Research Articles

  • Introduction
  • Background to the Study
  • Research Article 1
    • Introduction
    • Literature review
    • Materials and methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and conclusion
  • Research article 2
    • Introduction
    • Literature review
    • Materials and methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and conclusion
  • Research article 3 etc
    • Introduction
    • Literature review
    • Materials and methods
    • Results
    • Discussion and conclusion
  • Discussion and Conclusions

Example research story lines within theses

Before moving on to consider writing within each step in the research story line in the next topics, it may be useful to see some examples of how the overall research story progresses within the chapter structure of different types of thesis. The research abstract and the introduction provide the core information from each step in the story line that frames the thesis. The key information from each step has been extracted from theses with different methodolologies, styles and stuctures, and from different disciplines in the abstract-like excerpts or short introductions below.

You will notice that although each example is unique, the same steps are used in each, and in the same order. There are differences in the length attributed to the different steps. For instance, some discuss methodology entirely within introduction chapters, others devote several chapters on methodology. In some theses, the majority of content is devoted to reporting and discussing results or developing the evidence to support the case, others have only one results chapter. But all tell a convincing research story, tailored for the unique context, discipline and methodology of that research project. As you read the examples below, hopefully you will agree that the writers use these steps to tell a compelling story about their research.

1. Descriptive style, topic based structure, document analysis, criminology

McCullock, Jude. 1998. Blue army: paramilitary policing in Victoria, PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, Faculty of Arts.

Chapter 1: Steps 1, 2 and 3

Problem statement: The transfer of military style 'counter terrorist' training and its accompanying ethos to domestic policing in Australia since the 1970s, as exemplified in the Police Special Operations Group (SOG), has occurred without public debate. A close ideological and operational alliance between the police and military is associated with militaristic policing and repressive governments.

Review of literature: The literature on counter terrorism is more developed overseas than in Australia. Australian research focuses purely on the ideological relationship between police and military, or uncritically accepts official definitions of terrorism/counter terrorism. In-depth analyses of counter terrorist strategies have not been conducted in Australia, and the extent to which Australian police practice remains distinctive to military style tactics in relation to the Australian public remains unclear.

Argument: This thesis will argue that the SOG has been the harbinger of more military styles of policing involving high levels of confrontation, more lethal weapons, a greater range of weapons, and more frequent recourse to deadly force. The establishment of groups like the SOG has undermined Australia's democratic traditions by blurring the boundaries between police and military, weakening safeguards which prevent the use of military force against citizens.

Method: The thesis analyses documents on and around counter terrorist squads in Australia to contrast 'official' accounts and silenced everyday experiences of people who have come into contact with them. The empirical base of the research includes:

  1. newspaper accounts of police shootings and raids, particularly where incidents put police in a bad light (and police power to suppress news ensures journalists get the facts right);
  2. testimony of clients who seek legal services;
  3. documents including ministerial briefings on the SOG and Protective Security Group, correspondence between government and police, two first hand accounts of SOG forced entry raids on innocents, unreleased reviews of police shootings and police firearms policy, transcripts from a legal hearing on two controversial policing incidents, extracts from training manuals, planning documents, Victoria Police Review, memo from the Victorian Chief Commissioner, transcripts from Coronial Inquests into police shootings, transcripts of evidence of inquests into shootings.

Chapters 2─10: Step 4

Substantiation for argument: A comparison of police and military in Western democracies highlights the significance of a consolidation in the roles of the two organisations (chatper 2). An examination of policing in Victoria from 1836 highlights the paramilitary nature of early policing and the important role police played in overcoming challenges to privilege (chapter 3). Social, political and constitutional traditions have, until relatively recently, severely restricted the use of the military for law enforcement and precluded the States from raising their own armies (chapter 4). Connections between the SOG and military re weaponry, training, tactics and culture suggest a conflict with the police mandate to protect life and use minimum force (chapter 5). The involvement of the SOG in fatal shootings in Victoria, and firearms tactics and training have led to a shift in the routine arming of police, and the progressive introduction of more lethal firearms and ammunition (chapter 6). The SOG's approach to firearms is linked to fatal police shootings (chapter 7). The SOG's approach to firearms is being introduced into mainstream policing (chapter 8). Less-than-lethal weapons, particularly capsicum gas, are being introduced into mainstream policing via counter terrorist squads like the SOG (chapter 9). Counter insurgency theory justifies use of extreme force against political and industrial activists (chapter 10).

