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What is a Dissertation – Definition and Structure

Student's Assignment Help August 28, 2019 89 Views

College students came across different types of assessments during their university life. Their professors assign them assignments on various subjects to test their knowledge in a particular topic. Time duration to submit those assignments is also minimal and generally does not even involve any research activity. Unlike these assignments, a dissertation consists of a bit complex research process and requires a tremendous amount of time to complete comparatively.

Dissertation writing is an essential document for the students to complete their degree of masters or doctorate successfully. It is a source of pride for the students doing their doctorate, PhD, or masters. And it even acts as career support for them as a good thesis would definitely result in a high standard job opportunity. So the students at this level must understand what a dissertation is, its structure, and the significance of this document.

“A dissertation (also referred to as thesis sometimes) is a written document which is generally prepared by the students (either pursuing their masters, PhD, or doctorate) at the end of their course. In short, it is the final phase in their curriculum that must be done with due consideration to complete their degree successfully.”

The project’s main aim is to check the student’s research skills independently they acquire that during their university life. Although you may get some assistance from your supervisors as well with your project, you have to do a more substantial part of it independently. The dissertation also plays a vital role to accelerate your overall academic grades.

Dissertation submission will be the lengthiest, hardest but an extremely crucial assignment for most of the students at their university level. It requires months of preparation and hard work (the library could be a second home).

Nevertheless, if you are genuinely enthusiastic about selecting your topic, then it can be really gratifying to your future career. Hence, it is a great idea to choose a subject of your genuine interest for the most crucial university document, i.e. dissertation.

How to find a suitable dissertation topic?

It is the most typical task to choose a perfect topic for the dissertation. As in this type of assignment, it is the responsibility of student itself to select a subject of their interest in research. One thing you can do is to adopt little study on multiple topics, prepare their samples, and get to know your interest while performing this activity.

One of the common mistakes made by most of the college students is to decide their topic for dissertation in a hurry, without giving much consideration to it. According to them, they should not waste their time in this process. Instead, they should start researching for any random topic. You might face some problems if making the same mistake like having sparse quality data in hand to submit, need to hire someone else for your work, get to learn nothing, the research process becomes tiresome & boring, and much more.

The phrase “to think well before making any decision” goes well in this situation. It is equally important to select a topic for your dissertation in which you have a genuine interest, have at least some knowledge about it, and want to learn more through the research process. So it should be the first most things that every student should consider is to select a topic of your interest to undergo your research process and writing it for over a more extensive period.

However, your fundamental motive should be originality in the choice of your subject. If you try to copy or simply modify the work of other researchers, you may face plagiarism and a clear rejection from the research committee. And obviously, no one likes to do this tiresome process again and again.

So be sure and aware enough while choosing one for you, which should be attractive enough to be readily acceptable by the committee. Although originality here does not mean to come up with the idea that no one has ever thought of, it would be advantageous if you can do so. It means to bring uniqueness in your point of perspective about the topic through hard research instead of getting a unique subject.

What is Dissertation proposal

Students have to prepare a dissertation proposal after choosing a perfect thesis topic for them. It is a type of document that you need to submit to your supervisor or research committee of the academic institution (university, college) in order to get approval from them. If your proposal is unique, it will set a stage for your research and help you to get a specific plan for your project.

The dissertation proposal is the first steps that take you towards finding the data and write it on your final project on a taught or research, a course at the level of PhD or masters. You can also ask others to help you for filing the proposal, but the idea on which you are going to perform your research must be all yours.

You should choose the topic for proposal by your own either by taking a small research test on different issues or by acknowledging your interest. As students themselves have to choose a subject for their dissertation, so they must give this task due consideration. The topic should have the ability to enhance productivity in your work. Although you should keep your focus on a single thesis statement, even then try to cover as possible aspects related to that statement as possible.

What is the importance of research in the dissertation?

No one can overestimate the significance of research in the dissertation; it is actually the cornerstone of your thesis. Without performing any research activity for your project, you can’t have accurate data to submit to your supervisors.

