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How to Write a Dissertation | A Guide to Structure & Content

A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter).

The most common dissertation structure in the sciences and social sciences includes:

  • An introduction to your topic
  • A literature review that surveys relevant sources
  • An explanation of your methodology
  • An overview of the results of your research
  • A discussion of the results and their implications
  • A conclusion that shows what your research has contributed

Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an argument by analysing primary and secondary sources . Instead of the standard structure outlined here, you might organise your chapters around different themes or case studies.

Other important elements of the dissertation include the title page , abstract , and reference list . If in doubt about how your dissertation should be structured, always check your department’s guidelines and consult with your supervisor.

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Table of contents

Acknowledgements, table of contents, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review / theoretical framework, methodology, reference list.

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation’s title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo. Many programs have strict requirements for formatting the dissertation title page .

The title page is often used as cover when printing and binding your dissertation .

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The acknowledgements section is usually optional, and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you.

The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150-300 words long. You should write it at the very end, when you’ve completed the rest of the dissertation. In the abstract, make sure to:

  • State the main topic and aims of your research
  • Describe the methods you used
  • Summarise the main results
  • State your conclusions

Although the abstract is very short, it’s the first part (and sometimes the only part) of your dissertation that people will read, so it’s important that you get it right. If you’re struggling to write a strong abstract, read our guide on how to write an abstract .

In the table of contents, list all of your chapters and subheadings and their page numbers. The dissertation contents page gives the reader an overview of your structure and helps easily navigate the document.

All parts of your dissertation should be included in the table of contents, including the appendices. You can generate a table of contents automatically in Word.

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If you have used a lot of tables and figures in your dissertation, you should itemise them in a numbered list . You can automatically generate this list using the Insert Caption feature in Word.

If you have used a lot of abbreviations in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

If you have used a lot of highly specialised terms that will not be familiar to your reader, it might be a good idea to include a glossary . List the terms alphabetically and explain each term with a brief description or definition.

In the introduction, you set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance, and tell the reader what to expect in the rest of the dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving necessary background information to contextualise your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of the research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your objectives and research questions , and indicate how you will answer them
  • Give an overview of your dissertation’s structure

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant to your research. By the end, the reader should understand the what , why and how of your research. Not sure how? Read our guide on how to write a dissertation introduction .

Before you start on your research, you should have conducted a literature review to gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic. This means:

  • Collecting sources (e.g. books and journal articles) and selecting the most relevant ones
  • Critically evaluating and analysing each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g. themes, patterns, conflicts, gaps) to make an overall point

In the dissertation literature review chapter or section, you shouldn’t just summarise existing studies, but develop a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear basis or justification for your own research. For example, it might aim to show how your research:

  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Takes a new theoretical or methodological approach to the topic
  • Proposes a solution to an unresolved problem
  • Advances a theoretical debate
  • Builds on and strengthens existing knowledge with new data

The literature review often becomes the basis for a theoretical framework , in which you define and analyse the key theories, concepts and models that frame your research. In this section you can answer descriptive research questions about the relationship between concepts or variables.

The methodology chapter or section describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to assess its validity. You should generally include:

  • The overall approach and type of research (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, ethnographic)
  • Your methods of collecting data (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Your methods of analysing data (e.g. statistical analysis, discourse analysis)
  • Tools and materials you used (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)
  • A discussion of any obstacles you faced in conducting the research and how you overcame them
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Your aim in the methodology is to accurately report what you did, as well as convincing the reader that this was the best approach to answering your research questions or objectives.

Next, you report the results of your research . You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses, or topics. Only report results that are relevant to your objectives and research questions. In some disciplines, the results section is strictly separated from the discussion, while in others the two are combined.

For example, for qualitative methods like in-depth interviews, the presentation of the data will often be woven together with discussion and analysis, while in quantitative and experimental research, the results should be presented separately before you discuss their meaning. If you’re unsure, consult with your supervisor and look at sample dissertations to find out the best structure for your research.

In the results section it can often be helpful to include tables, graphs and charts. Think carefully about how best to present your data, and don’t include tables or figures that just repeat what you have written  –  they should provide extra information or usefully visualise the results in a way that adds value to your text.

Full versions of your data (such as interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix .

The discussion  is where you explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research questions. Here you should interpret the results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data and discuss any limitations that might have influenced the results.

The discussion should reference other scholarly work to show how your results fit with existing knowledge. You can also make recommendations for future research or practical action.

The dissertation conclusion should concisely answer the main research question, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of your central argument. Wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you did and how you did it. The conclusion often also includes recommendations for research or practice.

In this section, it’s important to show how your findings contribute to knowledge in the field and why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known?

You must include full details of all sources that you have cited in a reference list (sometimes also called a works cited list or bibliography). It’s important to follow a consistent reference style . Each style has strict and specific requirements for how to format your sources in the reference list.

The most common styles used in UK universities are Harvard referencing and Vancouver referencing . Your department will often specify which referencing style you should use – for example, psychology students tend to use APA style , humanities students often use MHRA , and law students always use OSCOLA . M ake sure to check the requirements, and ask your supervisor if you’re unsure.

To save time creating the reference list and make sure your citations are correctly and consistently formatted, you can use our free APA Citation Generator .

Your dissertation itself should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents you have used that do not fit into the main body of your dissertation (such as interview transcripts, survey questions or tables with full figures) can be added as appendices .

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Write the Perfect Dissertation

“A dissertation or a thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on comprehensive research.”

The significance of dissertation writing in the world of academia is unparalleled. A good dissertation paper needs months of research and marks the end of your respected academic journey. It is considered the most effective form of writing in academia and perhaps the longest piece of academic writing you will ever have to complete.

This thorough step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation will serve as a tool to help you with the task at hand, whether you are an undergraduate student or a Masters or PhD student working on your dissertation project. This guide provides detailed information about how to write the different chapters of a dissertation, such as a problem statement , conceptual framework , introduction , literature review, methodology , discussion , findings , conclusion , title page , acknowledgements , etc.

What is a Dissertation? – Definition

Before we list the stages of writing a dissertation, we should look at what a dissertation is.

The Cambridge dictionary states that a dissertation is a long piece of writing on a particular subject, especially one that is done to receive a degree at college or university, but that is just the tip of the iceberg because a dissertation project has a lot more meaning and context.

To understand a dissertation’s definition, one must have the capability to understand what an essay is. A dissertation is like an extended essay that includes research and information at a much deeper level. Despite the few similarities, there are many differences between an essay and a dissertation.

Another term that people confuse with a dissertation is a thesis. Let's look at the differences between the two terms.

What is the Difference Between a Dissertation and a Thesis?

Dissertation and thesis are used interchangeably worldwide (and may vary between universities and regions), but the key difference is when they are completed. The thesis is a project that marks the end of a degree program, whereas the dissertation project can occur during the degree. Hanno Krieger (Researchgate, 2014) explained the difference between a dissertation and a thesis as follows:

“Thesis is the written form of research work to claim an academic degree, like PhD thesis, postgraduate thesis, and undergraduate thesis. On the other hand, a dissertation is only another expression of the written research work, similar to an essay. So the thesis is the more general expression.

In the end, it does not matter whether it is a bachelor's, master or PhD dissertation one is working on because the structure and the steps of conducting research are pretty much identical. However, doctoral-level dissertation papers are much more complicated and detailed.

Problems Students Face When Writing a Dissertation

You can expect to encounter some troubles if you don’t yet know the steps to write a dissertation. Even the smartest students are overwhelmed by the complexity of writing a dissertation.

A dissertation project is different from any essay paper you have ever committed to because of the details of planning, research and writing it involves. One can expect rewarding results at the end of the process if the correct guidelines are followed. Still, as indicated previously, there will be multiple challenges to deal with before reaching that milestone.

The three most significant problems students face when working on a dissertation project are the following.

Poor Project Planning

Delaying to start working on the dissertation project is the most common problem. Students think they have sufficient time to complete the paper and are finding ways to write a dissertation in a week, delaying the start to the point where they start stressing out about the looming deadline. When the planning is poor, students are always looking for ways to write their dissertations in the last few days. Although it is possible, it does have effects on the quality of the paper.

Inadequate Research Skills

The writing process becomes a huge problem if one has the required academic research experience. Professional dissertation writing goes well beyond collecting a few relevant reference resources.

You need to do both primary and secondary research for your paper. Depending on the dissertation’s topic and the academic qualification you are a candidate for, you may be required to base your dissertation paper on primary research.

In addition to secondary data, you will also need to collect data from the specified participants and test the hypothesis . The practice of primary collection is time-consuming since all the data must be analysed in detail before results can be withdrawn.

Failure to Meet the Strict Academic Writing Standards

Research is a crucial business everywhere. Failure to follow the language, style, structure, and formatting guidelines provided by your department or institution when writing the dissertation paper can worsen matters. It is recommended to read the dissertation handbook before starting the write-up thoroughly.

Steps of Writing a Dissertation

For those stressing out about developing an extensive paper capable of filling a gap in research whilst adding value to the existing academic literature—conducting exhaustive research and analysis—and professionally using the knowledge gained throughout their degree program, there is still good news in all the chaos.

We have put together a guide that will show you how to start your dissertation and complete it carefully from one stage to the next.

Find an Interesting and Manageable Dissertation Topic

A clearly defined topic is a prerequisite for any successful independent research project. An engaging yet manageable research topic can produce an original piece of research that results in a higher academic score.

Unlike essays or assignments, when working on their thesis or dissertation project, students get to choose their topic of research.

You should follow the tips to choose the correct topic for your research to avoid problems later. Your chosen dissertation topic should be narrow enough, allowing you to collect the required secondary and primary data relatively quickly.

