A Guide to Structure a Dissertation
Detailed writing based on comprehensive research is known as a dissertation. Regardless of the area of research or academic level, you’re in, successful completion of a dissertation could earn you Master and/or Doctorate degrees.
Say you’ve got an idea of what a dissertation is now. You’ve also chosen a topic, and hopefully, your research proposal has been approved. Fantastic! Now, it’s time to begin the actual dissertation writing process. Remember, though, there are different writing methods, and a dissertation has its own requirements you must meet.
Furthermore, to write a detailed one per the designed research questions, you must first know how to structure a dissertation. So, in this article, we’ll walk you through the generic structure and layout step by step. But, first, we’ll begin with the big picture to discuss the main points.
Let’s look into it:
Way to Structure a Dissertation
An individual should remember the dissertation’s structure is determined by chosen research method, research title, and the format that the respected educational institutes provide. For instance, humanities students know to structure their dissertation like a long essay.
If your dissertation is based on primary or empirical studies, remember to include the following elements:
1. Title Page
The title of any dissertation contains the student’s name, department, degree program, institution, and submission date. All that will go on the first page of your document. Aside from these details, the first page can also contain your student ID, supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo. Furthermore, different academic programs have strict formatting requirements for the dissertation title page.
In addition, keep in mind your title page is the first impression a viewer will get of your work. So, think of the ways to make it incredible. You must be wondering what can make your title page good. Here are a few ideas:
- Keep it succinct (not overly lengthy)
- Ensure it’s representative of the research you’re carrying out (clearly incorporate your title containing a touch of methodology)
- Stick to the specifications and relevance to the area of research (cannot be ambiguous or vague)
These three elements can make your dissertation significantly intriguing.
This page allows you to express your gratitude to those who assisted you as you completed the dissertation. Even though this is generally optional (and will not count towards your grade), most experts count it amongst the best educational practices.
Now, decide to whom do you express your gratitude? There are no set requirements. However, it is common to acknowledge the following people:
- Course Supervisor, who assisted you in understanding the topic and data collection
- Participants of your research
- Family and friends
Generally, there’s no need for you to extend this section. Instead, state who you’re grateful to and for what (e.g., thank you to my supervisor, Eric Baldoni, for his never-ending dedication and attentiveness) – be genuine. Remember to make it a one-pager or shorter.
An abstract summarises a dissertation. Ideally, a well-written abstract consists of 150–300 words. From your professors to your seniors, everyone will suggest you write it after the completion of your dissertation. Whether you take their advice or not, make certain to include the following points in the abstract:
- Describe the main topic and goals of the study
- Define the chosen research methodologies
- Summarize the key findings
- Declare your conclusions and add the limitations of your study
Although an abstract is brief, it is one of the first things a reader will glance on picking up your dissertation, so it is crucial to get it right.
If you’re having trouble writing a compelling abstract, take a look here and learn how to compose an abstract.
4. Table of Content
The dissertation contents page provides a brief overview of your structure and aids in document navigation. In a Microsoft Document, you can simply generate a table of content.
5. List of Tables or Figures
If your dissertation contains tables, illustrations, and figures, you should present them in a bulleted list in a separate area. You can use the built-in feature of Microsoft Word to auto-insert and auto-create figures and tables.
If you’ve used a lot of highly specialized or technical terms in your dissertation you think your reader will not be familiar with, it may be a good idea to add a glossary. List the terms alphabetically and provide a summary or definition for every term.
You’ve now your dissertation topic, purpose, and relevance. Therefore, it’s time you wrote your introduction.
A well-planned introduction should:
- Include your aims and objectives, providing background information required to contextualize your work
- Narrow your focus and determine the scope of your research
- Explain the recent statistics by demonstrating your work’s significance to a larger problem.
