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Dissertations are a part of many degree programmes, completed in the final year of undergraduate studies or the final months of a taught masters-level degree.
Introduction to dissertations
What is a dissertation.
A dissertation is usually a long-term project to produce a long-form piece of writing; think of it a little like an extended, structured assignment. In some subjects (typically the sciences), it might be called a project instead.
Work on an undergraduate dissertation is often spread out over the final year. For a masters dissertation, you'll start thinking about it early in your course and work on it throughout the year.
You might carry out your own original research, or base your dissertation on existing research literature or data sources - there are many possibilities.
What's different about a dissertation?
The main thing that sets a dissertation apart from your previous work is that it's an almost entirely independent project. You'll have some support from a supervisor, but you will spend a lot more time working on your own.
You'll also be working on your own topic that's different to your coursemate; you'll all produce a dissertation, but on different topics and, potentially, in very different ways.
Dissertations are also longer than a regular assignment, both in word count and the time that they take to complete. You'll usually have most of an academic year to work on one, and be required to produce thousands of words; that might seem like a lot, but both time and word count will disappear very quickly once you get started!
Find out more:
Key dissertation tools
There are lots of tools, software and apps that can help you get through the dissertation process. Before you start, make sure you collect the key tools ready to:
- use your time efficiently
- organise yourself and your materials
- manage your writing
- be less stressed
Here's an overview of some useful tools:
Digital tools for your dissertation [Google Slides]
Setting up your document
Formatting and how you set up your document is also very important for a long piece of work like a dissertation, research project or thesis. Find tips and advice on our text processing guide:
University of York past Undergraduate and Masters dissertations
If you are a University of York student, you can access a selection of digitised undergraduate dissertations for certain subjects:
- History of Art
- Social Policy and Social Work
The Library also has digitised Masters dissertations for the following subjects:
- Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies
- Centre for Medieval Studies
- Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies
- Centre for Women's Studies
- English and Related Literature
- Health Sciences
- History of Art
- Hull York Medical School
- Language and Linguistic Science
- School for Business and Society
- School of Social and Political Sciences
Dissertation top tips
Many dissertations are structured into four key sections:
- introduction & literature review
There are many different types of dissertation, which don't all use this structure, so make sure you check your dissertation guidance. However, elements of these sections are common in all dissertation types.
Dissertations that are an extended literature review do not involve data collection, thus do not have a methods or result section. Instead they have chapters that explore concepts/theories and result in a conclusion section. Check your dissertation module handbook and all information given to see what your dissertation involves.
Introduction & literature review
The Introduction and Literature Review give the context for your dissertation:
- What topic did you investigate?
- What do we already know about this topic?
- What are your research questions and hypotheses?
Sometimes these are two separate sections, and sometimes the Literature Review is integrated into the Introduction. Check your guidelines to find out what you need to do.
Literature Review Top Tips [YouTube] | Literature Review Top Tips transcript [Google Doc]
The Method section tells the reader what you did and why.
- Include enough detail so that someone else could replicate your study.
- Visual elements can help present your method clearly. For example, summarise participant demographic data in a table or visualise the procedure in a diagram.
- Show critical analysis by justifying your choices. For example, why is your test/questionnaire/equipment appropriate for this study?
- If your study requires ethical approval, include these details in this section.
Methodology Top Tips [YouTube] | Methodology Top Tips transcript [Google Doc]
More resources to help you plan and write the methodology:
The Results tells us what you found out .
It's an objective presentation of your research findings. Don’t explain the results in detail here - you’ll do that in the discussion section.
Results Top Tips [YouTube] | Results Top Tips transcript [Google Doc]
The Discussion is where you explain and interpret your results - what do your findings mean?
This section involves a lot of critical analysis. You're not just presenting your findings, but putting them together with findings from other research to build your argument about what the findings mean.
Discussion Top Tips [YouTube] | Discussion Top Tips transcript [Google Doc]
Conclusions are a part of many dissertations and/or research projects. Check your module information to see if you are required to write one. Some dissertations/projects have concluding remarks in their discussion section. See the slides below for more information on writing conclusions in dissertations.
Conclusions in dissertations [Google Slides]
The abstract is a short summary of the whole dissertation that goes at the start of the document. It gives an overview of your research and helps readers decide if it’s relevant to their needs.
Even though it appears at the start of the document, write the abstract last. It summarises the whole dissertation, so you need to finish the main body before you can summarise it in the abstract.
Usually the abstract follows a very similar structure to the dissertation, with one or two sentences each to show the aims, methods, key results and conclusions drawn. Some subjects use headings within the abstract. Even if you don’t use these in your final abstract, headings can help you to plan a clear structure.
Abstract Top Tips [YouTube] | Abstract Top Tips transcript [Google Doc]
Watch all of our Dissertation Top Tips videos in one handy playlist:
Research reports, that are often found in science subjects, follow the same structure, so the tips in this tutorial also apply to dissertations:
Other support for dissertation writing
The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including dissertations. Also check your department guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.
Other useful resources for dissertation writing:
Appointments and workshops
There is a lot of support available in departments for dissertation production, which includes your dissertation supervisor, academic supervisor and, when appropriate, staff teaching in the research methods modules.
You can also access central writing and skills support:
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- Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023 10:36 AM
- URL: https://subjectguides.york.ac.uk/academic-writing
- Schools & departments
Dissertations and research projects
General advice and resources to support you throughout your research-based dissertation or project.
This is a general resource to help you with the basics of organising and writing a research-based dissertation or project. The Go further section at the end includes advice on work-based dissertations and signposts other resources.
