A dissertation, often known as a thesis, is a lengthy piece of academic writing that is based on original research. It’s normally part of a PhD or master’s degree, although it can also be part of a bachelor’s degree.

Your dissertation is likely the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed, and knowing where to begin might be daunting. This article will assist you in determining what you should include and where it should be included.

Our whole dissertation template is also available in.docx and Google Docs formats. The template comes with a pre-made table of contents and notes on what should be included in each chapter. You can change it to fit your needs.

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Choosing the structure of your dissertation

The structure of your dissertation will be determined by your location, discipline, topic, and method.

Dissertations in the humanities, for example, are frequently structured more like a long essay, with chapters organized around distinct themes or case studies to support a basic thesis.

However, if you’re conducting empirical research in the sciences or social sciences, your dissertation should normally include all of the elements listed below. In most circumstances, each will be its own chapter, but you may combine them at times. In some types of qualitative social research, for example, the findings and debate will be weaved together rather than isolated.

Section order can also differ between fields and countries. Some colleges, for example, recommend that the conclusion comes before the discussion.

If you’re unsure about how to format your thesis or dissertation, consult your department’s standards and your supervisor.

Page 1: Title

The title of your dissertation, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date all appear on the first page of your document. Your student number, supervisor’s name, and the university’s emblem are sometimes included. Many programs have specific formatting requirements for the dissertation title page.

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Acknowledgements

The acknowledgements part is normally optional, and it allows you to express gratitude to everyone who assisted you in the composition of your dissertation. This could include your supervisors, research participants, and friends or family who helped you.

Abstract

The abstract is a brief description of your dissertation that is usually between 150 and 300 words long. When you’ve finished the remainder of the dissertation, you should write it last. In general, make certain to:

• State your research’s key topic and objectives.

• Describe the techniques you employed.

• Write a summary of the main findings.

• Summarize your findings.

Despite its brief length, the abstract is the first (and sometimes only) element of your dissertation that people will read, so it’s critical that you get it correctly. Read our article on how to create an abstract if you’re having trouble writing one.

The contents page

List all of your chapters and subheadings, together with their page numbers, in the table of contents. The contents page of your dissertation provides an overview of your organization and aids in document navigation.

The table of contents should cover all portions of your dissertation, including the appendices. If you utilize heading styles in Word, you can build a table of contents automatically.

Figures and tables list

If you’ve used a lot of tables and figures in your dissertation, make a numbered list of them. Using Word’s Insert Caption tool, you may create this list automatically.

Abbreviations list

If you utilized a lot of abbreviations in your dissertation, you should put them in an alphabetized list so that the reader can check up their meanings quickly.

Glossary

It’s a good idea to include a glossary if you’ve used a lot of highly specialized phrases that your reader won’t understand. List the terms alphabetically and provide a brief description or definition for each.

Introduction

You introduce your dissertation’s topic, goal, and significance, as well as what the reader can expect from the body of the document. The first paragraph should:

• Define your research topic and provide background information to help contextualize your study.

• Define the scope of the investigation and narrow down the topic.

• Discuss the current status of study on the topic, demonstrating how your work relates to a larger problem or argument.

• State your research questions and objectives clearly.

• Provide an overview of the framework of your dissertation.

The opening should be concise, interesting, and relevant to your research. The reader should be able to understand the what, why, and how of your research by the end. Read our article on how to write a dissertation introduction for more information.

Theoretical framework/literature review

You should undertake a literature study before beginning your research to acquire a full overview of the existing academic work on your issue. This implies:

• Gathering and selecting appropriate sources (such as books and journal articles).

• Analyzing and evaluating each source critically

• Linking them together (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, and gaps) to establish a larger point

You should not only describe existing studies in the dissertation literature review chapter or section, but instead build a logical framework and argument that leads to a clear basis or explanation for your own research. It could, for example, try to demonstrate how your research:

• Fills a void in the literature

• Approaches the topic from a novel theoretical or methodological perspective.

• Offers a remedy to an unsolved issue

• Contributes to a theoretical discussion

• New data adds to and enriches existing knowledge.

The literature review frequently serves as the foundation for a theoretical framework, which defines and analyzes the major theories, concepts, and models that frame your research. Answer descriptive research questions regarding the relationship between ideas or variables in this area.

Methodology

The methodology chapter or section explains how you conducted your study and allows the reader to judge its credibility. In general, you should include:

• The overall strategy and research method (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, ethnographic)

• Your data collection methods (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)

• Where, when, and with whom the research was conducted

• Your data-analysis techniques (e.g. statistical analysis, discourse analysis)

• Materials and tools you used (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)

• An explanation of any difficulties you encountered while conducting the research and how you overcame them.

• A rationale or evaluation of your approaches

In the methodology section, your goal is to accurately summarize what you did while also persuading the reader that this was the best strategy for answering your research questions or objectives.

