Understanding Dissertations: Structure, Examples, and Templates
A dissertation is an extensive piece of academic writing that stems from your original research endeavours. Typically, it marks the final milestone in completing a Ph.D. program, making it a substantial undertaking.
Writing a dissertation necessitates robust research, writing, and analytical skills, which can seem daunting at the outset. Your department will often provide specific guidelines regarding the structure of your dissertation, and it is advisable to consult your supervisor if you are uncertain.
For your convenience, we offer a comprehensive dissertation template in various formats, complete with a pre-made table of contents that outlines the essential elements of each chapter. This template can be customized to align with your department’s requirements.
Please note that the terms “thesis” and “dissertation” may be used interchangeably, but their definitions vary by country:
- In the United States, a dissertation usually refers to the research conducted to obtain a Ph.D.
- In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, a dissertation often pertains to research conducted for a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Table of Contents
- Dissertation Committee and Prospectus Process
Once you have completed your coursework, comprehensive exams, and other prerequisites, you attain “ABD” status (All But Dissertation). This means you have fulfilled all requirements except for your dissertation.
Before commencing the actual writing, you must establish your dissertation committee, consisting of your advisor and other faculty members, either from your department or relevant interdisciplinary fields. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process and eventually evaluate your dissertation defence, determining whether you earn your Ph.D.
The prospectus is a formal document, typically presented orally during a defence, outlining your research objectives and demonstrating the relevance of your chosen topic. Successfully passing your prospectus defence signals your readiness to embark on the research and writing phase.
- How to Write and Structure a Dissertation
The structure of your dissertation varies depending on factors such as your discipline, topic, and research approach. Humanities dissertations often resemble lengthy essays, with a central thesis supported by chapters exploring different themes or case studies. In contrast, hard and social science dissertations usually include a review of existing literature, a methodology section, an analysis of original research, and a presentation of results across distinct chapters.
- Dissertation Examples
To assist you in getting started, we have compiled a list of dissertation examples:
a. Heat, Wildfire, and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity by C. A. Antonopoulos b. Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households by M. Addo c. The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees by N. S. Mills
- Title Page
The initial page of your dissertation includes critical information, such as your dissertation title, name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Some institutions may require additional details like your student number, supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.
- Acknowledgments or Preface
The acknowledgements section, while optional, provides an opportunity to express gratitude to individuals who supported you during the dissertation writing process, including advisors, research participants, and friends or family.
Despite its brevity (typically 150 to 300 words), the abstract holds significant importance as it introduces your work to readers. It should concisely cover your main topic, research methods, key results, and conclusions. It is best written after completing the rest of your dissertation.
- Table of Contents
The table of contents lists all chapters, subheadings, and their respective page numbers. This helps readers navigate your document efficiently.
- List of Figures and Tables
While not obligatory, including a list of figures and tables can aid readers if your dissertation incorporates numerous visual elements. Word processing software can generate this list using the “Insert Caption” feature.
- List of Abbreviations
If your dissertation employs numerous abbreviations, especially field-specific ones, consider including an alphabetized list to assist readers in understanding them.
In addition to the list of abbreviations, include a glossary if your work features specialized terms that might be unfamiliar to your audience. Alphabetize the terms and provide brief explanations.
The introduction serves to establish your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It should offer background information, narrow the focus, discuss existing research, and clearly state your research questions and objectives.
- Literature Review
A critical component of your dissertation is the literature review, which involves finding, assessing, and analyzing relevant sources. It should not merely summarize existing work but also demonstrate how your research fits into the broader academic conversation.
- Theoretical Framework
Your literature review often forms the basis for your theoretical framework. This section defines and analyzes key theories, concepts, and models supporting your research.
In this chapter, you describe how you conducted your research, providing transparency for readers to evaluate its credibility. Include research approach, data collection methods, details about the research environment, tools, and data analysis methods.
The results section highlights findings from your research without subjective interpretation. Structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses, or themes. Include relevant descriptive and inferential statistics.
The discussion section allows you to interpret and contextualize your results, considering whether they align with your expectations and existing research. Address questions about the significance, implications, and limitations of your findings.
Summarize your main research question and emphasize your dissertation’s contributions to the field. Offer recommendations for future research and provide concluding remarks.
- Reference List
Include a comprehensive reference list, adhering to a specific citation style consistently throughout your dissertation. The citation style may be determined by your department or field.
Essential information directly related to your research question can be included as appendices, rather than in the main body. This may encompass documents like interview transcripts or survey questions.
- Proofreading and Editing
Thoroughly proofread and edit your dissertation to ensure it meets high-quality standards. Grammar errors and typos can negatively impact your work’s credibility, so invest adequate time in this phase.
- Defending Your Dissertation
Upon approval of your written dissertation, your committee will schedule a defence, typically involving an oral presentation of your work. Afterwards, your committee will evaluate your performance and determine whether you have successfully earned your Ph.D.
Writing a dissertation is a meticulous process that can span several years. Ensuring perfection before submission is crucial, and you may consider professional editing services or grammar checkers for a polished final project.
In conclusion, a dissertation represents a significant academic achievement, requiring meticulous planning, research, and writing. It is a culmination of your educational journey, contributing valuable knowledge to your field of study.