You should consult your course or programme information, including online sources, and project supervisor or programme director for subject-specific guidance.
Dissertations and research projects are an opportunity to focus on particular question, and plan and undertake your own research to explore it further. Many students really enjoy being an independent researcher and becoming the expert on their work. The format varies depending on the disciplinary context, subject area, your research questions and the project. You may be reviewing the literature, analysing a novel, developing and testing a new method or doing a work-based project. However there are some common factors:
- They are an independent piece of work. You will be working under supervision to some extent and may be collaborating with others, but ultimately you are submitting a piece of independent thought and writing.
- They tend to have a large word count. This is to allow you to do sufficient in-depth analysis and discussion of the topic.
- They require a large investment of time, thought and energy throughout the process. As a significant body of academic work, you need to maintain effort whilst reading, researching, thinking, writing and redrafting it.
Choosing your dissertation or project
Whether you are choosing your dissertation from a selection of topics or you are proposing your own, there are a range of factors to consider. For example:
- What is the starting point for your work, i.e. previous or related research?
- How feasible is your project / proposal?
- Do you have enough time and resources to complete it?
- Will it be of an appropriate academic level?
A key questions to ask is “How interested am I in this topic?” You will be working on your dissertation or project for some time, so having a genuine interest in the topic will help to keep you motivated. If you have any questions specific to your topic or project, you should ask your supervisor, programme director or another member of staff who teaches you.
Planning your dissertation or research project
A research-based dissertation or project is a large piece of work requiring a high level of critical analysis. To achieve this you will have to allow time, not just for the researching phase, but also for the writing and editing stages. You will need to give yourself plenty of time to:
- Read around your topic and undertake background research;
- Digest and think about what you are learning and writing;
- Complete experiments, fieldwork, interviews or project placements;
- Analyse data, findings or results, and interpret them;
- Think about and decide on your conclusions.
Taking a project management approach to your dissertation or research project might be a more effective way to successfully complete it. The Time management page has tips and tools for organising your time.
Time management webpage and tools
The dissertation and project planner can be used to think about the different stages and help give you an overall view of the process. There are some general points and questions to act as prompts, spaces you can add your own notes in and some useful tips and resources.
Dissertation and project planner (pdf) Dissertation and project planner (rtf)
Writing your dissertation
You should not underestimate the time that should be allocated to writing your dissertation. Writing will involve planning, background research, drafting, redrafting, and proof-reading and editing.
First draft : Your first draft is about getting words on the page. For example, it may sketch out your first thoughts, arguments and potential structure. You can review these and use them to check: are you focussed on the right topics and questions? Is your structure and line of thought sensible? This is also a good time to set up your format requirements (e.g. page layouts, references).
Redrafts : Redrafting is where you expand and refine your ideas and argument. You may also find that as you are writing the direction of your argument changes; for example this could be due to your literature research producing new avenues of thought or your experiments turning up unexpected results. This is a good time to review the focus of your initial question, and whether your arguments or conclusions are still sensible.
Final draft(s) : Your final draft(s) is where you cast a critical eye over your work and assess how effective it is in communicating your argument and conclusions - does it answer the question? You should also check that your presentation, spelling and grammar are appropriate and polished, all your references are included, and your are following the appropriate format guidance.
It is a good idea to take a break between writing and reviewing your work. Try to leave at least a day between writing before you pick it up again, the longer the better. This allows you to look at your work with an analytical eye, looking for ways to improve. Imagine you are reading your work as someone who is not so familiar with the topic: would a reader be able to follow and understand your argument? Do your ideas link? Have you signposted on from one section to the next? Remember also to look back at your question/title, does your dissertation address it? Does it follow a logical structure?
To check the flow of your argument or line of reasoning you can test pieces of your text using set criteria. To help revise and restructure your text you can make a reverse outline. Both of these techniques are available on our Editing and proofreading page.
Editing and proofreading
Producing a professional document
Information Services provide information and guidance about how to produce a thesis or dissertation using Microsoft Word.
Producing a thesis or dissertation using Microsoft Word (EASE log in required)
Thesis Hub: Producing your thesis or dissertation in Word
Choosing a reference manager
A referencing management tool can help you to collect and organise and your source material to produce a bibliography or reference list.
Referencing and reference management
As part of your research you will produce and use research data in a variety of forms from quantitative and/or qualitative research. This may be data you generate yourself or obtained from other researchers, data repositories or public records. You need to make choices about what you use, handle your data correctly and document all of this process.
The University’s Research Data Service helps staff and students be effective with their research data before, during and after their project. They have created an introductory handbook on Data Mindfulness for taught students writing a dissertation. This handbook is accompanied by a set of short videos. Together these cover topics including what data is, how to store it, file organisation and dealing with your data after your hand-in. There is advice in the handbook on working with sensitive data and issues such as privacy, confidentiality and disclosure.
Data Mindfulness handbook
Data Mindfulness videos
Many courses and programmes, particularly at Postgraduate level, offer the opportunity to carry out a work-based dissertation. These opportunities vary between Schools and Programmes but will typically involve students tackling a research question identified by an organisation such as a business, a public sector organisation or a charity. A work based dissertation project can be invaluable for your employability and for career development.
If you are interested in carrying out a work-based dissertation you may need to start planning earlier than you would for a more traditional academic dissertation. If your Programme offers this opportunity, you will be given this information at the start of Semester 1. If you would like to source and set up a dissertation project with an external organisation yourself, you will need to speak with your Programme Director or Course Organiser first.