Understandably, many people take a lot of time to search for the topic, and a significant amount of research time is spent on it. You should talk to your supervisor or check out the intriguing database of ResearchProspect’s free topics for your dissertation.

Alternatively, consider reading newspapers, academic journals, articles, course materials, and other media to identify relevant issues to your study area and find some inspiration to get going.

You should work closely with your supervisor to agree to a narrowed but clear research plan.Here is what Michelle Schneider, learning adviser at the University of Leeds, had to say about picking the research topics,

“Picking something you’re genuinely interested in will keep you motivated. Consider why it’s important to tackle your chosen topic," Michelle added.

Develop a First-Class Dissertation Proposal.

Once the research topic has been selected, you can develop a solid dissertation proposal . The research proposal allows you to convince your supervisor or the committee members of the significance of your dissertation.

Through the proposal, you will be expected to prove that your work will significantly value the academic and scientific communities by addressing complex and provocative research questions .

Dissertation proposals are much shorter but follow a similar structure to an extensive dissertation paper. If the proposal is optional in your university, you should still create one outline of the critical points that the actual dissertation paper will cover. To get a better understanding of dissertation proposals, you can also check the publicly available samples of dissertation proposals .

Typical contents of the dissertation paper are as follows;

  • A brief rationale for the problem your dissertation paper will investigate.
  • The hypothesis you will be testing.
  • Research objectives you wish to address.
  • How will you contribute to the knowledge of the scientific and academic community?
  • How will you find answers to the critical research question(s)?
  • What research approach will you adopt?
  • What kind of population of interest would you like to generalise your result(s) to (especially in the case of quantitative research)?
  • What sampling technique(s) would you employ, and why would you not use other methods?
  • What ethical considerations have you taken to gather data?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your research are/might be?
  • What are the future implications and limitations you see in your research?

Let’s review the structure of the dissertation. Keep the format of your proposal simple. Keeping it simple keeps your readers will remain engaged. The following are the fundamental focal points that must be included:

Title of your dissertation: Dissertation titles should be 12 words in length. The focus of your research should be identifiable from your research topic.

Research aim: The overall purpose of your study should be clearly stated in terms of the broad statements of the desired outcomes in the Research aim. Try and paint the picture of your research, emphasising what you wish to achieve as a researcher.

Research objectives: The key research questions you wish to address as part of the project should be listed. Narrow down the focus of your research and aim for at most four objectives. Your research objectives should be linked with the aim of the study or a hypothesis.

Literature review: Consult with your supervisor to check if you are required to use any specific academic sources as part of the literature review process. If that is not the case, find out the most relevant theories, journals, books, schools of thought, and publications that will be used to construct arguments in your literature research.Remember that the literature review is all about giving credit to other authors’ works on a similar topic

Research methods and techniques: Depending on your dissertation topic, you might be required to conduct empirical research to satisfy the study’s objectives. Empirical research uses primary data such as questionnaires, interview data, and surveys to collect.

On the other hand, if your dissertation is based on secondary (non-empirical) data, you can stick to the existing literature in your area of study. Clearly state the merits of your chosen research methods under the methodology section.

Expected results: As you explore the research topic and analyse the data in the previously published papers, you will begin to build your expectations around the study’s potential outcomes. List those expectations here.

Project timeline: Let the readers know exactly how you plan to complete all the dissertation project parts within the timeframe allowed. You should learn more about Microsoft Project and Gantt Charts to create easy-to-follow and high-level project timelines and schedules.

References: The academic sources used to gather information for the proposed paper will be listed under this section using the appropriate referencing style. Ask your supervisor which referencing style you are supposed to follow.

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Investigation, Research and Data Collection

This is the most critical stage of the dissertation writing process. One should use up-to-date and relevant academic sources that are likely to jeopardise hard work.

Finding relevant and highly authentic reference resources is the key to succeeding in the dissertation project, so it is advised to take your time with this process. Here are some of the things that should be considered when conducting research.

dissertation project, so it is advised to take your time with this process. Here are some of the things that should be considered when conducting research.

You cannot read everything related to your topic. Although the practice of reading as much material as possible during this stage is rewarding, it is also imperative to understand that it is impossible to read everything that concerns your research.

This is true, especially for undergraduate and master’s level dissertations that must be delivered within a specific timeframe. So, it is important to know when to stop! Once the previous research and the associated limitations are well understood, it is time to move on.

However, review at least the salient research and work done in your area. By salient, we mean research done by pioneers of your field. For instance, if your topic relates to linguistics and you haven’t familiarised yourself with relevant research conducted by, say, Chomsky (the father of linguistics), your readers may find your lack of knowledge disconcerting.

So, to come off as genuinely knowledgeable in your own field, at least don’t forget to read essential works in the field/topic!

Use an Authentic Research database to Find References.

Most students start the reference material-finding process with desk-based research. However, this research method has its own limitation because it is a well-known fact that the internet is full of bogus information and fake information spreads fasters on the internet than truth does .

So, it is important to pick your reference material from reliable resources such as Google Scholar , Researchgate, Ibibio and Bartleby . Wikipedia is not considered a reliable academic source in the academic world, so it is recommended to refrain from citing Wikipedia content.Never underrate the importance of the actual library. The supporting staff at a university library can be of great help when it comes to finding exciting and reliable publications.

Record as you learn

All information and impressions should be recorded as notes using online tools such as Evernote to make sure everything is clear. You want to retain an important piece of information you had planned to present as an argument in the dissertation paper.

Write a Flawless Dissertation

Start to write a fantastic dissertation immediately once your proposal has been accepted and all the necessary desk-based research has been conducted. Now we will look at the different chapters of a dissertation in detail. You can also check out the samples of dissertation chapters to fully understand the format and structures of the various chapters.

Dissertation Introduction Chapter

The introduction chapter of the dissertation paper provides the background, problem statement and research questions. Here, you will inform the readers why it was important for this research to be conducted and which key research question(s) you expect to answer at the end of the study.

Definitions of all the terms and phrases in the project are provided in this first chapter of the dissertation paper. The research aim and objectives remain unchanged from the proposal paper and are expected to be listed under this section.

Dissertation Literature Review Chapter

This chapter allows you to demonstrate to your readers that you have done sufficient research on the chosen topic and understand previous similar studies’ findings. Any research limitations that your research incorporates are expected to be discussed in this section.

And make sure to summarise the viewpoints and findings of other researchers in the dissertation literature review chapter. Show the readers that there is a research gap in the existing work and your job is relevant to it to justify your research value.

Dissertation Methodology

The methodology chapter of the dissertation provides insight into the methods employed to collect data from various resources and flows naturally from the literature review chapter.Simply put, you will be expected to explain what you did and how you did it, helping the readers understand that your research is valid and reliable. When writing the methodology chapter for the dissertation, make sure to emphasise the following points:

  • The type of research performed by the researcher
  • Methods employed to gather and filter information
  • Techniques that were chosen for analysis
  • Materials, tools and resources used to conduct research (typically for empirical research dissertations)
  • Limitations of your chosen methods
  • Reliability and validity of your measuring tools and instruments (e.g. a survey questionnaire) are also typically mentioned within the mythology section. If you used a pre-existing data collection tool, cite its reliability/validity estimates here, too.Make use of the past tense when writing the methodology chapter.

Dissertation Findings

The key results of your research are presented in the dissertation findings chapter . It gives authors the ability to validate their own intellectual and analytical skills

Dissertation Conclusion

Cap off your dissertation paper with a study summary and a brief report of the findings. In the concluding chapter , you will be expected to demonstrate how your research will provide value to other academics in your area of study and its implications.It is recommended to include a short ‘recommendations’ section that will elaborate on the purpose and need for future research to elucidate the topic further.

Follow the referencing style following the requirements of your academic degree or field of study. Make sure to list every academic source used with a proper in-text citation. It is important to give credit to other authors’ ideas and concepts.

Note: Keep in mind whether you are creating a reference list or a bibliography. The former includes information about all the various sources you referred to, read from or took inspiration from for your own study. However, the latter contains things you used and those you only read but didn’t cite in your dissertation.

Proofread, Edit and Improve – Don’t Risk Months of Hard Work.

Experts recommend completing the total dissertation before starting to proofread and edit your work. You need to refresh your focus and reboot your creative brain before returning to another critical stage.

Leave space of at least a few days between the writing and the editing steps so when you get back to the desk, you can recognise your grammar, spelling and factual errors when you get back to the desk.

It is crucial to consider this period to ensure the final work is polished, coherent, well-structured and free of any structural or factual flaws. Daniel Higginbotham from Prospects UK states that:

“Leave yourself sufficient time to engage with your writing at several levels – from reassessing the logic of the whole piece to proofreading to checking you’ve paid attention to aspects such as the correct spelling of names and theories and the required referencing format.”

What is the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

Editing means that you are focusing on the essence of your dissertation paper. In contrast, proofreading is the process of reviewing the final draft piece to ensure accuracy and consistency in formatting, spelling, facts, punctuation, and grammar.

Editing: Prepare your work for submission by condensing, correcting and modifying (where necessary). When reviewing the paper, make sure that there are coherence and consistency between the arguments you presented.

If an information gap has been identified, fill that with an appropriate piece of information gathered during the research process. It is easy to lose sight of the original purpose if you become over-involved when writing.

Cut out the unwanted text and refine it, so your paper’s content is to the point and concise.Proofreading: Start proofreading your paper to identify formatting, structural, grammar, punctuation and referencing flaws. Read every single sentence of the paper no matter how tired you are because a few puerile mistakes can compromise your months of hard work.