Chapter 11: Step 5

Repeats argument and core points made to support argument, closing sentence, 'In an important sense the "military" is no longer under the complete control of an elected government'.  

2. Informative style, traditional simple structure, grounded theory, nursing midwifery

Wynaden, D. 2002. The primary carer’s experience of caring for a person with a mental disorder in the Western Australian community: A grounded theory study, PhD thesis, Curtin University of Technology, School of nursing and midwifery.  

Chapter 1: Steps 1 and 2

Problem statement: One in five Australians has a mental disorder and it is estimated that one in four families have a member who has a mental disorder. Since the 1960s there has been an 80 percent decrease in Australian institution-based mental health care. The majority of people who have a mental disorder are now treated in their local community and many of them live with their families.

Review of literature: While changes in the delivery of mental health care have been based on human rights concerns, as well as changes in mental health legislature and economic factors, the multi-dimensional experience of being a primary carer of a person with a mental disorder remains relatively unexplored. The need for empirical evidence about the primary carer’s experience to inform policy approaches is noted in both the scientific literature as well as from carers themselves. While there is a substantive literature on the experiences of carers of people with enduring illnesses, the extent to which this experience is comparable to that of carers of people with mental disorders remains unclear.

Question: What is the experience of people caring for a family member with a mental disorder, and is it similar or different from the experiences of carers of people with other kinds of enduring illnesses?

Chapter 2: Background

Chapter 3: Step 3

Method: In order to explore and theorise the experience of carers, a grounded theory approach is used to analyse semi-structured interviews with 27 carers as well as field observations, memos and reflective journaling.

Chapters 4─7: Step 4

Results: The basic psychological problem for carers was 'being consumed' in which participants felt a bewildering sense of preoccupation with what was happening to themselves and their family member. This involved two phases: 'disruption of established lifestyle' and 'sustained threat to self-equilibrium' (chapter 4).

The data revealed that the basic psychological problem of being consumed was influenced by six conditions: participants prior exposure to and knowledge of mental disorder, communication with health professionals, the type and quality of emergency services, mobility of health professionals, health professionals management strategies, and level of support (chapter 5).

Participants engaged in the basic psychological process of 'seeking balance' in order to address their experience of being consumed. This involved three phases: utilising personal strategies to reduce the problem of being consumed, restoring self-identity, and reaching out to make a difference. Running parallel to the core process, there was also the sub-process of 'trying to make sense of what was happening' (chapter 6).

There were four conditions influencing participants’ experience of seeking balance: prior knowledge of mental disorders, level of social support, perceived level of well being, and availability and support of health professionals (chapter 7).

Chapters 8 and 9: Step 5

Discussion and conclusion

Those who care for people with mental disorders have a similar experience to that of carers of people with other enduring illnesses. Key similarities include … . However the study also found both negative and positive aspects of experience that were specific to caring for family members with metal disorders. These include … .

3. Descriptive style, traditional complex structure, Foucaultian document analysis, Australian studies

Gibson, Lisanne. 1999. Art and Citizenship–Governmental intersections, PhD thesis, Griffith University, Faculty of Arts.

Chapter 1: Steps 1 and 2

Problem statement: The shift away from public provision towards entrepreneurial principles in cultural policy is often perceived in purely negative terms. However, government resources are dwindling, and government arts funding has never been a guarantee of a plurality of cultural productions in any case. Existing debates are unresolvable in the terms in which they are currently set.

Review of literature: Analyses of art or cultural funding in Australia have tended to focus on specific policies, personalities or cultural sectors rather than attempting to explain why one policy environment has emerged over another. When the relations of government and culture have been theorised they tend to polarise around two positions. On the one hand cultural practices and institutions are seen as 'authentic' expressions 'of the people' overlooking the way culture acts to regulate social relations. On the other hand, cultural practices and institutions are seen to produce either consent, or opposition to hegemonic arrangements supported by the State. In both positions culture is situated in a realm outside the State, which the State may support, manipulate or suppress.

