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  • Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process . It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to your field.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

In the final product, you can also provide a chapter outline for your readers. This is a short paragraph at the end of your introduction to inform readers about the organizational structure of your thesis or dissertation. This chapter outline is also known as a reading guide or summary outline.

Table of contents

How to outline your thesis or dissertation, dissertation and thesis outline templates, chapter outline example, sample sentences for your chapter outline, sample verbs for variation in your chapter outline, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis and dissertation outlines.

While there are some inter-institutional differences, many outlines proceed in a fairly similar fashion.

  • Working Title
  • “Elevator pitch” of your work (often written last).
  • Introduce your area of study, sharing details about your research question, problem statement , and hypotheses . Situate your research within an existing paradigm or conceptual or theoretical framework .
  • Subdivide as you see fit into main topics and sub-topics.
  • Describe your research methods (e.g., your scope , population , and data collection ).
  • Present your research findings and share about your data analysis methods.
  • Answer the research question in a concise way.
  • Interpret your findings, discuss potential limitations of your own research and speculate about future implications or related opportunities.

To help you get started, we’ve created a full thesis or dissertation template in Word or Google Docs format. It’s easy adapt it to your own requirements.

 Download Word template    Download Google Docs template

Chapter outline example American English

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overusing the same words or sentence constructions, which can make your work monotonous and repetitive for your readers. Consider utilizing some of the alternative constructions presented below.

Example 1: Passive construction

The passive voice is a common choice for outlines and overviews because the context makes it clear who is carrying out the action (e.g., you are conducting the research ). However, overuse of the passive voice can make your text vague and imprecise.

Example 2: IS-AV construction

You can also present your information using the “IS-AV” (inanimate subject with an active verb ) construction.

A chapter is an inanimate object, so it is not capable of taking an action itself (e.g., presenting or discussing). However, the meaning of the sentence is still easily understandable, so the IS-AV construction can be a good way to add variety to your text.

Example 3: The “I” construction

Another option is to use the “I” construction, which is often recommended by style manuals (e.g., APA Style and Chicago style ). However, depending on your field of study, this construction is not always considered professional or academic. Ask your supervisor if you’re not sure.

Example 4: Mix-and-match

To truly make the most of these options, consider mixing and matching the passive voice , IS-AV construction , and “I” construction .This can help the flow of your argument and improve the readability of your text.

As you draft the chapter outline, you may also find yourself frequently repeating the same words, such as “discuss,” “present,” “prove,” or “show.” Consider branching out to add richness and nuance to your writing. Here are some examples of synonyms you can use.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

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George, T. (2023, July 18). Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved November 3, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/dissertation-thesis-outline/

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PhD dissertation outline: Creating a roadmap to success

PhD dissertation outline: Dissertation structure and format

A good PhD dissertation outline is as important to your dissertation as a map is to get you to your destination. Imagine for instance you’re trying to drive to a specific place to attend a party you’ve been looking forward to. You know the address, but you don’t have a map or a driving app. You get there eventually, but it takes a lot longer that it should have and stresses you so much that you’re in a bad mood when you get there. The party ends up being a bust. 

This is similar to trying to write an academic paper, especially a PhD dissertation, without using an outline. 

Why you need a PhD dissertation outline

When you do your PhD, outlines become the driving app for your academic paper, giving you direction so you know what’s in front of you. This is especially important for a PhD dissertation because of its physical length and the amount of time you will need to live with it. Successful PhD dissertation writing requires a laser focus, and an outline makes a great navigator. 

There are many advantages of creating a PhD dissertation outline 1,2 : 

  • Organize your project – Using an PhD dissertation outline will help you organize your thoughts and your work. If you have an idea or find a bit of information to include in a different section, simply write a note in the appropriate place to remind yourself. 
  • Stay on task – Like the driving app, a PhD dissertation structure keeps you on the proper road and minimizes distractions. When writing without keeping in mind your PhD dissertation structure, it’s easy to find yourself in the weeds. 
  • Increase productivity – A PhD dissertation outline keeps you aware of what you have to do, allows you to set goals, and be more productive. 
  • Save time – This is a major advantage in PhD dissertation writing. The faster you can successfully complete your dissertation process, the more money you’ll save, and the sooner you can get on with the rest of your life. 
  • Reduce anxiety – The effective use of a good PhD dissertation outline will give you control over this massive project. You’ll be more confident that you can successfully complete your PhD dissertation. 

