A dissertation or thesis is a long text focused on original study. It is commonly presented as a PhD or a master’s degree and often as a bachelor’s degree.
Your thesis is potentially the longest piece ever written and it can be daunting to know where to begin. This article allows you to find out exactly what it is and where it should be used.
Our full thesis template can also be downloaded in .docx or Google Docs format. The template contains a ready-made table of contents with notes for each chapter. You should adjust it to your own needs.
Decide on the framework of your dissertation
Not all theses are organized exactly the same – the way your study is based on the area, the discipline, the subject and the approach.
Dissertations in the humanities, for example, are also structured more like a long essay, and construct an overarching argument to support a central thesis, with chapters arranged around various subjects or case studies.
However, if you carry out scientific research in science or social science, generally, your thesis should include all the following elements. In certain instances, each chapter is a separate one, but sometimes you may merge it. For instance, results and discussions in some kinds of qualitative social science are rather than divided.
The section order can also differ from field to country. Some colleges, for example, advise that the conclusion should always be before the debate.
If you have questions about the organization of your thesis or dissertation, always review the guidelines of your department and consult your supervisor.
The very first page of your paper contains the title, name, department, organization, program and date of the thesis. Often your student number, the name of your boss and the university logo are also included. Many programs have strict formatting criteria for the title page of the dissertation.
Typically, the Recognition section is optional and offers room for anyone who helped you to write your thesis. This could include your bosses, researchers and friends or family who have helped you.
The abstract is a brief, typically about 150-300 words long description of your dissertation. When you finish the rest of the dissertation, you should compose it at the very end. Make sure in the abstract:
Though the abstract is extremely short, it is the first part of your dissertation (and often the only one) that people read, so it is vital that you do it correctly. If you struggle to write a good abstract, read our abstract guide.
List all chapters and subheadings and their page numbers in the table of contents. The content page of the dissertation offers the reader an overview of your organization and helps to access the paper quickly.
Both portions of your dissertation, including the appendices, should be included in the table of contents. You will automatically create a table of contents in Word if you use heading types.
You should have a numbered list of tables and figures in your dissertation. This list can be produced automatically with the Insert Caption function in Word.
If you have used several abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetized abbreviation list, so that the reader can look at their meanings easily.
If you’ve used several highly technical words that your reader doesn’t know, a glossary might be a good idea. List the words and describe each word in a brief summary or meaning alphabetically.
In the introduction, you set out the topic, meaning and importance of your dissertation and tell the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The presentation should be:
Everything in the introduction should be straightforward, attractive and appropriate for your studies. Ultimately, the reader should understand what your study is, why it was and how. Read our guide on how to compose a dissertation presentation if you need more guidance.
You should have performed a literature review before you begin your research to get a detailed understanding of the academic work already on your subject. So: That means:
In your chapter or section on dissertation literature review, you should not simply summarize current studies; rather, you should establish a consistent framework and argument leading to a strong foundation or rationale for your thesis. For example, it might demonstrate how your research works:
The literary review also becomes the foundation of a theoretical context where the key ideas, principles and models that form your study are described and analyzed. In this section you can address descriptive research questions about how definitions or variables relate to each other.
The chapter or section on methodology explains how you have performed your study and encourages your reader to evaluate its validity. In general, you can include:
Next, you announce your study results. This segment may be structured around sub-questions, theories or topics.
The results section is specifically separate from the discussion in some disciplines, while in others both are merged. For instance, the presentation of the data is often interwoven with discussion and interpretation in qualitative methods like ethnography.
However, results should be reported separately in quantitative and experimental study before you address their significance:
The discussion is where you examine the significance and consequences of your research findings. You should interpret the results in depth here, examine whether they fulfill your expectations and how well they complement the structure you developed in previous chapters.
If any of the results were unexpected, please explain why. Alternative explanations of the data are a good idea. The discussion should apply to appropriate sources to demonstrate how your results match established information.
The conclusion of the dissertation should address the key question of the study, allowing the reader to clearly grasp your core thesis and emphasize what your research has contributed.
In some academic conventions, the conclusion concerns a brief section ahead of the debate: you first offer your overall conclusions explicitly, then address the nature of them and interpret them.
In other cases, however, the conclusion applies to the final chapter, in which you conclude your dissertation with a final discussion of your findings. Such findings also include suggestions for potential study or practice.
It’s crucial in this chapter to give the reader a clear understanding of why your research matters. What did you apply to what you knew already?
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