How to write a dissertation: basic structure guides

There are many people who find themselves confused when it comes to planning and writing a dissertation. The key to success is following a simple guide that will elaborate all standard aspects that are required for dissertation writing. This article will provide guidelines on the generalized structure of a dissertation that is preferred by most academic institutions. 

Dissertation title page

The title page needs to provide a clear title of the dissertation, as well as the writer’s name, the name of the writer’s supervisor and the course title. The inclusion of the course in the word count is not standardized – some academics prefer to include the course, while others don’t accept that part in the word count.


The Abstract should take a half to one third of the page, and it should provide a summary and overview of the dissertation. This part of the dissertation should be kept as brief as possible, but it needs to clear out the main points of the work and provide an effective, informative summary. The abstract should summarize the dissertation’s content and describe the main divisions within the work, the research methodology that was implemented, the scope of the work, the way in which the content of the dissertation is organized and the conclusions that are reached. 


This is the part where the writer should express their thanks to the people who were involved in the research and writing process and contributed for the final results with their help.

Contents table

The Table of Contents is a required element for most academic writings. This part sets out the separate chapters and sub sections within the dissertation, by providing their titles and identifying the pages of their location. 
If figures and tables are being used within the dissertation, the academics usually prefer the writer to include a list of figures and tables.


The introduction part of the dissertation (also known as Preface), should be used in order to introduce the reader to the thesis, problem or question elaborated in the dissertation and provide a clear, but brief outline to the dissertation’s structure.

Discussion/ Main body

The main body of the dissertation should be separated into appropriate sections or/and chapters, with included subsections when appropriate. In this part, the writer should discuss the used literature and identify the problem of the dissertation, as well as the sources that provided evidence. After that, the writer must analyze, evaluate and discuss that evidence in order to provide a unique point of view that will be useful for the readers.

Findings / Conclusion

All different parts of the dissertation are being brought together in the Conclusion, which is necessary in order to state the clear answers to the main research question of the dissertation. The writer is also recommended to provide suggestions for further recommendations, reading and research.


This part should list all sources that were consulted during the research and writing of the dissertation. Most academics require the bibliography to follow specific referencing guidelines.


This is the part where the writer should include all miscellaneous material such as diaries/work logs, transcripts, questionnaires, letters, copies of documents, tables, lists or other material that would have disrupted the natural flow of the main text.
Depending on the type of work, the writer may be asked to include other sections in the dissertation. It is strongly recommended to strictly follow the supervisor’s guidelines and format the dissertation exactly as required.

Lois Weldon is writer at She lives happily in London with her husband and lovely daughter. Adores writing tips for students. Passionate about Star Wars and yoga.

Image courtesy of Ambro - FreeDigitalPhotos.Net


  1. Knowing these basic structure for writing a dissertation seems to suffice but it is still good to read some dissertation writing samples in order to make sure that these steps are followed properly.


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