How to write a PhD dissertation outline

So, now that you’re convinced that you need a PhD dissertation outline, where do you start? A few general steps will get you on the right road 3 : 

  • Select an appropriate topic: This one might seem obvious, but it is often a very difficult decision to make. The topic will guide the approach and research methodology. Although the research question will probably be tweaked along the way, not choosing a relevant topic at the start will result in chaos later on. 
  • Review other dissertations on your topic: This will give you an idea about what your PhD dissertation structure will look like. 
  • Draft a research problem: The research problem is the core of your dissertation and will guide your methodology and thus strongly influence your PhD dissertation structure. 
  • Get input from your advisor/supervisor: Seek advice from your supervisor on some PhD thesis outline examples and take advantage of any assistance they provide to help you choose wisely. This will help keep you on the right road

PhD dissertation structure

Doctoral dissertations typically have five standard chapters, although your university might have a specific required structure. Here is a brief description of the typical five-chapter PhD dissertation format 3 . 

Chapter 1: Introduction – This section provides an overview of the dissertation including its topic, purpose, and relevance. Typically, the general subject area is discussed and narrowed down to the research topic. Then, the research questions are posed, and the methodology is presented.  Chapter 2: Literature Review – A comprehensive survey and synthesis of existing studies on the research topic, the literature review demonstrates the research gap and sets the context for the research question. Depending on the topic, theory may also be explored. Existing methodologies used to address this topic are also discussed.  Chapter 3: Methodology – In this section, the methodology and materials used to collect and analyze the research data are presented in enough detail to demonstrate the validity of the method and allow the research to be duplicated by others.  Chapter 4: Results – The research findings are reported in this section and presented in relation to the research question. Relevant visuals such as tables and figures are typically included here to communicate the findings effectively.  C hapter 5: Discussion – In a five-chapter format, this is the final chapter in a PhD dissertation format. In this chapter, the findings are discussed and interpreted in light of the research question. Bits from all the chapters are synthesized to completely address the research question. 

An additional chapter is sometimes added that includes conclusions, recommendations, and suggestions for future research. 

Tips for creating your PhD dissertation outline 3,4

Finally, here are some quick and useful tips for your PhD thesis outline journey. 

  • Use the structure to complete the outline – Carefully think about each chapter and write down questions and information you will need. 
  • Create your outline early – Keep it up to date through your early research and advisor meetings. 
  • Be flexible – Changes will need to be made to your outline as you progress. 
  • Be detailed – You never know when a small piece of information you jotted down in your outline will save you time and anxiety. 
  • Keep in close contact with your PhD dissertation advisor/supervisor – Make sure to share your outline. You may just save yourself a lot of time and misery if major changes need to be made. 
  • Stay calm – Changes will come from different committee members. Remember, they are just trying to strengthen your work. 
  • Statistics Solutions. The benefit of outlining. https://www.statisticssolutions.com/the-benefits-of-outlining/ [Accessed 14 July 2022].
  • PapersOwl. How To Create An Outline For A Dissertation? https://papersowl.com/blog/outline-for-dissertation [Accessed 14 July 2022].
  • Research.com. What Is A University Dissertation: Structure, Challenges & Writing Tips. https://research.com/research/what-is-a-university-dissertation [Accessed 14 July 2022].
  • Docformats.com. Dissertation Outline Templates. https://www.docformats.com/dissertation-outline-templates/ [Accessed 14 July 2022].

Related Reads:

  • How to write an academic essay with references
  • PhD thesis first draft: 8 practical writing tips for PhD students
  • How to choose and use keywords in research papers
  • Manuscript withdrawal: Reasons, consequences, and how to withdraw submitted manuscripts

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Creating a Dissertation Outline

Published by nicholas tippins on may 5, 2020 may 5, 2020.