You can draw on resources developed by the Making the Most of Masters project.
Making the Most of Masters
Work-based projects – advice for students
There are a variety of study guides available on dissertation and project writing. Books aimed at postgraduate students can also be useful for undergraduates. Our IAD Resource List has a selection available in University libraries.
Study Skills Guides
Home » Dissertation – Format, Example and Template
Dissertation – Format, Example and Template
Table of Contents
Dissertation is a lengthy and detailed academic document that presents the results of original research on a specific topic or question. It is usually required as a final project for a doctoral degree or a master’s degree.
Dissertation Meaning in Research
In Research , a dissertation refers to a substantial research project that students undertake in order to obtain an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. or a Master’s degree.
Dissertation typically involves the exploration of a particular research question or topic in-depth, and it requires students to conduct original research, analyze data, and present their findings in a scholarly manner. It is often the culmination of years of study and represents a significant contribution to the academic field.
Types of Dissertation
Types of Dissertation are as follows:
An empirical dissertation is a research study that uses primary data collected through surveys, experiments, or observations. It typically follows a quantitative research approach and uses statistical methods to analyze the data.
A non-empirical dissertation is based on secondary sources, such as books, articles, and online resources. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as content analysis or discourse analysis.
A narrative dissertation is a personal account of the researcher’s experience or journey. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as interviews, focus groups, or ethnography.
Systematic Literature Review
A systematic literature review is a comprehensive analysis of existing research on a specific topic. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as meta-analysis or thematic analysis.
Case Study Dissertation
A case study dissertation is an in-depth analysis of a specific individual, group, or organization. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as interviews, observations, or document analysis.
A mixed-methods dissertation combines both quantitative and qualitative research approaches to gather and analyze data. It typically uses methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups, as well as statistical analysis.
How to Write a Dissertation
Here are some general steps to help guide you through the process of writing a dissertation:
- Choose a topic : Select a topic that you are passionate about and that is relevant to your field of study. It should be specific enough to allow for in-depth research but broad enough to be interesting and engaging.
- Conduct research : Conduct thorough research on your chosen topic, utilizing a variety of sources, including books, academic journals, and online databases. Take detailed notes and organize your information in a way that makes sense to you.
- Create an outline : Develop an outline that will serve as a roadmap for your dissertation. The outline should include the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
- Write the introduction: The introduction should provide a brief overview of your topic, the research questions, and the significance of the study. It should also include a clear thesis statement that states your main argument.
- Write the literature review: The literature review should provide a comprehensive analysis of existing research on your topic. It should identify gaps in the research and explain how your study will fill those gaps.
- Write the methodology: The methodology section should explain the research methods you used to collect and analyze data. It should also include a discussion of any limitations or weaknesses in your approach.
- Write the results: The results section should present the findings of your research in a clear and organized manner. Use charts, graphs, and tables to help illustrate your data.
- Write the discussion: The discussion section should interpret your results and explain their significance. It should also address any limitations of the study and suggest areas for future research.
- Write the conclusion: The conclusion should summarize your main findings and restate your thesis statement. It should also provide recommendations for future research.
- Edit and revise: Once you have completed a draft of your dissertation, review it carefully to ensure that it is well-organized, clear, and free of errors. Make any necessary revisions and edits before submitting it to your advisor for review.
The format of a dissertation may vary depending on the institution and field of study, but generally, it follows a similar structure:
- Title Page: This includes the title of the dissertation, the author’s name, and the date of submission.
- Abstract : A brief summary of the dissertation’s purpose, methods, and findings.
- Table of Contents: A list of the main sections and subsections of the dissertation, along with their page numbers.
- Introduction : A statement of the problem or research question, a brief overview of the literature, and an explanation of the significance of the study.
- Literature Review : A comprehensive review of the literature relevant to the research question or problem.
- Methodology : A description of the methods used to conduct the research, including data collection and analysis procedures.
- Results : A presentation of the findings of the research, including tables, charts, and graphs.
- Discussion : A discussion of the implications of the findings, their significance in the context of the literature, and limitations of the study.
- Conclusion : A summary of the main points of the study and their implications for future research.
- References : A list of all sources cited in the dissertation.
- Appendices : Additional materials that support the research, such as data tables, charts, or transcripts.
Dissertation Outline is as follows:
- Title of dissertation
- Author name
- Institutional affiliation
- Date of submission
- Brief summary of the dissertation’s research problem, objectives, methods, findings, and implications
- Usually around 250-300 words
Table of Contents:
- List of chapters and sections in the dissertation, with page numbers for each
- Background and context of the research
- Research problem and objectives
- Significance of the research
II. Literature Review
- Overview of existing literature on the research topic
- Identification of gaps in the literature
- Theoretical framework and concepts
- Research design and methods used
- Data collection and analysis techniques
- Ethical considerations
- Presentation and analysis of data collected
- Findings and outcomes of the research
- Interpretation of the results
- Discussion of the results in relation to the research problem and objectives
- Evaluation of the research outcomes and implications
- Suggestions for future research
- Summary of the research findings and outcomes
- Implications for the research topic and field
- Limitations and recommendations for future research
- List of sources cited in the dissertation
- Additional materials that support the research, such as tables, figures, or questionnaires.
Example of Dissertation
Here is an example Dissertation for students:
Title : Exploring the Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Academic Achievement and Well-being among College Students
This dissertation aims to investigate the impact of mindfulness meditation on the academic achievement and well-being of college students. Mindfulness meditation has gained popularity as a technique for reducing stress and enhancing mental health, but its effects on academic performance have not been extensively studied. Using a randomized controlled trial design, the study will compare the academic performance and well-being of college students who practice mindfulness meditation with those who do not. The study will also examine the moderating role of personality traits and demographic factors on the effects of mindfulness meditation.
