Dissertation Structure


Title Page

This should include:

§  Dissertation Title and subtitle (if any)

§ Student’s full name

§ Study department

§ Submission date (month and year)

§ Word count



Purpose: To summarise the whole research study and its conclusions, giving your reader a general idea of what the dissertation is about so they will know if they need to read further

To do it well: Keep it brief – no more than about 300 words.


Dedication and Acknowledgements

This section is not compulsory.

Purpose:  To thank everyone who has helped you, whether academically or personally.

To do it well: It should be brief, and quite formal.


Author’s Declaration

Purpose: To declare that the dissertation is all your own work. If it’s a collaborative effort, say so.


Table of Contents, Figures, and Tables

Purpose: To show your organisation and to help readers find their way around the text.



Chapter One: Introduction 

 Purpose: To explain why this particular piece of research is necessary.

To do it well:

  • Introduce the subject and put it into context.
  • Explain how it fits into existing literature on the topic.
  • Show that the subject is relevant by referring to a wider context than just academic literature (e.g. the media, government reports etc.)
  • Having explained the need, identify the research questions which will be studied.
  • Present the research questions to be studied as a logical consequence of the argument they have constructed.
  • Summarise Chapter One and introduce Chapter Two.

 Chapter one should make up about 10% of your essay.


Chapter Two: Literature Review

 Purpose: To examine the academic literature relevant to the research question & to show that you are aware of and understand the  academic debates pertaining to your subject.

To do it well: 

  • Make sure that every piece of reviewed literature is relevant to the research questions.
  •  Identify the strengths and weakness of major texts on your topic.
  • Analyse the texts critically: always try to find gaps and to present counter arguments.
  • Avoid presenting literature uncritically – this does not demonstrate understanding.
  • Summarise Chapter Two and introduce Chapter Three.

Chapter Two should make up about 40% of your essay.


Chapter Three: Research Methodology

Purpose:  To present your research methodology and to justify your choices

To do it well: 

  • Explain your chosen strategy with reference to established literature on research methodology.
  • Make sure that your strategy is consistent with how you have approached the collection of data.
  • Explore the advantages and disadvantages of your chosen research strategy and methods of data collection.
  • Identify the limitations of the methodology chosen.
  • Summarise Chapter Two and introduce Chapter Four.

Chapter Three should make up about 15% of your essay.


Chapter Four: Data Presentation & Analysis


 Purpose: To present and analyse your data and to relate your findings to your literature review.

To do it well: 

  • Keep the research questions in mind throughout to make sure everything is relevant.
  • Present your data clearly, using tables, graphs pie charts as required.
  • Discuss your findings in relation to your literature review . Make sure you highlight areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Explore the reasons that these results have been obtained, including any anomalies.
  • Summarise Chapter Four and introduce Chapter Five.

Chapter Four should make up about 25% of your essay.


Chapter Five: Conclusions/Limitations & Recommendations

Purpose: To summarise the essays’s key points and to make recommendations based on your research.

To do it well : 

  • Sum up all the main issues in the essay.
  • Reflect on your research, and what you may do differently were you to do it all over again.
  • Explain the limitations of the study.
  • Present any areas which your study has made you think require further research.

Chapter Five should make up about 10% of your essay.



Purpose: To acknowledge every book, web page, article etc that you have used in the course of your research.

To do it well :

  • Arrange the list alphabetically. Where there is no named author, use the first significant word of the title.
  • If there is more than one text by the same author, list item chronologically, earliest first.



These are not always compulsory.


  • To provide your reader with access to extra information. This should not be information which is essential in order to understand the study fully.
  • To include items that help with clarification.
  • To provide a clear record of your methods of research.

To do it well :

  • Include copies of relevant letters
  • Include copies of blank questionnaires.
  • Include copies of interview questions.
  • Include transcripts of interviews.
  • Include copies of any extra documents referred to in the text.
  • In your dissertation, draw your readers attention to the existence of any relevant document in the appendix.
  • Reflect on your research, and what you may do differently were you to do it all over again.


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