How to Write a Dissertation Chapter by Chapter Guide

Your dissertation will be one of the most important and substantial pieces of writing you will produce during your academic career. As the culmination of your degree, your dissertation will focus on a specific topic you find interesting, encompass much of the knowledge you have built throughout your course, and showcase your understanding of academic conventions.

We know that writing a dissertation can feel overwhelming so rather than simply reproducing advice, tips and strategies you have undoubtedly already come across elsewhere, we will instead break down the dissertation writing process into more manageable pieces and provide you with an in-depth step by step guide to completing each chapter.

From writing your dissertation introduction to crafting an accomplished dissertation conclusion, the ultimate aim of this how to write a dissertation guide is to give you the confidence you need to produce an excellent piece of work. It should provide reassurance that you can appropriately structure each chapter to put yourself in the best position to achieve the final grade you have worked so hard to achieve.

Before we jump straight into the core chapters of your dissertation, let us first give some attention to the abstract, references and appendices.

Abstract: The abstract will be presented at the beginning of your dissertation and will provide your examiner with an initial description of what your thesis is about. A successful abstract will deftly summarise your dissertation and present every major component of your thesis in a condensed format.

Your abstract must first identify the purpose of your work as your reader needs to understand the importance of your research and what you have discovered. Next, you should clearly explain your motivations, detail the main argument of your thesis, and explain the methodologies you have used to accomplish your study. All good abstracts end with a short conclusion which should briefly address your findings and further reinforce the importance of your dissertation.

References: Correctly referencing source material in your dissertation is essential to both support your research and ensure that you are not accused of plagiarism. As no piece of research exists in a vacuum, clearly identifying the theories your dissertation draws upon and discusses will allow you to distinguish your own original thoughts, ideas and findings from the work of others, reinforce your thesis, and help you to secure higher marks in the process.

Appendices: Materials that relate closely to your research but do not fit in the main body of your dissertation should be placed in an appendix. Interview transcripts, survey questionnaires and supplementary data that provides useful insight but is not essential to the comprehension of your work are a few examples of appropriate appendix material.

Now, without further ado let us turn our attention towards the following in-depth guide to completing the central components of your dissertation.

 

Firstly let us briefly describe each chapter we will be tackling in this how to write a dissertation guide.  The names of dissertation chapters can vary according to your field of study and the guidelines you have been given.  We have characterised the most common chapters you find.

Introduction: Unlike a novel, a dissertation needs to be explained; and the introduction is your opportunity to tell the reader what the research is about, why it is important that it is actually done, and what you expect to find at the end of it. Although an introduction can be quite long, it always starts with a clear, concise, research question which signposts the direction your work will follow.

Literature Review: New research must prove that it can add something new to the field of study, and this is done through a lit review. Key work which already exists is discussed and used to highlight the gap in knowledge which your work can fill. This is a heavily referenced document which requires extensive reading of academic journals, books and both online and print media sources.

Methodology: Often said to be the most complex and challenging section of a dissertation, the methodology section is where you outline and justify the research methods you have chosen. They have to be suitable for the focused question you already shared in the introduction, and involve explaining aspects including why you chose primary research methods over secondary or qualitative over quantitative.

Results and Analysis: The results section is where all of the statistical data, information and responses from your research are collated and then presented to the reader. It’s important to avoid simply describing what you found out, as this information must be analysed and interpreted, through the lens of your chosen research methodology and in relation to your original research question.

Discussion and Conclusion: This final section requires a detailed round-up of your key findings, together with mention of any important setbacks during the process and ideas for possible future research projects which could further test or extend your results.

 

Writing a Dissertation Introduction

The introductory section of a dissertation is a crucial part of the overall project, as it is the place where the reader first learns about the issue you are addressing, the question you are intending to answer, and the evidence you have to justify the importance of undertaking this specific piece of work in this way.

A well written dissertation introduction should leave the reader in no doubt about what you are looking at, why you think it is important, how you plan to achieve your goals, and what your research could add to existing work on the subject. It also needs a very clear, concise but informative research question and a summary of your research aims.

Writing a dissertation introduction can be an overwhelming task for students because the finished product should reveal an insightful, well organised and clearly planned out route leading to evidence and insights which address a crucial research question. Yet it must be completed at a point when ideas are still formulating and being tested out.

It is, of course, possible to write the final version of the introduction once the rest of the dissertation has been completed, but there is no way to avoid the fact that a clear structure and outline is essential from the start, to make sure the focus and direction of the dissertation is valid. This is where looking for dissertation introduction help online can be really valuable.

Key features of a dissertation introduction

•       Background information on the topic to provide context
•       A well formulated and specific research question
•       An overview of the most important existing work on the topic, with reference to the main theorists or figures
•       Information on what you plan to focus on, and why?
•       The aims and objectives of your research

Key things the introduction should achieve

•       A clear idea of the question the research will try to answer
•       A definite sense of why the research is valid
•       Suitable connections between the research question and the background evidence

 

Writing a Dissertation Literature Review UK norms

Unlike standard essays, a dissertation is an in-depth piece of work which identifies a unique research question, before going on to explore the chosen topic in detail. All academic work of this kind, whether at undergraduate, post-graduate, or doctorate level is expected to be not only original, but also to extend knowledge on an existing topic rather than simply plucking a random idea from thin air.