Many students struggle with the editing and proofreading stages due to their lack of attention to detail. Consult a skilled dissertation editor if you are unable to find your flaws. You may want to invest in a professional dissertation editing and proofreading service to improve the piece’s quality to First Class.

Tips for Writing a Dissertation

Communication with supervisor – get feedback.

Communicate regularly with your supervisor to produce a first-class dissertation paper. Request them to comprehensively review the contents of your dissertation paper before final submission.

Their constructive criticism and feedback concerning different study areas will help you improve your piece’s overall quality. Keep your supervisor updated about your research progress and discuss any problems that you come up against.

Organising your Time

A dissertation is a lengthy project spanning over a period of months to years, and therefore it is important to avoid procrastination. Stay focused, and manage your time efficiently. Here are some time management tips for writing your dissertation to help you make the most of your time as you research and write.

  • Don’t be discouraged by the inherently slow nature of dissertation work, particularly in the initial stages.
  • Set clear goals and work out your research and write up a plan accordingly.
  • Allow sufficient time to incorporate feedback from your supervisor.
  • Leave enough time for editing, improving, proofreading, and formatting the paper according to your school’s guidelines. This is where you break or make your grade.
  • Work a certain number of hours on your paper daily.
  • Create a worksheet for your week.
  • Work on your dissertation for time periods as brief as 45 minutes or less.
  • Stick to the strategic dissertation timeline, so you don’t have to do the catchup work.
  • Meet your goals by prioritising your dissertation work.
  • Strike a balance between being overly organised and needing to be more organised.
  • Limit activities other than dissertation writing and your most necessary obligations.
  • Keep ‘tangent’ and ‘for the book’ files.
  • Create lists to help you manage your tasks.
  • Have ‘filler’ tasks to do when you feel burned out or in need of intellectual rest.
  • Keep a dissertation journal.
  • Pretend that you are working in a more structured work world.
  • Limit your usage of email and personal electronic devices.
  • Utilise and build on your past work when you write your dissertation.
  • Break large tasks into small manageable ones.
  • Seek advice from others, and do not be afraid to ask for help.

Dissertation Examples

Here are some samples of a dissertation to inspire you to write mind-blowing dissertations and to help bring all the above-mentioned guidelines home.

DE MONTFORT University Leicester – Examples of recent dissertations

Dissertation Research in Education: Dissertations (Examples)

How Long is a Dissertation?

The entire dissertation writing process is complicated and spans over a period of months to years, depending on whether you are an undergraduate, master’s, or PhD candidate. Marcus Beck, a PhD candidate, conducted fundamental research a few years ago, research that didn’t have much to do with his research but returned answers to some niggling questions every student has about the average length of a dissertation.

A software program specifically designed for this purpose helped Beck to access the university’s electronic database to uncover facts on dissertation length.

The above illustration shows how the results of his small study were a little unsurprising. Social sciences and humanities disciplines such as anthropology, politics, and literature had the longest dissertations, with some PhD dissertations comprising 150,000 words or more.Engineering and scientific disciplines, on the other hand, were considerably shorter. PhD-level dissertations generally don’t have a predefined length as they will vary with your research topic. Ask your school about this requirement if you are unsure about it from the start.

Focus more on the quality of content rather than the number of pages.

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Phrases to Avoid

No matter the style or structure you follow, it is best to keep your language simple. Avoid the use of buzzwords and jargon.

A Word on Stealing Content (Plagiarism)

Very straightforward advice to all students, DO NOT PLAGIARISE. Plagiarism is a serious offence. You will be penalised heavily if you are caught plagiarising. Don’t risk years of hard work, as many students in the past have lost their degrees for plagiarising. Here are some tips to help you make sure you don’t get caught.

  • Copying and pasting from an academic source is an unforgivable sin. Rephrasing text retrieved from another source also falls under plagiarism; it’s called paraphrasing. Summarising another’s idea(s) word-to-word, paraphrasing, and copy-pasting are the three primary forms plagiarism can take.
  • If you must directly copy full sentences from another source because they fill the bill, always enclose them inside quotation marks and acknowledge the writer’s work with in-text citations.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a dissertation include.

A dissertation has main chapters and parts that support them. The main parts are:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research Methodology
  • Your conclusion

Other parts are the abstract, references, appendices etc. We can supply a full dissertation or specific parts of one.

What is the difference between research and a dissertation?

A research paper is a sort of academic writing that consists of the study, source assessment, critical thinking, organisation, and composition, as opposed to a thesis or dissertation, which is a lengthy academic document that often serves as the final project for a university degree.

Can I edit and proofread my dissertation myself?

Of course, you can do proofreading and editing of your dissertation. There are certain rules to follow that have been discussed above. However, finding mistakes in something that you have written yourself can be complicated for some people. It is advisable to take professional help in the matter.

What If I only have difficulty writing a specific chapter of the dissertation?

ResearchProspect ensures customer satisfaction by addressing all relevant issues. We provide dissertation chapter-writing services to students if they need help completing a specific chapter. It could be any chapter from the introduction, literature review, and methodology to the discussion and conclusion.

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Are you looking for intriguing and trending dissertation topics? Get inspired by our list of free dissertation topics on all subjects.

Looking for an easy guide to follow to write your essay? Here is our detailed essay guide explaining how to write an essay and examples and types of an essay.

Learn about the steps required to successfully complete their research project. Make sure to follow these steps in their respective order.

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Guide to writing your thesis/dissertation, definition of dissertation and thesis.

The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master’s degrees. The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree.

Formatting Requirement and Standards

The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style.

“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis

A “papers option” is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page , or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option, your dissertation or thesis is organized as a series of relatively independent chapters or papers that you have submitted or will be submitting to journals in the field. You must be the only author or the first author of the papers to be used in the dissertation. The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout.

ProQuest Electronic Submissions

The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication of the dissertation and abstract in its original form. All Cornell master’s theses and doctoral dissertations require an electronic submission through ProQuest, which fills orders for paper or digital copies of the thesis and dissertation and makes a digital version available online via their subscription database, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . For master’s theses, only the abstract is available. ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy. You retain control over your dissertation and are free to grant publishing rights as you see fit. The formatting requirements contained in this guide meet all ProQuest specifications.

Copies of Dissertation and Thesis

Copies of Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses are also uploaded in PDF format to the Cornell Library Repository, eCommons . A print copy of each master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation is submitted to Cornell University Library by ProQuest.

Grad Coach

What Exactly Is A Dissertation (Or Thesis)?

If you’ve landed on this article, chances are you’ve got a dissertation or thesis project coming up (hopefully it’s not due next week!), and you’re now asking yourself the classic question, “what the #%#%^ is a dissertation?”…

In this post, I’ll break down the basics of exactly what a dissertation is, in plain language. No ivory tower academia.

So, let’s get to the pressing question – what is a dissertation?

A dissertation (or thesis) = a research project

Simply put, a dissertation (or thesis – depending on which country you’re studying in) is a research project . In other words, your task is to ask a research question (or set of questions) and then set about finding the answer(s). Simple enough, right?

Well, the catch is that you’ve got to undertake this research project in an academic fashion , and there’s a wealth of academic language that makes it all (look) rather confusing (thanks, academia). However, at its core, a dissertation is about undertaking research (investigating something). This is really important to understand, because the key skill that your university is trying to develop in you (and will be testing you on) is your ability to undertake research in a well-structured structured, critical and academically rigorous way.

This research-centric focus is significantly different from assignments or essays, where the main concern is whether you can understand and apply the prescribed module theory. I’ll explain some other key differences between dissertations or theses and assignments a bit later in this article, but for now, let’s dig a little deeper into what a dissertation is.

A dissertation (or thesis) is a process.

Okay, so now that you understand that a dissertation is a research project (which is testing your ability to undertake quality research), let’s go a little deeper into what that means in practical terms.

The best way to understand a dissertation is to view it as a process – more specifically a research process (it is a research project, after all). This process involves four essential steps, which I’ll discuss below.

The research process

Step 1 – You identify a worthy research question

The very first step of the research process is to find a meaningful research question, or a set of questions. In other words, you need to find a suitable topic for investigation. Since a dissertation is all about research, identifying the key question(s) is the critical first step. Here’s an example of a well-defined research question:

“Which factors cultivate or erode customer trust in UK-based life insurance brokers?”

This clearly defined question sets the direction of the research . From the question alone, you can understand exactly what the outcome of the research might look like – i.e. a set of findings about which factors help brokers develop customer trust, and which factors negatively impact trust.

But how on earth do I find a suitable research question, you ask? Don’t worry about this right now – when you’re ready, you can read our article about finding a dissertation topic . However, right now, the important thing to understand is that the first step in the dissertation process is identifying the key research question(s). Without a clear question, you cannot move forward.

Step 2 – You review the existing research

Once the research question is clearly established, the next step is to review the existing research/literature (both academic and professional/industry) to understand what has already been said with regard to the question. In academic speak, this is called a literature review .

This step is critically important as, in all likelihood, someone else has asked a similar question to yours, and therefore you can build on the work of others . Good academic research is not about reinventing the wheel or starting from scratch – it’s about familiarising yourself with the current state of knowledge, and then using that as your basis for further research.

Simply put, the first step to answering your research question is to look at what other researchers have to say about it. Sometimes this will lead you to change your research question or direction slightly (for example, if the existing research already provides a comprehensive answer). Don’t stress – this is completely acceptable and a normal part of the research process.

Step 3 – You carry out your own research

Once you’ve got a decent understanding of the existing state of knowledge, you will carry out your own research by collecting and analysing the relevant data. This could take to form of primary research (collecting your own fresh data), secondary research (synthesising existing data) or both, depending on the nature of your degree, research question(s) and even your university’s specific requirements.

