How to Write Individual Chapters for a Thesis or Dissertation

This article provides a concise and comprehensive overview of what sections and sub-sections you should include in your dissertation. The advice offered here should prove useful when you are trying to decide what content to put where, and what should come next. This is the template used by WritingsCentre.com when we help students with dissertation writing. We trust it will be of great benefit to you too.

The following is the correct structure for a dissertation:

  • A title or cover page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedication, if desired
  • An abstract
  • Table of Content (ToC)

    • List your paper’s sections and sub-sections
    • List any tables you have included
    • List any figures you have included
  • Introductory chapter

    • Introduce readers to your research project or study
    • Mention any organization(s) you are studying
    • Provide a statement about the problem
    • State the objective of your research
    • Describe the structure of your dissertation
  • Review of Literature

    • Introduce this chapter
    • Describe the literature you have reviewed
    • Summarize any literature you have reviewed
    • Revisit the research problem or question

A literature review should not be overly descriptive. For each of any two reviews of a specific topic or subject, offer two equally biased critiques by authors who have opposing viewpoints. This will ensure your review is balanced. The next part should include:

  • Methods (or methodology) Chapter

    • Describe your philosophy towards your research project
    • Talk about the approach you have taken
    • Discuss your strategy
    • Say how you have collected data
    • Describe how this data has been analyzed
    • Mention any access-related issues
    • Talk about validity, reliability, and generalizations
    • List any ethical problems/issues
    • Describe the limitations of your research

In most methodology sections, it is important to include a rationale for choosing a particular approach or methodology instead of other options. If you have chosen a positivist instead of an interpretation-type method, what was your reason for doing so? The next sections are:

  • Findings/Results

    • If you used quantitative research, include all figures with a descriptive narrative of the findings/results
    • If you used qualitative research or case studies, include key findings with a description of them
  • Discussion

    • Justify your choice of topic
    • Do a recap of the literature review and methodology chapters
    • Justify any sampling you did
    • Recap briefly on the results
    • Describe any analysis you undertook – Divide your research problem or question up and address each sub-problem or question according to the literature you reviewed and the results you obtained; then sum-up the answer to the entire problem or question
  • Concluding chapter
  • Recommendations
  • Reference list and/or bibliography
  • Appendices

To produce a good dissertation, it helps if you are good at story-telling. While it is not really expected that you will survey or interview any individuals or groups, you should be capable of understanding any organization you are studying. Additionally, you should fully understand any literature you review and your chosen method(s), at least to the extent of being able to write a persuasive thesis or dissertation that comprehensively addresses the research problem or question. 

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