Last Updated on: 30th August 2022, 04:26 am

When you begin the dissertation process, you’ll need to start outlining what the final dissertation will look like. Usually, this is accomplished as part of the process you undergo with your committee. 

You begin with a Prospectus, which is essentially an overview of what you plan to do. This serves the purpose of a traditional outline: gaining clarity on your area of focus, your research methods, and what you hope to accomplish with the study. If you’re at that stage, take a look at our article on writing a dissertation prospectus .

How to Write a Dissertation Outline

If you’ve moved on to the Proposal stage, you’ll want to start creating a dissertation outline.

Fortunately for you, most of the work is already done for you. Most institutions have very specific requirements about the sections that each chapter of your dissertation should have, as well as the order in which they appear. 

These requirements function as the structure of your dissertation outline. You just have to fill it in with the specifics of your study.

If you haven’t already, make sure to ask for whatever rubric, outline, or list of requirements your committee has for you.

woman in a white blouse working on her laptop next to a large pile of books

Sample Dissertation Outline

If you’ve looked at your committee’s rubric already and are unclear, or if you’re just looking to see a sample of what a dissertation outline might look like, we’ve included one below, based on official outlines from several universities as well as our own experience editing and coaching .

The structure of your dissertation will change slightly depending on whether it’s qualitative or quantitative. However, these differences aren’t significant in the outlining stage (it will usually just mean different titles for some sub-headings). 

Note that while this is an example of a dissertation outline, your institution may have a slightly different format or requirements. It’s important to look at whatever your committee gives you, as that will provide you the best guidance for how to write your dissertation outline. 

A dissertation title deserves special attention and has special requirements. Make sure that your title is in alignment with the rest of your sections. Essentially, it should be a variation on the phrasing of the problem and purpose statement. 

The title should feature the most important conceptual issue(s) being explored (for qualitative) or the key variables and the relationship between them (for quantitative), and the population being studied.

The Abstract is a summary of the study. Many students write their Abstract after they have completed their study and written the five chapters of their dissertation. Your Abstract should include :

  • Introduction to the topic
  • Problem statement
  • Purpose statement
  • Key research questions
  • Research method and design
  • Participants
  • Key Results
  • Conclusions and recommendations for future research.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 1 is the introduction to the study. Some of the material for Chapter 1 is already present in your Prospectus. It’s also a summary of what you plan to study, why it’s important, and what methods you plan to use.

Introduction to the Chapter: A few paragraphs introducing the study.

Background: Describe your area of study, relevant research, and identify the gap in research that you seek to fill.

Problem Statement: The problem you intend to address with your study. See this article on Alignment .

Purpose Statement: The purpose of the study. See this article on Alignment . 

Research Questions: The questions you seek to answer. Also see this article on Alignment .

Conceptual/Theoretical Framework: This is the lens through which you will be viewing your research. It must be an established theory.

Nature of the Study: A discussion of your method and design and how this will accomplish the purpose of the study.

Definition of Key Terms: Definitions of key terms and concepts, and (for quantitative) your variables. Include citations for your definitions.

Summary of the Chapter: A few paragraphs summarizing the chapter with a transition to Chapter 2.

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Chapter 2: Literature Review

Chapter 2 is when you have the most freedom of organization. Besides the initial sections, the bulk of the chapter’s organization is up to you. This is because you are expected to present a summary of the relevant research in whatever way makes the most sense. 

People most commonly organize their literature review by topic, but some choose to organize it chronologically or by other methods.

Introduction: After re-stating the problem and purpose of your study, provide a very brief overview of the relevant literature.

Documentation of Literature Search Strategy: In this section, you explain the way you went about conducting your literature review . For example, what search terms did you use and which databases did you search? How did you identify relevant literature?

Sub Topic a

Sub Topic b

Continue to create topics and subtopics until you’ve covered all of the literature you wish to discuss.

Summary: A brief summary of the literature. Reiterate the gap in literature that you’re seeking to f ill.

Chapter 3: Methodology

Chapter 3 is where you dive deep into the specifics of how you’ll execute your study.

Introduction: After re-stating the problem and purpose of your study, provide a very brief introduction to the methodology.

