You probably have a decent idea of what a dissertation is, especially if you’re currently rounding up your undergraduate or graduate degree. If you are, then “Congratulations” are definitely due! You heard it here first!
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What Exactly Is A Dissertation?
A dissertation or thesis is a lengthy piece of academic writing based on your original research submitted as part of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program.
Some tutors or professors could call this a Research Project or Project because you could be given a question or some questions, and you’ll be asked to find their answers through your research and experiments_just like any adventure movie.
The tasks may be challenging, but the end results are always worth it, especially when you have a writing service you can trust to help you. So, it’s no wonder that all too often, students come to UWriterPro for help with writing their dissertation.
Why Dissertations Are Different From Other Assignments
When starting out with your dissertation, it is important to remember that you’re not just working on an assignment or essay. You are undertaking a full research process that’s probably unlike any you’ve done before. Here’s why:
- Dissertations are much longer than assignment essays. This research project will require time and dedication as you may need to write about 15,000 words or more, depending on your academic level.
- This period can sum to months of work, with little support from your colleagues(who will be assigned different topics, of course) or your project supervisor, who may not always be available.
- It will take a lot of determination to keep going and get support throughout the process.
- Dissertations require you to validate your claim, usually through a research proposal. This way, you are the sole driver of the paper’s direction.
- These research projects or theses require you to focus deeply on a certain topic. Narrowing down your research does not mean you should disregard other useful links you could make throughout your dissertation. It only means that you should never lose sight of the topic and delve deep if you want to earn the best grades possible.
- Dissertations will test your research skills differently compared to other assignments. This is because your tutors expect a certain level of understanding of the core concepts so that you can apply already-established principles and use them to drive your point across.
A dissertation is like a journey to answer a certain academic question; it is important to give your best, especially in terms of structure and content.
How To Structure A Dissertation
The structure of a dissertation varies depending on your academic discipline; however, it is typically divided into four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter respectively).
Some universities may have slight changes to this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, etc.). So, it would be best to ask your university if they have a certain structure or layout you need to follow.
If not, we can assume that the structure we’ll talk about here is fine. Even if your institution has a set structure, this post will still be helpful as we’ll explain what each section should have.
Here’s what the most common dissertation structures in the sciences and social sciences consist of:
- An Introduction, i.e., an overview of your topic
- A Literature review that includes a survey of useful sources
- A description of your methodology
- An overview of your research findings
- An examination of the findings and their consequences
- A conclusion that demonstrates how your research has aided the general research community.
Dissertations may be structured more like extended essays in the arts and humanities disciplines, establishing a thesis by analyzing primary and secondary sources. Rather than the usual arrangement provided here, you might organize your chapters around other themes or case studies.
The title page, abstract, and reference list are also crucial components of the dissertation. If you are still unsure about what structure to follow, consult your department’s standards/guidelines or your project supervisor.
The Structure Of A Dissertation
The Title Page
It is also called the cover page because it is frequently used as the cover when printing and binding your work. The title of your dissertation, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date are all on the first page of your document.
It may also contain your student number, supervisor’s name, and the university’s emblem. Many programs have rigorous formatting requirements for the dissertation title page.
When writing your title, avoid being verbose or ambiguous. Always be short and specific by focusing on your research context(the broad topic and your specific context) and the research methods you employ.
This section allows you to thank the people who helped you along the way of your research. These individuals could be your supervisors, those who participated in your research, and friends and family who helped you.
Most of the time, you don’t have to do this, and it won’t affect your grade, but it is a good academic practice to do so. So, it would be best if you added it. Like in the title section, there’s no need to be verbose; ensure your acknowledgments are sincere and kept to one page or less.
The abstract or executive summary is usually between 150 and 300 words long. It would be best if you wrote it after completing the dissertation_when everything else is done.
It gives your readers a chance to understand your research’s most notable points and findings without having to read through everything. In the abstract, it’s important to:
- Explain what your research is about and what you want to find out(Topic and aim of your research).
- Describe how you undertook your research (Methodology).
- List the most important results(Results and Findings).
- Explain your view and the answers derived from the entire project(Conclusion).
- Even though the abstract is short, it’s often the only section of your dissertation that many people will read, so it’s crucial to get it right.
Table Of Contents
You are expected to list all of your chapters, subheadings, and their page numbers in the table of contents. The contents(TOC) page of your dissertation tells the reader about the structure and makes it easy to move around in the document.
The table of contents should list everything in your dissertation, even the appendices. You can use Microsoft Word or any other word processor to generate a table of contents.
List of Figures and List of Tables
If your dissertation has a lot of tables(graphs, etc.) and figures(diagrams or pictures), you should make a numbered list of them. You can use Microsoft Word’s (or any other word processor) “Insert Caption” feature to make this list automatically. You should give a short description under the tables or figures wherever they are used in your text and cite them if they aren’t yours.
List of Abbreviations
If you have written or used a lot of abbreviations or short forms in your dissertation, you should put them in an ordered (ideally alphabetized) list so that the reader can easily look up what they mean.