Consequently, a dissertation literature review is the place where the author demonstrates their awareness of current research findings and other information, while also deftly examining the connections to the proposed research focus, and justifying the value of extending or developing the current knowledge base.

Many people may read the finished dissertation. Some will be familiar with your area of interest, so a strong literature review demonstrates your academic understanding of the topic. Others may know less, or even nothing about it, and for them, the literature review is a means by which thay can understand the context of your work.

In brief, this is your one opportunity to show that you understand what has been written already and to critically review the existing information. This shows that your work will contribute valuable new findings to the field of knowledge in which you specialise.

How to structure your literature review

Like any piece of written work, it should have three clear sections: an introduction, middle, and conclusion. The first section sets the scene, outlining your topic and creating context, as well as making it clear why you are doing this research. Before moving on to the next part you should add any necessary caveats, for example justifying why only a certain section of the available literature has been reviewed.

The largest section of your literature review will be the middle one, as this contains a comprehensive critical analysis of existing literature, organised by themes, and a discussion which makes the links between your research topic and the existing scope of work. At the end of this part, your research question and the reasons why you feel it is important should be very clear.

The third and final section is the conclusion, wherein you briefly recap the key points raised in the previous discussion, identify the gaps in knowledge which need to be addressed, and highlight the contribution the knowledge gained from your planned research will bring to the field.

Why is the literature review so important?

There are several reasons why this plays such a vital role in your dissertation. It shows that you understand enough about the topic area to carry out this research; that there is a need for what you plan to look at; and that you have a strong and clear plan as to how to undertake this task. It is here that your methodology, theoretical understanding and overall abilities are combined and put on display, so experts in the field can decide whether you are capable of doing what you plan to.

How does it link to other chapters in the dissertation?

In most cases, there will be a lot of cross-referencing and linking between the literature review and the discussion sections of your dissertation, as findings are analysed and compared to assertions made earlier. It’s also common to refer back to the expectations outlined in your introduction when writing the lit review, as well as when discussing the methodology employed in relation to examples from previous studies.

Key things a literature review must do:

•       Demonstrate your awareness of a wide body of relevant research and knowledge on your proposed topic
•       Show that you are able to critically assess existing work, and identify that which is most relevant to your work
•       Have a very clear, on point, research angle which you plan to explore further
•       Inspire confidence in your supervisors that your chosen focus is valid, and that you are capable of doing it

 

Writing your Methodology for a Dissertation

When you are planning and undertaking a dissertation, some sections certainly seem more exciting than others. Identifying a topic, tracking down and reading relevant literature, and deciding on the best ways to gather data all have their own challenges of course, but it’s the section on methodology which can throw even the most diligent of students.

Despite the name, methodology is about more than identifying the research approach (or methods) chosen; it also requires clearly demonstrating your understanding of each method’s philosophical core. This information is then used to justify your choices in the context of your work.

What must be included in your dissertation’s methodology section?

It should, as a whole, contain sufficient information for anyone else to be able to carry out the same research themselves. In brief, it explains: how you did the research; the sources of your data; how you gathered that information; and of course why you made those choices. It does not include examples of or results from inputs such as interviews, questionnaires or field research. These are featured in an appendix. It’s also standard practice to acknowledge any ethical concerns or issues your data gathering for the project could raise.

How important is the methodology section of a dissertation?

It is pivotal to you producing an acceptable piece of work. This section informs readers of the research methods employed, and that they were utilised in an acceptable way. Both are crucial points, since the way in which data is collected influences both the results and your interpretation of them. Without any methodological context, the results would be simply opinion and thus considered unreliable. Readers are also looking for evidence that contextually appropriate choices were made for your methods, for example, opting for qualitative methods on a social science research task versus focusing on quantitative data.

How does the dissertation methodology link to other chapters?

The primary link is between the methodology and the literature review chapters. It is normal practice to include analysis of theories and existing evidence which both supports and opposes the methodology you have chosen. Forging clear links between these two sections demonstrates that your work is being built on a solid foundation. Other crossover points are the discussion and conclusion sections, which may highlight evidence which supports or opposes your original expectations.

The methodology section needs to:

•       Show the reader that you have employed a clear, appropriate, and well thought out approach
•       Include a discussion around your research questions, and how you plan to gather the data to answer them.
•       Demonstrate your awareness as to the strengths and weaknesses of your work
•       Outline the data collection methods chosen, and why.
•       Have clear links to other relevant sections or chapters of the dissertation.

 

Dissertation Results and Analysis

What does the term ‘dissertation results’ mean?

As its name suggests, this is the section of your dissertation in which you present the results of your research. It is important to avoid explaining what they mean, or referring to any problems you may have experienced during the process at this point, as that is covered in the analysis section. This is often the most rewarding part of the entire work to put together, as it highlights your own personal contribution to an academic field of knowledge.