Aim: The thesis aims to contribute to understandings of the relations between culture and government by adopting a Foucauldian conceptual frame, and specifically a governmentality frame, that resituates how we think about the relations between power, the State and culture.

Argument: The thesis argues that art and culture produce various kinds of civic and ethical capacities which are immanent to the populace and which effectively govern the populace. This approach alters our understanding of political engagement around arts policy and funding. The State is only one channel via which power operates. What becomes important is the form of capacities produced by the arts, and not simply who funds their production.

Chapters 2─5: Step 3 and 4

Method: In order to reflect upon the relations between government and culture the thesis discusses the key rationales for the conjunction of art, citizenship and government in the following historical case studies:

  • scholarly and other discussion of the shift in representations of the role of art in revolutionary eighteenth century France (discussed in chapter two);
  • Federal art project of the ‘New Deal’ in America, and history of the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Arts in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s (discussed in chapter 3);
  • Australian CEMA, travelling exhibitions of the National Gallery of Victoria, and of the Art Gallery of NSW in 1940s Australia (discussed in chapter 4);
  • Australia Council from 1968-1986, particularly government inquiries, Industries Assistance Commission Report 1976, and McLeay Report 1986 (discussed in chapter 5).

Substantiation for argument: In modern times the juridico-discursive model of power, in which art was enlisted in the assertion of the monarch’s power over the public, has been replaced by a model in which art is seen as the property of the people, standing outside the State, and the means by which the citizenry could be educated and represented (chapter 2).

Cultural programming is not a field of monolithic decision making, but a domain of diverse power effects, knowledges and tactics immanent to the population and geared to the management of the population through culture (this is exemplified in a discussion of the case studies in chapters 3, 4 and 5).

Chapter 6: Step 5

Conclusion: There is a need to move away from a universalist approach to cultural policy which may question or reject an approach simply on the basis of who funds it. What is needed is a mix of strategies and policies which can encompass diverse and competing productions of art.

4. Informative style, traditional simple structure, computer modelling, business, economics

Naranpanawa, Athula. 2005. Trade liberalisation and poverty in a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model: The Sri Lankan case, PhD thesis, Griffith University, Business School.

Chapter 1 and 2: Steps 1 and 2

Problem statement: Many trade and development economists, policy makers and policy analysts around the world believe that globalisation promotes growth and reduces poverty. However, critics of globalisation argue that in developing countries integration into the world economy makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.

Review of literature: (discussed in detail chapter 2) Much of the research about the links between openness, growth and poverty are based on cross-country comparisons. While this research suggests that growth is pro poor, it is unclear how it affects different income groups and sectors within a single economy. Sri Lanka offers an appropriate context to study income differentials because, despite being the first country in the South Asian region to liberalise its trade substantially, it continues to manifest significant poverty mainly among the rural population. There is a considerable literature to support a Sri Lankan specific computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to simulate the economic effects of trade liberalisation. However, a poverty focused CGE model for Sri Lanka has never been developed.

Question: Does trade reform increase or decrease relative poverty within a country, and specifically within Sri Lanka?

Chapters 3─4: Step 3

A poverty focused CGE model for the Sri Lankan economy was developed in order to simulate the effects of trade liberalisation upon poverty. As a requirement for the development of such a model, a social accounting matrix of the Sri Lankan economy for the year 1995 was constructed. In order to estimate income differences between urban and rural groups, income distribution for different household groups was empirically estimated and linked to the CGE model in 'top down' mode. This enabled a wide range of household level poverty and inequality measurements to be computed. Finally, a set of simulation experiments was conducted to identify the impact of trade liberalisation in manufacturing and agricultural industries on absolute and relative poverty at household level.

Chapter 5: Step 4

Results: The results show that trade liberalisation of manufacturing industries increases economic growth and reduces absolute poverty across low income household groups. However, very little of this growth 'trickles down' to the poorest people in rural Sri Lanka. The liberalisation of agricultural industries also has little impact upon the incomes of rural groups. Reduced flow of government transfers to households following the loss of tariff revenue may be blamed for this trend.

