How To Structure a Dissertation – Take An Original Approach!

dissertation plan structure

Your dissertation is one of the most important writing and research piece in your career as an undergraduate. This thought alone can make it seem difficult. With a good dissertation plan, you can use time effectively and keep the assignment manageable. This article will give you tips on how to structure a dissertation. You will also get a dissertation plan example and much more.

Structuring Your Dissertation

All dissertations are structured differently. Most times, the location, topic, discipline, and approach are the main determining factors when it comes to structuring.

For instance, humanities dissertations are structured like long essays. The overall argument is made to support the central thesis. Also, the chapters are organized around various case studies or themes.

When it comes to social sciences or sciences generally, the empirical research of a dissertation has to contain all those elements. Most times, each is placed in a separate chapter. Sometimes, though, they are combined. For instance, in some qualitative social sciences, the discussion and results are woven together instead of separated.

How the sections are arranged, varies between countries and fields. For instance, universities in some regions may advise that the conclusion comes before the discussion.

If you are not clear about how to start a dissertation and its format, get the guidelines of your department. You can also discuss it with your supervisor.

Steps To Writing A Dissertation

Title page

This is the first page of the paper, and it contains the title, your name, institution, department, degree as well as submission date. This page may contain your student number, University logo, and even the name of your supervisor. Some programs are stricter with the formatting requirements.


This section is not necessary for some regions. It is used to thank all the individuals that helped you as you prepared your dissertation. Some names that may appear here include participants in your research, the supervisor’s name, and family and friends that offered a helping hand one way or another.


This part is a summary of the dissertation. It is usually around 150 – 300 words in length. It is written at the end of the dissertation. The abstract should contain the following:

  • Methods used thoroughly described
  • Main topic as well as the aims of the research
  • Summary of the main result
  • Conclusion of the research

The abstract is usually short but is very important because it is the first part people read. It determines if anyone will read it. You must write a strong abstract.

Table Of Contents

This part contains all the chapters and subheaders as well as their page numbers. The contents page helps the reader to see your structure and navigate it easily.

Every part of the dissertation must be included in this table of contents. The appendices should not be left out. Microsoft word allows you to create this content table automatically if you use headings.

List Of Tables And Figures

If you include figures and tables in your paper, you need to itemize them using a numbered list. Microsoft word also allows you to generate the list with the Caption feature.

Abbreviations List

Also, if you used lots of abbreviations, you should create a list for all of them so that the reader can refer to them for the meaning.


The glossary is for highly specialized terms that may not be familiar to the readers. Make a list of the terms and input them alphabetically. Be sure to explain the terms and add a short description.


The introduction brings the topic of the dissertation, relevance, and purpose to light.

In the introduction, you set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance, and tell the reader what to expect in the rest of the dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Include the research topic and give all the necessary background details to contextualize the paper.
  • Focus on the scope of the work and narrow your research down.
  • Discuss the existing research on the topic as well as the relevance of your work to a broader problem.
  • State the questions and objectives of your research.
  • Provide an overview of the dissertation structure.

Also, the introduction needs to be engaging, clear, and relevant to the research topic. In the end, all readers should know the what, why, and how of your research.

Dissertation Plan Template: Pick A Field Of Interest

To get a good topic, consider all the topics you have enjoyed and pick the best one of them. This helps you to write a topic that you like and reduces the stress that could come with it.

Consider all recent writings on your preferred area of interest. This information will help you as you identify the best angles to tackle. It may also show the lacunas in the current area to be addressed.

Pick A Title

What is your kind of inquiry? It could be a study that has been carried out or applied to theory or analysis of an idea with a particular approach.

The approach helps you to pick a working title. This title has to present the line of inquiry that you hope to discuss in your dissertation. Outline a few titles with different emphases and keep them in mind while researching.

Don’t forget to meet your supervisor before picking a final topic. The supervisor will give you some ideas and check for any grey areas in your research topic.

The outline plan should follow the structure below:

  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion

These parts can be broken down further. There can be subheadings that highlight what you are examining and how you plan to do it.

The main body may contain definitions, research areas, and possible problems. The main argument and theme, as well as the alternative argument, should be in this part.

The conclusion should also include a summary of all your findings, a solution, any unresolved issues, and what could be researched further.

Prepare Your Sources List

As you plan all sections of your dissertation, add all full names of research books and the page number. It may come in handy when you need to prepare your bibliography,

Review Often

Your dissertation timeline may not go as planned. The chapters of a dissertation and its structure may change as you go along. This is why having a plan is ideal. When a new idea pops up, you will simply adjust the title, headings, and content to accommodate the new ideas.

This process can be overwhelming since you have to deal with other issues at your university. You can opt for writing help from professionals that have experience with writing such papers.

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