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How to Structure a Dissertation

How to Structure a Dissertation

How to Structure a Dissertation
Table of Content

Writing a dissertation is the end point of an important stage of your educational journey. A dissertation or thesis is an original piece of work submitted as a part of a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. It demonstrates your good writing skills and provides you opportunities to conduct research in your area of interest and contribute value for the academic and scientific community. Writing a dissertation requires intensive research and collection of information from a variety of sources.

How to structure a dissertation?

The structure of all types of dissertations is not same. For example, dissertations on a topic of humanity are written as a long essay involving chapters on different case studies. But if you are writing a dissertation on a science or social science topic, which requires extensive experimental research, you need to write it in different chapters. Sometimes the results and discussion chapter are written together as a combined chapter. Also some universities suggest including the conclusion before discussion while writing your dissertation, so you should always follow your department’s guidelines as well as the instructions of your supervisor.

Title page

It is the very first page of your dissertation that contains the title of your topic, name of your degree program, department and institution, your name, your supervisor’s name, your student number, submission number and your university’s logo.

Acknowledgement

In this section you have the opportunity to thank everyone who have helped you in writing your dissertation including your supervisor, people who have participated in your research, staff of your department as well as your friends and family who have supported you during this stressful work.

Abstract

It is a short summary of your work written in about 200-300 words. It is the first section that the readers will read in your dissertation, so you need to mention all the main points in your abstract. You should write it after finishing all chapters of your dissertation. Follow below points to write the abstract:

  • Write the topic and aims of your research.
  • Give a brief account of methods that you have used.
  • Summarize your results.
  • Write your conclusion at the end.

Table of contents

All parts including chapters, subheadings and page numbers should be included in this section. It gives an overview of the structure of your dissertation and help readers in navigating the chapters easily.

List of tables and figures

List all your tables and figures by numbering them.

List of abbreviations

List your abbreviations in an alphabetical order so that the readers will be able to find their meanings easily.

Glossary

Some terms included in your dissertation might not be familiar to your readers, so you should arrange them alphabetically and give a brief explanation of each term.

Introduction

While writing this section keep in mind some points:

  • Establish the topic of your research and give background information.
  • Tell about the purpose and main idea behind choosing your topic.
  • Show what is main focus and scope of your research.
  • Discuss about the past research on your topic and show how your work is relevant to a problem on a broader scale.
  • State your hypothesis or research question and write your main objectives that should not be more than 3 or 4 else it will look like you don’t have a focused plan.
  • Give a small overview of your dissertation.

Literature review

Before starting your research work, you need to do a literature review to understand that what research has been done in the past on your topic. It includes collecting data from various sources, such as books, journals, and internet and finding the information that is relevant to your topic. You need to evaluate and analyze each source of information and establish a connection between them to make your point overall. Develop an argument that leads to a justification for your research. For example:

  • Your research should address the gap in literature.
  • It should tell about the theoretical and practical approach taken towards your topic.
  • It should provide a solution to a problem that is not yet resolved.
  • It should lead to a theoretical debate.
  • It should explain how it supports and strengthens the existing knowledge with new data.

Here you analyze the concepts, theories and models that you have used to build up your research. You can show the relationship between concepts or variables by answering your research questions.

Methodology

This section describes the ways in which you have conducted your research so that your readers can assess whether it is valid or not. It generally includes:

  • The approach taken towards conducting the research and the type of research whether it is quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic or experimental.
  • Your data collection methods for example, surveys, interviews or archives.
  • The details about when and where you have conducted your research.
  • The methods that you have undertaken to analyze your data, such as statistical or discourse method of analysis.
  • Description about the materials and tools that you have used, such as laboratory equipments or computer programs.
  • A detailed discussion about the problems that you have encountered during conducting your research and how you have dealt with them.
  • A justification of methods and protocols that you have undertaken to conduct your research.

You need to explain what exactly you have done during your research and how your selected approach was the best to answer your objectives and research questions.

Results and observations

You should report your results in this section that should be relevant to your research questions and objectives. Sometimes the results and discussion chapter are written together as a combined chapter, while in some disciplines they are written separately. For example, if your research is qualitative, the results should be combined together with discussion, where as in quantitative or experimental research, the results should be written separately before you write the discussion. It entirely depends upon your department’s guidelines as well as your supervisor’s instructions. You can present your data by including graphs and tables as well as charts that should provide more information about your results. This is the best way to add value to your writing. Transcripts of interviews can also be included as an appendix.

Discussion

In this section you need to explore your result’s meaning and their implications in relation to your objectives and research questions. You should do detailed interpretation of your results and discuss up to what level your results have met your expectations. Give an explanation for any unexpected result you have come across. You may have come across some limitations in your research that might have a strong influence on your results, discuss them. You should reference past research work to show how your results support and strengthen the existing research.

Conclusion

This section should be written in a concise manner which should answer your prime research question. It is the conclusion of your entire study at the end. Write down the significance of your results or findings that you have achieved during your research. You can give some recommendations based on your findings or you can also suggest future prospects in that area of research. You should state the main contributions of your research in that specific area of research and what you have added to the existing knowledge in that field.

References/Bibliography

This section includes references to studies that have been reported in the past and which you have cited throughout your research paper. Follow a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA or Harvard style to write your references. Each one has a different format which you need to follow to create your reference list or bibliography.

Appendices

You can include transcripts of interviews, survey questions or tables with figures in this section.

Make sure you have written all the sections in the right place. After writing you need to revise your rough draft several times so that your research project will keep focused. Check and remove words and phrases that are used as fillers, improve your selection of words, and do correct the punctuation and grammatical errors if any. Look for sentences that are incomplete, mistakes in spellings, apostrophes in plurals, quotation rules followed or not, comma use, elimination of contracted words.

Read your document more than once. Read your document backwards. By doing so, you will be able to find more errors. Read the sentences from last one, and then read the second one, third one and so on. Keep on doing this until you reach the first sentence of your document.

Ask someone else to review your document and tell their opinion about it. Let them give their feedback and do the needful changes. Finally, print and proofread your dissertation to eliminate minor mistakes either grammatical or typographical errors and ensure that your dissertation is perfect.

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