Chapter 1: Introduction
- Background and rationale for the study
- Research questions and objectives
- Significance of the study
- Overview of the dissertation structure
Chapter 2: Literature Review
- Definition and conceptualization of mindfulness meditation
- Theoretical framework of mindfulness meditation
- Empirical research on mindfulness meditation and academic achievement
- Empirical research on mindfulness meditation and well-being
- The role of personality and demographic factors in the effects of mindfulness meditation
Chapter 3: Methodology
- Research design and hypothesis
- Participants and sampling method
- Intervention and procedure
- Measures and instruments
- Data analysis method
Chapter 4: Results
- Descriptive statistics and data screening
- Analysis of main effects
- Analysis of moderating effects
- Post-hoc analyses and sensitivity tests
Chapter 5: Discussion
- Summary of findings
- Implications for theory and practice
- Limitations and directions for future research
- Conclusion and contribution to the literature
Chapter 6: Conclusion
- Recap of the research questions and objectives
- Summary of the key findings
- Contribution to the literature and practice
- Implications for policy and practice
- Final thoughts and recommendations.
List of all the sources cited in the dissertation
Additional materials such as the survey questionnaire, interview guide, and consent forms.
Note : This is just an example and the structure of a dissertation may vary depending on the specific requirements and guidelines provided by the institution or the supervisor.
How Long is a Dissertation
The length of a dissertation can vary depending on the field of study, the level of degree being pursued, and the specific requirements of the institution. Generally, a dissertation for a doctoral degree can range from 80,000 to 100,000 words, while a dissertation for a master’s degree may be shorter, typically ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 words. However, it is important to note that these are general guidelines and the actual length of a dissertation can vary widely depending on the specific requirements of the program and the research topic being studied. It is always best to consult with your academic advisor or the guidelines provided by your institution for more specific information on dissertation length.
Applications of Dissertation
Here are some applications of a dissertation:
- Advancing the Field: Dissertations often include new research or a new perspective on existing research, which can help to advance the field. The results of a dissertation can be used by other researchers to build upon or challenge existing knowledge, leading to further advancements in the field.
- Career Advancement: Completing a dissertation demonstrates a high level of expertise in a particular field, which can lead to career advancement opportunities. For example, having a PhD can open doors to higher-paying jobs in academia, research institutions, or the private sector.
- Publishing Opportunities: Dissertations can be published as books or journal articles, which can help to increase the visibility and credibility of the author’s research.
- Personal Growth: The process of writing a dissertation involves a significant amount of research, analysis, and critical thinking. This can help students to develop important skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and communication, which can be valuable in both their personal and professional lives.
- Policy Implications: The findings of a dissertation can have policy implications, particularly in fields such as public health, education, and social sciences. Policymakers can use the research to inform decision-making and improve outcomes for the population.
When to Write a Dissertation
Here are some situations where writing a dissertation may be necessary:
- Pursuing a Doctoral Degree: Writing a dissertation is usually a requirement for earning a doctoral degree, so if you are interested in pursuing a doctorate, you will likely need to write a dissertation.
- Conducting Original Research : Dissertations require students to conduct original research on a specific topic. If you are interested in conducting original research on a topic, writing a dissertation may be the best way to do so.
- Advancing Your Career: Some professions, such as academia and research, may require individuals to have a doctoral degree. Writing a dissertation can help you advance your career by demonstrating your expertise in a particular area.
- Contributing to Knowledge: Dissertations are often based on original research that can contribute to the knowledge base of a field. If you are passionate about advancing knowledge in a particular area, writing a dissertation can help you achieve that goal.
- Meeting Academic Requirements : If you are a graduate student, writing a dissertation may be a requirement for completing your program. Be sure to check with your academic advisor to determine if this is the case for you.
Purpose of Dissertation
some common purposes of a dissertation include:
- To contribute to the knowledge in a particular field : A dissertation is often the culmination of years of research and study, and it should make a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge in a particular field.
- To demonstrate mastery of a subject: A dissertation requires extensive research, analysis, and writing, and completing one demonstrates a student’s mastery of their subject area.
- To develop critical thinking and research skills : A dissertation requires students to think critically about their research question, analyze data, and draw conclusions based on evidence. These skills are valuable not only in academia but also in many professional fields.
- To demonstrate academic integrity: A dissertation must be conducted and written in accordance with rigorous academic standards, including ethical considerations such as obtaining informed consent, protecting the privacy of participants, and avoiding plagiarism.
- To prepare for an academic career: Completing a dissertation is often a requirement for obtaining a PhD and pursuing a career in academia. It can demonstrate to potential employers that the student has the necessary skills and experience to conduct original research and make meaningful contributions to their field.
- To develop writing and communication skills: A dissertation requires a significant amount of writing and communication skills to convey complex ideas and research findings in a clear and concise manner. This skill set can be valuable in various professional fields.
- To demonstrate independence and initiative: A dissertation requires students to work independently and take initiative in developing their research question, designing their study, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. This demonstrates to potential employers or academic institutions that the student is capable of independent research and taking initiative in their work.
- To contribute to policy or practice: Some dissertations may have a practical application, such as informing policy decisions or improving practices in a particular field. These dissertations can have a significant impact on society, and their findings may be used to improve the lives of individuals or communities.