Research method and design: Describe your chosen design and why it is the best fit to accomplish the purpose of your study. 

Population: Describe the relevant population, specific characteristics, and the approximate size.

Procedures for recruitment and data collection: Here you describe the specific procedures for recruiting participants and collecting data.

Instruments: Identify your chosen instruments and explain why they are the best fit for your study. Describe who developed it and give scholarly citations for its effectiveness.

Data analysis plan: Here you describe the process for analyzing the data and identify any software you will use to assist you.

Assumptions: List aspects of the study that are believed but that you cannot verify to be true. Only include those that are of critical relevance to the study. 

Scope and Delimitations: Many people mistake this section for “limitations,” (since it sounds similar), but it’s really related to the boundaries you draw about what you will study and what you won’t. This includes aspects of the research problem as well as geographical boundaries or demographic requirements.

Limitations: Describe any weaknesses related to methodology or design as well as any biases that influence the study and how they will be addressed. Describe measures you are taking to reduce the effect of the limitations. (Don’t worry–every study has limitations! It actually reflects positively on you as a scholar to have the awareness necessary to see and articulate these).

Ethical Considerations: Here you discuss how you will comply with relevant ethical standards when conducting your study. This may include things like informed consent, protection of vulnerable populations, data security, etc. Include a note about getting IRB approval.

Summary : A brief summary and transition.

Note: You write the first three chapters BEFORE you conduct your study (this is your Dissertation Proposal). You write the final two chapters AFTER conducting your study, and change the tense in the first three chapters from future to past tense. Together, these five chapters make your completed dissertation.

Chapter 4: Results or Findings

Introduction: A brief introduction to the findings

Setting and Demographics: Report on the setting the study took place in and the demographics of the participants. Highlight any differences from your plan in Chapter 3.

Data Analysis: Describe the data analysis process. 

Results: Report the results of the study. Provide enough information so that the reader can understand and make an independent judgment about your decision. This section is usually fairly long and includes selections of data (numbers, charts, graphs, quotes from participants, etc.).

Summary: Briefly summarize the results and transition to Chapter 5.

Chapter 5: Interpretations, Conclusions, Recommendations

After rigorously citing your sources in the first three chapters, Chapter 5 is your opportunity to present your thoughts on the results of your study. Use this opportunity to its fullest potential! While many students just want to get their dissertation over with, a little extra care with this section can make a huge difference in the quality of your dissertation.

Introduction: Concisely summarize the findings.

Implications: Describe your interpretation of the findings. It’s important to make sure that the conclusions you draw are within the scope of your study. Support all of your conclusions with the research findings. Describe how these results relate to the problem and purpose of your study. Discuss how this study contributes to scholarly knowledge and could create an impact in the world.

Limitations: Describe the limitations of your study.

Recommendations for Future Research: Based on your findings and the limitations of your study, describe your recommendations for future research. This could be somebody’s dissertation in the future!

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Nicholas Tippins

Nicholas has been a dissertation editor since 2015. He founded a dissertation editing firm that served clients around the world. Currently, he manages the editing team at Beyond PhD Coaching.

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A Step-by-Step Guide Creating Your Dissertation Outline

27 Nov 2021

All types of academic writing assignments are deservedly considered the most difficult for students to complete. It’s not only required to demonstrate creativity but theoretical knowledge and understanding of the structure and requirements of the work. In these terms, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of a Master's thesis and a candidate's dissertation. These projects sum up your entire university education. In this article, we will discuss:

  • How to start crafting a comprehensive dissertation outline that serves as the roadmap for your research and writing process
  • Explore the ways in which creating a well-structured chapters outline for your dissertation not only simplifies the task of research writing but also accelerates the entire process, ensuring coherence and clarity in your academic work.
  • What are the essential elements your dissertation should encompass, spanning from the introduction to the conclusion, ensuring your research work meets all criteria of a scholarly work.

To write a dissertation outline, you need to understand its importance and purpose. Let's start by identifying the main objectives of the dissertation outline.

