How to Structure a Dissertation – 2020 Guide

A dissertation is a form of research (usually very long) done by a student as part of the requirements for getting a degree. The degree could be a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral. A well-written dissertation gives a better prospect of getting good grades.

The word ‘dissertation’ is often used interchangeably with the word thesis. The main difference, however, is that a dissertation is mainly for doctoral students based on original research while a thesis is for masters students.

According to ewritingservice.com, a typical dissertation is about 30-40 pages, while a doctoral dissertation is usually about 100 pages. It is made up of around 50,000 words.

Doing a dissertation is not difficult, although it can be very time-consuming and mostly uninteresting. It also involves paying the utmost attention to details.

The Structure of a Dissertation

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The structure of a dissertation depends on the researcher’s field. Science research is slightly different from social science research. Their structure and methodology differ somewhat. However, most dissertations have the same structure.

Main Parts of a Dissertation

The main parts of any dissertation are the introduction, the literature review, the research methodology, findings and discussion, and the conclusion. They contain the bulk of the work.

1. The Introduction

This part is the first chapter of the dissertation. It gives background information on the research topic, its purpose, relevance, and what the reader is to expect as he reads through the dissertation.

The research questions are stated here, that is, the problems the researcher hopes to find solutions to by the end of the research. Finally, the scope of the study and a general overview of the research is given.

2. Literature Review

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This section gives the reader a deeper understanding of the topic being researched. Here, the researcher quotes authors who have written articles, journals, and publications related to the theme of the dissertation. It is usually the most crucial part of the project.

The literature review is usually the basis for the theoretical framework. From the findings gotten from the reviewed literature, the researcher can then draw out logical arguments, definitions, theories, and find relationships that exist between them.

3. Research Methodology

In this section, the researcher provides information on how the research was carried out. It helps the reader judge if the results are genuinely valid. Some of the things contained here are:

  • Type of research it was (quantitative or qualitative)
  • Method of getting data (questionnaire method, laboratory tests, survey method, etc.)
  • Methods of data analysis
  • Research instruments
  • Reason for using a particular research method
  • Challenges faced during the research
  • How they were overcome

4. Results and Discussion

This part is a comprehensive report on the research results. The results must tally with the already stated objectives and research questions. Visual representation of the result could also be added for easier understanding. It includes graphs, charts, and tables.

As part of the discussion, the researcher states the implications of the results/findings regarding the research questions. Most times, the results come out as expected. Other times, it does not.

He/she might want to explain why this was so. The limitations of the study should also be mentioned. The researcher should also include recommendations for further research.

5. Conclusion

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It is usually the last chapter of the dissertation. In some cases, it comes before the discussion, but most times, it is often the last chapter. Here, the researcher brings the research to a close by summarizing the process.

He also states its contribution to the body of knowledge and what could have been done better.

Other Parts of a Dissertation

These parts are also essential, but they can be done after the central parts have been completed.

 1. Title page

This part is the first page of the dissertation. It contains the title of the dissertation, the student’s name, department, and institution. It also includes the date (month and year) the research was submitted.

Sometimes, it carries the student’s (matriculation) number. Other information found here is the name of the supervisor and the university’s logo.

2. Acknowledgment

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This page serves as a thank-you note for those who supported the course of the research work. It could be mentors, parents, friends, colleagues, family, etc. The acknowledgment page carries a list of their names in order of importance.

3. Abstract

It is a summary of the dissertation. Although it is found at the beginning of the dissertation, it is usually written last.

Here, the researcher states the research topic and the purpose of the research, the methods used for the study, the result got and the conclusion. Most times, it is the only part of the dissertation that is published. So, more attention should be given to writing it.

4. Table of Content

This section is a list of all the chapters, subheadings, and page numbers. It helps the reader to find the locations of different sections in the document easily. The table of content is located just before the introductory chapter.

5. References

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This part comes immediately after the concluding chapter. It is sometimes called the Bibliography. Here, the researcher gives a detailed citation of all the sources quoted in the research.

The list of references usually has a particular format. The researcher could always ask for help if not sure.

6. List of Figures and Tables

This list is found after the reference list. All figures, tables, and charts used are numbered as they appeared.

7. List of Abbreviations

Here, the researcher explains the meaning of the abbreviations used in the dissertation. The words should be arranged in alphabetical order.

8. Glossary

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Under this section, the researcher explains the meaning of unfamiliar words. The words must be arranged alphabetically for easy navigation.

9. Appendices

Any other additions to the dissertation can be added to the Appendix section.

Conclusion

In all, writing a dissertation is not as complicated as most people think. If you can follow the laid down structure, you should be done within the given time.

Enough time must be given to planning. First, create an outline. Build a framework, and each day, add some content to it. Before you know it, you are done.

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