- To pursue personal interests: Some students may choose to pursue a dissertation topic that aligns with their personal interests or passions, providing them with the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic that they find personally meaningful.
Advantage of Dissertation
Some advantages of writing a dissertation include:
- Developing research and analytical skills: The process of writing a dissertation involves conducting extensive research, analyzing data, and presenting findings in a clear and coherent manner. This process can help students develop important research and analytical skills that can be useful in their future careers.
- Demonstrating expertise in a subject: Writing a dissertation allows students to demonstrate their expertise in a particular subject area. It can help establish their credibility as a knowledgeable and competent professional in their field.
- Contributing to the academic community: A well-written dissertation can contribute new knowledge to the academic community and potentially inform future research in the field.
- Improving writing and communication skills : Writing a dissertation requires students to write and present their research in a clear and concise manner. This can help improve their writing and communication skills, which are essential for success in many professions.
- Increasing job opportunities: Completing a dissertation can increase job opportunities in certain fields, particularly in academia and research-based positions.
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- Education /
What is a Dissertation? Meaning, Projects, Report Work
- Updated on
- Feb 26, 2022
A dissertation is a long academic piece of writing based on a student’s independent research . It is usually submitted in the final semester of UG, PG and PhD courses . It takes about 1-2 years to complete the dissertation as it requires a lot of research and written documentation . The aim of writing a dissertation is to test a student’s research skills. It allows students to develop their research, problem-solving, project management and numerical skills . During the course of writing a dissertation, students become able to present their research-based findings to the proposition they chose for themselves.
This Blog Includes:
Empirical dissertation, non-empirical dissertation, skills you need to show, how long is a dissertation, empirical dissertation structure, non-empirical structure, dissertation project example, checklist for dissertation, helpful tips for writing a dissertation, difference between a dissertation and essay, dissertation vs thesis, types of dissertation.
The type of dissertation you may be doing completely depends upon the field of your study. However, there are 2 types of dissertation mentioned below in the table:
If you are a student of sciences or social sciences, you’ll be required to write an empirical dissertation . Its focus is mainly on collecting original data and analysing every aspect of the data. Students can choose different research methods such as surveys, observation, laboratory experiments and interviews . Keeping in mind that the aim of an Empirical dissertation is to produce standardized scientific knowledge, students must consider the variables they will investigate, the reliability of their measurements, and choose the correct sampling method.
Non-empirical research is generally done for subjects such as arts and humanities . Choosing a particular topic and collecting the data from primary and secondary sources is the first step of starting with this type of dissertation. While working on non-empirical research, a student does the work with existing research or other texts, presents original analysis, argumentation, but there is no original data . The aim is to analyse theoretical texts and interpret the sources with your own understanding.
Regardless of the type of dissertation you write or the topic you pick, you’ll need to demonstrate the following abilities:
A dissertation’s length varies by study level and location, although it normally ranges from 10,000 to 12,000 words for undergraduates, 15,000 to 25,000 words for master’s students, and up to 50,000 words or more for PhD students.
Structure of a Dissertation
A dissertation is basically divided into chapters and sections . Both empirical and non-empirical dissertations have different kinds of structures that are supposed to be followed while writing a dissertation. Empirical dissertations usually have a more standardized structure than that of a non-empirical dissertation which is more flexible.
The structure may be slightly different but an empirical dissertation must include the following chapters:
- Introduction: Explanation of your topic and research questions
- Literature Review : Evaluation of your research topic
- Methodology: Description of the research method
- Results: Explanation of the found research
- Discussions: Interpret what your results have revealed
- Conclusion: Final reflection of what you’ve found through the thesis
The structure or outline of a non-empirical dissertation is quite flexible as it involves existing research and texts . The aim of non-empirical research is to present original and independent analysis based on theoretical research . It is basically an extended essay but while writing a non-empirical thesis, the text must be presented precisely to serve your arguments in a logical manner. However, mentioned below is a general outline that must be followed while writing a non-empirical dissertation:
- Introduction: Explanation of your topic and Research Questions
- Main Body: Development of your analysis of the text or source
- Conclusion: Summarisation of what the analysis has contributed so far
*The main body is divided into 2-4 chapters.
Non-Empirical Dissertation Structure Example
Depending on the topic you’ve chosen, the main body can be divided into different types. One of the most common topics of non-empirical research is history-based . The following mentioned is an example of a renaissance based topic:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Chapter 1: Origins of the Renaissance in the Classical World
- Chapter 2: Artists of the Renaissance
- Chapter 3: The Spread of the Renaissance
- Chapter 4: The Renaissance and the Reformation
Mentioned below is a checklist to make sure you’ve included all the required information:
- Title page includes all the information
- Concise summary of the dissertation
- Table of contents
- Clear and precise introduction
- Literature review that includes patterns, themes, and debates
- Theoretical framework of the research
- Description of the used methodology
- Clear mention of the questions answered
- Relevant recommendations for further research
- Citations and bibliography
- Reference list at the end of the thesis
- Format provided by the university is followed
- Start with time management . Make a proper daily schedule and set your deadlines Decide how much time you need to write a section or chapter . Choose the hours and start working on the it. In this way, you’ll be able to complete the this in the given time.
- Remember that the first writing draft is not the final dissertation . Make sure to proofread your writing several times. This will make you present your augmentations in a more precise way,
- Skip the introduction part and leave it for the end. Try to write the main body first, so that you get time to gather your thoughts. This way you will be able to present the introduction in a clear manner as you’ve been working on the this for a long period of time.