Understanding the Purpose of an Outline

Writing a thesis is the final point in your studies. Responsible work requires a responsible approach, especially considering the volume and requirements of the dissertation. By using an outline strategy, you can save time and structure your work more effectively. Among the main advantages of the plan are these:

  • A dissertation outline brings order to your thoughts and ideas, helping you avoid repetition.
  • An outline will give shape to your ideas and help you organize your thoughts into structured paragraphs.
  • Having a plan in front of your eyes, you won’t miss important points.
  • The dissertation outline logically arranges the flow and the order of your thoughts, linking them together.

Writing a dissertation plan is a process that requires strategy and theoretical knowledge. By using our professional essay-writing services , you will ensure high-quality results and save your energy. We will be happy to help you complete the thesis chapter outline even in the shortest possible time.

Preliminary Steps Before Drafting the Outline

Now that you already know the purpose of creating an outline for your dissertation, the time has come to begin preparing to write it. Before you make an outline for all dissertation parts, you should pay attention to three preliminary steps:

  • Understand the guidelines

Study in detail the requirements and guidelines of your department and university regarding dissertation work. The key to writing a paper worthy of appreciation is understanding the requirements. Considering studying dissertation planning templates for a better idea.

  • Study the scientific context

Immerse yourself in the context of your dissertation topic. You must understand the specifics of existing literature on your topic, as well as the prospects for the development of future research.

  • Define the main research questions

After studying the available information, clearly outline the scope of your research problem and formulate the main research questions. The structure of a dissertation requires you to limit yourself to a few main areas of research and not to spread yourself across many topics.

Chapters of a Comprehensive Dissertation Outline

The title page is the first element of the dissertation structure. Your task is to give an overview of the topic of your work in a few words. We’ve already covered tips on writing research paper titles to help you out. To come up with a dissertation title yourself, conduct a brainstorming, highlighting the main ideas for the title, and use the most interesting option while avoiding ambiguity.

The abstract is a brief summary of the components of a dissertation. After reading the abstract, the audience should get a comprehensive picture of your work. These, together with the title page and table of contents, form a separate fragment at the beginning of a dissertation. Although the abstract and the table of contents are located at the very commencement, they should be written after completing work on the main text, having made all the conclusions. A proper dissertation abstract includes an introduction, purpose, methods, dissertation proposal, research results, and conclusions. Typically, this piece of text consists of 200-300 words.


To create an introduction chapter outline for dissertation, you should base it on four central elements:

  • Background information . You should introduce the reader to your topic by describing the background for choosing this particular research topic.
  • The scientific importance of your research . After all, the research question should not only be interesting to you but also introduce novelty into the scientific community. State the main reasons for conducting research on the topic of your thesis.
  • Define the boundaries of your research design . Indicate within what framework the study of the research question will be carried out and exactly which aspects of the chosen direction were considered in the work.
  • Formulate a goal or hypothesis that is revealed through your research .

Literature Review

A literature review chapter is necessary to highlight the under-researched elements of your chosen topic. First of all, you need to monitor existing sources on the topic of your research. Study works related to your field, selecting the most relevant ones. Then, identify gaps in the literature, namely issues that require further discussion. The final step of a literature review is to draw up a theoretical framework for your further research. Determine the main areas in which study and analysis will be carried out. This stage is integral for identifying the research question and most pressing scientific needs.


The research methodology of your dissertation is not a dry list of research methods. This integral part of your dissertation structure requires a clear explanation of the strategy you have chosen for data collection and data analysis of the research findings. You need to not only mention the research method used for data collection but also compare the feasibility of your choice.

Start your methodology by indicating whether you used quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods, explaining your choice. Tell who participated in your study and what the prerequisites were. Discuss the methods and procedures for collecting and analyzing data for your dissertation paper. Be sure to describe and analyze in your methodology the ethical issues you encountered in your research problem. The general requirements for a dissertation methodology state the scope should be 1,500 to 2,000 words.

After you have completed your research, you will have to present your discoveries. Describe the information obtained during the study. Please note that the research findings or results section of the dissertation only requires a presentation of your own discoveries regarding the topic. The data analysis of other sources has already been discussed in detail in the previous sections of a dissertation. Be concise and logical in listing the main research findings. This section encourages the use of visual material such as tables, graphics, charts, etc.