Is the results section of a dissertation important?

It is absolutely crucial, as it is essentially what you have to show for your work. The results demonstrate that the research project was undertaken, with the specified research methods, and they provide the material for discussion in the following section or chapter of your dissertation. The actual findings are less important here, so it doesn’t matter if your results support or disprove the research problem identified at the start. Again, that is something to be looked at in more detail in the analysis section.

What does a results section need to include and to achieve?

A solid results section should include:

•       An introduction which recaps your original intention, provides context, and signposts to where research tools such as questionnaires can be found.
•       A brief mention of the research methods employed.
•       Your research findings, presented in the most appropriate manner. [Which could be graphs & charts for quantitative research methods, or the main outcomes of qualitative research.]
•       The overall outcome of your research.
•       This section should give the reader a clear idea of the overall project, with the fine detail available in the discussion section and any appendices.

Is the dissertation analysis section of a dissertation important?

Yes, as this is the section in which you demonstrate that you answered the research question or problem set at the start. Other sections already showed the reader that you are aware of other work in the field, as well as the methodological strategies and philosophies which underpin your approach. At this point, your analysis will add to the existing knowledge out there, or identify problems which help shape and improve future projects that others may undertake on a similar theme.

What does a dissertation analysis section need to include and to achieve?

This section should:

•       Have a clear introduction which signposts what will be covered and where this information can be found.
•       Headings and sub-headings to break up the work into appropriate pieces.
•       Clearly identified links between your findings and the original research question or problem identified.
•       A concise but informative conclusion which recaps the main points.
•       This is where you must prove to the reader that you have followed the prescribed pathway from start to finish, identifying, contextualising and researching a unique issue or problem, and the reasons why your findings are, or are not, valid.

 

Dissertation Discussion and Conclusion

Dissertation discussion

Towards the end of your dissertation contents page sit the discussion and the conclusion sections. Although so much of your overall project has connecting strands between chapters, it is here that you get to the grand finale; the big reveal which justifies the validity of your work, regardless as to its ultimate success or failure. There is a nod to the future too, with suggestions as to where your findings could lead others.

What is a dissertation discussion about?

The discussion section of your dissertation follows directly from the chapter presenting the findings of your study and it is here that you flesh those results out. Rather than facts, figures, quotes or other relevant data which stand as evidence, this is where you get to explain, justify and evaluate the findings you made.

This is completed with references to an earlier chapter too, relaying what your research reveals in relation to the literature review and previous findings examined at that stage. This approach demonstrates that you understand not just what your research project produced, but its limitations, the way in which it relates to existing literature and studies, and how it may contribute to future work on similar topics, (assuming that this is in the guidelines on what to include issued by your university).

Why is a discussion section in a dissertation important?

It is critical because it is the place where you finally get to put your research findings to good use; making connections and interpreting results between these and the information (research questions) presented in your earlier introduction and the literature review. Ideally, significant insights will emerge to be added to the existing body of knowledge, or at least evidence to help identify and shape future studies.

This is a section which requires critical thinking rather than simple description and, as such, it shows your ability to meet the brief to those marking your work.

The discussion section should:

•       Have a clear structure, essentially a start, middle and end
•       Focus only on interpreting and explaining evidence found and reported in the results section
•       Answer your research question(s)
•       Provide clear justification for the way in which you undertook the study
•       Be critical rather than descriptive

What is a dissertation conclusion about?

The final section of your dissertation is the section in which to round up and recap the main points covered. All the information, arguments and evidence exist elsewhere, so this is the space to make connections in brief yet distinct ways.

It’s also your final chance to leave the reader confident that your research results have value and that you completed the task per protocol.

Why is a dissertation conclusion section important?

A conclusion to any piece ties together the loose ends and creates a definitive finish to a substantial piece of work. Without this buffer, the dissertation would end abruptly. This is a final, albeit brief, opportunity to summarise the main point and findings of the work and to look positively to the future.

It’s also vital because this is the last time the reader will hear your voice, so a powerful ending is essential in order to propel the work into the top grade basket.

The conclusion should:

•       Be brief compared with other sections
•       Include a summary, a recap of the main conclusions drawn, justification for the initial research and pointers for future work in this area
•       End with a paragraph which wraps up the project

 

There’s a lot to think about when putting together your Dissertation as we have illustrated and for many students it will be the biggest challenge they have faced so far.  Writing a dissertation introduction can be challenging and the truth is that if yours lacks focus, or fails to make a strong case for the importance of undertaking this particular research angle, the value and validity of the entire dissertation could be threatened. When writing a literature review the credibility of your work hangs on getting it right, putting one together can feel quite overwhelming. The dissertation methodology is a heavy weight category to tackle but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the task of putting this section together. You can avoid all this stress by making use of our top quality and discreet dissertation writing service. All work is based upon your individual needs and situation.  Our expert writers have a great deal of experience with all the chapters required in a dissertation and are on hand to show you how to write a dissertation.

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