Whichever topic you have decided to write a dissertation for, extensive study and research is a must. If you want to get success and perform well in your class, then there is no other best way than working hard for your research. As with this, you can quickly come up with the best points and arguments in support of your document.

Students really need to understand how much workload they can relieve from their shoulders if they start their research for the topic as soon as their proposal get acceptance. They should adopt correct measures and right actions for your study. Study or analysis is a long time process as you need to look at the exact locations and use all the most excellent resources to find necessary data and information that you can apply in your dissertation.

You can’t complete your essay without conducting proper research and study on the selected subject or topic. To get more accurate facts and content for your project, students need to work hard in this process to amaze their supervisors. If you want to enhance the effectiveness and accuracy of your document, then don’t ever forget to credit the work of others in your paper.

Most of the students find the internet as the best source for their research, but you can’t totally rely on this source. You need to read lots of books and journals for the chosen subject for your dissertation. You even should consider reading the thesis of other researchers on the same topic. It will help you in shaping your own ideas. Students are allowed to use the work of others in their paper. But it is equally vital to cite the data of other researchers to give them credit for their hard work to protect your content from getting plagiarism.

Professors should also tell their students about the importance of research work in their project. If students know that their hard work can pay them off with high academic scores and a secured future career in terms of a dream job, then why wouldn’t they do that? And if they continue considering research work as just a part of course completion, then no one would like to put their much effort.

So the students must learn about the significance of research work rather than just reading its definition before beginning your project. As your result, overall academic grades and final degree of your course depends upon the quality of research work you submit to the research committee. Starting to read your selected subject extensively and genuinely should be the first thing you do when you think about the proposed dissertation.

It implies first reading the fundamental texts and then moves on to the latest work on the topic to make sure no one else has pre-empted your own concept. It is necessary to consider these fundamental texts to enhance your research by creating a bibliography for them.

While researching, it is imperative to keep a meticulous and detailed record of your study in a format prescribed by your college or university. It will help you in citing and acknowledging the content accurately in the later phases of your project. You can prepare your bibliography without putting much effort as you already have an accurate record with you or you can say. The catalogue is going to evolve what your research actually does.

What you’re mostly looking for when you’re reading is a niche to fill in your own studies. Make efforts to read the data more acutely than usual. Try to look out for the questions that are left unresolved as your own dissertation proposal might be able to answer them.

Structure of the dissertation


After getting approval for your topic from the research committee, a supervisor is assigned to every student. The supervisor will then supervise you in every phase of your project. Although there is a basic structure for every academic writing that students can adopt unless specified.

It contains three main sections and as needed subsections, i.e. Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

  • The introduction is the first section, and a brief description of the topic should be given in it. What your writing is going to tell the readers in distant parts is the main focus of authors while writing the introduction.
  • The body section gives a detailed description of the data that you have promised your readers to explain in the topmost part of your writing. The data collected from your research and study, the arguments, and proofs if required, come under this section only.
  • The conclusion is the last most section of your paper. It is the heart of your writing as you give a brief description of your research and study in it. Sometimes you also need to define the result of your finding if there is any.

Before going further, students should know the actual difference between the thesis and dissertation. Both projects include complex research process and almost similar way to find the data. But the only and the main difference between both is at their end. A thesis is a project submitted by the students pursuing their masters and dissertation by those who are pursuing their doctorate (PhD, or some other). Even though both projects indicate different level of degrees, still both have the same basic structure to elaborate their research and study to the readers and their professors.