The discussion is the part of your dissertation that analyzes your findings in relation to the problem statement in the literature review and stated research questions. In this part, you need to logically connect the information you received during the research with your objectives and the main research questions. Explain exactly how the information you received is important for science and future research on the chosen topic. To write a good research paper , it is necessary to provide convincing arguments in favor of the conclusions you draw based on the data obtained.

Also, give an overview of to what extent you were able to disclose the issues identified in the literature review. Moreover, it’s required to discuss what factors limited your progress in studying the dissertation topic. Finally, review your intentions for future research in studying this scientific area. Identify which elements still require additional discussion and why it is important to pay attention to these factors.

The last part of the dissertation or thesis outline is the conclusion. In the final parts of the work, you need to summarize the information you received and the results achieved during the study. Include in the conclusion chapter all important discoveries and conclusions drawn from your research paper. This fragment should be brief and logically correspond to the tasks you set at the beginning of the dissertation. And don’t forget to also state what scientific contribution your study makes and how these discoveries are useful for the scientific community.


After your thesis chapters, the dissertation structure requires a bibliography. This is a list of literature sources that were used during the research. There are generally accepted formats that you must strictly adhere to. Study in detail a Ph.D. thesis outline template to know the requirements for the formatting. Every written, printed or electronic literary source must be included in the Bibliography.

Example Of A Dissertation Outline

It is better to see a sample dissertation outline once in practice than to read it in theory a hundred times. We advise you to familiarize yourself with dissertation outline example so that you have a clear understanding of how to write your own. Our professional dissertation writers tried their best to make your work easier and ensure that you have a hassle-free dissertation writing experience. Study the example we have given below and use it as a dissertation plan template for your own PhD thesis outline:

Tips for Crafting Outline Effective and Fast

Find a good topic.

If you choose a relevant topic, it will be easy for you to develop all five chapters of a dissertation later. To create a dissertation outline without any problems, choose a topic that interests you and that is relevant. The dissertation process is very energy-intensive, and it will go unnoticed if you are interested in what you are researching.

Be Prepared to Adjust Your Outline as Your Research Progresses

Your dissertation outline is a guide for further research, but you may need to make adjustments as you go. It is very difficult to accurately predict the direction of writing a dissertation paper , so drawing up an accurate plan is almost impossible. Be flexible and be prepared to make small adjustments to your dissertation writing strategy.

Stick to a Consistent Style and Format

Any scientific work requires adherence to a certain style and dissertation structure. The specificity of the dissertation implies the use of a formal scientific style without colloquial terms. It is also necessary to remember to follow the format for writing a scientific paper. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements for formatting the chapters in a dissertation, research design, font, paragraph indentation, etc.

Design a Methodology for Gathering Data and Information

Based on what the research question requires, select the necessary research methods and draw up a methodology. Analyze the objectives you have set and determine the most appropriate ways to collect information. Perhaps interviews, surveys, or observations are suitable for you; the most important thing is that the methods of collecting information correspond to the assigned tasks.

Consult Your Supervisor or Colleagues

Very often, our research reaches a dead end because we lack a fresh perspective on the topic. If, in the process of writing a thesis outline, you find yourself in a blind corner, seek help from your colleagues or supervisor. Perhaps their perspective on the problems you are studying will shed a ray of light on your impasse. The main thing is to choose qualified assistants who can give practical advice.

Depth Over Breadth

Science loves precision and depth, so it is better to choose a limited number of topics and study them in detail than to be scattered in different directions. In the process of drawing up a dissertation/thesis outline, choose several main areas of study and weed out vague ones.

Regularly Revisit and Revise the Outline

Do not forget that the outline is your main guideline when writing a dissertation. During the research, consult and resort to the help of your plan so as not to stray from the intended way. This strategy will help you avoid missing any important elements of your research paper.

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Outline – Your Main Dissertation Guideline

Students often doubt the need to write a dissertation outline, but we are ready to dispel all your doubts. A dissertation outline will not only save you time but will also help organize the flow of your ideas into a structured strategy for action. The dissertation layout will save you time during the writing process by serving as a guide as well. Contact PapersOwl for help in drawing up clear dissertation outline templates and ensuring the highest grade.

