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Master Degree - Natural resource management for tropical rural development

Guidelines for thesis preparation and presentation

Natural Resources Management for Tropical Rural Development

The following document is provided for the preparation of the graduation thesis for the Master Course in Natural Resources Management for Tropical Rural Development. The procedure for the registration for the graduation session is indicated on the UNIFI App (if necessary, students may refer to Segreteria Studenti).

  • The purpose of this document is to provide useful information regarding:
  • The procedure to follow for requesting a thesis supervisor;
  • The instructions for preparing the thesis in terms of editing, bibliographic references,and formatting text, tables and figures;
  • Tips and advices for a proper planning of thesis work;
  • Indications about thesis oral defence;
  • Evaluation of the thesis and scoring.

Please keep in mind that:

The thesis preparation may take months to be completed since the topic may be related to biological cycles which requires long data collection, repetitions of experiments, etc.

The calendar of the Graduation Sessions of the Course is reported on the Scuola di Agraria website – Calendario tesi (in Italian; ask your supervisor for clarifications).


1. Choosing the topic and the direction

The Master thesis is a complex task requiring relevant working and time efforts, since it can be considered as an authentic research project. Hence, the preparation of the thesis needs a strict interaction with the supervisor and/or co-supervisors. The final product is characterized by a high level of originality and advanced scientific knowledge.

On the other side, the thesis should demonstrate a student’s ability to make a significant scientific contribution to a topic studied during the degree coursework. Through the preparation of the thesis, the student must show his/her ability to analyse at an independent and advanced level a topic that could be linked to his/her future professional activities.

The thesis is a written project generally based on own ideas addressed during student’s coursework. The choice of the topic should be based on student’s professional and academic goals and interests, and can be defined with the help of the Professors (e.g., discussing it during lessons and/or during other meetings).

Once the topic has been chosen, students must address to the Professors potentially suitable for supervising the project in order to fix the supervisor. This step has to be done before starting to prepare the thesis.

The student, in collaboration with the supervisor, will identify the specific topic, the appropriate methodology to be applied and the specific goals of the research. A conceptual plan detailing the specific ideas that will be addressed in the thesis should be prepared and described by the student, always considering general and specific aspects of the topic according to the geographic, climatic, social, rural, scientific and technological scenarios of activity. Once agreed the topic and timing will be shared and agreed with the supervisor, the candidate has to fill a pre-registration form (Link:

Before start writing the thesis, students should concentrate on making the state of art on the chosen topic by reviewing the available literature (textbooks, scientific articles, other projects, etc.). For the literature review, students will be driven by the supervisor and he/she can consult articles and other digital resources available on line (e.g. Google Scholar, Web of Science, Scopus). When using Scopus, students are invited to access it through the UNIFI proxy system (check in UNIFI Web site) to be able to search and fully download articles. Many scientific papers indexed by online repositories (e.g. Scopus) are subject to copyright, hence students should refer to the supervisor to obtain them for free.


2. The structure of the thesis

2.1 The title and index

A concise title of the thesis should express the theme and perspective of the research project. The definition of a provisional title can be a good way to start; a final title may be decided once the thesis is fully written. In order to plan the research structure and verify the coherence of the concept, a provisional index should be shared/agreed with the supervisor. The provisional index represents a nice guide (e.g., for planning the research and establishing the relevance of sections and chapters); it can be modified as the project takes shape. The final index must appear at the beginning of the thesis and must be formatted as follows:


Chapter 1. Chapter Title

1.1. Title of sub-chapter pag. xx

1.1.1. Title of paragraph (if present) pag. xx

1.1.2. Title of paragraph (if present) pag. xx

1.2. Title of sub-chapter pag. xx



It is important to keep in mind that each chapter starts with a sub-chapter, and also that chapter should not be excessively fragmented in sub-chapters.


2.2. The writing process

Use short and linear sentences; try to minimize the use of adverbs. Verb tenses should be decided from the early beginning and must be consistent along the manuscript. It is often best to write the introduction and conclusion after writing the other chapters (methodology, results, discussion) including the research project description. Abbreviations (e.g., acronyms) can be used, but their explanations must be written out the first time the abbreviation is used. Exclamatory sentences should be avoided.

Words that are not commonly used in English should be written in italics. Remember that you can quote part of texts citing the source, but be aware that plagiarism is a criminal act. Plagiarism is defined as the total or partial attribution of another person’s ideas, research, or discoveries to one’s self or to another author, or omitting a citation either intentionally or by accident.

A research project should use impersonal pronouns rather than the first person, but this is not compulsory (check with the supervisor).


2.3. The structure of the thesis

A thesis should include the following chapters. See the Template for graduation theses - NRMTRD .