Chapter 6: Step 5

Conclusion: Although trade reform has a positive impact upon aggregate levels of poverty, the Sri Lankan case suggests that it can also increase the gap between the rich and the poor. This suggests that trade liberalisation should be accompanied by active policy intervention to alleviate the poverty of specific groups and avoid increases in relative poverty within a country.

Last sentence: 'Hence this study highlights the importance of the implementation of redistribution measures to accompany trade liberalisation in developing countries'.

5. Informative style, traditional simple structure, statistical analysis, economics and commerce

Lin, Michelle. 2006. Initial public offerings and board governance: An Australian study, PhD thesis, University of Western Australia, School of Economics and Commerce.  

Chapter 1: Steps 1 and 2

Problem statement
: Appropriate corporate governance structures for publicly listed companies has been the subject of much debate. In March 2003, the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) released new corporate governance guidelines, which included 'best practice' recommendations such as the adoption of an independent board and separation of the roles of chairperson and CEO. ASX listed companies are obliged to follow the recommendations or explain their non-compliance. Compliance is impractical and costly, particularly for small companies.

Review of literature: While a number of reviews and reports have been released stipulating 'best practice' in corporate governance, there has been little empirical testing of the recommendations against actual market outcomes. In particular, while investors perceptions about best practice have been the subject of survey, there is little empirical data to confirm their actual behaviour. In addition, most studies about board structure have been static, neglecting consideration of board structures over time.  

Question: Do firms which conform to the ASX's principles and recommendations have better outcomes, as measured in terms of investors behaviour, than firms who do not?

Chapter 2: Step 3

In order to understand the relationship between board structure and firm outcomes the study statistically assesses the relationship between board structure, captured as board composition, leadership, size and share ownership of directors, and initial public offerings (IPO) underpricing, post IPO long-run performance, and subsequent offerings. The sample consists of Australian firms who made an IPO between 1994 and 1999, and Connect 4 data base checked against an 'Additions to the official list' of the ASX fact book. Further, we analysed changes in IPO firms' board structures from the time of listing to five years later to determine whether IPO firms adopt governance structures that are more in line with the best practice recommendations after listing as well as whether the changes are related to IPO firms' long-run performance.

Chapter 3─5

Step 4: Results
Overall, we find that the majority of successful firms did not conform to the 'optimal' board structures recommended by the ASX in either the short or long term. IPO firms' board structures are found to be unrelated to the level of IPO underpricing, post IPO long run performance, and subsequent equity offerings.

Chapter 6: Step 5

Conclusion: There is little evidence to support the view that firms who comply with ASX board structure recommendations are more successful than those that do not. 'Thus, our findings lend support to the view that the ASX recommendations on corporate governance are excessively prescriptive and unduly costly for small companies in particular. The ASX is no less likely to achieve the expected benefits from adoption of its recommendations, but will substantially reduce companies' compliance costs in aggregate, if it allowed a blanket exemption based on firm size'.

6. Informative style, traditional complex/compilation of published journal articles, survey/experimental, psychology

Paterson, Helen. 2004. Co-witnesses and effects of discussion on eyewitness memory, PhD thesis, University of New South Wales, Psychology Department.

Chapter 1: Steps 1 and 2

Problem statement:
 The legal system assumes that the testimony given by eyewitnesses is independent, but this is frequently not the case. Co-witness discussion of a crime could influence memory accuracy introducing the possibility of miscarriages of justice.

Review of literature: There is little literature on the prevance of eye witness discussion and its effects on memory. What has been written utilises varied methodologies and there are inconclusive findings. The concept of memory conformity within social and cognitive theory might explain the effects of co-witness discussion on memory, but this has never been investigated empirically.

Question: What are the effects of co-witness discussion on the accuracy and completeness of eyewitness memory?

Background (chapter 2): Outlines memory conformity theory

Chapter 3─9: Steps 1-5

Chapter 3: Witnesses talk
Review of literature: Although there are numerous anecdotal instances of co-witness discussion, there have been few studies which measure the incidence of co-witness discussion related to serious crimes.
Method: A survey of 773 undergraduate psychology students was conducted to determine the extent to which co-witness discussion of serious crime occurs.
Results: The results showed that the incidence of co-witness discussion among those who had witnessed a serious crime was as high as 80%.
Discussion (closing point): Eyewitness discussion is common.