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Dr. Caroline Phd

I have always been a bit of a polymath – I loved going through encyclopedias, learning interesting facts about the world around us. Even when it was time to choose my major, I struggled a lot, as I wanted to learn everything about everything.

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9+ Dissertation Outline Template – DOC, PDF

A dissertation is usually a big fat research report with several different and elaborate chapters. It can be really messy if you do not start your dissertation based on a proper report outline template . An outline will give the needed skeleton for your dissertation so that you can be clear about the proper placement of chapters and the right points to be discussed.

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A Simple Thesis Outline for your Research

A Complete Dissertation or Thesis Outline

Dr. Somasundaram R

thesis outline

Table of contents

1. cover page and title page, 2. declaration and certification, 3. acknowledgments, 4. abstract, 5. table of contents (chapters, headings, & subheadings), 6.1 define the problem, 6.2 purpose of the study, 6.3 research questions, 6.4 significance of the study, 6.5 definition of terms, 6.6 delimitations of the study, 6.7 assumptions, 6.8 organization of the study/thesis, 7. chapter 2: review of related literature and research, 8. chapter 3: methodology, 9. chapter 4: findings, 10. chapter 5: summary, conclusions, discussion, and recommendations, 11. appendices.

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A thesis outline is a document that contains a detailed description of the research that will be conducted as part of a thesis or dissertation. It includes a description of the research problem, the research objectives, the research methodology, and the expected results. Thesis outlines are typically created by the PhD Scholar in consultation with their research advisor or supervisor. In this article, we have explained the simple thesis or dissertation outline for your PhD work.

Dissertation or Thesis Outline

A cover page is the first page of a document. It is usually used to give the title and author of the document, as well as other important information such as the institution information, emblem, year of degree completion, and the name of the degree for which the document is intended.

A declaration is a statement made by the candidate confirming that the work presented in the thesis is their own and that they have not plagiarised the work of others. A certification is a statement made by the candidate’s supervisor(s) or other academic staff confirming that the work presented in the thesis is of an acceptable standard.

An acknowledgment is a statement of appreciation for help or support during the research and writing process . This includes acknowledgment to the head of the institution, supervision or guide, funded agencies, and family members.

An abstract in a thesis is a brief summary of the entire work. It should include the research question , the scope of the research, the methodology, and the main findings. The abstract should be no more than a page in length.

A table of contents is a list of the chapters and sections of a thesis document. It is usually placed at the beginning of the thesis.

6. Chapter 1: Introduction

An introduction is the first chapter of a thesis or dissertation. It introduces the reader to the problem or topic of the work.

Read: How to formulate a research question?

  • Begin with a listing of the subsections of the literature review
  • Use frequent headings to help readers follow your organization
  • Conclude with a short summary.
  • Consider a length in the range of 20+ pages
  • Begin with a paragraph explaining the purpose of this chapter
  • Purpose of the Study (to refresh memory)
  • Research Questions (to refresh memory)
  • Review of Related Literature and Research – summary
  • Method – your research framework
  • Data Collection – show how your data collection addresses each research question)
  • Role of the Researcher (Optional – if you are performing qualitative analysis, you should explain your role, how you interacted with the participants, your background, etc.)
  • Data Analysis – Describe; show how your data analysis addresses each research question
  • Final transition paragraph, such as: “Chapter 3 has presented the methodology for collection of data for this study. Chapter 4 presents research findings and Chapter 5 presents conclusions, discussion, and recommendations for future research.”
  • Begin with a paragraph orienting the reader to the chapter (because some readers will jump to this location in your thesis/dissertation and not read the earlier chapters)
  • Present your findings in a logical order, with tables and figures as needed and with frequent use of headings to help readers follow your organization
  • If you use mixed methodology, present quantitative and then qualitative findings
  • Conclude with a summary of the findings, and a transitional paragraph, such as: “Chapter 4 has presented qualitative and qualitative research findings addressing the four research questions of this study. Chapter 5 presents conclusions, discussion, and recommendations for future research.”
  • Begin with a paragraph orienting the reader to the chapter (because some readers will jump to this location in your thesis/dissertation and not read the earlier chapters), such as: “Chapter 5 provides conclusions based on research findings from data collected on ____________, as well as discussion and recommendations for future research. This chapter will review the purpose of the study, research questions, literature review, and findings of the study. It will then present conclusions, a discussion of the conclusions, and recommendations for practice and for further research.
  • Summary – similar to the beginning of chapter 4, including the purpose of the study, research questions, a summary of the literature review, a summary of the methodology, plus a summary of the findings
  • Conclusions – Your conclusions about what the data means – the most important critical thinking insights revealed by your data
  • Discussion – In this section, discuss each of your conclusions or major findings. Summarize each one BRIEFLY, but do not stop there. Show how your conclusions/findings compare to other previous research and discuss why each is important. This is where YOU as a researcher present what you have actually learned from your research.
  • Recommendations for Practice – Provide a list of several things that teachers, researchers, administrators, etc., working on the topic on which you did your research should DO as a result of your study
  • Suggestions for further research Conclusion – your final thoughts