Exactly what data you collect and how you go about analysing it depends largely on the research question(s) you are asking, but very often you will take either a qualitative approach (e.g. interviews or focus groups) or a quantitative approach (e.g. online surveys). In other words, your research approach can be words-based, numbers-based, or both . Don’t let the terminology scare you and don’t worry about these technical details for now – we’ll explain research methodology in later posts .

Step 4 – You develop answers to your research question(s)

Combining your understanding of the existing research (Step 2) with the findings from your own original research (Step 3), you then (attempt to) answer your original research question (s). The process of asking, investigating and then answering has gone full circle.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

Of course, your research won’t always provide rock-solid answers to your original questions, and indeed you might find that your findings spur new questions altogether. Don’t worry – this is completely acceptable and is a natural part of the research process.

So, to recap, a dissertation is best understood as a research process, where you are:

  • Ask a meaningful research question(s)
  • Carry out the research (both existing research and your own)
  • Analyse the results to develop an answer to your original research question(s).

Dissertation Coaching

Depending on your specific degree and the way your university designs its coursework, you might be asking yourself “but isn’t this just a longer version of a normal assignment?”. Well, it’s quite possible that your previous assignments required a similar research process, but there are some key differences you need to be aware of, which I’ll explain next.

Same same, but different…

While there are, naturally, similarities between dissertations/theses and assignments, its important to understand the differences  so that you approach your dissertation with the right mindset and focus your energy on the right things. Here, I’ll discuss four ways in which writing a dissertation differs substantially from assignments and essays, and why this matters.

Difference #1 – You must decide (and live with) the direction.

Unlike assignments or essays, where the general topic is determined for you, for your dissertation, you will (typically) be the one who decides on your research questions and overall direction. This means that you will need to:

  • Find a suitable research question (or set of questions)
  • Justify why its worth investigating (in the form of a research proposal )
  • Find all the relevant existing research and familiarise yourself with the theory

This is very different from assignments, where the theory is given to you on a platter, and the direction is largely pre-defined. Therefore, before you start the dissertation process, you need to understand the basics of academic research, how to find a suitable research topic and how to source the relevant literature.

You make the choices

Difference #2 – It’s a long project, and you’re on your own.

A dissertation is a long journey, at least compared to assignments. Typically, you will spend 3 – 6 months writing around 15,000 – 25,000 words (for Masters-level, much more for PhD) on just one subject. Therefore, successfully completing your dissertation requires a substantial amount of stamina .

To make it even more challenging, your classmates will not be researching the same thing as you are, so you have limited support, other than your supervisor (who may be very busy). This can make it quite a lonely journey . Therefore, you need a lot of self-discipline and self-direction in order to see it through to the end. You should also try to build a support network of people who can help you through the process (perhaps alumni, faculty or a private coach ).

Difference #3 – They’re testing research skills.

We touched on this earlier. Unlike assignments or essays, where the markers are assessing your ability to understand and apply the theories, models and frameworks that they provide you with, your dissertation will be is assessing your ability to undertake high-quality research in an academically rigorous manner.

Of course, your ability to understand the relevant theory (i.e. within your literature review) is still very important, but this is only one piece of the research skills puzzle. You need to demonstrate the full spectrum of research skills.

It’s important to note that your research does not need to be ground-breaking, revolutionary or world-changing – that is not what the markers are assessing. They are assessing whether you can apply well-established research principles and skills to a worthwhile topic of enquiry. Don’t feel like you need to solve the world’s major problems. It’s simply not going to happen (you’re a first-time researcher, after all) – and doesn’t need to happen in order to earn good marks.

Difference #4 – Your focus needs to be narrow and deep.

In your assignments, you were likely encouraged to take a broad, interconnected, high-level view of the theory and connect as many different ideas and concepts as possible. In your dissertation, however, you typically need to narrow your focus and go deep into one particular topic. Think about the research question we looked at earlier:

The focus is intentionally very narrow – specifically the focus is on:

  • The UK only – no other countries are being considered.
  • Life insurance brokers only – not financial services, not vehicle insurance, not medical insurance, etc.
  • Customer trust only – not reputation, not customer loyalty, not employee trust, supplier trust, etc.

By keeping the focus narrow, you enable yourself to deeply probe whichever topic you choose – and this depth is essential for earning good marks. Importantly, ringfencing your focus doesn’t mean ignoring the connections to other topics – you should still acknowledge all the linkages, but don’t get distracted – stay focused on the research question(s).

Keep a narrow focus

So, as you can see, a dissertation is more than just an extended assignment or essay. It’s a unique research project that you (and only you) must lead from start to finish. The good news is that, if done right, completing your dissertation will equip you with strong research skills, which you will most certainly use in the future, regardless of whether you follow an academic or professional path.

Wrapping up

Hopefully in this post, I’ve answered your key question, “what is a dissertation?”, at least at a big picture-level. To recap on the key points:

  • A dissertation is simply a structured research project .
  • It’s useful to view a dissertation as a process involving asking a question, undertaking research and then answering that question.
  • First and foremost, your marker(s) will be assessing your research skills , so its essential that you focus on producing a rigorous, academically sound piece of work (as opposed to changing the world or making a scientific breakthrough).
  • While there are similarities, a dissertation is different from assignments and essays in multiple ways. It’s important to understand these differences if you want to produce a quality dissertation.

In this post, I’ve gently touched on some of the intricacies of the dissertation, including research questions, data types and research methodologies. Be sure to check out the Grad Coach Blog  for more detailed discussion of these areas.

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32 Comments

Micheal Fielies

Hello Derek

Yes, I struggle with literature review and am highly frustrated (with myself).

Thank you for the guide that you have sent, especially the apps. I am working through the guide and busy with the implementation of it.

Hope to hear from you again!

Regards Micheal

Derek Jansen

Great to hear that, Michael. All the best with your research!

Pheladi

Thank you. That was quite something to move forward with. Despite the fact that I was lost. I will now be able to do something with the information given.

That’s great, Pheladi. Good luck!

Tara

Thank you so much for your videos and writing research proposal and dissertation. These videos are useful. I was struggling, but now I am starting to write. I hope to watch your more videos to learn more about the dissertation.

James Otim

Before this post, I didn’t know where to start my research, today I have some light and do certain % of my research. I may need for direction on literature review. Big thanks to you.

abd

Very very good Derek

NWUNAPAFOR ALOTA LESLIE

Thanks immensely Derek

Derek Jansen

You’re welcome 🙂 Good luck with your dissertation/thesis.

Samson Ladan

Thank you Derek for widening my scope on research, this can be likened to a blind man whose eyes can now see.

Remain bless sir🙏

Goutami

You guys are doing really great… I am extremely grateful for your help… Keep going.. Please activate that research help for indian students as well I couldn’t access it being an indian.

Edric

Hello Derek,

I got stuck in the concept paper because I changed my topic. Now I don’t know where to pick up the pieces again. How can I focus and stay on track. I am getting scared.

JONATHAN OTAINAO

Thank you so much Derek, I am a new comer, learning for the first time how to write a good research. These in information’s to me is a mind opener, I hope to learn more from you in the future, Thanks and God bless.

Toluwani T. David

Thanks Guys this means so much to me

Yusuf Danmalam Ishaya

A pretty good and insightful piece for beginners like me. Looking forward to more helpful hints and guide. Thanks to Derek.

Spencer-Zambia

This is so helpful…really appreciate your work.

Great to hear that

Akanji Wasiu

On cybersecurity Analytics research to banking transactions

Faith Euphemia

This was of great help to me and quite informative .

Jude

Thank you so much GradCoach,

This is like a light at the end of the tunnel. You are a lifesaver. Thank you once again.

mweemba

hello, I’m so grateful for such great information. It appears basic, but it is so relevant in understanding the research process.

Toyosi

Your website is very helpful for writing thesis. A big well done to the team. Do you have a website for paper writing and academic publishing or how to publish my thesis, how to land a fully funded PhD, etc. Just the general upward trajectory in the academia. Thank you

Hasibullah Zaki

I have learned a lot from the lectures, it was beneficial and helped me a lot in my research journey. Thank you very much

Agboinedu John Innocent

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Izhar kazmi

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ZAID AL-ZUBAIDI

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Douglas Owusu

This topic is intended for my MPhil. Work (The perception of parents on Technical and Vocational Education, the impact on educational policy). May you consider the suitability of the topic for me and refine if the need be. Thank you,

EMERSON FISCHER

Hello here…

i have gone through the notes and it is interesting. All i need now is a pdf file that contain a whole dissertation writing inclusive of chapter 1 to 5 on motivation as a topic… thanks

Selasi

Remarkable!!! You made it sound so simple

Aisyah

I got stuck in my writing because I need to change my topic. I am getting scared as I have a semester left 🙁

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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

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Home » Dissertation – Format, Example and Template

Dissertation – Format, Example and Template

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Dissertation

Dissertation

Definition:

Dissertation is a lengthy and detailed academic document that presents the results of original research on a specific topic or question. It is usually required as a final project for a doctoral degree or a master’s degree.

Dissertation Meaning in Research

In Research , a dissertation refers to a substantial research project that students undertake in order to obtain an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. or a Master’s degree.

Dissertation typically involves the exploration of a particular research question or topic in-depth, and it requires students to conduct original research, analyze data, and present their findings in a scholarly manner. It is often the culmination of years of study and represents a significant contribution to the academic field.

Types of Dissertation

Types of Dissertation are as follows:

Empirical Dissertation

An empirical dissertation is a research study that uses primary data collected through surveys, experiments, or observations. It typically follows a quantitative research approach and uses statistical methods to analyze the data.

Non-Empirical Dissertation

A non-empirical dissertation is based on secondary sources, such as books, articles, and online resources. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as content analysis or discourse analysis.

