Dissertation Structure: A Step by Step Complete Guide

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Dissertation Structure: A Step by Step Complete Guide
Post By tapaflcouk On 10, Feb

Writing a dissertation is a crucial part of your education since there are strict academic requirements for its approval. A dissertation is a final task that is a prerequisite is the majority of universities to get a PhD, Master and Undergraduate degree.

Writing a dissertation is an exhausting activity, and it takes a lot of time. Many students find it difficult how to start working on their dissertation. After topic selection, deciding on the dissertation structure is an important step. Once you decide on the structure of your dissertation, it becomes convenient to manage the rest of the research. The dissertation structure helps to keep you on track while writing.

The dissertation structure consists of several key components. Each component holds equal importance and contributes significantly to the dissertation's overall success. It is essential to remember that not all dissertations have a similar structure. For example, a dissertation from the field of humanities differs from a natural or social sciences dissertation. Similarly, the structure of your dissertation depends upon the topic of your research. Different universities have different guidelines on how to structure your dissertation, so you should consult your university beforehand.

In this article by experts of our dissertation writing services is a comprehensive guide on the standard dissertation structure and its essential elements.

Definition of Dissertation Structure

Dissertation structure helps the researcher organise the research contents in an orderly fashion. It is a blueprint for the entire paper that contains several sections. The researcher divides each component into paragraphs which is crucial for the flow of ideas in the dissertation. It also assists the readers in navigating through the research paper.

How to Decide on Your Dissertation's Structure?

There is no universal dissertation structure that can be applied to every field. The structure of your dissertation relies on your area of study, topic and research techniques. For instance, the structure of a humanities dissertation is in easy form. Researchers in the humanities discipline organise the chapters based on different themes to support the thesis statement. On the other hand, empirical research in natural or social sciences requires a different structure. Generally, you divide your dissertation into different chapters. Researchers combine the result and discussion section particularly in some qualitative dissertations in social sciences.

There are also variations regarding the structure of dissertations across different countries and universities. Some universities recommend that the conclusion section should be before the discussion section. So, to avoid confusion, always review your department's standards and consult with your supervisor if you are unsure about how to structure your thesis or dissertation. Let's discuss some important steps to formulate a dissertation structure.

Title Page

The first page of your dissertation is the cover or title page. The title page should include the following details:

  • The topic of your dissertation
  • Your full name
  • You roll number
  • Your supervisor's name
  • Department's name
  • Name of the institute
  • Degree program
  • Date of submission
  • University's logo


In the acknowledgements section of your dissertation, you express gratitude to the people who assisted you and supported you throughout the research. You can include both professional and personal acknowledgements. You can write this section in the first person. Professional acknowledgements include the following:

  • Research supervisor
  • Professors who assisted you
  • In case of funding, name those entities
  • Librarians
  • Editors
  • Research participants

Abstract/Executive Summary

The abstract or executive summary provides a broad overview of your dissertation to the readers. It informs the readers about your research's core insights and conclusions without requiring them to read the rest of the paper. In other words, it is a brief description of your dissertation. The length of the abstract should be between 150 to 300 words. Write the abstract after you finalize the rest of your dissertation. The abstract section should briefly summarize the following key points:

  • Research questions and objectives
  • Research Methodology
  • Key findings
  • Conclusions

Table of Contents

In the table of contents section, you list all of your dissertation's chapter headings and subheadings. You can automatically generate the table of contents and the page numbers in Microsoft Word. Further, this section makes it convenient for the readers to browse through the document.

List of Figures and Tables

This section includes all the tables, charts and figures used in the dissertation. You will have to make a list in numerical form for this section. Also, you can automatically insert the table of figures in MS Word.

List of Abbreviations

This section includes the meaning of all of the abbreviations used in your dissertation.


Glossary is the section that defines specialised terms and jargon specific to your study area and topic. This section helps readers comprehend the meaning of unfamiliar terms. For this, write down the terms in an alphabetical manner and define or explain them. Also, write down the glossary after you finish your dissertation to ensure you include all the key terminologies in this section.


The introduction section briefly introduces the purpose of your dissertation. In this section, you briefly inform the readers about the relevance of your research. It is important to remember that the introduction section is different from the abstract. The abstract is a standalone section of your dissertation that provides an overview of your research to the reader. But you should write your introduction as if the reader has not read the abstract part. In this section, you will have to list the aims and objectives of your research. It enables the readers to get an idea about the rest of the sections. The introduction section should consist of the following information:

  • Background information on the topic
  • Research problem and research questions
  • The research aims & objectives
  • Purpose and relevance of your study
  • Significance and Scope of the Research
  • Overview of your dissertation structure

Literature Review

The literature review section discusses previous research on the topic and helps you understand the available literature comprehensively. Make sure the academic sources you are using are reliable and current. Use sources such as journal articles, books, government documents, and authentic statistical reports. The literature review chapter should be thorough and meet the goals and objectives outlined in the introductory chapter. The literature review section consists of the following components:

  • The current stance of available literature on the chosen topic
  • What are the gaps in the study? Are there any disagreements?
  • What is the relevance of your research in the context of available literature?
  • What will be the contribution of your research?
  • How will you fill the identified gaps in the study?
  • Role of research methodologies of previous studies in developing your research method

Research Methodology

After investigating the current state of knowledge, you will sufficiently understand the theoretical framework. The research methodology section will elaborate on the methodology you used to conduct your research. You also have to provide justifications for selecting the chosen method. The research methodology section encompasses the following key elements:

  • Highlight whether the research approach is quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic or experimental
  • Explain the primary and secondary research methods
  • Elaborate on the primary data collection methods. For instance, surveys, interviews and focus groups
  • Explain the secondary data collection methods and which studies you investigated to carry out your research
  • Explain the data analysis techniques such as statistical analysis or discourse analysis
  • Tools and software used for data analysis or any specific lab equipment
  • Provide an overview of the research's limitations and challenges and how you overcame them
  • Evaluate your research methods and justify them

Research Findings

In this section, you are supposed to elaborate on the key findings of your research. You can organise this section around sub-questions, hypotheses and themes. Also, include only the relevant outcomes that support the research questions and objectives of the study. In some disciplines, the results section is separate from that of the discussion. On the other hand, some disciplines often combine the results and discussion section. For instance, researchers combine the discussion section with findings in ethnographical research. The research findings sections should have the following information:

  • Key findings, whether quantitative or qualitative
  • Explain the relevance of the findings to the research questions and hypothesis
  • You can use graphs, figures, tables, and other visual aids depending on the nature of your findings.
  • Avoid incorporating speculations and subjective opinions


In the discussion section, you have to interpret and analyse the key findings of your dissertation. This section discusses the significance of key findings in relation to research questions. You will shed light on the outcomes of your study and whether you were successful in achieving your research objectives. You can ask yourself the following questions before writing the discussion section:

  • Were you able to answer the research questions correctly?
  • Did you test the hypothesis successfully?
  • Did you come across any unexpected results? How will you explain the unexpected outcomes?
  • Were there any research limitations that had an impact on your findings?


The conclusion section reiterates the opted research questions and research problem. Besides, the concluding paragraphs provide more clarity to the readers to understand the study's central argument. In this section, the writer demonstrates how his or her research can be valuable to the existing body of knowledge.


The reference section includes a list of all references cited in your dissertation. You have to cite the references as per the required format, such as APA, MLA or Harvard.


The appendices section contains information not directly relevant to your research topic. But you want to include them for the knowledge of your readers. It includes documents such as interview transcripts, survey questionnaires and table figures.

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