- Don’t wait for the end time to get feedback from your supervisor . Try to share the research work more often and a lot earlier than the submission time, so that you get time to improve your mistakes. It may save you from rewriting several chapters and sections.
- Use a reference manager to make it easier for you to mention the citations without taking much time.
PhD must include over 60,000 words and should not exceed the limit of 80,000 words.
It takes around a year or two to complete a dissertation but if you manage time properly and catch up the speed you may be able to complete it in less than 8 months.
Hopefully, this blog assisted you in finding out what is Dissertation, its structure and more. If you require any assistance regarding your application process while enrolling for your further studies, our experts at Leverage Edu are just one click away. Call us anytime at 1800 572 000 for a free counselling session!
Damanpreet Kaur Vohra
Daman is an author with profound expertise in writing engaging and informative content focused on EdTech and Study Abroad. With a keen understanding of these domains, Daman excels at creating complex concepts into accessible, reader-friendly material. With a proven track record of insightful articles, Daman stands as a reliable source for providing content for EdTech and Study Abroad.
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The Dissertation Abstract: 101
How to write a clear & concise abstract (with examples).
By: Madeline Fink (MSc) Reviewed By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | June 2020
So, you’ve (finally) finished your thesis or dissertation or thesis. Now it’s time to write up your abstract (sometimes also called the executive summary). If you’re here, chances are you’re not quite sure what you need to cover in this section, or how to go about writing it. Fear not – we’ll explain it all in plain language , step by step , with clear examples .
Overview: The Dissertation/Thesis Abstract
- What exactly is a dissertation (or thesis) abstract
- What’s the purpose and function of the abstract
- Why is the abstract so important
- How to write a high-quality dissertation abstract
- Example/sample of a quality abstract
- Quick tips to write a high-quality dissertation abstract
What is an abstract?
Simply put, the abstract in a dissertation or thesis is a short (but well structured) summary that outlines the most important points of your research (i.e. the key takeaways). The abstract is usually 1 paragraph or about 300-500 words long (about one page), but but this can vary between universities.
A quick note regarding terminology – strictly speaking, an abstract and an executive summary are two different things when it comes to academic publications. Typically, an abstract only states what the research will be about, but doesn’t explore the findings – whereas an executive summary covers both . However, in the context of a dissertation or thesis, the abstract usually covers both, providing a summary of the full project.
In terms of content, a good dissertation abstract usually covers the following points:
- The purpose of the research (what’s it about and why’s that important)
- The methodology (how you carried out the research)
- The key research findings (what answers you found)
- The implications of these findings (what these answers mean)
We’ll explain each of these in more detail a little later in this post. Buckle up.
What’s the purpose of the abstract?
A dissertation abstract has two main functions:
The first purpose is to inform potential readers of the main idea of your research without them having to read your entire piece of work. Specifically, it needs to communicate what your research is about (what were you trying to find out) and what your findings were . When readers are deciding whether to read your dissertation or thesis, the abstract is the first part they’ll consider.
The second purpose of the abstract is to inform search engines and dissertation databases as they index your dissertation or thesis. The keywords and phrases in your abstract (as well as your keyword list) will often be used by these search engines to categorize your work and make it accessible to users.
Simply put, your abstract is your shopfront display window – it’s what passers-by (both human and digital) will look at before deciding to step inside.
Why’s it so important?
The short answer – because most people don’t have time to read your full dissertation or thesis! Time is money, after all…
If you think back to when you undertook your literature review , you’ll quickly realise just how important abstracts are! Researchers reviewing the literature on any given topic face a mountain of reading, so they need to optimise their approach. A good dissertation abstract gives the reader a “TLDR” version of your work – it helps them decide whether to continue to read it in its entirety. So, your abstract, as your shopfront display window, needs to “sell” your research to time-poor readers.
You might be thinking, “but I don’t plan to publish my dissertation”. Even so, you still need to provide an impactful abstract for your markers. Your ability to concisely summarise your work is one of the things they’re assessing, so it’s vital to invest time and effort into crafting an enticing shop window.
A good abstract also has an added purpose for grad students . As a freshly minted graduate, your dissertation or thesis is often your most significant professional accomplishment and highlights where your unique expertise lies. Potential employers who want to know about this expertise are likely to only read the abstract (as opposed to reading your entire document) – so it needs to be good!
Think about it this way – if your thesis or dissertation were a book, then the abstract would be the blurb on the back cover. For better or worse, readers will absolutely judge your book by its cover .
How to write your abstract
As we touched on earlier, your abstract should cover four important aspects of your research: the purpose , methodology , findings , and implications . Therefore, the structure of your dissertation or thesis abstract needs to reflect these four essentials, in the same order. Let’s take a closer look at each of them, step by step:
Step 1: Describe the purpose and value of your research
Here you need to concisely explain the purpose and value of your research. In other words, you need to explain what your research set out to discover and why that’s important. When stating the purpose of research, you need to clearly discuss the following:
- What were your research aims and research questions ?
- Why were these aims and questions important?
It’s essential to make this section extremely clear, concise and convincing . As the opening section, this is where you’ll “hook” your reader (marker) in and get them interested in your project. If you don’t put in the effort here, you’ll likely lose their interest.
Step 2: Briefly outline your study’s methodology
In this part of your abstract, you need to very briefly explain how you went about answering your research questions . In other words, what research design and methodology you adopted in your research. Some important questions to address here include:
- Did you take a qualitative or quantitative approach ?
- Who/what did your sample consist of?
- How did you collect your data?
- How did you analyse your data?