Title page (use the standard format –Scuola di Agraria website - Fac-simili frontespizio tesi)

  1. Abstract
  2. Acknowledgements (optional)
  3. Index
  4. Introduction
  5. Objectives
  6. Material and methods
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. Appendix (if any)
  11. List of abbreviations, figures, tables
  12. Bibliography/List of references


Some rules

  1. Title page. The title/cover page must precede the text, and must include the first and last name of the author, the title of the thesis, the academic year, the name of the supervisor and co-supervisors (if any), and the name of the department and the University. This page should not be numbered.
  2. Abstract. A summary of the thesis, where the introduction, the objectives, the materials and methods, and the results are reported synthetically.
  3. Acknowledgements. The acknowledgements section is optional and it is used to thank people who made significant contributions to the project.
  4. Index. The index shows the titles of the chapters and subchapters with indications of their corresponding page numbers.
  5. Introduction. The main function of this section is to introduce the reader to the topic, the state of the art, and the general problems related to the research. The introduction, unless otherwise directed by the supervisor, should be prepared once the thesis is completed (i.e. once all the concepts have been clearly defined and problems have been identified). The introduction section presents the ideas to be addressed and the methodology used as a way to stimulate the reader’s interest.
  6. Objectives. This section can be included at the end of the “Introduction” section but, when the specific objectives need to be clearly illustrated, it could be useful to write them in a separate section.
  7. Materials and methods. This section aims to illustrate the materials (any kind of material, the location, the environmental conditions, etc.) and the methods (i.e. conceptual, technical and statistical approaches) used the carry on the research activities. It must be a concise and precise description of all the materials including for instance their transport (e.g. dried leaves from a site to the laboratory), the instruments and tools (including the model, the brand and its location, etc.), the origin of information (e.g. searching engines used to retrieve articles), the softwares and databases (including their version numbers and used parameters). When appropriate, the experimental design, data collection and management, dates, places and number of observations and repetitions must be reported, including the adopted statistical analysis and the used software (brand, version). Results are not reported in this section. Figures to illustrate the experimental design are recommended to be added, as well as pictures of the materials, tools (when advisable), tables, and locations. Please note that any figures/tables etc. have to be numbered along the whole manuscript under an increasing order.
  8. Results. In this section the bare results are reported and widely described. The presentation of results (text, tables and figures) must be clear, precise, not redundant and consistent with the used methods. Statistical probability values, contingency values, etc. must be clearly indicated. Comparative and exclamatory sentences must be avoided.
  9. Discussion. This section contains essentially comments of the above achieved results after comparing them with the available data gathered from literature. Exclamatory sentences should be avoided. Nevertheless, this is the right section to highlight the relevance of the results in comparison to other data or, if data are not available, in relation to the state of the art (e.g., ‘how and how much the results go beyond the state of the art?’). It is recommended to discuss the most relevant and significant results, avoiding to extensively comment weak results. Tables/figures can be used to compare the obtained results with those coming from other investigations. Remember to quote in the text the reference of the articles, as well as the source of data etc. Keep in mind that copy and paste from other articles and from the Internet is not appropriate due to copyright rules. You are allowed to re-use data and re-design figures from published articles, but you always have to indicate the source.
  10. Conclusion. Conclusive remarks are reported in this section according to the introduction, objectives, state of the art and impact of the achieved results in the short and medium period. No new concepts should be presented in the conclusion and directions for future research can be proposed.
  11. Appendix. Not compulsory. The Appendix section should contain documents (e.g. raw data series, repeated and standardized outputs such as description sheets, etc.) that are considered relevant but that are too conspicuous to be included as parts of the chapters. In case of multiple appendices, they should be assigned to letters or numbers and put in the order in which they are referenced in the text (Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C, etc.).
  12. List of abbreviations, figures, tables, pictures. This section comprises a list of abbreviations (if any) and a comprehensive list of all the tables, figures and pictures with their captions.
  13. Bibliography/List of references. Bibliographic references are very important and their use must be consistent with the thesis’ concepts. References can be represented by different types of publications (from those reported by top international scientific/technical journals, to articles of newspapers and on the web, and even oral personal communications). It is clear that, depending on the topic of the thesis, the scientific approach, the scenario where the research is placed, different types of references can/must be used. Bibliographic research and retrieval of information is a quite complex issue, nevertheless it is important to acknowledge the actual level of reliability of the gathered information.


The thesis, which is comparable to a scientific paper, must provide precise documentation for every assertion. “Citing” means giving credit to another person for their thoughts, words, and data.

No thoughts or expressions should appear in the thesis without a proper citation. When sentences or paragraphs are inserted without a citation, it will be treated as plagiarism.


In-text citations can appear in different ways. It is suggested to adopt the Anglo-Saxon tradition (Harvard style). The citation in this case must appear in parentheses and mention only the authors’ last names and the year of publication. In the text, references to paper by one or two authors should give their surnames (e.g. Brown, 2010; Brown and Rogers, 2011); papers with more than two authors are referred by the first author followed by “et al.” in italics (e.g. Moore et al., 2012). When there are two or more references by the same senior authors (for papers by one or more than two authors) with the same year of publications, references must be designed by letters (e.g. Moore et al., 2012 a, b).