Narrative Dissertation

A narrative dissertation is a personal account of the researcher’s experience or journey. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as interviews, focus groups, or ethnography.

Systematic Literature Review

A systematic literature review is a comprehensive analysis of existing research on a specific topic. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as meta-analysis or thematic analysis.

Case Study Dissertation

A case study dissertation is an in-depth analysis of a specific individual, group, or organization. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as interviews, observations, or document analysis.

Mixed-Methods Dissertation

A mixed-methods dissertation combines both quantitative and qualitative research approaches to gather and analyze data. It typically uses methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups, as well as statistical analysis.

How to Write a Dissertation

Here are some general steps to help guide you through the process of writing a dissertation:

  • Choose a topic : Select a topic that you are passionate about and that is relevant to your field of study. It should be specific enough to allow for in-depth research but broad enough to be interesting and engaging.
  • Conduct research : Conduct thorough research on your chosen topic, utilizing a variety of sources, including books, academic journals, and online databases. Take detailed notes and organize your information in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Create an outline : Develop an outline that will serve as a roadmap for your dissertation. The outline should include the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Write the introduction: The introduction should provide a brief overview of your topic, the research questions, and the significance of the study. It should also include a clear thesis statement that states your main argument.
  • Write the literature review: The literature review should provide a comprehensive analysis of existing research on your topic. It should identify gaps in the research and explain how your study will fill those gaps.
  • Write the methodology: The methodology section should explain the research methods you used to collect and analyze data. It should also include a discussion of any limitations or weaknesses in your approach.
  • Write the results: The results section should present the findings of your research in a clear and organized manner. Use charts, graphs, and tables to help illustrate your data.
  • Write the discussion: The discussion section should interpret your results and explain their significance. It should also address any limitations of the study and suggest areas for future research.
  • Write the conclusion: The conclusion should summarize your main findings and restate your thesis statement. It should also provide recommendations for future research.
  • Edit and revise: Once you have completed a draft of your dissertation, review it carefully to ensure that it is well-organized, clear, and free of errors. Make any necessary revisions and edits before submitting it to your advisor for review.

Dissertation Format

The format of a dissertation may vary depending on the institution and field of study, but generally, it follows a similar structure:

  • Title Page: This includes the title of the dissertation, the author’s name, and the date of submission.
  • Abstract : A brief summary of the dissertation’s purpose, methods, and findings.
  • Table of Contents: A list of the main sections and subsections of the dissertation, along with their page numbers.
  • Introduction : A statement of the problem or research question, a brief overview of the literature, and an explanation of the significance of the study.
  • Literature Review : A comprehensive review of the literature relevant to the research question or problem.
  • Methodology : A description of the methods used to conduct the research, including data collection and analysis procedures.
  • Results : A presentation of the findings of the research, including tables, charts, and graphs.
  • Discussion : A discussion of the implications of the findings, their significance in the context of the literature, and limitations of the study.
  • Conclusion : A summary of the main points of the study and their implications for future research.
  • References : A list of all sources cited in the dissertation.
  • Appendices : Additional materials that support the research, such as data tables, charts, or transcripts.

Dissertation Outline

Dissertation Outline is as follows:

Title Page:

  • Title of dissertation
  • Author name
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Date of submission
  • Brief summary of the dissertation’s research problem, objectives, methods, findings, and implications
  • Usually around 250-300 words

Table of Contents:

  • List of chapters and sections in the dissertation, with page numbers for each

I. Introduction

  • Background and context of the research
  • Research problem and objectives
  • Significance of the research

II. Literature Review

  • Overview of existing literature on the research topic
  • Identification of gaps in the literature
  • Theoretical framework and concepts

III. Methodology

  • Research design and methods used
  • Data collection and analysis techniques
  • Ethical considerations

IV. Results

  • Presentation and analysis of data collected
  • Findings and outcomes of the research
  • Interpretation of the results

V. Discussion

  • Discussion of the results in relation to the research problem and objectives
  • Evaluation of the research outcomes and implications
  • Suggestions for future research

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of the research findings and outcomes
  • Implications for the research topic and field
  • Limitations and recommendations for future research

VII. References

  • List of sources cited in the dissertation

VIII. Appendices

  • Additional materials that support the research, such as tables, figures, or questionnaires.

Example of Dissertation

Here is an example Dissertation for students:

Title : Exploring the Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Academic Achievement and Well-being among College Students

This dissertation aims to investigate the impact of mindfulness meditation on the academic achievement and well-being of college students. Mindfulness meditation has gained popularity as a technique for reducing stress and enhancing mental health, but its effects on academic performance have not been extensively studied. Using a randomized controlled trial design, the study will compare the academic performance and well-being of college students who practice mindfulness meditation with those who do not. The study will also examine the moderating role of personality traits and demographic factors on the effects of mindfulness meditation.

Chapter Outline:

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Background and rationale for the study
  • Research questions and objectives
  • Significance of the study
  • Overview of the dissertation structure

Chapter 2: Literature Review

  • Definition and conceptualization of mindfulness meditation
  • Theoretical framework of mindfulness meditation
  • Empirical research on mindfulness meditation and academic achievement
  • Empirical research on mindfulness meditation and well-being
  • The role of personality and demographic factors in the effects of mindfulness meditation

Chapter 3: Methodology

  • Research design and hypothesis
  • Participants and sampling method
  • Intervention and procedure
  • Measures and instruments
  • Data analysis method

Chapter 4: Results

  • Descriptive statistics and data screening
  • Analysis of main effects
  • Analysis of moderating effects
  • Post-hoc analyses and sensitivity tests

Chapter 5: Discussion

  • Summary of findings
  • Implications for theory and practice
  • Limitations and directions for future research
  • Conclusion and contribution to the literature

Chapter 6: Conclusion

  • Recap of the research questions and objectives
  • Summary of the key findings
  • Contribution to the literature and practice
  • Implications for policy and practice
  • Final thoughts and recommendations.

References :

List of all the sources cited in the dissertation

Appendices :

Additional materials such as the survey questionnaire, interview guide, and consent forms.

Note : This is just an example and the structure of a dissertation may vary depending on the specific requirements and guidelines provided by the institution or the supervisor.

How Long is a Dissertation

The length of a dissertation can vary depending on the field of study, the level of degree being pursued, and the specific requirements of the institution. Generally, a dissertation for a doctoral degree can range from 80,000 to 100,000 words, while a dissertation for a master’s degree may be shorter, typically ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 words. However, it is important to note that these are general guidelines and the actual length of a dissertation can vary widely depending on the specific requirements of the program and the research topic being studied. It is always best to consult with your academic advisor or the guidelines provided by your institution for more specific information on dissertation length.

Applications of Dissertation

Here are some applications of a dissertation:

  • Advancing the Field: Dissertations often include new research or a new perspective on existing research, which can help to advance the field. The results of a dissertation can be used by other researchers to build upon or challenge existing knowledge, leading to further advancements in the field.
  • Career Advancement: Completing a dissertation demonstrates a high level of expertise in a particular field, which can lead to career advancement opportunities. For example, having a PhD can open doors to higher-paying jobs in academia, research institutions, or the private sector.
  • Publishing Opportunities: Dissertations can be published as books or journal articles, which can help to increase the visibility and credibility of the author’s research.
  • Personal Growth: The process of writing a dissertation involves a significant amount of research, analysis, and critical thinking. This can help students to develop important skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and communication, which can be valuable in both their personal and professional lives.
  • Policy Implications: The findings of a dissertation can have policy implications, particularly in fields such as public health, education, and social sciences. Policymakers can use the research to inform decision-making and improve outcomes for the population.

When to Write a Dissertation

Here are some situations where writing a dissertation may be necessary:

  • Pursuing a Doctoral Degree: Writing a dissertation is usually a requirement for earning a doctoral degree, so if you are interested in pursuing a doctorate, you will likely need to write a dissertation.
  • Conducting Original Research : Dissertations require students to conduct original research on a specific topic. If you are interested in conducting original research on a topic, writing a dissertation may be the best way to do so.
  • Advancing Your Career: Some professions, such as academia and research, may require individuals to have a doctoral degree. Writing a dissertation can help you advance your career by demonstrating your expertise in a particular area.
  • Contributing to Knowledge: Dissertations are often based on original research that can contribute to the knowledge base of a field. If you are passionate about advancing knowledge in a particular area, writing a dissertation can help you achieve that goal.
  • Meeting Academic Requirements : If you are a graduate student, writing a dissertation may be a requirement for completing your program. Be sure to check with your academic advisor to determine if this is the case for you.

Purpose of Dissertation

some common purposes of a dissertation include:

  • To contribute to the knowledge in a particular field : A dissertation is often the culmination of years of research and study, and it should make a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge in a particular field.
  • To demonstrate mastery of a subject: A dissertation requires extensive research, analysis, and writing, and completing one demonstrates a student’s mastery of their subject area.
  • To develop critical thinking and research skills : A dissertation requires students to think critically about their research question, analyze data, and draw conclusions based on evidence. These skills are valuable not only in academia but also in many professional fields.
  • To demonstrate academic integrity: A dissertation must be conducted and written in accordance with rigorous academic standards, including ethical considerations such as obtaining informed consent, protecting the privacy of participants, and avoiding plagiarism.
  • To prepare for an academic career: Completing a dissertation is often a requirement for obtaining a PhD and pursuing a career in academia. It can demonstrate to potential employers that the student has the necessary skills and experience to conduct original research and make meaningful contributions to their field.
  • To develop writing and communication skills: A dissertation requires a significant amount of writing and communication skills to convey complex ideas and research findings in a clear and concise manner. This skill set can be valuable in various professional fields.
  • To demonstrate independence and initiative: A dissertation requires students to work independently and take initiative in developing their research question, designing their study, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. This demonstrates to potential employers or academic institutions that the student is capable of independent research and taking initiative in their work.
  • To contribute to policy or practice: Some dissertations may have a practical application, such as informing policy decisions or improving practices in a particular field. These dissertations can have a significant impact on society, and their findings may be used to improve the lives of individuals or communities.
  • To pursue personal interests: Some students may choose to pursue a dissertation topic that aligns with their personal interests or passions, providing them with the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic that they find personally meaningful.

