Helpful Tips on How to Structure a Dissertation

Helpful Tips on How to Structure a Dissertation

Structuring a dissertation is not as easy as it may seem at first sight. In order to realize how to structure a dissertation correctly, it is necessary to find out the peculiarities of such a notion as a structure. Generally speaking, a structure is the way of representing the goals you are pursuing in your paper, the employed research techniques, and achieved results. The organizational mode of a dissertation, unlike that of an essay, looks like a book consisting of several chapters. Apart from the main sections such an introduction, body, etc., structure should also include a thesis consisting of no more than 800 words.

It is necessary to admit that a structure of a dissertation consists of such items as a cover page, abstract, introductory unit, methods, and a literature review. Bear in mind that you will be also required to prepare a TOC (table of contents) and an outline. The former is produced after the latter is ready. If you want to be sure that your work will be arranged in the right way, you should closely follow the directions given by your professor.

If you are going to produce a dissertation, you have to realize that it has to be unique and written in a formal academic style.

It should be noted that the requirements for creating dissertations vary. Some works require using primary sources such as manuscripts, laboratory reports, studies done by other scholars, etc. Others require making a detailed analysis of the secondary or even tertiary sources what is intrinsic to the papers written for obtaining a Bachelor’s degree.

Key Elements of a Dissertation Structure

Dissertations usually comprise one or a few substantive unites, and introductory and concluding sections. Depending on the academic discipline, such papers may include other structural items as well.

Title Page

This page has to be formatted in accordance with the specifications provided by your instructor. Usually, it includes such items as student’s name, academic level, department, paper title, and the submission date.


It is a brief summary including about 250 – 750 words. Your professor has to state exactly whether this structural element is needed, what word count is required, and what format is to be applied.

Table of Contents

This page goes after the cover page or an abstract. However, it is usually created when a dissertation is ready. It highlights the titles of the sections a dissertation consists of.

Introductory Unit

This part should give readers the so-called hint about what you intend to focus your dissertation on. You need to explain readers the reasons for picking a specific topic and tell how your work is structured. Additionally, in this unit, it is required to briefly describe each of the dissertation sections. An introduction should end with the statement that will lead readers to the main body of your piece of writing. Note that some of those working on dissertations decide to produce an introductory unit after preparing the substantive sections.

Methodology Section

It is obligatory to create such a unit in case a dissertation requires referring to primary sources and using qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis. If you are to use secondary and tertiary resources, preparing such a section is not mandatory. The number of words this part should include depends on the academic discipline and the used research methods. Apart from specifying the methods that have been adopted to examining the matter under consideration, you also need to spell out why they have been preferred to other approaches. In case any questions concerning the ethics of conducting research arise, discuss them in this section as well. Mind that some dissertations may contain a separate chapter highlighting the theories relating to the research question.

Literature Review

As well as a previous section, this one is mandatory only in case you are conducting original research. This unit should provide an overview of the sources highlighting the subject you are investigating. Additionally, when creating a literature review, you need to state why your dissertation is important for the development of a specific research area. In many cases, a literature review is the first chapter of dissertations. If your academic work is based on the data gathered from the secondary or tertiary sources, creating such a section is not a must.

Substantive Units

The main body of dissertations consists of a few substantive sections. The number of chapters is determined according to the length of a dissertation. Usually its number ranges from three to five units. As well as in essays, each chapter of the body should illustrate one of the aspects of the researched issue. At the same time, all the chapters within your writing project have to be focused on the chief idea. When it goes about quantitative analysis, the chapters present a hypothesis and then provide an explanation about how it is developed. Afterwards, the findings are presented followed by the units interpreting them. When it goes about other types of analysis or research, each unit is usually concentrated on the subtopic identified within the selected subject. For instance, you may need to analyze interview questions, case studies relating to your topic, or scrutinize any other works to give readers a full picture of the addressed matter. Since the substantive units form the basis of a dissertation, you have to provide only reliable data, make an in-depth analysis of the problems you are addressing, support your ideas with strong arguments, and refer to the theories relating to a respective academic field. In this way, you will show readers that you are completely familiar with all facets of your topic.

Pay attention to the style your dissertation has to be produced in. In order not to fail the assignment, you have to ask your professor about the style that is to be applied before beginning the writing process.


It should sum up the ideas expressed throughout your dissertation. This section should also present the possible restrictions introduced by the research which you have undertaken and simplify the opposing viewpoints on the topic. Furthermore, when writing a conclusion, you need to inform readers about the areas which your study may be useful in. You may also explain how the results of your research may be applied in everyday life. Additionally, in this section, you may specify the fields of study that are closely connected with the one which you have explored but which you have not analyzed in the body section due to the word count requirements.

Bibliography Page

You should start compiling your list of sources once the research stage is begun. You should keep in mind that even when you take just a couple of sentences from a specific publication, it has to be included in your list of sources. Do not forget that a bibliography page has to be organized in accordance with a particular referencing style. Therefore, make sure you do know what format to apply and how.


Some academic papers, dissertations included, need appendices – the sections providing additional material about the examined matter. This section may contain charts, tables, pictures, diagrams, etc. Usually, appendices are obligatory for the dissertations based on original research.


Make sure you have enough time for not only writing your dissertation but also binding it. Such a process may take a couple of days. Once your piece of writing is bound, it will look like a solid academic work.

If you have no idea about how to structure a dissertation, address us. We will be glad to assist you in preparing your academic work!