Simply put, this section needs to address the “ how ” of your research. It doesn’t need to be lengthy (this is just a summary, after all), but it should clearly address the four questions above.
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Step 3: Present your key findings
Next, you need to briefly highlight the key findings . Your research likely produced a wealth of data and findings, so there may be a temptation to ramble here. However, this section is just about the key findings – in other words, the answers to the original questions that you set out to address.
Again, brevity and clarity are important here. You need to concisely present the most important findings for your reader.
Step 4: Describe the implications of your research
Have you ever found yourself reading through a large report, struggling to figure out what all the findings mean in terms of the bigger picture? Well, that’s the purpose of the implications section – to highlight the “so what?” of your research.
In this part of your abstract, you should address the following questions:
- What is the impact of your research findings on the industry /field investigated? In other words, what’s the impact on the “real world”.
- What is the impact of your findings on the existing body of knowledge ? For example, do they support the existing research?
- What might your findings mean for future research conducted on your topic?
If you include these four essential ingredients in your dissertation abstract, you’ll be on headed in a good direction.
Example: Dissertation/thesis abstract
Here is an example of an abstract from a master’s thesis, with the purpose , methods , findings , and implications colour coded.
The U.S. citizenship application process is a legal and symbolic journey shaped by many cultural processes. This research project aims to bring to light the experiences of immigrants and citizenship applicants living in Dallas, Texas, to promote a better understanding of Dallas’ increasingly diverse population. Additionally, the purpose of this project is to provide insights to a specific client, the office of Dallas Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs, about Dallas’ lawful permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship and their reasons for pursuing citizenship status . The data for this project was collected through observation at various citizenship workshops and community events, as well as through semi-structured interviews with 14 U.S. citizenship applicants . Reasons for applying for U.S. citizenship discussed in this project include a desire for membership in U.S. society, access to better educational and economic opportunities, improved ease of travel and the desire to vote. Barriers to the citizenship process discussed in this project include the amount of time one must dedicate to the application, lack of clear knowledge about the process and the financial cost of the application. Other themes include the effects of capital on applicant’s experience with the citizenship process, symbolic meanings of citizenship, transnationalism and ideas of deserving and undeserving surrounding the issues of residency and U.S. citizenship. These findings indicate the need for educational resources and mentorship for Dallas-area residents applying for U.S. citizenship, as well as a need for local government programs that foster a sense of community among citizenship applicants and their neighbours.
Practical tips for writing your abstract
When crafting the abstract for your dissertation or thesis, the most powerful technique you can use is to try and put yourself in the shoes of a potential reader. Assume the reader is not an expert in the field, but is interested in the research area. In other words, write for the intelligent layman, not for the seasoned topic expert.
Start by trying to answer the question “why should I read this dissertation?”
Remember the WWHS.
Make sure you include the what , why , how , and so what of your research in your abstract:
- What you studied (who and where are included in this part)
- Why the topic was important
- How you designed your study (i.e. your research methodology)
- So what were the big findings and implications of your research
Keep it simple.
Use terminology appropriate to your field of study, but don’t overload your abstract with big words and jargon that cloud the meaning and make your writing difficult to digest. A good abstract should appeal to all levels of potential readers and should be a (relatively) easy read. Remember, you need to write for the intelligent layman.
When writing your abstract, clearly outline your most important findings and insights and don’t worry about “giving away” too much about your research – there’s no need to withhold information. This is the one way your abstract is not like a blurb on the back of a book – the reader should be able to clearly understand the key takeaways of your thesis or dissertation after reading the abstract. Of course, if they then want more detail, they need to step into the restaurant and try out the menu.
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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- How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.
What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .
There are five key steps to writing a literature review:
- Search for relevant literature
- Evaluate sources
- Identify themes, debates, and gaps
- Outline the structure
- Write your literature review
A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
Table of contents
What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.
- Quick Run-through
- Step 1 & 2
When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:
- Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
- Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
- Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
- Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
- Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.
Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.
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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.
- Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
- Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
- Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
- Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)
You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.
Download Word doc Download Google doc
Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .
If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .
Make a list of keywords
Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.
- Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
- Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
- Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth
Search for relevant sources
Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:
- Your university’s library catalogue
- Google Scholar
- Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
- Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
- EconLit (economics)
- Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)
You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.
Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.
You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.
For each publication, ask yourself:
- What question or problem is the author addressing?
- What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
- What are the key theories, models, and methods?
- Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
- What are the results and conclusions of the study?
- How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.
Take notes and cite your sources
As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.
It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.
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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:
- Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
- Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
- Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
- Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
- Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?
This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.
- Most research has focused on young women.
- There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
- But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.
There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).
The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.
Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.
If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.
For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.
If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:
- Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
- Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources
A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.
You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.
Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.
The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.
Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.
As you write, you can follow these tips:
- Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts
In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.
When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !
This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.
Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.
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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Sampling methods
- Simple random sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Cluster sampling
- Likert scales
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- Optimism bias
- Cognitive bias
- Implicit bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Anchoring bias
- Explicit bias
A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .
It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.
There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:
- To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
- To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
- To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
- To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
- To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic
Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.
The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .
A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .
An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a paper .
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McCombes, S. (2023, September 11). How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved November 9, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/literature-review/
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College of Administration and Economics
8 November، 2023
A master’s thesis in the Department of Banking and Financial Sciences discusses “The Financial Measurement of Knowledge Capital and its Impact on the Continuity of Business Companies: A Comparative Analytical Study of a Sample of Arab Countries” Wednesday, November 8, 2023 ..