Advantage of Dissertation

Some advantages of writing a dissertation include:

  • Developing research and analytical skills: The process of writing a dissertation involves conducting extensive research, analyzing data, and presenting findings in a clear and coherent manner. This process can help students develop important research and analytical skills that can be useful in their future careers.
  • Demonstrating expertise in a subject: Writing a dissertation allows students to demonstrate their expertise in a particular subject area. It can help establish their credibility as a knowledgeable and competent professional in their field.
  • Contributing to the academic community: A well-written dissertation can contribute new knowledge to the academic community and potentially inform future research in the field.
  • Improving writing and communication skills : Writing a dissertation requires students to write and present their research in a clear and concise manner. This can help improve their writing and communication skills, which are essential for success in many professions.
  • Increasing job opportunities: Completing a dissertation can increase job opportunities in certain fields, particularly in academia and research-based positions.

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What is a Dissertation? Meaning, Projects, Report Work

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  • Updated on  
  • Feb 26, 2022

What is a Dissertation (1)

A dissertation is a long academic piece of writing based on a student’s independent research . It is usually submitted in the final semester of UG, PG and PhD courses . It takes about 1-2 years to complete the dissertation as it requires a lot of research and written documentation . The aim of writing a dissertation is to test a student’s research skills. It allows students to develop their research, problem-solving, project management and numerical skills . During the course of writing a dissertation, students become able to present their research-based findings to the proposition they chose for themselves.

This Blog Includes:

Empirical dissertation, non-empirical dissertation, skills you need to show, how long is a dissertation, empirical dissertation structure, non-empirical structure, dissertation project example, checklist for dissertation, helpful tips for writing a dissertation, difference between a dissertation and essay, dissertation vs thesis, types of dissertation.

The type of dissertation you may be doing completely depends upon the field of your study. However, there are 2 types of dissertation mentioned below in the table:

If you are a student of sciences or social sciences, you’ll be required to write an empirical dissertation . Its focus is mainly on collecting original data and analysing every aspect of the data. Students can choose different research methods such as surveys, observation, laboratory experiments and interviews . Keeping in mind that the aim of an Empirical dissertation is to produce standardized scientific knowledge, students must consider the variables they will investigate, the reliability of their measurements, and choose the correct sampling method.

Non-empirical research is generally done for subjects such as arts and humanities . Choosing a particular topic and collecting the data from primary and secondary sources is the first step of starting with this type of dissertation. While working on non-empirical research, a student does the work with existing research or other texts, presents original analysis, argumentation, but there is no original data . The aim is to analyse theoretical texts and interpret the sources with your own understanding.

Regardless of the type of dissertation you write or the topic you pick, you’ll need to demonstrate the following abilities:

A dissertation’s length varies by study level and location, although it normally ranges from 10,000 to 12,000 words for undergraduates, 15,000 to 25,000 words for master’s students, and up to 50,000 words or more for PhD students.

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is basically divided into chapters and sections . Both empirical and non-empirical dissertations have different kinds of structures that are supposed to be followed while writing a dissertation. Empirical dissertations usually have a more standardized structure than that of a non-empirical dissertation which is more flexible.

The structure may be slightly different but an empirical dissertation must include the following chapters:

  •   Introduction: Explanation of your topic and research questions
  •  Literature Review : Evaluation of your research topic
  •  Methodology: Description of the research method 
  • Results: Explanation of the found research
  •  Discussions: Interpret what your results have revealed
  • Conclusion: Final reflection of what you’ve found through the thesis

The structure or outline of a non-empirical dissertation is quite flexible as it involves existing research and texts . The aim of non-empirical research is to present original and independent analysis based on theoretical research . It is basically an extended essay but while writing a non-empirical thesis, the text must be presented precisely to serve your arguments in a logical manner. However, mentioned below is a general outline that must be followed while writing a non-empirical dissertation:

  •  Introduction: Explanation of your topic and Research Questions
  •  Main Body: Development of your analysis of the text or source
  •  Conclusion: Summarisation of what the analysis has contributed so far

*The main body is divided into 2-4 chapters.

Non-Empirical Dissertation Structure Example

Depending on the topic you’ve chosen, the main body can be divided into different types.  One of the most common topics of non-empirical research is history-based . The following mentioned is an example of a renaissance based topic:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Origins of the Renaissance in the Classical World
  • Chapter 2: Artists of the Renaissance
  • Chapter 3: The Spread of the Renaissance
  • Chapter 4: The Renaissance and the Reformation

Mentioned below is a checklist to make sure you’ve included all the required information:

  • Title page includes all the information
  • Acknowledgements
  • Concise summary of the dissertation 
  • Table of contents
  • Clear and precise introduction
  • Literature review that includes patterns, themes, and debates
  • Theoretical framework of the research
  • Description of the used methodology
  • Clear mention of the questions answered
  • Relevant recommendations for further research
  • Citations and bibliography
  • Reference list at the end of the thesis
  • Format provided by the university is followed
  • Start with time management . Make a proper daily schedule and set your deadlines Decide how much time you need to write a section or chapter . Choose the hours and start working on the it. In this way, you’ll be able to complete the this in the given time.
  • Remember that the first writing draft is not the final dissertation . Make sure to proofread your writing several times. This will make you present your augmentations in a more precise way,
  • Skip the introduction part and leave it for the end. Try to write the main body first, so that you get time to gather your thoughts. This way you will be able to present the introduction in a clear manner as you’ve been working on the this for a long period of time.
  • Don’t wait for the end time to get feedback from your supervisor . Try to share the research work more often and a lot earlier than the submission time, so that you get time to improve your mistakes. It may save you from rewriting several chapters and sections.
  • Use a reference manager to make it easier for you to mention the citations without taking much time.

PhD must include over  60,000 words and should not exceed the limit of 80,000 words.

It takes around a year or two to complete a dissertation but if you manage time properly and catch up the speed you may be able to complete it in less than 8 months.

Hopefully, this blog assisted you in finding out what is Dissertation, its structure and more. If you require any assistance regarding your application process while enrolling for your further studies, our experts at Leverage Edu are just one click away. Call us anytime at 1800 572 000 for a free counselling session!

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  • PhD/Doctorate

What is a dissertation?

October 31, 2019

A dissertation is a written document that summarizes research.

It is the final step of a PhD program, and the culmination of a student’s doctoral studies.

“The dissertation is a source of pride for doctoral students,” Dinah Manns, PhD, faculty chair at Capella University, says. “The dissertation is often a compilation of academic and practical knowledge, and in many cases, it can be the student’s first publication.”

Here, Manns explains the content and format of this important piece of scholarship.

From student to scholar

The major objective of any doctoral program is to assist a student in becoming an independent researcher, and a dissertation is a large part of that. “Not all doctoral programs require a dissertation, but all PhD programs do,” Manns notes. “Dissertation work varies by program.”

Initial coursework helps narrow down the research topic and develop it into something that will add to the body of knowledge in the chosen field. Sometimes the research contributes something entirely new to the field, and other times it expands or deepens previous studies.

By the time the doctoral coursework is finished, the topic should be selected and ready for formal research. At this point the student develops a proposal, which encompasses the research plan and methodology as it pertains to the selected topic.

At Capella, once the proposal has been approved by the student’s mentor, committee, and the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the research and analysis begin. The dissertation is largely an independent project that essentially turns the student into a scholar; they’ll dive more deeply into research and writing then they have done before.

“Capella PhD candidates will be prepared for this step through their coursework and residency,” says Manns, noting that they will have learned how to approach this critical phase as part of their pre-dissertation learning.

Format of the dissertation

The dissertation is a much deeper exploration of a research topic than a traditional essay would be. It’s in the form of a book, with at least five chapters (some universities require a sixth chapter in the form of a recap of the previous chapters). Manns outlines the chapters this way:

  • Overview. This is a brief look at the research question, containing a preview of the subsequent chapters.
  • Literature review. The literature review is an extensive critique and synthesis of the current literature in the field.
  • Methodology. This section contains details of the procedures and methods used to collect and analyze data.
  • Analysis. The PhD candidate details how the data analysis applies to the collected data.
  • Findings. This section provides interpretation of the data and comparison to existing literature, as well as future research possibilities.

The order of the chapters follows a logical progression in which PhD candidates build on their theories and explain research choices in detail before coming to the final chapter that gives weight to the value of the study itself.

Manns recommends that pre-dissertation students review completed dissertations in the field and research various types of methodology and design in the field as well. “That will help give them a feel for the depth of research and discussion, and see how the chapters work together,” Manns explains. “And remember—someday, it may be your dissertation being read!”

Capella University offers PhD and professional doctoral degrees in programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s doctoral programs.

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Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

The sun is shining but many students won't see the daylight. Because it's that time of year again – dissertation time.

Luckily for me, my D-Day (dissertation hand-in day) has already been and gone. But I remember it well.

The 10,000-word spiral-bound paper squatted on my desk in various forms of completion was my Allied forces; the history department in-tray was my Normandy. And when Eisenhower talked about a "great crusade toward which we have striven these many months", he was bang on.