Chapter 4: The legal perspective
Review of literature: Although courts prefer witnesses not to discuss the events with one another, it is unclear whether this is prevented in practice.
Method: A survey of 145 police officers was conducted to determine the extent to which co-witness discussion occurs, and the awareness and perception of police towards co-witness discussion.
Results: The results show that there is no formal policy policy regarding co-witness discussion. Police officers often attempt to prevent co-witness discussion because they believe it could negatively affect accurate recall. However, police also report that they are unable to prevent co-witness discussion before they arrive at a crime scene.
Discussion (closing point): Eyewitness discussion is common despite the preference of the courts and the police to prevent it.

Chapter 5: Co-witness communication
Review of literature: Many studies on the impact of co-witness contamination of memory compare the memories of persons who did not discuss a crime event with the momories of persons in groups with experimental confederates who attempt to induce false information about a crime event. This is methodologically problematic because it is not clear whether the comparable memory accuracy of the former gorup is due to the lack of discussion, or the lack of misleading information being induced by confederates. There are no studies which compare discussion groups without a confederate and discussion groups where a confederate induces false information.
Method: In order to compare the impact of co-witness contamination upon memory, 171 undergraduate students from the University of New South Wales were shown a crime video and then asked to discuss the video in groups (some of which received experimentally induced misinformation from a co-witness and some of which did not). Following the discussion, participants were asked to give their individual accounts of what happened.
Results: Witnesses regularly reported misinformation introduced by a confederate when interviewed later.
Discussion (closing point): The results support the hypotheses that witnesses incorporate misinformation into their own accounts of a crime.

Chapter 6: Ways of encountering post event information
Review of literature: While there is significant evidence that post-event information such as media and leading police questions influence event recall, it is unclear what effect co-witness discussion has upon event recall. It would be unwise to generalise from media and police information effects given that co-witnesses are not accorded the same authority. There are no studies which compare the relative effects of media, police and co-witness discussion upon memory accuracy.
Method: In order to compare the relative effects of media, police and co-witness discussion upon memory, 105 undergraduate psychology students were shown a crime video and then exposed to one of four different types of post-event information. The four types of post-event information included 1) media, 2) leading questions, 3) indirect co-witness information and 4) co-witness discussion. A fifth control group received no post-event information. Following this, participants were asked to give their individual accounts of what happened and were asked how confident they felt about the information.
Results: Tests for memory recall and participant responses on confidence in the accuracy of memory recall, suggest lower accuracy and higher confidence for co-witness information, whether directly or indirectly introduced, than for post-event media or police information.
Discussion (concluding point): Co-witness information and discussion has a more powerful effect on memory recall than other post-event sources such as media and leading questions.

Chapter 7: Unintentional hearsay
Review of literature: There is some evidence to suggest that witnesses confuse post event information supplied by an outside source with their 'memory' of an event. However, studies have not tested teh impact of time delay on memory distortion, and are based on photographs and non naturalistic conversation. The current study tests for long term memory distortion following viewing of a realistic crime video within naturalistic discussion settings.
Method: Three experimental groups were shown two slightly different crime videos. One group comprised subjects who watched the same video. In the second group, half the subjects had seen either video A or video B. A third control group were shown either video A or B, but asked to record what they had seen without discussion. Prior to discussion the groups were given either a specific warning, in which they were told that some group members may have seen a different version of the crime, or a general warning in which participants were told to disregard what group members told them and rely on their own memory. Following a general recall, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that recorded differences between memories of the two videos as well as similarities. They were also asked to identify the criminal in a line up. The questionnaire asked respondents to make a distinction between what they remembered and what they believed to be true.
Discussion (concluding point): Although, co-witness discussion influences what people felt they 'knew' about a crime, the distinction between memory and known information or information gleaned from outside source remained clear.

Chapter 8: Source monitoring
Review of literature:

Chaper 9: Eyewitness interview
Review of literature:

Chapter 10: Step 5

Conclusion: Co-witness information has a negative effect on the accuracy and completeness of memory. ... Last sentence ... 'By employing a number of methodological refinements, the research presented in this thesis advances our understanding of the impact of co-witness discussion on individual testimony within a forensically relevant context'.

