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Learn How to Structure a Dissertation: Tips and Explanations

29 May 2019

Dissertation is a formal, long writing piece that entails unique research and aims to prove a student’s right to get a diploma in his or her knowledge sphere. In UK, it is an obligatory part of education. Whether you are studying in a world-renowned and prestigious place like Oxford or University of Manchester or a smaller college somewhere in Blackburn, writing it is obligatory. How to structure a dissertation, though?

Each student becomes concerned with this issue because structure is basically a backbone of the entire paper. It lays ground for what you’ll be doing with research, outlining main points as well as aspects that’ll be covered. That’s why knowing what it should include is so important.

Deciding What Structure Model Fits You Best

Each dissertation structure might differ in some small ways depending on several factors. First of them is topic along with subject. For instance, some themes require an active form of research, also known as primary, meaning that one focuses on their own investigation and it’ll take the biggest part of the paper. Others work better with secondary research design. Dissertation chapters must focused on each crucial aspect and in most cases, it’s better to discuss them all with supervisor. This way, you’ll protect yourself against a necessity to structure and restructure it all over again.

University demands should be taken into account. While essence that this paper type has is the same, the structure of a dissertation differs depending on what specialty the university focuses on. That’s another reason why students should definitely talk to their teacher before starting any actual writing. Develop dissertation plan, then make an outline and submit it for checking. Only after an approval, student can start structuring it.

Learning How to Structure a Dissertation

The following dissertation outline is built upon a standard model that’s commonly used in most educational establishments in UK. It has 15 main elements that should be present. Look through them or include them in the initial outline, unless you’ve already received a template with a specific, uni-centred structure.  

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  • Title page is obligatory and is present in every academic paper. It should feature a name, subject, faculty, title, and supervisor’s name. When commission board or any interested party takes your completed paper, they should immediately see who has written it and what subject it explores. Watch out for formatting — another aspect that is important. Usually each educational establishment has citation templates.
  • Acknowledgements. Dissertation is a complex and many-layered paper that takes time, efforts, as well as knowledge. For many people, it’s a life work, so naturally, they mention those who have encouraged them and motivated them to keep working. Maybe you’ll think of abandoning everything at least once when writing, support of family, friends, or supervisor will be essential. Name main people who inspired when you were about to give up. Remember that you must stay official, though! Don’t say, “Lots of love for my mother”. Instead, write like this: “I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my mother, who stayed by my side even when I was struggling with various challenges.”
  • Dissertation abstract is similar to that of any other academic paper  — tell what research is about in approximately 300-500 words. Don’t be too specific but also don’t use general phrases. Mention all relevant aspects covered. This way, when audience looks at your paper, they’ll immediately realise what its focus is, also, whether they want to keep reading it.
  • Table of Contents. When figuring out how to structure a dissertation, students often forget about dissertation contents page. But in fact, it’s one of most crucial parts because it serves as a guide to every chapter. You’ll be likely editing and rewriting bits of the paper at some point. Don’t forget about changing page numbers in table of content accordingly.
  • List of Figures & Tables. Dissertation is a very formal writing type, so include a section with figures and tables within its pages. Do not forget about citing them all. Audience must see where they look at illustrations, which help enhance some particularly complex parts.
  • List of Abbreviations. This optional element is needed only in case dissertation revolves around concepts that may be abbreviated. Instead of repeating long and complex word combinations, make an abbreviation and point it out in this section.
  • Glossary. This element is optional, so whether you use it or not depends on complexity of topic. Ask supervisor how to structure a dissertation in this regard. Maybe you have some difficult terms that common audience won’t understand. If yes, explain them: provide concepts along with their definition.
  • Introduction. This is where you finally start introducing and explaining what paper is about in depth. Be more specific than in abstract. Explain relevance of a topic, reasoning that motivated you to pick it, formulate its background. Finally, talk about such things as hypotheses or research questions. Think carefully here because they play the most important role — they are the backbone of the whole paper. Also, they should be tightly interrelated, addressing central investigation subject.
  • Literature review / Theoretical framework. This part is where most important writing starts. Regardless of differences between templates of some unis telling you how to structure a dissertation, literature review is present 100%, one way or another. It must feature sources that you have selected for support and analysis. They should be relevant, created in the last 5-7 years in most cases. You should understand what their purpose and goal are. Analyse or synthesise them. Don’t rely on summary. Instead, compare/contrast them, underlining their similarities, drawing attention to their differences. Naturally, they all must be related to your central topic. Show actual knowledge, not just talk about some superficial facts.
  • Methodology. This section is entirely unique because it depends on your own actions. Reveal what you’ve done when organising your paper; how research was conducted. Specify which research design you have picked and why. Explain selected type of study along with the way in which you’ve found data. Was investigation of primary or secondary kind? How did you choose sources, what keywords were used? What about sample — how were the participants contacted? Did they receive all information before agreeing to participate? All these elements must be mentioned here.
  • Results. This part is tightly connected to two previous sections. Demonstrate findings here. Don’t explain them, not really, because it’ll come later. Just formulate what results you’ve achieved with the help of techniques covered in methodology and based on everything that was figured out with the help of a literature review.
  • Discussion. When learning how to structure a dissertation, students wonder how many pages should be dedicated to what. It depends on personal requirements and needs, but in the majority of cases, discussion is the largest section. In many regards, it is a star time. Start explaining everything achieved, such as findings, their meaning, implications and relevance. The strength and uniqueness of ideas along with research approach become evident in this part, demonstrating progress in your major. Just check dissertation discussion example to see how it should be done.
  • Conclusion. After everything is done and said, some students find themselves stuck, wondering how to conclude a dissertation. The answer is simple, just summarise all important facts here. Repeat them but at the same time, make them a bit clearer. Focus on final implications of research and value it could bring to other studies that might be conducted on the same topics. Admit which limitations you faced and make some suggestions for future researchers. With this, dissertation conclusion is complete.
  • Reference list. Now when content is ready, it is time to cite all sources used. Be careful when doing it: mention only those books or articles that you have engaged with. Every name and title are checked, so that you are not accused of fake referencing. Make sure that all details are accurate, reflecting correct names, dates, titles, along with page numbers where applicable.
  • Appendices. This part should be present if you’ve used some additional stuff, such as tables or pictures that could enhance data clarity even more. Format them carefully and include them at the very end. Cite them in body, because appendices cannot function on their own.

Put Your Trust in EduBirdie and Enjoy High-Quality Dissertation

Now that you’ve learned how to structure a dissertation, you are finally ready to start working on it. But at the same time, many students still face difficulties with this process because theoretical knowledge is great yet it is not enough for excellent writing. If you find yourself anxious, contact EduBirdie, the best dissertation service in UK. We have gathered writers with years of experience who have written many quality papers, both in personal life and while cooperating with us.

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