I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible (but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious) topics. Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…

1 ) If your dissertation supervisor isn't right, change. Mine was brilliant. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else – providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it. In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success.

2 ) If you mention working on your dissertation to family, friends or near-strangers, they will ask you what it's about, and they will be expecting a more impressive answer than you can give. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics – war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of 1970s disability legislation. But they're not the ones marking it.

3 ) If they ask follow-up questions, they're probably just being polite.

4 ) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid – or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it.

5 ) There will be one day during the process when you will freak out, doubt your entire thesis and decide to start again from scratch. You might even come up with a new question and start working on it, depending on how long the breakdown lasts. You will at some point run out of steam and collapse in an exhausted, tear-stained heap. But unless there are serious flaws in your work (unlikely) and your supervisor recommends starting again (highly unlikely), don't do it. It's just panic, it'll pass.

6 ) A lot of the work you do will not make it into your dissertation. The first few days in archives, I felt like everything I was unearthing was a gem, and when I sat down to write, it seemed as if it was all gold. But a brutal editing down to the word count has left much of that early material at the wayside.

7 ) You will print like you have never printed before. If you're using a university or library printer, it will start to affect your weekly budget in a big way. If you're printing from your room, "paper jam" will come to be the most dreaded two words in the English language.

8 ) Your dissertation will interfere with whatever else you have going on – a social life, sporting commitments, societies, other essay demands. Don't even try and give up biscuits for Lent, they'll basically become their own food group when you're too busy to cook and desperate for sugar.

9 ) Your time is not your own. Even if you're super-organised, plan your time down to the last hour and don't have a single moment of deadline panic, you'll still find that thoughts of your dissertation will creep up on you when you least expect it. You'll fall asleep thinking about it, dream about it and wake up thinking about. You'll feel guilty when you're not working on it, and mired in self-doubt when you are.

10 ) Finishing it will be one of the best things you've ever done. It's worth the hard work to know you've completed what's likely to be your biggest, most important, single piece of work. Be proud of it.

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PhD Student Wins Research Award for Work on Aging in 3-Minute Thesis Competition

Can you explain your thesis in just three minutes, in a way that anyone can grasp?

Christi Lero, a doctoral student in social work at the Brown School, did just that, delivering the winning presentation at the  Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition , earning the 2024 Mark S. Wrighton Award on Aging. 

Organized by the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging, the 3MT competition challenges PhD students to present their research in a concise and accessible way for a diverse audience. The Mark S. Wrighton Research Award recognizes doctoral students who show outstanding promise as researchers on topics relevant to older adults and aging society.

On March 6, in a captivating display of succinct scholarship, Lero presented her dissertation, titled “Using Self-Compassion to Enhance Wellbeing of Caregivers of People with Neurodegenerative Disease,” impressing a panel of judges from various fields.

“Winning this competition and award is an honor and certainly motivates me to continue doing research in a meaningful and accessible way,” Lero said. “Competitions like 3MT and awards like the Mark S. Wrighton Research Award on Aging are platforms for budding researchers to share their work but also practice talking about complicated things in an accessible way.”

Lero’s success was no happenstance; it was a product of thorough preparation. When asked about her approach, she attributed her triumph to rehearsing, refining, and even reaching out to a stranger.

“Practice, practice, practice!” she remarked of her readiness plan. “I am very fortunate to have the most supportive spouse, friends, and mentors who listened to my speech and helped me revise. There is even a kind student worker in the Brown School library that volunteered three minutes of their time and gave some feedback.” 

Lero’s dissertation research focuses on using self-compassion as a mechanism to help caregivers maintain well-being during and after caregiving.

She explained: “Caregivers of people with diseases like ALS, Huntington’s, and dementia dedicate years of their lives to making sure their loved ones receive care that is respectful and dignified, but that means sacrificing quite a lot of their time, energy, resources, and selves.”

Recognizing the collaborative nature of her scientific work, Lero expressed gratitude to the caregivers who shared their experiences with her.

“Science is a team sport and great work isn’t done alone,” she said. “I am so grateful for all the support I have received, and especially for all the caregivers who have let me walk beside them in their most difficult times. Any recognition I receive reflects the dedication and care I have witnessed from them.” 

Lero’s thesis advisor is Nancy Morrow-Howell, the Betty Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy. Lero, an NIH T32 Predoctoral Fellow, will be honored at the  Annual Friedman Lecture and Awards  on April 5, where she will discuss her research in more detail.

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Big research, little time: Medical neuroscience student wins 3 Minute Thesis finals

Mia Samardzic - March 28, 2024

Last week, 10 graduate students took to the stage to compete in Dal’s annual 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, with medical neuroscience PhD student Reynaldo Popoli earning this year’s winning title with his presentation on improving the quality of life for patients living with the neurological disorder ALS.

The 3MT finals, held Tuesday, March 19 in the Dalhousie Student Union Building, challenged competitors to present their research to a non-specialist audience in three engaging minutes or less, using only one static PowerPoint slide as a visual aid.

Five master’s and five PhD students shared their research, representing the Faculties of Medicine, Science and Health. 

Making strides in medicine

Along with taking home the title of Dal’s newest 3MT champion after winning over the judging panel, Popoli won a cash prize of $1,000 and the opportunity to represent Dalhousie at the Eastern 3MT regionals at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique in Quebec this June.

“I feel incredibly grateful, especially to my colleagues that allowed me to practice my presentation and provided invaluable feedback,” he says.

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Popoli’s presentation called attention to the devastating impacts of ALS — a disease that affects the cells in our bodies that control our muscles. These cells originate in the brain and spinal cord and travel to the muscles, forming connections called neuromuscular junctions. In ALS, the cells withdraw from the muscles, and these connections are left non-functional.

“The goal of my research is to understand some of the changes that occur in ALS. More precisely, in the connections between the cells that control our movements and their respective muscles. By understanding these changes, we hope we can use different therapeutic approaches to slow down disease progression and improve symptoms,” he says. 

Popoli’s research looks at drugs that help regulate and maintain the integrity of the neuromuscular junction. He has shown that the use of these drugs in ALS make symptoms progress much slower and maintain neuromuscular junctions for longer, allowing for a 10 per cent increase in life expectancy and better quality of life for patients.

“My work is far from over, but I’m hopeful that with this novel research, we’ll be able to find new treatments for this devastating disease.” 

Prize-worthy presentations

Pooyan Moradi, another PhD student in medical neuroscience, and Kaela Trumble, a master’s student in rehabilitation research, were also selected as top finalists by the judging panel. 

Moradi earned second place and a $500 prize, presenting on the use of artificial intelligence to detect seizures in animals and how this model can be applied to better predict epilepsy in humans who have suffered head injuries.

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Trumble placed third in the competition and won $250 with a presentation covering the differences in how people develop health problems as they age in relation to heart disease.

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The remaining eight finalists each earned $100 prizes for their inspiring presentations.

Also receiving the most votes for the People’s Choice Award, biochemistry and molecular biology master’s student Dina Rogers captivated the crowd when describing a biological recycling process by which PET plastic can be repurposed into new materials by protein engineering to combat climate change. The award, valued at $500, was generously sponsored by Estelle Joubert, assistant dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and entrepreneur Paul Doerwald.

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Recommended reading:   Where experience meets impact: Introducing Dalhousie’s 2023 Top Co‑op Students of the Year

Distilling big ideas

This year's 3MT finals opened with a traditional Mi'kma'ki welcome with Elder Ann LaBillois. The event was enthusiastically hosted by CBC reporter and video journalist Brett Ruskin for a sixth time. 

Judges for the competition were Dr. Frank Harvey, Dal's provost and vice-president academic, Grace Jefferies-Aldridge, Dal’s vice-president, people and culture, and Kristan Hines, senior vice-president of corporate and public affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations.

Organized by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the event served as an opportunity for members of the Dal community and beyond to learn about the impactful work the university’s graduate students are engaged in.

“For many of us, the 3 Minute Thesis competition is the highlight of the year at Dalhousie,” says Dr. Marty Leonard, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “It challenges students to take what could be very technologically or theoretically complex research — or better yet, both — and make it accessible and interesting to anyone.”

Dalhousie President Dr. Kim Brooks invited the crowd to relish the opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary research happening on campus.

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“If you have the privilege of spending time in a university, one of the things you get to do often in your academic life is trace an idea back to its origins,” she says. “And almost every time you find a new idea, a unique contribution, and you trace it back to its origins, you find a graduate student.”

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See below for a complete list of this year’s 3MT finalists and their presentations:

Dina Rogers , MSc, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Proteins vs. Pollution: A Biochemical Solution to a Brighter Future 

Kateryna Rudenko , MES, Environmental Studies

Weaving Mi’kma’ki from Stories We Share

Joy Liu , MSc, Statistics

From Approximate to Accurate: Improving Sea Scallop Meat Weight Estimates in the Bay of Fundy through Statistical Modeling

Reynaldo Popoli , PhD, Medical Neuroscience

How a life changes forever in just 12 months

Kaela Trumble, MSc, Rehabilitation Research

How will your heart age?

Eniko Zsoldos , PhD, Chemistry

Improving Battery Sustainability by Limiting Charging

Divya Rathore , PhD, Physics and Atmospheric Science

Many Shades of Green

Sophie Inkpen , MSc, Kinesiology

Taking Action Through Activity: A Program for Patients with Acquired Brain Injury

Pooyan Moradi , PhD, Medical Neuroscience

Cloudy with a Chance of Epilepsy

Fatemeh Mahdizadeh Karizaki , PhD in Health

Promoting Health and Wellbeing: Access and Inclusion to Childcare and Early Learning for Children with Disabilities in Nova Scotia

Dal News welcomes discussion from members of the Dalhousie community and beyond, but urge comment writers to be respectful and refrain from personal attacks. False or unsubstantiated allegations, libellous statements and offensive language are not allowed. External links must be appropriate and relevant to the subject being discussed.

