How to write a dissertation


A thesis or a dissertation is explained as a long piece of writing written based on original, in-depth research. One usually submits a dissertation as part of a Ph.D. or Master’s degree; it could also be submitted under a bachelor’s program.

Your dissertation is the longest piece of writing you’ve ever done, and it can be intimidating to know where to start. This blog will explain what you need to know about including a resume with your job application.

You can download the full dissertation template as a .docx file or in Google Docs format. The template includes suggestions for the order of each chapter and what to include. You can change these notes to suit your requirements if you wish.

Deciding on your dissertation’s structure

There is no such thing as the perfect, one-size-fits-all dissertation. The form of your research will vary depending on whether you are a graduate in a subject matter or location, how advanced your topic is, and which approach you to take.

For example, in the humanities, dissertations are often structured more like essays. One long essay is written to support a central thesis with chapters organized by themes or case studies.

However, your dissertation should generally contain all of the following elements if you’re doing empirical research in the sciences or social sciences. Each chapter will be a separate topic in many cases, but in certain cases, the topics will be intertwined. For example, qualitative sociology may overlap between subjects and findings.

The section orders can also vary between fields and regions. For instance, some universities recommend concluding before discussing anything else.

When in doubt about how your paper should be structured, we strongly encourage you always to check your department’s guidelines and consult with your supervisor.

Title page

The first page of your paper contains the dissertation title, your name, department/school, institution (university), degree program, and submission date. Many dissertations have a strict set of formatting requirements, including your student number, supervisor’s name, and university logo.


In most cases, the acknowledgments section is not critical and merely allows thanking those who helped you write your dissertation. For example, this might include supervisors, participants of your research, and friends or family who supported you.


Abstracts are about 150–300 words in length and summarize the dissertation. It would be best if you asked someone else to write it at the end of the dissertation when they have completed the rest of your work.

  • Giving an introduction of the paper
  • Provide detail on the methods
  • Summarize the main points
  • Provide final thoughts

Although the abstract is an extremely short introduction, it’s often readers’ first impression of your dissertation and can, therefore, greatly impact how they perceive the entire work. If you get yourself struggling to write a strong abstract, read this guide on how to write one.

Table of contents

Please list all the chapters and subheadings in the table of contents, followed by their corresponding page numbers. The “content page” gives the reader an overview of your structure and helps navigate your document.

If you do not include the appendices, your table of contents should show that they are missing. You could generate a table of contents automatically in Word if you used headings with styles.

List of figures and tables

When a dissertation has lots of tables and graphs, use a numbered list to cite them. You can automatically generate a list using Word’s Insert Caption feature.

List of abbreviations

If you use many acronyms or abbreviations in your dissertation, including them in an alphabetized list of acronyms will allow the reader to find definitions more easily.


To help your reader better understand your prose, you might want to include a glossary. Define each term briefly and arrange them alphabetically in the glossary.


The introduction needs to connect with the reader and set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It should also give a hint of what topics are coming next in the rest of the text.

  • Establish the research topic, giving necessary background information to contextualize your work.
  • Focus on certain aspects of the situation and limit your research.
  • Discuss important details of the state of current research within your field and how it relates to broader debates.
  • Tell the reader what type of questions and objectives you are interested in, based on background research.
  • Try to summarize your dissertation’s structure in a few sentences.

Your introduction should be clear, concise, and relevant to your research objectives. There are few questions you should answer:

  • What is the question?
  • Why is the question important?
  • How will this question be answered?

Literature review / Theoretical framework

Before you start researching, conduct a literature review to understand what has already been published on your topic.

That means

  • The last step in the academic writing process is to select and review sources, e.g., books and journal articles
  • Critically assessing the source
  • One strategy for making a point in paragraphs is to connect them by themes, patterns, and conflicts.

In the dissertation literature review chapter, you cannot just summarize other studies. You must develop a coherent argument that gives rise to a clear justification for conducting your study. Example:

  • Addresses a gap in the body of research
  • Never before has anyone taken this new theoretical or methodological approach to the topic.
  • Our article will offer a solution to this issue.
  • The author presents the reader with a theoretical argument.
  • This chapter is a collection of those with insights.

The literature review acts as the foundation for your theoretical framework, where you can define and analyze some key theories, concepts, or models that frame your research. In this section, answer how two related concepts are related or the direction of a relationship.

Dissertation Methodology

The methodology section of this paper explains how I conducted research, providing readers with the opportunity to assess its validity. It generally should include:

  • It is essential to take into consideration the type of research approach you want to use.
  • What methods of collecting data do you use?
  • After considerable study, details about the place and time of the research are still unclear.
  • The way you analyze data (e.g., statistical analysis, discourse analysis)
  • The tools and materials applied (e.g., lab equipment and computer programs)
  • A discussion of any problems you faced in conducting the research and how you overcame them. Consider extending your explanation of obstacles and how they were overcome for people who are unfamiliar with your field or why the research was important to conduct.
  • A detailed explanation of your methods.

Your methodology aims to report what you did accurately and convince the reader that this was the best approach.


Next, you should summarize the contents of your research and synthesize the results following sub-questions, hypotheses, or themes.

Depending on the discipline, there are two types of section organization. Some disciplines combine data with discussion, while others separate them into two sections. For example, qualitative methods like ethnography may present the data combined with discussion and analysis.

Quantitative and experimental research should be treated differently when it comes to their presentation.

  • Summarize your results with a concise statement for each, including relevant descriptive statistics (i.e., means, standard deviations) and inferential statistics (i.e., test statistic, p-values).
  • Discuss in brief how the result relates to the question and whether or not your hypothesis was supported.
  • If you include tables and figures, they should help the reader understanding your results.
  • Report on your findings in the form of both successes and failures, including any anomalies.
  • Don’t write about what you think someone said or your opinion of the sentiment.

Additional data (such as raw numbers, full questionnaires, or transcriptions of interviews) can be appended.


The discussion is where you check the meaning and implications of your data about your research questions. It is important to look at the findings and discuss whether they meet your expectations and fit with what you anticipated earlier.

  • Give your interpretation: what do these results mean?
  • Explore the ramifications: why do these results matter?
  • What do these results not tell us?

If any of the results are unexpected, considering different explanations for why this might be. It’s also a good idea to consider alternative interpretations. Whoa- your data has a lot to say! These sources are cited as additional references for this discussion.



The dissertation conclusion should concisely answer the main research question, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed.

Some academic conventions ask you to state your conclusions or main findings at the beginning of the essay before providing background information.

However, in a dissertation, the conclusion refers to the final chapter of the research. This part has a final reflection and often offers future recommendations or pointers for how to proceed with further research in the same field.

The conclusion of your paper is the most important part. In it, you want to leave the reader with a clear understanding of how your findings will improve society’s current, existing knowledge base on this particular topic.


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