But the basic structure of presenting a thesis or dissertation should include the following components unless specified:

  • A title page (It should be definite and should consist of a suitable title for your essay along with your necessary details (name, id, degree, etc.))
  • A content page (This page is usually divided into various sub-parts like a table of contents, list of figures, list of tables, etc.)
  • An abstract (Abstract contains chapter summaries written in usually one page to include every significant concept involved in your project in brief.)
  • The introduction (You have to introduce your thesis statement clearly, dissertation topic, and an indication of the methodology used to collect the data.)
  • The body section of the dissertation: You have to divide this section into various chapters. Each new chapter should depict a unique aspect of your dissertation topic without losing your focus from the central concept.
  • The conclusion (Give a summary of your arguments, study, research, and the findings. Try to indicate your future finding as well.)
  • The bibliography: Whether or not you have quote the appropriate data in your paper, you should still include each source on this page. References can be primary or secondary, include both in it accurately.
  • Appendices (not always required but present it in the proper format if anyhow you have decided to include it in your paper.)

Above defined is the basic setup for any research work that can be subdivided into various sections if needed or demanded by your supervisors.

Explain about all points of structure

Each thesis contains one or more chapters of substance, an introduction, and a conclusion. Other things that it will contain can differ by stage and discipline.

  1. Title page:  The title of your dissertation should be included on the very first page of your document. This page should also contain student’s name along with the institute /department’s name and logo, date of submission and degree program. Student number, name of your supervisor and emblem of the university; sometimes be also included in this page along with the above mentioned. For the title page of the dissertation’s formatting, many programs have rigorous requirements
  2. AbstractLots of students have confusion about what actually outline is. So let me clear it to you all. The brief summary of your dissertation in about 150-300 words long is known as abstract. The abstract should be written at the end of the thesis when the whole of your thesis is completed.

There are some of the points one should be kept in mind while writing an abstract as mentioned below:-

  1. Briefly describe the central point of your dissertation
  2. State the motive of your research
  3. You should clearly describe the methodologies used in your research.
  4. Give a concise view of the main finding.
  5. At the end summarize the conclusion.

As the abstract is short, but still, it is imperative in your dissertation. As it is the very first part of your thesis that people will read, so it must be crucial for you to get it right. If students are facing problems in writing a practical and attractive abstract, then they should keep the points as mentioned above in his/her mind to get the best results.

3.Table of contents: List of all your chapters and the subheadings along with their page number should be mentioned in the table of contents. The page for the table of content gives the reader an overview of the structure of your document. It also helps to navigate your research, which would be very helpful for a reader.

Along with the appendices, all the parts of your dissertation must be included in the table of contents. If you are using heading style in word, then you can automatically generate the page of the table of contents.

  1. List of tables and figures: Itemization of tables and figures of your dissertation must be numbered, only if you have used a lot of it. By using the Insert Caption feature in word, one can auto-generate this list.
  2. List of Abbreviations: If there is any need to create a list for abbreviation that you have used in your project, then it must be in alphabetical order

4. Introduction: The topic of your dissertation, purpose, and its relevance must be stated in the introduction page. You should give an idea to your readers to what they should expect from your document.

There are some of the main points that should be included in your paper are:-

  • Clearly define the background of your topic to your readers.
  • Briefly focus on the scope of your research.
  • State the thesis statement in between or at the end of this section. It should not be stated in the beginning as there may be chances that readers will lose their focus from the central idea of your research.
  • Describe your role in the respective research.
  • Clearly define the objective of your study and its prompts.

The information you include in the introduction must be clear, relevant and have the ability to engage your readers with the provided data.

5. Literature review:  You should consider the existing literature review for the subject that you have decided to undertake for your degree. It is necessary for your present research as you get the idea of the unique and must content to be included in tour project.

By getting the existing knowledge about the subject, it will become easy for you to strengthen the current experience with the newly researched data.

6.Body section: The body section is the primary and lengthiest section of your project. The data in this section is generally divided into various chapters. Each chapter talks about a new aspect of your central statement. In whatever situation, you are not allowed to lose your focus from this statement. Try to cover each element in a new chapter.

The methodologies you applied during the process of your research should be clearly defined in this section. It can be quantitative or qualitative.

