How to Write a Dissertation | A Guide to Structure & Content

A dissertation or thesis is a lengthy academic writing assignment that must be delivered as part of a graduate or postgraduate degree program. It is based on original research.

Your field will determine how your dissertation is organized, although it will typically include at least four or five chapters.

In the social sciences and sciences, the most typical dissertation format includes:

1. An introduction to your subject; 2. A study of the literature that looks at pertinent sources

3. A description of your approach

4. A summary of your research’s findings

5. A review of the findings and their relevance

6. A summary that highlights the value of your study

Humanities dissertations sometimes follow the format of a lengthy essay, developing a thesis by analyzing both primary and secondary sources. You might arrange your chapters around various topics or case studies as opposed to the typical format shown above.

The dissertation’s title page, abstract, and reference list are further crucial components. When in question regarding the format of your dissertation, always refer to the requirements established by your department and seek advice from your advisor.

 table of content

 table of content itle page,

2. Acknowledgements

2. Introduction 3. Table of Contents

5. A list of the tables and figures

6. A list of acronyms

7. Glossary

8. Introduction

9. Review of the literature and theoretical framework

10. Methodology

11. Results

12. Discussion

13. Conclusion

Reference list, page

15. Appendices

Title page

The title of your dissertation, your name, department, organization, degree program, and the submission date are all on the first page of your paper. Your student ID number, the name of your mentor, and the university’s emblem may also be included. Many schools have rigorous guidelines for the dissertation title page’s formatting.

When printing and binding your dissertation, the title page is often utilized as the cover.


The acknowledgements section, which is often optional, provides room for you to express gratitude to everyone who supported your dissertation’s creation. This may include your mentors, study subjects, and close friends or family who helped you.


The abstract, which is typically between 150 and 300 words long, is a concise description of your dissertation. When you’ve finished the remainder of the dissertation, you should write it very last. Be careful to include the following in the abstract: “State the major subject and goals of your study.” “Describe the techniques you employed.” “Summarize the key findings.” “State your conclusions.”

Despite being relatively brief, the abstract is the first—and perhaps the only—part of your dissertation that readers will read, so it’s crucial that you get it correctly. Read our advice on how to create an abstract if you’re having trouble coming up with a compelling one.

Summary of Contents

List all of your chapters, subheadings, and page numbers in the table of contents. The contents page of your dissertation helps the reader browse the paper and provides an idea of your structure.

The table of contents should include every section of your dissertation, including the appendices. In Word, a table of contents may be created automatically.

Tables and Figures List

You should include all of the tables and figures you used in your dissertation in a numbered list if you used a lot of them. This list may be created automatically by utilizing Word’s Insert Caption function.

Abbreviations list

If you’ve used a lot of acronyms throughout your dissertation, you may want to include them in an alphabetized list so that readers can quickly search up their definitions.

Glossary Including a glossary may be a good idea if you employ a lot of highly technical terminology that are unfamiliar to your reader. Each phrase should be defined or given a short explanation before being listed alphabetically.


You establish your dissertation’s subject, goal, and significance in the beginning and let the reader know what to anticipate from the body of the paper. The introduction should: • Establish your research topic, providing background data to contextualize your work; • Narrow the focus and define the scope of the research; • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, demonstrating the relevance of your work to a larger issue or debate; • Clearly state your objectives and research questions, and indicate how you will respond to them; • Provide an overview of your dissertation’s structure.

The opening should be concise, interesting, and pertinent to your study. The reader should have a clear understanding of the what, why, and how of your study at the conclusion. Unsure about how? Read our dissertation introductory writing tutorial.

Review of the literature and theoretical framework

You should have performed a literature study to get a comprehensive grasp of the scholarly work that has previously been done on your issue before beginning your research. This entails: gathering materials (such as books and journal articles) and choosing the most relevant ones; critically analyzing each source; and connecting them (using terms like themes, patterns, conflicts, and gaps) to establish a larger thesis.

Instead of just summarizing previous research in the dissertation literature review chapter or section, construct a logical framework and line of reasoning that establishes a strong foundation or rationale for your own investigation. It may demonstrate, for instance, how your study: Fills a gap in the literature; Adopts a novel theoretical or methodological perspective on the subject; Offers a solution to an open issue; Advances a theoretical discussion; Adds to and Strengthens Existing Knowledge with New Data.

A theoretical framework, which defines and analyzes the important ideas, concepts, and models that frame your study, is often built on the foundation of the literature review. You may respond to descriptive research questions on the connections between ideas or variables in this area.


The methodology chapter or section provides a description of your research methods so that your reader may evaluate the validity of your findings. In general, you should include: • The overarching strategy and kind of study (for example, qualitative, quantitative, experimental, or ethnographic); • Your data collection techniques; (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)

• Information on the research’s time, place, and participants • Your data analysis techniques (e.g. statistical analysis, discourse analysis)

• Equipment and supplies you employed (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)

• An analysis or defense of your methodology; • A description of any challenges you encountered while performing the study and how you overcame them

In the methodology, you want to precisely describe what you did while also persuading the reader that this was the best strategy for achieving your goals.


You then present your research’s findings. This section might be organized around certain subjects, hypotheses, or sub-questions. Report findings only if they are relevant to your goals and research questions. While the findings and discussion sections are completely distinct in certain fields, they are merged in others.

In contrast to quantitative and experimental research, where the findings should be given separately before you examine their significance, the presentation of the data for qualitative approaches, such as in-depth interviews, will often be woven together with discussion and analysis. If you’re uncertain, speak with your supervisor and review examples of dissertations to choose the ideal format for your study.

Tables, graphs, and charts are often beneficial to add in the results section. Think carefully about the best approach to show your statistics, and avoid using tables or figures that just summarize what you have written. Instead, they should provide additional details or help your readers better understand the findings.

You may include complete copies of your data (such interview transcripts) as an appendix.


In the discussion, you should examine the significance and consequences of your findings in light of your research questions. Here, you should provide a thorough interpretation of the findings, addressing whether they lived up to your expectations and how well they complemented the framework you developed in prior chapters. Explain any unexpected outcomes and any potential causes if any were found. It’s a good idea to address any restrictions that could have affected the findings and take into account different interpretations of the data.

To demonstrate how your findings align with previously published research, the discussion should cite other academic works. You may also suggest directions for more study or actual action.


The key research topic should be succinctly addressed in the dissertation conclusion, providing the reader with a clear comprehension of your main contention. Finish your dissertation by summarizing what you accomplished and how you achieved it. In the conclusion, there are often suggestions for further study or application.

It’s critical to demonstrate how your results advance knowledge in the area and the relevance of your study in this part. What new information do you bring to the table?

list of references

All sources that you have referenced must have complete information included in a reference list (sometimes also called a works cited list or bibliography). Maintaining a consistent reference style is crucial. The structure for your sources in the reference list must adhere to precise guidelines that are unique to each style.

In UK universities, Vancouver and Harvard referencing are most often utilized. The preferred reference style will often be specified by your department; for instance, psychology students typically use APA, whereas students in the humanities frequently use MHRA and law students invariably use OSCOLA. Check the criteria carefully, and if you’re unclear, ask your supervisor.

Use our free APA Citation Generator to ensure that your citations are structured properly and consistently while saving time while constructing the reference list.


Only crucial details that directly address your research issue should be included in your dissertation itself. You may include documents you’ve used as appendices if they don’t fit in the main body of your dissertation (for example, interview transcripts, survey questions, or tables with all the data).