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

How to Structure a Dissertation

A thesis or dissertation is a long piece of academic writing based on the author's research. It is that is submitted in the course of the postgraduate or undergraduate degree.

The structure of your dissertation will depend on the field you are studying, however, it's usually split into the size of four to five chapters (including an introduction and a concluding chapter).

The most commonly used dissertation structure used in the social and sciences as well as in the sciences is:

  1. A brief introduction to your subject
  2. Literature reviews that look at relevant sources
  3. An explanation of your process
  4. A summary of the findings of your study
  5. An analysis of the findings and the implications
  6. A conclusion that demonstrates how your research has benefited

Humanities dissertations are usually structured in the form of an essay of a long length, constructing an argument through the analysis of the primary as well as secondary literature. In lieu of the typical format described here, it is possible to organize your chapters around various topics or case studies.

Other crucial elements of the dissertation are the abstract, title page and references list. If you're unsure about the way your dissertation is structured, review the guidelines of your department and speak with your supervisor.

Title page

The first webpage of your dissertation is your dissertation's name as well as your name department, institution degree program, as well as your submission date. It may also include the number of your student, your supervisor's name, and the logo of your university. Some programs have strict rules regarding the formatting of the dissertation's title page.

A title page is typically used to cover the binding and printing of your dissertation.


The acknowledgments section is typically optional and allows you to express your gratitude to all those who assisted you in the process of writing your dissertation. This could include your supervisors, fellow researchers in your study, and your family members or friends who helped with your work.


The abstract is a brief overview of your dissertation typically between 150 and 300 words. The abstract should be completed in the final paragraph after you've finished the remainder of your dissertation. In the abstract, be sure that you:

  • Define the primary topic and goals of your study
  • The methods you employed.
  • Write down the most important findings
  • Write down your conclusions

While abstracts are small, it's still the primary section (and sometimes the only portion) in your thesis readers will be reading and therefore it's crucial to get it right. If you're having trouble writing an effective abstract, check out our tutorial on how to create an abstract.

Table of Contents

The table of content includes all your chapters and subheadings along with their page numbers. The dissertation content page provides readers with an overview of the structure and allows them to easily navigate the text.

The entirety of your dissertation must be listed within the table of content which includes the annexes. It is possible to create an automatic table of contents using Word.

Tables of Figures and Tables

If you've utilized lots of tables and figures in your research, then you must make them a numbered list. You can create this list by using Word's Insert Caption feature of Word.

Abbreviations List

If you've utilized a number of abbreviations throughout your dissertation, you could include these in an abbreviated alphabetical list to ensure that your reader can search for their meanings.


If you've employed a number of highly specific terms that aren't familiar to the reader It could be a good idea to include an index of glossaries. The terms should be listed alphabetically, and provide each term with a short introduction or description.


When you introduce your dissertation, outline your dissertation's theme, goal, and significance and inform the reader what they can be expecting throughout the remainder of your dissertation. Your introduction must:

  • Choose your research topic by providing the background information needed to frame your research
  • Determine the primary area of focus as well as define the scope of research
  • Discuss the current state of research on the subject by demonstrating the importance of your work to a wider issue or discussion
  • It is important to clearly define your objectives and research questions. Also, indicate how you'll address these questions.
  • Outline the structure of your dissertation

Everything you write in the introduction should be concise, informative, and relevant to your study. In the final paragraph, the reader should know the why, what, and what of your study. Not sure how? Learn how to write an introduction for your dissertation.

Theoretical framework

Before you begin your research, it is essential to have completed a literature review to get a complete knowledge of the research available regarding your subject. This includes:

  • Collecting sources (e.g. journal articles and books) and deciding on which ones are the best for your needs.
  • Analyzing and critically evaluating each source
  • Making connections between them (e.g. themes patterns, conflicts, gaps) to create a broader idea

In your dissertation's section or chapter on literature review it is important to not simply summarize the existing research, but instead, create an argument and structure that establishes an enlightened basis or argument for your own study. It could, for instance, be a good idea to demonstrate the ways in which your study:

  • Fills in a gap in the literature
  • Explores a brand new conceptual or methodological approach to the subject
  • Proposes the solution to an unsolved issue
  • A theoretical debate is advanced
  • Enhances and consolidates existing knowledge by incorporating new information

The literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework in which you identify and evaluate the most important theories models, concepts, and theories that guide your study. Within this part, you will respond to descriptive research questions regarding the relation with concepts, or between variables.


The methodology chapter, or section details the method you used to conduct your study, and allows readers to judge the validity of your research. The most important thing to include is:

  • The general approach and the type the research (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, ethnographic)
  • Methods you employ to collect information (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)
  • Particulars of the location, time, and with whom the research was conducted
  • The methods you use to analyze data (e.g. statistical analysis and discourse analysis)
  • Materials and tools you utilized (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)
  • A discussion of any hurdles you encountered while conducting your study and the strategies you used to overcome these obstacles
  • A rationalization or evaluation of your method

The purpose of your methodology is to be able to accurately describe what you have done and to convince your reader that this is the best method for answering the research questions or goals.


In the next step, you will present the findings of your study. This section can be structured around sub-questions, hypotheses, or subjects. Make sure to report only those results relevant to your goals and research needs. In certain disciplines, the results section can be distinct from the discussion, but in other disciplines, the two are mixed.