  • In the quantitative method, you collect the data in the form numbers. This method is generally applied mainly with those projects in which you have to show population, or the percentage of people like something, etc. In short, all those projects that require you to confirm the result in graphs, tables, etc. Economics, statistics students mainly use this method.
  • Another method is qualitative in which students have to perform their research, collect data, and explain the collected information in their own words or with their experience.
  • The last method is the combination of both, which is most commonly used by every student. In this method, you can either above way according to the requirement.

Along with the methodologies, the type of source of collected data should also be clearly mentioned, like primary or secondary. You can also define the result in this section or the conclusion.

7. Conclusion: The conclusion must answer the central question of your research correctly so that the reader gets a clear understanding of the fundamental concept of your project. It must be added after the discussion, and it should neither be too long nor too short. Firstly you should describe your overall conclusion and then interpret their meaning.

In many contexts, conclusion refers to the final chapter, where you summarize all your content of your dissertation. You can also say it is the last flashlight on what you did and how you complete it. Sometimes you can also include the recommendations for the research.

It must also include your research contributes to the knowledge of the readers and how it can be beneficial to them. The importance of your project must be necessarily mentioned.

8. Bibliography: You should start compiling the bibliography by the day you start searching for your research and to the last minute of your project. It should contain accurate sources. So start noting the origins, whether primary or secondary, when you are performing your research. This technique will protect you from giving inaccurate references on this page.

The incorrect data might affect the efficiency of your work as sometimes the readers of your project need to refer the provided sources for more information. So instead of having trouble at the end, do smart work in the beginning by noting down the sources roughly.

Read More: What is Bibliography and how to write it?

9. Appendices: It is the optional section for your project. This section includes all the additional information of your dissertation like tables, pie charts, flow charts, graphs, diagrams, figures, etc. fetched from the primary sources.

For example, the area of your research can be sketched in the appendices section of your dissertation. You can make a table for both analyzed and unanalyzed data. Sometimes flow charts can also be added in this section so that it will become convenient and comfortable for your readers to understand your research. It will make your project more innovative, readable, attractive, and understandable by the audience.

How to cite a dissertation?

You can cite your work mainly in two types of formats – MLA, APA. APA format is used by most of the projects by default unless specified. This format requires you 12pt font size, times new roman font style, black colour, precise line spacing, etc. You can check its specifications over the internet as well.

The main point is to cite your dissertation. You should keep a record while performing your research. You even can cite your work just after writing the content of other researchers. It is a good practice to credit the hard work of others in your project. So you must give accurate information about the right researchers rather than including random names later on. Accurately citation also protects your data from getting the plagiarism, which also affects the effectiveness of your writing.

Citing the content is different from the quotation. Generally, students get confused with both terms and even interrelate them sometimes. You quote the data when you are using the exact statement used by other researchers without any modification. You can also cite the quoted sentences as well. But citation is required where you use the idea of other researchers in your project in your own words. An excerpt is a way to thank the researchers for their hard work that somehow work with your project as well.

You can cite the content either in the footnotes or just after the content. A different page can also be created by keeping in mind the type of readers to enhance the readability. Correct sources after citing should also be defined in the bibliography page at the end.

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The dissertation is the most crucial document for the students to complete their degree of masters or doctorate. You should be more careful while choosing the topic for your thesis. You must have a genuine interest in the selected subject. The idea should be unique enough so that the research committee will accept your dissertation proposal easily. You should give due consideration to the process of topic selection as the further steps will be based on your chosen subject.

Students should understand the importance of research in their career to enhance productivity in their work. They should know how the quality of their work can help them in getting good academic grades along with a secured future career. You can enhance the efficiency of your research work by using a correct dissertation structure to frame your data. While performing the research work, don’t forget to keep a record of the sources, either primary or secondary, from where you collect the data for your dissertation.

It will, later on, help you to give accurate bibliography to your readers. To enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of your project, don’t forget to cite the work of other researchers. Quoting, mentioning, or giving credits to the hard work of others is really a good practice that you should adopt in your dissertation to enhance its efficiency.


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