The citations in the text must be listed in its entireness in the reference list. Different citation norms exist. Below is given one example of literature citations:



FERREE D.C., ELLIS M.A., BISHOOP B.L., 1984 - Scarf skin on ‘Rome Beauty’. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci., 109(3): 422-427.

Book Chapter

FERGUSON A.R., BOLLARD E.G., 1990 - Domestication of the kiwifruit, pp. 165-246. In: WARRINGTON I.J., and G.C. WESTON (eds.) Kiwifruit: Science and Management. Ray Richards Publisher in assoc. with the N.Z. Soc. Hort. Sci., Auckland, New Zealand, pp. 576.


NICKELL L.G., 1983 - Plant growth regulating chemicals. Vol. I. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, pp. 280.

Thesis and Dissertations

SHERMAN W.B., 1963 - A morphological study of fruit abscission of the Muscadine grape, Vitis rotundifolia. M.S. Thesis, Mississippi State University, USA, pp. 156.


ROBERTS A.N., 1969 - Timing in cutting preparation as related to developmental physiology. Comb. Proc. Int. Pl. Prop. Soc. for 1968, 19: 77-82.

Beside literary references, sometimes it is necessary to cite websites: even these sources must be mentioned in the thesis (sitography).

The bibliography (List of references) should contain the list of references in alphabetical order based on the surname of the main author, and under an increasing order of date of publication and inserted at the end of the document.


General format and layout

Paper format. Use the standard A4 format and set the same margins (2.5 cm, top/bottom, right/left).

Size & line spacing. The text should be in 12 point character and 1.5 spaced lines.

Font. Choose a commonly used font that provides a full character set, for example Times.

Tables and pictures. Insert tables, graphs and images directly where they belong in the text. Tables must be on one page, not divided across different pages. Each table, figure and picture must have a caption describing what it displays and must be reported along the text. Tables and figures (with their captions) must be placed in the text after they have been quoted. Captions of tables (follow this format: Table 1 – Here the caption content) are placed above the tables; captions of figures (follow this format: Figure 1 – Here the caption of the figure) are placed below them. Captions of photos/pictures are also placed below and can be numbered if considered relevant.

Pagination: Pages must be numbered since the first draft of the manuscript . The final copy will be double-sided so you must ensure that blank pages are inserted where necessary in order that new chapters, sections, bibliography etc. fall on the right-hand side, on an odd-numbered page.

Language correction: Before sharing the thesis (in parts or completed) to the supervisor, be sure that the text has been revised both for spelling and grammar. The supervisor can reject at once the manuscript if the text is poor in terms of language and logical sequence.

Remember that some theses affording specific topics may require special formats; in these cases define the necessary aspects with the supervisor.


2.4. Written thesis presentation

Once agreed with the supervisor, the complete written thesis must be converted into a PDF file following the indications reported in the UNIFI platform. An Abstract of the thesis must be also prepared. It will be uploaded separately from the full text, as indicated in the UNIFI App. This operation will be done once agreed with the supervisor.


3. Thesis defence

This step regards the oral presentation of thesis work to a Commission where the supervisor (and possible co-supervisors) are usually official members. It is requested to present the thesis in 15 minutes at once, after the invitation from the President of the Commission. After the presentations, all the members of the Commission are free to ask questions about the oral presentation and the previous research work.

Slides (made in Power Point) could be also presented in PDF format.

Some tips for the preparation of the slides:

  • Use appropriate background colours and fonts
  • Present all the steps of your thesis (Introduction, Objectives, ..., Conclusions) in a concise and precise way
  • Avoid sentences and long texts; itemize the text with appropriate bullets
  • Include the most important and meaningful readable tables, figures, pictures in the slides
  • Highlight in tables and figures the most important points you are going to discuss
  • Add the most important references (for instance, using a smaller font size)
  • Make your slides attractive and your presentation pleasant
  • Short videos documenting your field/laboratory activities can be presented
  • Check your ability to present the thesis in order to have an appropriate and scientific language, avoiding to repeat concepts and facts. Be consistent with timing (15 minutes).


4. Evaluation of the thesis

The Commission for the graduation will take into account several aspects (e.g., being pro-active, autonomous, committed, etc.) in order to score your written thesis and its defence starting from the quality of your study career. The final score will be the result of the following items:

  1. Career mark (the average of the marks of your exams, converted in hundredths, as released by the Segreteria Studenti)
  2. Graduation in time (2 points; meaning graduating within the third month of April from the registration to the course)
  3. Experience out of Italy (1 point)
  4. Evaluation of the Commission (1 to 7 points, as an average of written thesis and defence) for a maximum of 110 points.

The graduation with “Honours” can be obtained only if 110 points are gathered. The final score from the Commission is not questionable.

last update: 18-Mar-2022
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