You may need to include a glossary if you use many technical terms that your reader might not know. You should list the terms in alphabetical order and give a short explanation or definition for each.
This section will form the first chapter of your dissertation. In the introduction, you are expected to give a quick setup of your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and importance.
Even though your abstract summarizes your research, your introduction should be written as if the reader hasn’t seen it (don’t forget that the abstract is essentially a standalone document). Here’s what your introduction should do:
- Set up your research topic and give the background information needed to put your work in context.
- Narrow the focus of the dissertation and give the scope that it will cover.
- Talk about the current research on the topic and how your work fits into a larger issue or debate.
- Make your goals and research questions clear, and say how you plan to answer them.
- Explain the structure you used to put your dissertation together.
If you do it right, your introduction chapter will give the rest of your dissertation a clear direction. In particular, it will tell the reader what exactly you’ll be looking into, why that’s important, and how you’ll be looking into this topic.
On the other hand, if your introduction chapter makes a first-time reader wonder what you’ll be researching, you still need to do some work in terms of editing and rewriting.
Now that your introduction chapter is out of the way and has given your dissertation a clear direction, the literature review is next. However, before beginning your research, you should have done a literature review to learn everything you can about the academic work that has already been done on your topic. What this means is:
- Gathering sources (like books and journal articles) and choosing the most useful ones
- Putting each source through a critical evaluation and analysis
- Finding intricate connections between these sources(such as themes, patterns, conflicts, and gaps) to drive home your point.
In the literature review section, you shouldn’t just summarize the studies that have already been done. Instead, you should create a clear structure and argument showing why your research is important. It could, for example, show how your research:
- Fills in a missing piece in the research you undertook
- Uses a different theory or method to look at the subject critically.
- Offers a good solution to a persistent problem
- Contributes to a general theoretical argument
- Contributes novel ideas and information to augment what is already known.
The literature review often becomes the basis for a theoretical framework in which the essential theories, concepts, and models that inform the research are defined and critically examined. In this part, you can answer descriptive research questions about how certain ideas or variables relate to each other.
The methodology chapter tells your readers how you conducted your research and justifies your reasons for choosing that approach. Here’s what your methodology section should have:
- The research method employed and the type of research as a whole (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, scoping, ethnographic)
- Your procedures for getting information (e.g., questionnaires, surveys, interviews).
- Information about the place, time, and people, involved in the research
- The procedures used in analyzing information (e.g., statistical analysis, discourse analysis)
- Equipment, Facilities, and other tools used throughout the research (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
- A rundown of any problems you ran into while doing the research and how you solved them
- An evaluation of the effectiveness of the methods or procedures employed.
This chapter requires detail, so don’t hold back on the specifics and ensure you can explain every design choice you make.
In this section, you present what you found out from your research. This section can be organized around hypotheses or topics. Only report results that help you answer your research questions.
In some institutions or academic fields, the results chapter is kept completely separate from the discussion section, while in others, the two are put together. For instance, in qualitative methods like in-depth interviews, data presentation is often done with discussion and analysis.
However, in quantitative and experimental research, the results are usually presented alone before you expatiate them with discussion/analysis. If you’re not sure, talk to your supervisor and look at sample dissertations to figure out how you should organize your research.
Tables, graphs, and charts can often be helpful in the results section. You should be careful when presenting your data, so you don’t include certain diagrams or charts that repeat what you’ve written. Instead, they should give extra information that adds value to your text by visualizing(simplifying) your ideas and concepts.
In this chapter, you “discuss” what your results mean and how they relate to your research questions. Here, it would help if you gave a detailed explanation of the results by examining whether they were what was anticipated and how well they fit into the framework you built in earlier chapters.
If there were any shocking results, explain why this might be the case. It’s also a good habit to think about how your data could be interpreted in different ways and talk about any limitations that could have affected the results.
In the discussion, you should reference other academic work and show how your results fit in with what is already postulated. You can also make useful suggestions or even predictions for future research.
The conclusion section should give a concise answer to the original research questions, providing the reader with a clear understanding of your main point. Like an essay or term paper, you should finish your dissertation by including a final analysis of your methods and results to bring closure to your dissertation.
In many cases, the final section of a dissertation will also provide some suggestions for future studies or practice. It is also critical to explain the significance of your research and how your findings add to existing knowledge.
This section is one of the most crucial parts of any academic paper. You must provide complete information about each source you cite in a reference list(also called works cited list or bibliography). Maintaining uniformity in citation format is highly recommended. Also, how you list your sources in a reference section differs greatly depending on your citation style.
Many academic disciplines have preferred citation styles, such as APA for the social sciences, MHRA for the humanities, and OSCOLA for law. Verify that you’re meeting all of the criteria, and if you have any questions, consult your supervisor or institution guidelines.
In this section, you can add all supporting information that may have been distracting to readers if added earlier. Only relevant information that helps answer your research topic should be included in the dissertation itself. Interview transcripts, survey questions, and tables with complete figures that do not belong in the main body of your dissertation can be included as appendices.