7. Informative style, traditional simple structure, in-depth interviews, masculinity studies

Flood, Michael. 2000. Lust, trust and latex: Why young heterosexual men don't use condoms, PhD thesis, The Australian National University, Centre for Women's Studies.

Chapter 1: Steps 1 and 2

Problem statement
: Heterosexual men's refusal to use condoms plays a crucial role in the heterosexual transmission of HIV/AIDS, and they are therefore an appropriate target for education and research.

Review of literature: Existing research theorises heterosexual men's condom refusal in relation to dominant masculinity. In these explanations men see risk-avoidance or condom use as feminine and resist women's efforts to use condoms in order to remain in control. There has not been empirical research to test these assumptions.

Question: To what extent does condom use among young heterosexual men and their understandings and practice of safe or unsafe sex comply with dominant masculinity? What kinds of understandings constrain or encourage their use of condoms?

Chapter 2 and 3: Step 3

Method: In-depth interviews with 17 heterosexual men between the ages of 18 and 26 were conducted in order to explore the interplay between men's personal experience and the social relations of sexuality and gender.

Chapters 4─8: Step 4

Results: Young heterosexual men emphasise five themes in accounting for their non-use of condoms.

Chapter 4: Young heterosexual men emphasise sex as risky in terms of pregnancy (not HIV), and rely on their partner's use of the pill in accounting for their non-use of condoms.

Chaper 5: Young heterosexual men emphasise decrease in penile sensation and difficulties with condom use in accounting for their non-use of condoms.

Chapter 6: Young heterosexual men emphasise preserving the spontaneity of the moment in accounting for their non-use of condoms.

Chaper 7: Young heterosexual men emphasise sex as 'relationships' and therefore as trusting and monogamous in accounting for their non-use of condoms.

Chapter 8: Young heterosexual men emphasise the relative 'safety' of heterosexual sex compared to gay sex in accounting for their non-use of condoms.

Chapters 9 and 10: Step 5

Discussion and conclusion
Discussion: Heterosexual men's non-use of condoms is not explained in terms of the themes of risk or control within dominant masculinity. Key emphases in young men's accounts of their sexual lives include: a narrative of sexual skill or the 'good lover', an emphasis on trust, relationships and love, a construction of sexual eroticism in terms of 'the heat of the moment', and a concern about premature fatherhood.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that, contrary to assumptions within the existing literature, young men may be persuaded to use condoms not as a result of a preoccupation with issues of risk and control evidence within dominant masculinity, but by raising apparently 'feminine' concerns about trust and love and associating these with safe sex.

Example research story lines within journal articles

Although much shorter in length, journal articles contain the same steps in the research story line as research theses and exegeses. Three summaries of the research story line of journal papers are provided below to exemplify this.

Informative, marketing

Larson, JS., Bradlow, ET. and Fader, PS. (2005), 'An exploratory look at supermarket shopping paths', International Journal of Research in Marketing, 22:395-414.

Statement of the problem (first paragraph introduction)

Most marketers have a well-established schema for shopper travel behaviour within a supermarketthe typical customer is assumed to travel up and down the aisles of the store, stopping at various category locations, deliberating about their consideration set, choosing the best (utility maximising) option, and then continuing in a similar manner until the path is complete. Despite the common presumption of this scenario, little research has been undertaken to understand actual travel patterns within a supermarket. How do shoppers really travel through the store? Do they go through every aisle, or do they skip from one area to another in a more direct manner? Do they spend much of their time moving around the outer ring of the store (a.k.a. the "racetrack"), or do they spend most of their time in certain store sections?

Literature review and aim or objective (separate paragraph introduction)

The goal of this research is to undertake exploratory analyses, useful for data summarization, inference, and intuition about shopper travel path data. Specifically, we want to identify typical in-store supermarket travel behaviours that will help us understand how shoppers move through a supermarket. Similar research ideas, summarizing large sets of 'behavioural' curves have been explored using principle components analysis methods (Bradlow, 2002; Jones and Rice, 1992); however, our goal here is not to explain the maximal variation across customers with principle curves, but instead to cluster respondents into 'types' of shoppers and describe the prototypical path of a general cluster.

