What Are The 5 Chapters of A Dissertation?
Date published August 8 2020 by Hector Shaw
A dissertation is an elongated research paper that you have to submit before you complete your undergraduate or postgraduate degree. It is essential for submission in most universities worldwide, especially in the United Kingdom.
The length of a dissertation varies according to the academic level, where it can be a maximum of 5,000 words for an undergraduate dissertation and may exceed beyond 100,000 words for a PhD level dissertation.
While the structure of a dissertation can vary according to the degree, there is a general structure that is common to most dissertations. Most commonly, there are five chapters in every dissertation:
- Literature Review
- Research Findings
Besides these five chapters, there are other parts as well of a dissertation, such as an Abstract or a Conclusion instead of a Results and Discussion section. It is best to confirm from your supervisors and university faculty before starting with your dissertation.
Let us move ahead to a detailed overview of every chapter.
Table of Contents
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The General Structure of a Dissertation
Besides the 5 chapters that we discussed above, a dissertation contains several other components as well. Here we will tell you about the general structure of a dissertation, however, we will discuss the 5 chapters in the next heading.
On the whole, a dissertation contains the following elements:
1. Title Page
The title page is the first page of the dissertation, which usually contains the following information:
- Title of Dissertation
- Your Name
- Department Name
- Institution Name
- Name of Degree Program
- Date of Submission
- Student Number (variable)
- Name of Supervisor (variable)
- Logo of University (variable)
Usually, the Acknowledgements section is optional. Here you can thank all those who helped you in the research including your teachers, colleagues, friends, university personnel, other participants etc.
The Abstract is a short summary of the overall dissertation, of around 150-300 words. It is best to write this in the end and cover the following in a brief manner:
- The main topic and research aims
- Methods used in the research
- Summary of the main results
The purpose of the abstract is to give a short insight into the dissertation overall. As such, it needs to be extremely intriguing and should be able to retain the attention of the reader in the first attempt.
4. Table of Contents
The Table of Contents is helpful for navigating through the overall dissertation. You will have to include all parts of your dissertation in the Table of Contents, not just the main chapters. These include the appendices, the abstract, or any section present.
5. List of Figures and Tables
A numbered list of figures and tables will have to go in your dissertation if you have used plenty of tables and figures in your dissertation. This is easy to generate in Microsoft Word, using the ‘Insert Caption’ feature, which does the task automatically.
6. List of Abbreviations
If you have used too many abbreviations in your dissertation, it is best to create a numbered list for them so readers can quickly look them up. Make sure to create the list in an alphabetised manner.
If your dissertation contains too many technical and specialised terms, which you believe may not be easily comprehensible, then make sure to create an alphabetised glossary in your dissertation as well.
The introduction of your research sets the foundation of your dissertation. (Discussed in detail in the article below.)
9. Literature Review/Theoretical Framework
The critical evaluation of existing literature on the topic. (Discussed in detail in the article below.)
The listing and explanation of your utilised methods for research. (Discussed in detail in the article below.)
11. Research Findings
The listing of all the findings that you have gathered from your episodes. (Discussed in detail in the article below.)
The Conclusion/Discussion chapter can be separate or combined and discusses the importance of your research as reflected by your research findings. (Discussed in detail in the article below.)
13. Future Considerations
Future Considerations can be included in your dissertation if you feel that further research is necessary for your topic. You can choose to give suggestions and stress upon the importance of your topic.
14. Reference List
The Reference List includes the full details of all sources that you have used for your research. Depending on the reference style, you will format the sources accordingly list them down in the References section.
Any kind of documents that do not directly fit into the main body of your dissertation can be added in the Appendices section.
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Understanding the 5 Chapters of a Dissertation
Finally, we will discuss the 5 chapters of a dissertation in detail.
The first chapter of your dissertation, the Introduction establishes the purpose of your dissertation. This is where you:
- Explain the context of the topic
- Give some background of the topic
- State your research aims and objectives
- Define the scope of your research
- Address the focus of your research
- Justify the importance of your research
- Provide an overview of the upcoming dissertation
Your introduction should clearly cover the WHAT, WHY and HOW of your research and should be engaging enough to have the reader remain engaged for the overall dissertation.
2. Literature Review
The Literature Review is a critical evaluation of all the existing literature on the topic. The Literature Review helps you to:
- Identify existing gaps in the research
- Develop arguments or approaches for the topic
- Create solutions for the problem identified
- Strengthen and build on existing knowledge with new data
The literature review is done before you start writing your dissertation because it forms the basis for your theoretical framework, wherein you have to analyse and define the models, concepts and key theories for your research.
In the Methodology chapter, you list down the methods that you have used for your research and collecting your data. This can include both qualitative and quantitative methods.
The purpose of this chapter is to give an insight into the efforts you have put into collecting the data for your research, hence giving it a form of legitimacy.
4. Research Findings
The Research Findings are where you carefully list down all that you have managed to find while conducting your research. An integral chapter, this is where you justify your research by elaborating upon your research.
You can reinstate your research questions and hypotheses and make up your case as to how your findings correlate with your research aims.
The Conclusion is the final chapter of your dissertation. In this chapter, you mention your results and establish how they have helped you in achieving your research aims and objectives.
You can include tables, charts and graphs for presenting your view points. While elaborating on your view points, you can try to make mentions of the methods you used for researching and collecting data, to further strengthen your case.
In this section, you must interpret the results in detail to justify whether or not the findings met your research expectations. You can also consider alternative interpretations of the findings and discuss limitations that had some influence on the results.
Afterwards, you can choose to give further suggestions for the research if you feel necessary. While there can be a separate chapter for the Recommendations, sometimes the suggestions are included in the Conclusion chapter only.
Once you are done justifying your research and elaborating upon its importance, you can move towards wrapping up your dissertation by reflecting on what you did and how you managed to do it.
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