For example, when using qualitative techniques like in-depth conversations and in-depth interviews, the presentation of data is often woven in with discussions and analysis. However, in the case of experimental and quantitative research, the findings should be presented in a separate manner before you examine their significance. If you're not sure, speak with your supervisor and study examples of dissertations to figure out the most effective format to conduct your research.

In the section on results, it is often beneficial to include graphs, tables, or charts. Take your time deciding how to present your information and avoid including figures or tables that only repeat the information you've written. They should offer additional information or help to visualize the results in a manner that enhances your writing.

Complete versions of your information (such as transcripts of interviews) could be added in an appendix.


The discussion will examine the significance and implications of your research findings with respect to your research issues. In this section, you must analyze the results in depth and discuss whether they meet your expectations, and how they align with the framework you created in previous chapters. If the results were surprising provide reasons for the reason why. It's always a good idea to look at alternative interpretations of your data, and also consider any limitations that could affect the outcomes.

The discussion should refer to previous research to demonstrate how your findings are in line with the current research. It is also possible to make suggestions to further research or take action.


The conclusion of your dissertation should succinctly address the primary research question and leave the reader with a comprehension of your main argument. The dissertation should conclude with a reflection on what you accomplished and how you accomplished it. The conclusion usually includes guidelines for your research or for practice.

For this part, you need to demonstrate the impact your research has on knowledge within the field and also why your work is important. What do you think you have added to what is already available?

Reference list

It is essential to include all the details of the sources you've cited in your reference list (sometimes known as a Bibliography or works cited list). It's essential to use an identical reference style. Each style has its own strict and precise guidelines for how to organize your sources in your reference list.

The most commonly used styles at UK institutions are the Harvard reference and Vancouver reference. The department you work for will usually determine which style of referencing you must use. For instance that psychology students typically utilize the APA style, while humanities students typically employ MHRA as well as law students generally use OSCOLA. Check the requirements and consult your supervisor for clarification if you're not sure.

To speed up the process of creating the reference list and to make sure that the citations are properly and consistent in their formatting You can make use of the free APA Citation Generator.


Your dissertation must comprise only details that directly contribute to answering your research questions. Documents you've used that don't fit in the part of the dissertation (such as transcripts of interviews or survey questions, as well as tables that include full figures) could be added as appendices.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the structure of a dissertation ?
A title, an introduction, headings, a conclusion, and a bibliography are the main dissertation structure features that must be included. These key components must be included in any dissertation submitted for a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral programme.
What should be the length of a dissertation ?
The majority of dissertations range in length from 100 to 300 pages. Long dissertations may require chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.
What should be the language of a dissertation ?
The dissertation is normally written in English, but some departments whose subject matter includes foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.
How to write heading for a dissertation ?
Table headings should be placed at the top. While there are no specific rules for table headings and figure captions, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).
How many pages is a 10000 word dissertation ?
10000 words equals 20 single-spaced pages or 40 double-spaced pages.
How to write table of content for a dissertation ?

In the table of content for a dissertation, you must include:

  1. Title page
  2. Copyright
  3. Abstract
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Front Matter
  6. Body of Text
  7. Back Matter
How long does it take to write a dissertation ?
Most PhD students need more than a year to complete the first draught of their dissertation. Before tackling a dissertation draught, students typically spend one to two years conducting research and reviewing literature while completing doctoral courses. Beyond that, the writing process typically takes a year or two.
Can you get a PhD without a Masters ?
Yes, a PhD can be obtained without first earning a master's degree. A number of universities provide direct entry into PhD programmes for students with an undergraduate or bachelor's degree. In some cases, specific schools or programmes may prefer master's degree holders.
What is dissertation layout ?
The arrangement of research contents is referred to as a dissertation structure. It is divided into sections that are further divided into paragraphs. It is critical to the flow of ideas in a research paper as well as assisting the reader in navigating the ideas.
What is a dissertation template ?
The Dissertation Template is a detailed 24-page plan that you can use for your dissertation.
What makes a good dissertation ?
Extensive analysis, critical evaluations, and debates of concepts, theories, and ideas are common features of outstanding dissertations. These distinguish good dissertations from mediocre ones. If you want your dissertation to be outstanding, go beyond simple descriptions.
How many chapters should a dissertation have ?
A normal dissertation is 250 to 300 pages long and divided into four or five chapters, with a brief conclusion following the final full-scale chapter.
How many references should a dissertation have ?
A good rule of thumb is one reference for every 100 words; A thesis of 80,000 words would necessitate 800 references.
What is the hardest part of a dissertation ?
There's no disputing that writing the literature review is the most difficult component of the dissertation, and sadly, it's also the most crucial part.
How many words should a dissertation methodology be ?
Methodology (1,500 to 2,000 words) (1,500 to 2,000 words) Research (800 to 1,000 words) (800 to 1,000 words) Data examination (2,000 to 2,200 words) Results of research (1,000 to 1,200 words)
How do you start a dissertation introduction ?
Begin by explaining your study topic and providing any background information that is required. It is critical to contextualise your findings and pique people's curiosity. Attempt to demonstrate why your issue is timely or significant. You may bring up a recent news article, scholarly argument, or practical issue.
How hard is it to write a dissertation ?
For many graduate students, writing a thesis or dissertation can be a difficult task. There are so many chapters to write, and each one demands a tremendous amount of hard work and a strong motivation.
What is the requirement of dissertation ?
The dissertation is a formal, styled document in which you argue your thesis. The thesis must be meaningful, unique (no one has yet shown it to be true), and it must advance scientific understanding. The first step is to generate no more than three sentences that express your thesis.