Dissertation Structuring Guide: Main Elements of Your Paper

Writing your dissertation is one of the biggest and the most courageous decision you have made in your entire academic life. Most people find the prospect so terrifying that they quit way before they have properly contemplated the idea. Nothing is wrong with NOT writing one, of course, but it is a huge learning opportunity that should not be dismissed lightly. For those who have embarked on the project, it is important to follow proper guidelines to make the process smooth and less riddled with roadblocks.

Some of the guidelines are those specified by your department. Others are found in handbooks and articles that can be found on the web. The most important ones are about the structure of the dissertation: It is, after all, a formal, structured, and stylized document.

To format the dissertation correctly divide it into sections and decide the length of each in advance:

  1. Title Page: Your title page should state the title, who the dissertation is presented to and whom it is written by. Next should be the table of contents and the “declarations.” These include the declaration of originality, ethics, acknowledgements, and technical details.
  2. Thesis Statement: State your thesis in clear and concise words
  3. Abstract: The abstract is a summary of your dissertation. It is what a researcher will read to see if it is in fact the article or dissertation, they are looking for. Read many abstracts before writing one. It is hard to be brief. Carefully read the instructions your university has provided you, as there is usually a word count limit to an abstract.
  4. Introduction: Write the aims and objectives of your work, its scope and limitations, its context, an exegesis of the title, exclusions, and conventions used or adapted. Your introduction is the entry point of your reader to the body of your work; it should explain why they should bother to read it. Keep it interesting.
  5. Literature Review: An outline of previous, important research on the topic is comprehensive yet selective. Avoid too many allusions to obscure studies.
  6. Methodology: Explain and justify the methods you have used in your research, the tools you have employed to draw results, and the methods you have used to process the data. Do not write an exposition on all the research methodology you have ever read!
  7. Findings & discussion: Findings and Discussion can be bunched together or presented separately depending on the research. In the findings, you present the data you have found and in the discussion, you link it up with the literature review, the research question(s), and the issues that have emerged as you worked on the research. The discussion is THE heart of the dissertation. You are tying everything together to present in a consolidated form all that you have learnt. It is a big deal. Make it so.
  8. Conclusion: Briefly restate the thesis statement or question in new words, and tell your reader what can be said about it NOW that you have done your research.
  9. References: Go back to your University’s instructions to see if the bibliography has to be given separately.
  10. Appendices: Include all that your marker may want to see, but was not significant enough to be mentioned in the body of your dissertation.

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