Organizing your dissertation

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General Information

Your dissertation will normally include the following sections, in the order listed. Please
consult with your supervisor regarding which sections could be excluded from your specific dissertation.

  1. Title/Cover page
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. Abstract*
  4. Contents page
  5. List of tables
  6. List of figures
  7. List of abbreviations
  8. The introduction*
  9. Method section*
  10. Results section*
  11. Discussion and conclusions section*
  12. Reference list
  13. Appendices
    *=Included in word count

Word limit

The maximum word limit allowed is 10000 words if it involves a quantitative methodology
or is a systematic review.

The maximum word limit is 10000-12000 words if it involves a qualitative or mixed
methodology (to allow space for interview quotes).

The word limit includes the abstract, but excludes:

  1. The acknowledgements;
  2. The list of contents;
  3. The list of tables;
  4. The list of figures;
  5. The list of abbreviations;
  6. The reference list; and,
  7. The appendices.

All dissertations are different: please be guided by your supervisor on the requirements
(both content and structure) for your specific dissertation.

The dissertation must include a Title/Cover page with the following information:
The title of the dissertation, the candidate’s full name, year and the degree for which it is

  1. Acknowledgements
    Use this section to thank the people who have contributed to the conduct and writing of your dissertation.
  2. Abstract
    The abstract provides a brief summary of your dissertation and can be no more than 300 words. Your abstract can be structured (i.e., with sub-headings), in which case it should contain the following sections:
    Purpose: a brief overview of the background and rationale for your study;
    Methods: the methods used in the research;
    Results: your main or key findings;
    Conclusion(s): a brief discussion of what these findings mean and your overall
  1. Table of contents
    List all of the sections of your dissertation together with the page number. All pages should be numbered stating with the Title page as page 1.
  1. List of tables
    List the title of all tables in the dissertation with the corresponding page number.
  2. List of figures
    List the title of all figures in the dissertation with the corresponding page number
  1. List of abbreviations
    List any abbreviations included in your dissertation here, together with what each
    abbreviation stands for. Compile this list in alphabetical order. This list can be either placed after the tables of contents, tables, and figures or after the reference list: this is down to personal preference. Remember that when using abbreviations, they should be written in full on the first occasion they are used in the dissertation. For example: “….according to the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB)…”.
  1. Introduction

This is the first substantial section and sets out the problem under consideration, discusses any relevant theories, and presents a thorough analysis and evaluation of the research evidence-base.

As with essays, the introduction needs an introductory section which essentially sets the scene for the dissertation that follows and the research conducted. It sets out the nature of the problem or issue under consideration. It helps to orientate the reader to the dissertation and provides then with a “road map” for what follows.

The main body of the introduction will then go on to present an in-depth review of the relevant theoretical framework for your dissertation together with a thorough synthesis and evaluation of the empirical literature (e.g., the evidence-base underpinning your own research). You should demonstrate that you have critical understanding of this literature, that this understanding is based on current understanding and knowledge, where the gaps in our knowledge and understanding are, and how your dissertation is addressing these issues. It may also, depending on the research question and/or the methods you are using, present an analysis of methods that have been employed and a justification for your choice of methodology.

The introduction would usually conclude with a paragraph or two outlining the rationale for your own study (which should be very clear after reading the literature review), and
detailing the specific aims/research questions/hypotheses that will be addressed in your
own research.