Method and methodology (separate paragraph introduction)

A rich new data source now allows us to examine behavioural questions. Sorensen Associates affixed RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to the bottom of every grocery cart in an actual supermarket in the western US. These tags emit a signal every 5 seconds that is received by receptors installed at various locations throughout the store. The arrival latencies of the signals at the receptor locations are used to triangulate the position of the grocery cart.

Results/evidence (introduction of main body)

For shopping trips under 10min, there exist two distinguishing patterns. Most shoppers choose the 'default' start path along the racetrack to the right of the office storage area between the aisles and the produce. A significant proportion of short paths breaks the default pattern. ... We  will see from the results of the longer groups that shoppers not faced with such  self-imposed time constraints are more likely to follow the default path up the  right hand side of the store. ...

Discussion/Conclusion (last paragraph)

There is an extremely low occurrence of the pattern commonly thought to dominate store travel - weaving up and down all aisles. Most shoppers tend only to travel select aisles, and rarely in the systematic up and down pattern most tend to consider the dominant travel pattern. ... Whereas previous folklore perpetuated the myth that the perimeter of the store was visited incidental to successive aisle traverses, we now know that it often serves as the main thoroughfare, effectively a 'home base' from which shoppers take quick trips into the aisles. ... This simple observation has important implications for the placement of key products, the use of end-cap displays, etc. Products placed at the center of aisles will receive much less  'face time' than those placed toward the ends. Of related interest is a practitioner study that found that placing familiar brands at the end of the aisles served as a 'welcome mat' to those aisles, effectively increasing traffic (Sorensen, 2005). ... A study of the linkage between travel and purchase behaviour seems a logical next step. Linking specific travel patterns to individual purchase decisions may lead to an improved understanding of consumer motivations for purchasing certain items, and can shed light on the complementarity and substitutability of goods in ways that more traditional 'market basket' analysis cannot capture.

Descriptive, education

Paton, M 'Is critical analysis foreign to Chinese students?' In Communication skills in university education, Emmanuel Manalo and Glenis Wong-Toi (eds), pp. 1-10.

Statement of the problem (introduction)

In a workshop presented at the 7th Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference, Kutieleh and Egege (2003) argued that critical thinking is specifically a Western approach to knowledge claims and that the challenge for transition programmes for international Asian students is the incorporation of critical thinking into first-year programmes without taking either an assimilationist or a deficit approach. This follows the arguments of those such as Atkinson (1997) and Fox (1994) that critical thinking is incompatible with Asian cultural attitudes.

Statement of the argument (introduction)

I argue, in contrast, from the perspective of history of science in China, that critical thinking is not the preserve of Western culture and that the comparative lack of "critical" quality in the academic work of East Asian international students in English is due to the difficulties of study in the context of edge-of-knowledge discourse in a second, third or fourth language. Regardless of their cultural background, the majority of typical first-year students need to be inculcated into critical thinking because from the perspective of developmental psychology, even though such students are generally near their peak of fluid intelligence, other cognitive abilities related to critical thinking, such as integrative thinking and reflective judgment are less evident at their stage of development.

Method and methodology (introduction)

The paper draws on critical literature to demonstrate the critical tradition  of China and Chinese learners, and outlines various teaching and learning strategies developed to assist the development of critical analysis for students new to academic writing.

Results/evidence (introduction main body)

A cursory glance at the various volumes that make up Needham's Science and civilisation in China (1959, 1962) would indicate that elements of scientific thinking have been a major source of the success of Chinese culture over the millennia (developed in the first part of main body).

Lifespan developmental psychology suggests that it is not only Chinese students but all undergraduate students in their early years of academic study who need to be inculcated into critical thinking and the discourse that this involves in English (developed in the second part of the main body).

