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How to Structure a Dissertation

| July 25, 2017

How to Structure a Dissertation?

Chapter and Sections Explained | General  Structure of a Dissertation

Many students are confused about the dissertation structure requirements given to them by their tutors, and getting this wrong will affect their final grade. Below you will find an easy to follow guide to structure a dissertation. It is recommended that you create the titles and subtitles before you fill the dissertation with content, and determine how long each chapter will be to make up the required dissertation word count.

How to structure a dissertation

How to structure a dissertation

The following guide gives you the general rules of dissertation structure used for dissertations that include primary research:

Title Page

Make sure that you check the information that needs to be included in the title page. Some institutions ask for the total word count and your supervisor’s name, as well as your personal and course information.



This page is often neglected by students, but has an important role in structuring your dissertation. You need to dedicate your work to a person, institution, or cause. As an example, you might dedicate your dissertation to the institution that supported your research.


This short part of your dissertation will acknowledge the support and help you received from your tutors, institution, or colleagues.



A summary of the dissertation, including purpose and findings.

Table of Contents

This introduces the study and establishes the research context. It should include a statement of the problem under consideration, the objective of the research, what or who is included in the study, and an overview of the structure of the dissertation.


Literature Review 

This gives an extensive background to relevant theories. It should explore and critique past research and any explanatory models.  It should end with the research questions to be answered by the study.



This part of the dissertation structure sets out the way the study was carried out, and should include subsections, such as:

         i.          Research philosophy

       ii.          Approach and strategy

      iii.          Data collection and analysis

      iv.          Issues with access to subjects / data,

       v.          Reliability

      vi.          Validity and applicability

    vii.          Ethical issues and any limitations related to your research



This section sets out the results of your study. The emphasis is upon raw data rather than interpretations and conclusions, and you might want to create tables or/and charts to improve the structure of the dissertation and present your results more clearly.



This part of the dissertation discusses the results in a wider context, and links with themes drawn out during the literature review are considered. Further, you will have to critique the theses and theories discussed in the literature review section based on the results of the study. You need to state whether the evidence provides support for the research hypothesis. Each research question is discussed with reference to the evidence. This section also provides a brief recapitulation of the literature review and methodology.



This dissertation section summarises the study. No new material is to be introduced here, but drawbacks of the study can be included, and recommendations for future research can be made.



These must be listed in the format approved by your university.



This important part of the dissertation includes questionnaires, tables, transcripts of interviews and statistical outputs. As appendices are not part of your total word count , they can be useful for holding information where you are worried your word count is too high.


Chapters of a Dissertation Explained

The main purpose of the dissertation structure is to present your research and ideas in a logical way. If you know how to structure a dissertation the correct way, you are more likely to get it right the first time, instead of being asked to make amendments for months before it can be accepted by your institution.


The introduction’s purpose is to inform the reader about the purpose and setting of the study. The literature review shows your institution that you have completed the required background studies. To state your methodology, you must be aware of different research approaches and methods in your selected academic field. The Results section of the dissertation must be structured in a way that the outcomes are easily interpreted by the reader. You can voice your criticism and reflect on the findings and theories in the Discussion section. In the Conclusion and Recommendations section of the dissertation, you must show that your research has delivered important knowledge for a certain industry or field of study.


The Literature Review Structure

In this section, you need to compare and contrast the views of different authors on the issue you are researching, highlight the gaps and contradictions in current literature, and demonstrate how your study is related to current and past research. If you are confused about what to include in this dissertation section, ask our WritePass experts on structuring your literature review.


The Correct Dissertation  Methodology Structure

You will need to state your research philosophy: either positivism, interpretivism, or post-positivism. In the next section, you have to state your research approach, followed by strategy and research design, data collection and analysis methods, and finally the ethical considerations, validity, and generalisability of the research, as well as the limitations of the study. For a full guide on how to structure a methodology chapter, check out our detailed WritePass guide on methodology structure.


How to Clarify the Dissertation Structure Requirements

Most colleges and universities publish their guidelines on dissertation structure. You might want to clarify the word count requirements and referencing guidelines for each chapter with your professor before you start working on your dissertation. Remember that each field of study and institution have their own specific requirements for word count, formatting referencing, and chapters, so you must obtain information and should not rely on general information on structuring a dissertation.


You might need to seek further advice and guidance on how to structure a dissertation and what to include in each chapter. If you have any specific queries or questions, you can submit your question to the WritePass support page, and get an expert in your academic field give you further guidance.



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