- Have your research rationale, significance, and the gap your dissertation aims to cover
- Provide a summary of the structure of your dissertation
Everything in the introduction should be understandable, engaging, and pertinent to your study. In other words, leverage it to make it easier for a reader to understand the why, what, and how of your research by the end.
8. Literature Review
The literature review chapter summarizes previous researches on the topic and helps you incorporate them accordingly. Moreover, it is written so that it will support your objectives. Therefore, ensure the academic sources you use are reliable and updated.
The Literature Review must be thorough and planned according to the aims and objectives part of your dissertation. Some points a good literature review must have are:
- Data gathered from relevant and reliable academic sources, such as journals, books, and research papers
- Analytical evaluation of the gathered information from credible databases
- Assessing research gaps, patterns, conflicts, and theories to communicate your point properly to the reader
Clearly, literature reviews are crucial for establishing comprehensible reasoning or structure to explain your research study. Write them well!
The Methodology chapter describes the methods and approaches (secondary and primary) used to obtain research results.
Primary data collection methods commonly include interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, surveys, and observations. Similarly, this section essentially allows a researcher to discuss how they obtained the data, why it is credible, and how it will help answer the designed research questions.
When writing research methods, you should keep the following points in mind:
- Use research philosophy and approach in your work. Experimental, quantitative, and qualitative researches are the commonly used study forms.
- Questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, observation, and other data collection methods are defined accordingly
- Describe when, how, where, and what research you conducted
- Methods of data analysis used (regression analysis, content analysis, thematic analysis, etc.)
- Data analysis software and tools (STATA, Excel, SPSS, NVIVO, and more)
- Limitations of research to showcase any obstacles you had to confront while conducting our research
- Justify your choice of research processes and methods
The chapter on dissertation findings is organized around the research questions discussed in the introductory part. Therefore, only include findings related to your study objectives.
Furthermore, appendices can contain details not directly related to research questions or hypotheses but ones that may benefit the readers. As previously stated, you can present your findings in a separate chapter or merge them with the discussion section. And, the nature of the study and the academic subject will influence this decision.
Moreover, a dissertation using experimental or quantitative data must show findings and analysis/discussion in the appendix.
This part investigates the significance and implications of your findings related to your research topic. Therefore, you should analyze the results in detail, addressing whether they validated your query, met the expectations, and how well they suit the framework you created in previous chapters.
- What do the findings conclude, according to your analysis?
- Investigate the ramifications: why do the outcomes matter?
- Recognize your limitations: what can’t the results tell us?
Similarly, if any of the results are unforeseen, provide explanations for why. For instance, COVID-19 did not allow you to conduct face to face interviews. So in a way, discussions can be a good place to mention why you considered different interpretations of your data. Even so, you should look to credible sources to demonstrate how your findings fit empirical evidence.
You will find conclusions for each research objective in this section. This is usually accomplished by revisiting the research questions to summarise the dissertation thread. Several universities may specifically request a recommendation’s section to assess your critical thinking abilities.
Moreover, a well-executed conclusion will ensure readers clearly understand the fundamental case by the end. Besides that, it emphasizes what research methodology was used and what you learned from this investigation.
13. Reference List
All academic resources come in this part of the dissertation. You must cite in text and add a reference list (known as bibliography), so the readers can easily find the information sources.
Likewise, several universities recommend Harvard referencing style. It has rigorous and specific requirements for formatting a reference resource. Other popular referencing styles include APA, MLA, and Oxford.
Relevant information should be included in each chapter of the dissertation. In addition, any information not directly related to your research topic but that might interest readers (such as interview transcripts) should be present in the Appendixes section.
How Can Dissertation Experts Be Helpful?
If you are unsure about dissertation structure, lack the motivation to begin, or are struggling in writing your dissertation project, you might think about taking dissertation help online.
Multiple writing brands help students write outstanding dissertations and adhere to the professors’ and university requirements. Whether you need help with chapters, abstracts, proposals, or an entire dissertation, you can contact these professional experts online easily!