In a previous article, we spoke about what are the main struggles and errors while writing a thesis/dissertation. One of the most important parts of a dissertation is, however, the written document. A well-written thesis is just as important as the whole investigation behind it. That being said, in this article we would like to help you to structure your thesis/dissertation and, eventually, to choose the best words to express your ideas.
First of all, it is important to point out that the following structure is, in fact, international. However, you need to check with your institution, as there might be slight differences for you. Also, keep in mind that every single project and investigation is different. You might need to make minor changes to this structure in order to achieve the ultimate goal of writing a thesis: it has to be an organised and clear presentation of your work where information can be easily found and understood. Let’s get started!
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The title page should include the full title of the dissertation, name or names of the author(s), the faculty/department, the university or institution, and the month and year of publication. However, each university usually has a sample or an already pre-printed title page which should be used.
While choosing the best title, choose the one that describes the whole project the best: it is common that dissertation titles are quite long. Stay away from too creative or abstract titles. Your title has to say clearly what the work is about.
Should be written on a separate page and should not exceed 300-350 words. This is a short summary of the whole thesis or dissertation which states the theme, main goals, and the main results and conclusions of your project. Sometimes a different language version is required, too. I recommend writing the abstract once the whole thesis is written, it’s when you have the best perspective.
Table of Contents
You can introduce it manually, however, most text editors, such as MicrosoftWord, have the option of automatically creating a table of contents. I would recommend this one as it gives you the option of automatically updating any changes in chapters or titles during the whole process.
List of Figures, List of Symbols or Abbreviations, etc.
These are optional, depending on your particular project. Add them only if you consider it necessary. Usually, a short dissertation (eg. 40 pages) does not need any of them.
This is also optional. Especially in a larger project, you might want to thank your tutor or other professors for their help, as well as your friends or family members. It is completely up to you who you mention in the acknowledgements, however, if there’s any company or institution involved, you should mention them.
Dedication is completely optional and up to you, however, if you do want to include it, keep in mind it should be on a separate page and that it usually does not exceed one short sentence. Do not feel forced to include a dedication if you don’t feel like it. Example: To Anthony and Sara, my parents, for their unconditional help and love.
This is the chapter where all your work will be included, from the introduction to conclusions. It should be divided into different chapters. I recommend including a sub-heading every time you change to a different kind of content.
- Should include a general introduction where you explain the topic of your dissertation. Does not need to have a separate sub-heading. I recommend writing this section after the body of the thesis is written. Can contain what would be the contribution of your research
- Hypothesis: should be based on previous information, not your personal opinion.
- Previous research: In this section, you should review any previous research done before on the same topic. You should be critical and analytical.
Literature Review or Theoretical Background
Sometimes this chapter is included in the introduction chapter, however, I find this division clearer and more logical, but it’s up to you. That’s where you should include any relevant theoretical information your readers need to know before getting into the research chapters. It is important to quote every source you use.
The Body of the Thesis/Dissertation
- Methodology: state clearly what methods you used and why you used them. Explain your approach, how you chose, gathered and distributed your data and why and what kind of analysis you used.
- Results and analysis: Depending on a quantitative or qualitative data used, this chapter will vary in content. I recommend adding graphs, tables, illustrations, diagrams. This chapter should be very visual. Make the results be easy to find.
- Discussion: Here you can discuss your findings including any problems you might have with your data analysis.
- Contributions and applications: How your research can contribute to the topic and how the results can be applied. Could be included in the discussion section.
- Limitations: You should mention what are the limitations of your study, the reason why there are some and how they can be fixed, but also include what are the strengths of your study. Could be included in the discussion section
- Future research: Optional, depending on your kind of project/research. You should mention what are the possibilities for any future research. Could be included in the discussion section.
- Conclusions: Here you state clearly the final findings of the research regarding the introduction section: whether the hypothesis was accurate and whether the objectives were met.
Always check out what kind of quotation system is recommended by your university.
Here you can include any films, CD’s, surveys, etc. you used during your research.
As you can see, writing a dissertation or thesis is quite an exhausting project which includes a lot of steps and parts. We hope you have found this article useful for your current or future projects. Best of luck!