Results

After that, you present the findings of your investigation. This section can be organized around sub-questions, hypotheses, or topics.

In certain disciplines, the findings section and the discussion are kept separate, while in others, the two are integrated. In qualitative methodologies like ethnography, for example, data presentation is frequently braided together with conversation and interpretation.

In quantitative and experimental research, however, the findings should be presented independently before discussing their significance:

• State each relevant result succinctly, including descriptive statistics (e.g., means, standard deviations) and inferential statistics (e.g. test statistics, p-values).

• Explain briefly how the finding relates to the inquiry or whether the hypothesis was proven correct.

• Include tables and figures if they aid the reader’s comprehension of your findings.

• Include all relevant results, including those that did not match your expectations, in your report.

• Avoid speculation or subjective interpretations.

As an appendix, you can offer more data (such as raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts).

Discussion

In the discussion, you’ll look at the meaning and consequences of your findings in connection to your research questions. You should discuss if the outcomes fulfilled your expectations and how well they fit into the framework you created in previous chapters in this section.

• Explain your conclusions: what do the results mean?

• Consider the ramifications: why are the outcomes important?

• Recognize the limitations: what information can’t the results provide?

Explain any unexpected outcomes. It’s a good idea to think about different ways to interpret your data. To explain how your findings connect with existing knowledge, the discussion should go back to relevant sources.

Conclusion

The conclusion of your dissertation should succinctly answer the major research question, providing the reader with a clear comprehension of your central point and underlining the value of your research.

The conclusion is a short piece that occurs before the discussion in some academic conventions: you declare your main conclusions first, then discuss and interpret their meaning.

In other cases, though, the conclusion refers to the final chapter of your dissertation, where you wrap up your findings with a final reflection. In addition to recommendations for further research or practice, this form of conclusion is common.

It’s critical to leave the reader with a clear understanding of why your study is significant in this chapter. What new information have you brought to the table?

Bibliography

In a reference list, you must include precise details of all sources you have referenced (sometimes also called a works cited list or bibliography). It’s crucial to have a consistent citation style. Each style has its own set of rules for how to format your references in the bibliography.

APA and MLA are common citation styles, but your program may specify which one you should use — double-check the requirements and ask your supervisor if you’re unclear.

You can use the Scribbr Citation Generator to save time while building your reference list and to ensure that your citations are formatted correctly and consistently.

Make APA references

Make an MLA citation

Appendices

Only necessary information that directly helps to addressing your research question should be included in your dissertation. Appendices can be used to include documents that do not fit into the main body of your dissertation (such as interview transcripts, survey questions, or tables with full figures).

Proofreading and editing

The first step toward a well-written dissertation is to ensure that all of the sections are in the correct order. Allow lots of time for proofreading and editing. Grammar and formatting problems might detract from the quality of your efforts.

Before focusing on language errors, typos, and inconsistencies, you should prepare to write and revise numerous drafts of your thesis or dissertation. If you want to be sure your dissertation is faultless before submitting it, you might choose to use a professional dissertation editing service.

Checklist

Use this quick checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Dissertation Checklist

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• My title page contains all of the information that my university requires.

• I’ve included thank-you notes for those who assisted me.

• My abstract gives the reader a good picture of my main findings or arguments by providing a succinct synopsis of the dissertation.

• To assist the reader in navigating my dissertation, I have produced a table of contents.

• All chapter titles are included in the table of contents, but the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract are not.

• My introduction engages the reader and demonstrates the importance of my research.

• The emphasis of my research is clearly defined in my introduction, which includes my research questions and objectives.

• I provide an overview of the dissertation’s structure in my introduction.

• To demonstrate the current state of knowledge on my issue, I reviewed the most important literature.

• My literature review does not simply summarize sources; it engages critically with them, analyzing their strengths and limitations.

• Patterns, topics, and controversies in the literature are discussed in my literature review.

• My literature review demonstrates how my dissertation fills a knowledge gap or adds to previous research.

• I’ve explained my research’s theoretical framework, including the theories and models that support my methodology.

• I’ve explained my process in detail, including how I gathered and analyzed data.

• I have presented all pertinent findings in a clear and objective manner.

• In my talk, I assessed and interpreted the meaning of the results.

• Any significant limitations of the results have been mentioned.

• In the conclusion, I clearly expressed the answer to my major research question.

• I’ve explored the ramifications of my conclusion in detail, stressing the new understanding that my research has provided.

• I’ve made pertinent suggestions for future research or practice.

• I’ve supplied appendices with extra material where applicable.

• Every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source, I have included an in-text citation.

• At the end of my dissertation, I included a reference list that detailed all of my sources.

• I’ve always followed the rules of the citation style I picked.

• I followed all of my university’s formatting instructions.