The Department of Banking and Financial Sciences at the College of Administration and Economics, University of Mosul, discussed the master’s thesis tagged “Financial measurement of knowledge capital and its impact on the continuity of business companies: a comparative analytical study of a sample of Arab countries”.
Part of it was attended by the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Dr. Thaeir Ahmed Saadoon Al-Samman.
The current study presented by the student “Ali Basil Abdul Karim” in the Department of Banking and Financial Sciences aims to: Measuring knowledge capital financially and showing its impact on the continuity of companies, as knowledge capital is seen as an important part of the company’s strategy, so companies should develop their knowledge capabilities in the field of investing knowledge capital because it is important to ensure its continuity.
The study reached a set of conclusions, the most important of which were: the existence of a statistically significant relationship between knowledge capital and corporate continuity of the study sample countries.
Also, in order to achieve the objectives of the study, test its hypotheses and ensure its validity, the descriptive analytical approach based on financial theories and experimental studies was adopted.
The discussion committee was headed by Assistant Professor Dr. Doaa Noman Al-Husseini, and the membership of Assistant Professor Dr. Jamal Hadash Muhammad from the University of Tikrit and Assistant Professor Dr. Hala Sami Khudair, under the supervision and membership of Prof. Dr. Rafaa Ibrahim Al-Hamdani.
An inspection visit conducted by the dean of the faculty, prof. dr. thaeir ahmed saadoon al-samman, and the dean’s assistants for scientific and administrative affairs on wednesday morning, 8/11/2023. to the faculty members in charge of the work of the committee for the reception of new students admitted through the central admission portal for the academic year 2023-2024 at the college of administration and economics at the university of mosul..
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Master’s thesis in the Department of Banking and Financial Sciences discusses “The Impact of Political Risk on the Performance of the Real Estate Sector: A Study in a Sample of Arab Countries Wednesday, November 8, 2023 …
zaidalmahrooq 2023-11-09T06:23:26+00:00 08/11/2023 |
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The Higher Diploma in the Department of Business Administration discusses “Transactional leadership and its role in reducing job laziness: An exploratory study of the opinions of a sample of workers in the General Directorate of Education in Nineveh Governorate” Tuesday, November 7, 2023 …
zaidalmahrooq 2023-11-07T17:37:24+00:00 07/11/2023 |
Under the patronage of the President of the University of Mosul Prof. Dr. Qusai Kamal Al-Din Al-Ahmadi And the supervision of the Dean of the College of Administration and Economics Prof. Dr. Thaeir Ahmed Saadoon Al-Samman And the follow-up of the respected Head of the Department of Business Administration, Prof. Dr. Alaa Haseeb Al-Jalili The Department of Business Administration held its scientific symposium entitled (Quality control in public organizations in order to improve safety and security procedures against irregular risks) on Tuesday, 7/11/2023 at 10:30 am
zaidalmahrooq 2023-11-07T17:30:13+00:00 07/11/2023 |
The presence of the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Dr. Thaeir Ahmed Saadoon Al-Samman, the activities of the Student Activities Division at the College of Administration and Economics
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Electronic systems, international rankings, related websites, website division, university address.
Al Majmoaa Street
Postal Code : 41002
Mosul – Iraq
All rights reserved for University of Mosul 2023
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- Knowledge Base
- What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples
What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples
Published on 15 September 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on 18 November 2022.
A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a PhD program in the UK.
Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Indeed, alongside a dissertation , it is the longest piece of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .
You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.
Download Word template Download Google Docs template
Table of contents
Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, frequently asked questions about theses.
You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.
- A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarise the central points of your academic essay .
- A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement to complete a PhD program.
- In many countries, particularly the UK, a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.
- In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.
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The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:
- Your discipline
- Your theoretical approach
Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.
In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section , results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .
We’ve compiled a list of thesis examples to help you get started.
- Example thesis #1: ‘Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the “Noble Savage” on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807’ by Suchait Kahlon.
- Example thesis #2: ‘”A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man”: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947’ by Julian Saint Reiman.
- Example thesis #3: ‘An Introduction to Higher-Order Frames in Communication: How Controversial Organizations Maintain Legitimacy Over Time’ by Kees Smeets
The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:
- Your full title
- Your full name
- Your department
- Your institution and degree program
- Your submission date.
Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.
Read more about title pages
The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.
Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces
An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.
Read more about abstracts
A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.
Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.
Read more about tables of contents
While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the ‘Insert Caption’ feature.
Read more about lists of figures and tables
If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.
Read more about lists of abbreviations
Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialised or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetise the terms you want to include with a brief definition.
Read more about glossaries
An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:
- Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
- Define the scope of your work
- Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
- State your research question(s)
- Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed
In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.
Read more about introductions
A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:
- Selecting relevant sources
- Determining the credibility of your sources
- Critically evaluating each of your sources
- Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps
A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:
- Addressing a gap in the literature
- Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
- Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
- Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
- Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate
Read more about literature reviews
Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyses the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.
Read more about theoretical frameworks
Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.
A methodology section should generally include:
- Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
- Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
- Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
- Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
- The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
- A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods
Read more about methodology sections
Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.
Your results section should:
- State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
- Explain how each result relates to the research question
- Determine whether the hypothesis was supported
Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.
Read more about results sections
Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.
For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.
Read more about discussion sections
Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasise what your research specifically has contributed to your field.
Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.
Read more about conclusions
In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.
Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.
Create APA citations Create MLA citations
In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.
Read more about appendices
Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!
Consider using a professional thesis editing service to make sure your final project is perfect.
Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.
After your defense, your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.
The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5-7% of your overall word count.
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 .
If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .
If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimising confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.
A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.
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.)
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