How to structure a dissertation?
Dissertations and essays are not the same things. They are also structured differently. Almost all dissertations are the products of original research that is done from scratch. However, it is still wise to consult your university requirements to check what your college or university means by “dissertation”.
Sometimes, dissertations are written as research reports. Students report the results of their experimental studies, case studies, and so on. Other dissertations can be written as long papers in which evidence is used to answer some research question. It may also be necessary to evaluate and critique the works of other researchers. If it is a dissertation written for a Bachelor’s degree, then it is likely to be based on secondary data. However, if it is a Masters-level study, then it is likely to be based on original research. In any case, it is important to know how to structure a dissertation correctly.
How to structure your dissertation due to all academic standards
Each dissertation must contain several chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. The exact requirements regarding the number and contents of each chapter will vary by discipline.
Keep in touch with your department to learn more about the title page. Generally, you will need to include your name, department and course, student ID, title, degree, and submission date.
An abstract is required in almost every dissertation. It can be short (200 words) or long (700 words). An abstract summarizes the main argument of your dissertation. Contact your department for more specific requirements regarding abstracts.
Table of Contents
The table of contents usually follows the title page and the abstract. However, this is the last thing you will be writing. Include page numbers for each chapter.
Write your introduction as if your reader does not know anything about your dissertation topic or subject. Explain the purpose of your dissertation. Tell your readers why you have chosen this topic and what importance it may have for them and society in general. Introduce your reader to your field and specialization. Justify the relevance of the topic to your field of study. Present your introduction so that it prepares the reader for reviewing the rest of the dissertation.
If your dissertation is a report of a qualitative or quantitative study, then you will also have to include a methodology section. You may not need to include this section if you do not do any original research but simply use secondary sources to answer some research question. The amount of work you will put in this chapter will vary, depending on your discipline, as well as the method you have used in your research. However, in all cases, you will explain why your selected method was more suitable than others and how it benefited your study. Do not forget about ethics, particularly if your research involved human subjects. If you used any theory, then you will also have to devote a separate chapter to the discussion of your selected theoretical background.
Review of Literature
A review of literature is a mandatory component of all dissertations that are based on primary research. If you are conducted an experimental or qualitative study, a literature review will provide the basis for your project and justify the importance of your research idea. You will identify a gap in the literature and explain how your study closes it. Make sure that you collect the most relevant and latest sources. You must have as many sources as possible for an in-depth review of the most current literature. In many dissertations, a review of literature is the first real chapter after the introduction that you will need to write. If you are doing secondary data analysis, then your whole dissertation may be structured as a literature review. Therefore, you may need to have a separate chapter for it.
In the body of your project, you will have to write several substantive chapters. You will need to consult your supervisor to understand how many chapters are to be included in your work. These requirements may vary significantly due to many factors such as the length of your project and your discipline. However, in most cases, you will include from three to five chapters in your dissertation. No matter what chapter you are writing, you will have to bear in mind the main argument and topic of your project. If you are doing a quantitative project, then you will have to devote a chapter to your hypotheses and questions, a chapter for methods, a chapter for your results, and a chapter for a discussion of these results. If you are doing a qualitative study, you may need to structure your chapters differently. In all situations, it is better to ask your supervisor what must be included in your dissertation. It may happen that you need to include a theoretical framework or graphics to meet the requirements for your dissertation. Besides, do not forget to follow the required formatting and citation style in all chapters. APA, Harvard and Oxford are the most commonly used styles in dissertation writing.
In your conclusion, wrap up the main argument and summarize what you have discovered in your study or your analysis of secondary literature. Here you will also specify the main limitations of your dissertation and how you could potentially address them in future studies. Anticipate counter-arguments and refute them, using evidence from your research or any other credible studies. Provide implications for future studies. Try to link your findings to some real-life situations or justify their value in the context of your specialization and profession. Your dissertation conclusion must leave some space for further speculations. It must also set an agenda for future research and developments in your field.
You will be working on your bibliography since the moment you start gathering sources for your dissertation. You must be sure that you have not missed a single source. Remember that all sources mentioned in the body of your dissertation must also be included in your list of references. Any inconsistencies may significantly lower your grade. Follow the academic requirements set by your institution regarding bibliography and references. Be consistent using the referencing and formatting style required for your project.
Sometimes, you will have to include appendices. You will provide important data or information that is just too burdensome or voluminous to be included in the body of your project. For example, you can include clusters of quantitative data that you obtained from your experiment. You can also include charts, graphs, maps, photographs, and other types of evidence to supplement your argument.
No matter how good you have been in writing, you will still need to bind your thesis. Otherwise, it will not be accepted. This is the last thing you will do for your dissertation, so make sure that it looks brilliant.