Skip to main content Skip to navigation


Structuring Your Dissertation

There is not a single acceptable format for your dissertation. Many dissertations follow a familiar pattern

  • aims and purpose of the study
  • literature review
  • description of the methodology
  • description of results
  • analysis and conclusions.
  • summary

In contrast many action research reports fall into three sections those of

  • research
  • implementation
  • evaluation

However you might want to present your research in more unusual ways perhaps along chronological lines to present your changing perspective on your research question. For example in a grounded theory approach you are unlikely to carry out extensive literature review until you have collected your data and built up concepts and categories. The important point is to explain and justify your approach, to ask yourself if your account is coherent and to negotiate with your supervisor as you go along.

There are, however, some common features to nearly all dissertations:

  • an acknowledgements page in which you reference anyone who has helped in your research, for example respondents, informants and colleagues
  • a contents page outlining the structure of the dissertation
  • an abstract. This is a short statement of what the dissertation contains usually 100 -150 words for the benefit of the future reader
  • a list of references

In addition many dissertations will carry appendices of documentary materials such as photographs, questionnaire forms and transcripts.