We encourage commenters to use their real first and last names.

Please note that comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of Dal News or Dalhousie University but only of the comment writer. The editors reserve the right to post, or not to post comments, edit or not edit, at their discretion.

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  • What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master’s program or a capstone to a bachelor’s degree.

Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation , it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: choosing a relevant topic , crafting a proposal , designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .

Thesis template

You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.

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Table of contents

Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about theses.

You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.

  • A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay .
  • A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement for Master’s programs, and is also sometimes required to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts colleges.
  • In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.
  • In other countries (particularly the UK), a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.

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The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:

  • Your discipline
  • Your theoretical approach

Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.

In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section ,  results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .

Thesis examples

We’ve compiled a short list of thesis examples to help you get started.

  • Example thesis #1:   “Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807” by Suchait Kahlon.
  • Example thesis #2: “’A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man’: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947″ by Julian Saint Reiman.

The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:

  • Your full title
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date.

Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.

Read more about abstracts

A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.

Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.

Read more about tables of contents

While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the “Insert Caption” feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialized or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetize the terms you want to include with a brief definition.

Read more about glossaries

An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:

  • Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
  • Define the scope of your work
  • Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
  • State your research question(s)
  • Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed

In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.

Read more about introductions

A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:

  • Selecting relevant sources
  • Determining the credibility of your sources
  • Critically evaluating each of your sources
  • Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:

  • Addressing a gap in the literature
  • Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
  • Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
  • Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
  • Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyzes the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
  • Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
  • Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
  • The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.

Your results section should:

  • State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Explain how each result relates to the research question
  • Determine whether the hypothesis was supported

Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.

Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.

For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasize what your research specifically has contributed to your field.

Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.

Read more about conclusions

In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.

Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.

Read more about appendices

Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!

Consider using a professional thesis editing service or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect.

Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.

After your defense , your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

Research bias

  • Survivorship bias
  • Self-serving bias
  • Availability heuristic
  • Halo effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Deep learning
  • Generative AI
  • Machine learning
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Supervised vs. unsupervised learning

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.

Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:

  • Plan to attend graduate school soon
  • Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
  • Are considering a career in research
  • Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience

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Doctoral candidate killed in crash weeks before presenting dissertation, family says

A University of Texas at Austin doctoral candidate was killed in a car accident weeks before...

AUSTIN, Texas. (Gray News) - A University of Texas at Austin doctoral candidate was killed in a car accident weeks before presenting his dissertation.

Ryan Wallace, a doctoral candidate at the School of Journalism and Media, was on his way to pick up his sister’s kids when he was killed in a crash in Bastrop County, KXAN reports.

Wallace was killed in the crash involving a Hays CISD school bus in Bastrop County. The accident also killed 5-year-old Ulises Rodriguez Montoya.

Wallace’s family told KXAN that he was two weeks away from presenting his dissertation to receive his doctorate.

UT Journalism Professor Kathleen McElroy told KXAN that Wallace was very intelligent and insightful on many subjects.

“He was also a very giving person,” said McElroy. “I think that we all would have enjoyed having him as a faculty member. He would have been a great instructor and researcher in journalism.”

McElroy also started a GoFundMe to help Wallace’s family.

She shared that Wallace was a science writer and editor and he had worked with multiple publications,

Wallace’s committee will still meet on the day he was set to defend his dissertation to honor him.

Copyright 2024 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  2. Dissertation Structure & Layout 101 (+ Examples)

    Time to recap…. And there you have it - the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows: Title page. Acknowledgments page. Abstract (or executive summary) Table of contents, list of figures and tables.

  3. What Is a Dissertation?

    Revised on 5 May 2022. A dissertation is a large research project undertaken at the end of a degree. It involves in-depth consideration of a problem or question chosen by the student. It is usually the largest (and final) piece of written work produced during a degree. The length and structure of a dissertation vary widely depending on the ...

  4. How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

    How To Write A Dissertation: 8 Steps. Clearly understand what a dissertation (or thesis) is. Find a unique and valuable research topic. Craft a convincing research proposal. Write up a strong introduction chapter. Review the existing literature and compile a literature review.

  5. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    How to outline your thesis or dissertation. While there are some inter-institutional differences, many outlines proceed in a fairly similar fashion. Working Title; Abstract "Elevator pitch" of your work (often written last). Introduction. Introduce your area of study, sharing details about your research question, problem statement, and ...

  6. How to Structure a Dissertation

    The dissertation will be structured such that it starts with an introduction, develops on the main idea in its main body paragraphs and is then summarised in conclusion. However, if you are basing your dissertation on primary or empirical research, you will be required to include each of the below components.

  7. How to Write a Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

    Researching, writing, and defending a dissertation represents a major step in earning a doctorate. But what is a dissertation exactly? A dissertation is an original work of scholarship that contributes to the field. Doctoral candidates often spend 1-3 years working on their dissertations. And many dissertations top 200 or more pages.

  8. How to Write a Dissertation

    Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work's relevance to a broader problem or debate. Clearly state your objectives and research questions, and indicate how you will answer them. Give an overview of your dissertation's structure. Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant to your ...

  9. How to Write a Dissertation

    This is where you break or make your grade. Work a certain number of hours on your paper daily. Create a worksheet for your week. Work on your dissertation for time periods as brief as 45 minutes or less. Stick to the strategic dissertation timeline, so you don't have to do the catchup work.

  10. Guide to Writing Your Thesis/Dissertation : Graduate School

    The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree. Formatting Requirement and Standards. The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. ... ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy ...

  11. How to Structure Your Dissertation

    It can intimidating to know where to start your dissertation, which is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever written. In this video, you'll learn...

  12. PDF A Complete Dissertation

    6 PART I. TAKING CHARGE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK DISSERTATION CHAPTERS Order and format of dissertation chapters may vary by institution and department. 1. Introduction 2. Literature review 3. Methodology 4. Findings 5. Analysis and synthesis 6. Conclusions and recommendations Chapter 1: Introduction This chapter makes a case for the signifi-

  13. What (Exactly) Is A Dissertation Or Thesis?

    A dissertation (or thesis) is a process. Okay, so now that you understand that a dissertation is a research project (which is testing your ability to undertake quality research), let's go a little deeper into what that means in practical terms. The best way to understand a dissertation is to view it as a process - more specifically a ...

  14. Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

    Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started. The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working ...

  15. Dissertation

    Dissertation Meaning in Research. In Research, a dissertation refers to a substantial research project that students undertake in order to obtain an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. or a Master's degree. Dissertation typically involves the exploration of a particular research question or topic in-depth, and it requires students to conduct ...

  16. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    While a thesis proposal is often only 3-7 pages long, a prospectus for your dissertation is usually much longer, with more detailed analysis. Dissertation proposals can be up to 25-30 pages in length. Note Sometimes, a research schedule or detailed budget may be necessary if you are pursuing funding for your work. Dissertation prospectus examples

  17. What is a dissertation?

    Empirical dissertations in natural and life science subjects may involve or be entirely centered on laboratory work. Non-empirical dissertations are based on existing data and arguments in the work of others. This is likely to mean spending a lot of time with your head in a book! In this type of dissertation, you need to make sure you don't ...

  18. What is a Dissertation? Meaning, Projects, Report Work

    Meaning, Projects, Report Work. A dissertation is a long academic piece of writing based on a student's independent research. It is usually submitted in the final semester of UG, PG and PhD courses. It takes about 1-2 years to complete the dissertation as it requires a lot of research and written documentation.

  19. What is a dissertation?

    A dissertation is a written document that summarizes research. It is the final step of a PhD program, and the culmination of a student's doctoral studies. "The dissertation is a source of pride for doctoral students," Dinah Manns, PhD, faculty chair at Capella University, says. "The dissertation is often a compilation of academic and ...

  20. Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

    4) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid - or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it. 5) There will be one day during the process when you will freak ...

  21. Including Co-Authored and Previously Published Work

    All Co-Authored Work Attributions Page. All students incorporating publications that were a collaborative effort of co-researchers or co-authors must include an Attributions page within their front matter, regardless of whether that work is already published. This section should mention the specific contributions of each author of each publication, including the author of the dissertation, for ...

  22. Ph.D. students shouldn't focus only on dissertation (opinion)

    While key, completing a thesis is the least important aspect of your Ph.D., writes María P. Ángel, and you should also focus on three other areas. In the first quarter of my Ph.D., I enrolled in indoor cycling classes at the university gym. One evening, the instructor delivered a motivational phrase that, though meant to encourage us to break out in a sweat, has shaped my Ph.D. journey to ...

  23. PhD Student Wins Research Award for Work on Aging in 3-Minute Thesis

    Can you explain your thesis in just three minutes, in a way that anyone can grasp? Christi Lero, a doctoral student in social work at the Brown School, did just that, delivering the winning presentation at the Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition, earning the 2024 Mark S. Wrighton Award on Aging.. Organized by the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging, the 3MT competition challenges PhD ...

  24. Big research, little time: Medical neuroscience student wins 3 Minute

    Last week, 10 graduate students took to the stage to compete in Dal's annual 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, with medical neuroscience PhD student Reynaldo Popoli earning this year's winning title with his presentation on improving the quality of life for patients living with the neurological disorder ALS. ... "My work is far from over ...

  25. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

  26. Doctoral candidate killed in crash weeks before presenting dissertation

    AUSTIN, Texas. (Gray News) - A University of Texas at Austin doctoral candidate was killed in a car accident weeks before presenting his dissertation. Ryan Wallace, a doctoral candidate at the ...