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Writing a Dissertation: Learn How to Come up With an A Paper - Part 3

Updated on February 13, 2015

Dissertation Format/Structure

Each and every school/University has their format or guideline for writing a dissertation. In this article, we are going to share with you some of the major and most important sections of a dissertations as well as a brief explanation of the contents of those sections.

The list of sections we are going to discuss is however a generic and it is not meant to be an exclusive list which you should be using. Always feel free to interchange the order in which they appear as well as the titles of those sections.

Let us therefore start by having a look at the list in general after which we will have a closer look at each of those sections mentioned.

Generic Structure of a Dissertation

>>Introductory Pages



>>Literature Review


>>Research Findings and Result’s Presentation

>>Discussion and Analysis



>>List of References

>>Appendix Section

NB: Each of the above sections can be taken as a chapter and could therefore in their own page.

Introductory Pages

The front pages of a dissertation contain among others;

  • Cover page
  • Table of contents
  • List of tables
  • List of figures
  • List of appendices


This is a brief summary of the whole study. It should be between 150 and 350 words and it should be written in one paragraph with no indentation. A good abstract should address the research question(s), how the study will be done to achieve the objectives, the findings of the research as well as the conclusions and recommendations. It should be concise.


This is the section which introduces the reader to the project and so it should be quite clear and accurate as to what the project is all about. The introduction is divided into a number of small sections that include; the background of the study as well as the thesis statement, the research questions (which can also be presented in form of hypotheses), the research objectives and finally the rationale statement. It is also very important to give a brief explanation on the organization of the study towards the end of the introduction section.

Literature Review

This section should contain relevant literature to your research topic. The literature included should be scholarly and peer reviewed. Never include literature from non-scholarly sources. You should also show evidence of having read and understood perfectly the literature you include here. This is only shown by how well you critique the literature you include.

The intention of this chapter is to provide evidence as to the studies that have been carried out in relation to the research problem and so be able to provide evidence as to the need for further research in that line of study. You need to provide a very strong link between the research questions and the literature review.

For long and detailed papers, you may need to break the literature review into sections by grouping related literature under one subheading.


This chapter is often divided into subsections that include the following;


This is where the chosen procedure is described, supporting it with some literature. It should include a justification as to why that procedure was chosen by incorporating it with the research topic of the study.

Research design:

Involves a discussion of the background of either quantitative or qualitative methods, whichever the research will adopt.

Research Strategy:

This involves a description of the population that will participate in the study as well as how the sample will be arrived at. You need to explain the sampling theory that will be adopted as well as give credibility to the chosen strategy.

Data collection:

This is where the methods used to collect data are discussed and the how the documents like questionnaires which are used to collect data were administered. If the data was collected through observation then a description on how this was done should be provided.

Research Findings

This is where the results collected by using each of the methods described above are presented. Each of the methods should have its own results.

In this section, make use of tables, graphs and charts as appropriate. If collection involved observation, then you should make sure to provide a detailed observation of the items/subjects under study.

Discussions and Analysis

This is a section where results from your research study are evaluated. The intention is to derive a meaning from the data collected. There should be a link to the objectives and you should also show how the results differ or relate to the other researcher’s findings. This can be done by thorough analysis of the data, backing it up with contemporary literature. Appropriate software could be utilized in the analysis of data.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Conclusion involves presentation of the outcomes of a study. You need to indirectly address each and every objective and expound on it.

Recommendations section is an opportunity for you as a researcher to provide suggestions based on the findings of your study. You could explain areas that may need further studies to understand the research topic more.

List of References

This is where you are to provide a COMPLETE list of all the literature used in the study. The list should be provided in alphabetical order and in an appropriate style; be it MLA, APA, Chicago or any other format you have adopted in your study.


The Appendix section should be numbered from A, B, C…onwards or you could use numbers such as Appendix 1, 2, 3….etc.

The appendix is very important as it takes the extra materials which may not be possible to be included in the body but are important for reference purposes. These include questionnaire and interview scripts, letter of introduction, ethics documents as well as tables, graphs, photographs et cetera.

Formatting Made Easier!!

Make your formatting experience easy by using these aids:


This utility software is compliant with MLA (7th Edition). Its strength lies in the fact that it can install in a varied range of O/S, be it windows or Mac. It can integrate well with Word and the Reference wizard makes it easy to use as it works you through in step by step.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

This is the 16th Edition of the Chicago manual of style. This can make your formatting easy as it covers all aspects of formatting. By following it you can easily come up with a professionally looking paper in a matter of hours.


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