If students understand that critical analysis is the basis of academic argument, they then understand through this exercise the macro-structural form that their writing should take if it is not to fall into a mere summary of others' ideas. Exercises that prove useful in examining the structure and nature of academic argument include ... (final part of the main body)

Discussion/Conclusion (last paragraph)

To conclude, if one considers the history of science in China, it would be almost culturally chauvinistic to suggest that critical thinking is specific to Western culture. I argue that critical thinking is evident in all cultures in that it is through such thinking that humanity survives. However, critical thinking as the basis of knowledge as seen in the university context is not necessarily easily come by, especially with young adult students who have a tendency to see knowledge as a fixed commodity to be ingested and then spat out in examinations. This, of course, is exacerbated by the plethora of examples of the lack of critical thinking exhibited by those in power in society outside (and sometimes inside) the academy. This lack of critical thinking reinforces any reticence on the student's part to be critical, whether it be because of second language difficulties or stage of cognitive development. Thus, if we as academics are to keep the academy as an institution for adding to the knowledge of society through critical thinking, we should not only model the discourse of critical thinking but also inform students as to the reasons for such a discourse.

Informative, human resource management

Greenberg, D., Ladge, J. and Clair, J.(2009) 'Negotiating pregnancy at work: Public and private conflicts' Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 42-56.

Statement of the problem (introduction)

Modern organisations offer an increasing number of family-friendly policies intended to support employees needs (cf. Kossek & Ozeki, 1998; Osterman, 1995). Even though these policies are well-intended, most organizations are still tightly wedded to the traditional ideal worker model, which assumes organizational members commit the majority of their physical and psychological time to their work. This steadfast tradition of the ideal worker has meant that, in today's organisations, well-intended policies rarely provide support for work-life balance and caretaking because of the stigma associated with those who take advantage of them (Kelly & Kalev, 2006). While there are many points in working women's careers when they may be challenged to assimilate into the ideal worker norm, this experience is particularly pronounced when a woman is pregnant. During pregnancy, the maternal body and its suggestions of pregnancy, babies, and breast milk sets mothers apart from the norms of the ideal worker as these norms are grounded in masculine assumptions about work (Gartrell, 2007; Williams, 2000). The inherent contradiction pregnant women face between performing as an ideal worker and an ideal mother is likely to give rise to a wide range of personal and interpersonal conflicts that a pregnant woman will have to negotiate while at work.

Literature review and objective (introduction)

While some research has been done on the negotiations pregnant women face (e.e., Buzzanell & Liu, 2007; Liu & Buzzanell, 2004; Miller, Jablin, Casey, Lamphear-Van Horn, & Ethington, 1996), existing research has primarily focused on the negotiations related to maternity leave. Yet, we would expect that the conflicts pregnant women face in the workplace are likely to extend far beyond maternity leave. In this study we move beyond existing research to investigate the range of intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts pregnant women negotiate during their pregnancy at work.

Method and methodology (introduction)

Through in-depth interviews with 30 professional women who were pregnant for the first time, we classify the varied issues women negotiate during pregnancy as well as explore why these issues arise and how women respond to them.

Results/evidence (first paragraph main body)

We were surprised to uncover that while women felt their professional identity as an ideal worker was being challenged, they also experienced an affirmation of their personal identity as a pregnant woman as they gained access to a network of working parents. As a result of these mixed messages, women found themselves negotiating conflicts in two distinct spheres. In the public sphere, women were negotiating with various stakeholders in their organisations. These negotiations involved substantive issues related to pregnancy and role along with intangible issues related to identity, professional image, and public/private boundaries. At the same time, we found pregnant women were dealing with internally charged, private negotiations. These negotiations related to women's identity and self-image rather than substantive pregnancy and work role conflicts.

Discussion/Conclusion (last paragraph)

Managers need to recognise that women are not just engaging in formal negotiations over maternity leave, but also are embroiled in intrapersonal negotiations in which they are striking private bargains with themselves about their future identities. Organisations would benefit from providing women with resources to help them make thoughtful decisions about their professional futures. Organisations must also consider that pregnant women have to negotiate intangible aspects of their pregnancies at work, such as the extent to which their private lives become public during their pregnancy. Organisations might consider expanding discussions on sexual harassment and diversity to include the topic of public/private boundaries, since these shifting boundaries can create a hostile workplace for many employees—not just pregnant women.


Metcalf, M 2002, How to critique articles.

Partridge, B ‘Thesis and dissertation writing: An examination of published articles and actual practice’, in English for Specific Purposes.

This web resource was developed by Wendy Bastalich.

Last modified: Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 11:41 AM