It is additional materials that are not essential to the main text of the thesis but may be helpful in providing a more comprehensive understanding of the research topic. Appendices can include data sets, detailed descriptions of research methods, or other information that is too detailed to be included in the main text.

  • How to Write a Thesis? PhD Thesis Format
  • How to Write a Literature Review

Scholarly Writing Outline for Thesis or Dissertation by Michael Marek Wayne State College – Wayne, Nebraska, USA [email protected]

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Dr. Somasundaram R

Sample Selection Strategies in Research

Factors to consider when choosing a research topic, phd vs. postdoc, leave a reply cancel reply.

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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 3. Thesis Statement & Outline

  • 1. Getting Started
  • 2. Topic Ideas
  • 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
  • 4. Appropriate Sources
  • 5. Search Techniques
  • 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources
  • 7. Evaluating Sources
  • 8. Citations & Plagiarism
  • 9. Writing Your Research Paper


About Thesis Statements

Qualities of a thesis statement.

Thesis statements:

  • state the subject matter and main ideas of a paper.
  • appear in the first paragraph and announces what you will discuss in your paper.
  • define the scope and focus of your essay, and tells your reader what to expect.  
  • are not a simple factual statement.  It is an assertion that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence.
  • should be the product of research and your own critical thinking.
  • can be very helpful in constructing an outline for your essay; for each point you make, ask yourself whether it is relevant to the thesis.

Steps you can use to create a thesis statement

1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.

youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs

2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence.  It can be helpful to start with a question which you then turn into an argument

Can prevention and intervention programs stop youth gang activities?  How?  ►►►  "Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities by giving teens something else to do."

3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.

"Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement by giving teens good activities that offer a path to success."

4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.

"Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement, which they do by giving teens meaningful activities that offer pathways to achievement and success."

5. Keep your thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information or refine your understanding of the topic.

You can view this short video for more tips on how to write a clear thesis statement.

An outline is the skeleton of your essay, in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay.  Once your outline is in good shape, it is much easier to write your paper; you've already done most of the thinking, so you just need to fill in the outline with a paragraph for each point.

To write an outline: The most common way to write an outline is the list format.  List all the major topics and subtopics with the key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order.    Include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. 

A list outline should arrange the main points or arguments in a hierarchical structure indicated by Roman numerals for main ideas (I, II, III...), capital letters for subtopics (A, B, C...), Arabic numerals for details (1,2,3...), and lower-case letters for fine details if needed (a,b,c...). This helps keep things organized.  

Here is a shortened example of an outline:

Introduction: background and thesis statement

I. First topic

1. Supporting evidence 2. Supporting evidence

II. Second Topic

III. Third Topic

I. Summarize the main points of your paper II. Restate your thesis in different words III. Make a strong final statement

You can see examples of a few different kinds of outlines and get more help at the Purdue OWL .

  • << Previous: 2. Topic Ideas
  • Next: 4. Appropriate Sources >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 18, 2023 12:12 PM
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