How Dissertation Structure Should Be Developed?

Understanding what topic you would like to focus on as well as developing hypotheses to be tested are not enough for successful completion of this long academic writing journey. Following a specific dissertation structure is also essential. Our guide provides students with basic structure tips so that it could serve as a checklist and no important elements are omitted. 

How To Structure a Dissertation or Thesis?

The Internet is full of multiple dissertation layout examples, and we suggest specific structure and formatting requirements that your university may have. We provide all structure elements that you might find in the most complete guide so that you may understand what is what. Let’s begin with the initial elements:

Title Page

It includes your title so that this structure element must be catching and informative as well as represent your research’s main purpose. Other elements to be included such as name, department, instructor’s name, and so on highly depend on requested formatting style such as APA or Chicago as well as university’s requirements. Just request a sample title page from your instructor to be aware of structure requirements and stay on the safe side.

Acknowledgements Page

Many students omit this page in the undergraduate dissertation structure. Though, we recommend taking this opportunity and thank people who helped you develop this project, whether they are family members or participants in research. Do not mention people who assisted by proofreading the final paper or locate sources though. It is redundant and creates the wrong impression.

Abstract (or Executive Summary)

This structure element has to be written last of all, including conclusion. Abstract is a short summary of the entire research, and you may not know all the details until you complete the project. Good abstract gives readers a full understanding of your topic, research questions, utilized methods, discoveries, and conclusions. This should be precise and effective, which means it may take time to be written, and be ready to read how to write a dissertation abstract.

Table of Contents

This page doesn’t require much attention if you use word processor’s functionality and apply a table of contents generator. It will update this list based on specific structure settings, formatting, and headings once you change something or add content to the paper. In this case, all page numbers and chapters’ names will be correct and won’t confuse readers when they navigate the manuscript. This is an easy way of how to layout a dissertation.

List of Figures and Tables

Using graphical elements and visual components is a big plus for your dissertation structure template. It is even a necessity, especially if a quantitative paper is being written. This list should go in your structure right after the table of contents in case you use any of the applicable elements in a text. Using automatic referencing tools in word processing software is also recommended. In that case, changes in location or names are reflected immediately. Otherwise, you might overlook outdated information while editing this section manually.

List of Abbreviations

Do you remember that you need to introduce a full name along with the abbreviations once you use it for the first time in the text? Later on, the use of abbreviations only is required to avoid redundant wordiness. This list is needed for a reader to refresh their memory quickly enough, rather than look through the entire text looking for needed definitions.


Creating a layout, don’t forget to include all terms that may not be familiar to your audience in this alphabetized list. There is no room for extensive definitions in the text itself. Just like with abbreviations, this structure element contributes to overall readability and reader’s convenience.

Now you know how to start writing a dissertation since even setting up a document with a clear structure that includes all necessary subheadings and layout is the beginning. You might feel either enthusiastic or terrified by the volume of work that awaits completion. Yet, it is a good idea to focus on separate smaller parts and finish them one by one rather than thinking about the entire huge project. You can simply leave empty spaces for all required elements that are to be added gradually as long as you proceed with research and writing. 

Core Chapters that Constitute Dissertation Layout

Basic formatting elements such as table of contents or title page are not the primary focus of that guide. Even though they are important and obligatory to include, the main dissertation structure plan is focused on content. Fortunately, dissertations have unified strict requirements for obligatory elements. Let’s review what is expected for each specific structure element.

Chapter 1: Introduction

If you know how to start a dissertation, the first major step is done. This chapter should include general content. It should start from the background for your dissertation topic, proceed to a purpose statement and issues to be discussed, and finally end with a description of utilized methods. This part serves as a road map for the entire project as a reader should clearly understand major directions and clearly see answers to questions “what, why, and how.” Clear purpose statement’s absence inevitably results in declined paper and suggested revision, as the instructor needs to understand reasons behind your choice and why this topic is important.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Treating literature review dissertation structure’s main component won’t be entirely correct. Though, this is a section that justifies your topic research questions’ choice. Synthesis of existing research and information related to your topic should lead the reader to the knowledge gap that you identified and understanding of what exactly new contribution you are going to introduce by completing your project. Be attentive and provide all acknowledgements and citations related to someone else’s research work to avoid plagiarism. This is what legit essay writing services pay utmost attention to, as plagiarism is unacceptable in such projects. This structure section requires a lot of time and effort in terms of searching for sources, reviewing them, determining what articles are relevant to your topic, and synthesizing core ideas into precise statements in your literature review. 

Chapter 3: Methodology

When one thinks about dissertation chapter structure, this is the task that results in the biggest headache. Not only intended methods should be described here but also your effective justification as choosing appropriate methodology is essential in dissertation writing. Readers must have a clear understanding of how the chosen methodology could be applied to obtain needed data and answer questions introduced in Chapter 1. This structure section is related to previously conducted literature review as you design new research based on the theoretical framework provided in previous studies. Effective completion of this chapter means the reader will be able to answer questions “how the research will be done” and “why it should be done this way”. 

Chapter 4: Results

Leave enough time for gathering data and organizing it into comprehensible deliverables while structuring a dissertation. This section demonstrates your skills in presenting information objectively, and at the same time, efficiently. This is a part that presents raw data and gathered statistics, just a description without interpreting its meaning yet. Any scholarly research article includes this section so that you should already know how it looks once you finish reviewing the literature section. This part may also be united with the next chapter 5 into one big chapter, but it entirely depends on your instructor’s structure requirements. 

Chapter 5: Discussion

This element is obviously among the most essential ones when it comes to structure of a dissertation because analysis and interpretation of received results are what should be included in this section. When you hire writing experts from the best dissertation writing service, they ensure this chapter contains clearly defined answers to initially outlined questions that guided previous research. Discussing findings and providing an objective interpretation that is related to initial topic and research questions are of utmost importance here as failure to do so results in poor grades, regardless of efforts you put into reviewing existing literature or developing methodology.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

All dissertation chapters should be summarized, and all ideas wrapped up in this last chapter. Though there is more to that than simply concluding and restating findings. Conclusions in dissertations are structure elements acknowledging limitations present in conducted research as well as implications for future research and chosen sphere. This is the last opportunity for you to show specific insight and apply critical thinking skills, do not miss it. So that confirms what value your research has in terms of adding a new perspective in the field of study. Do not be afraid to critically review your work and acknowledge potential flaws in methodology, since this is what scientists do and your instructor understands that ideal finalized research could not be achieved. There is always room for improvement. 

Finalizing Manuscript

You’ve already got the point of how should a dissertation be structured and added organizational and introductory elements along with core content elements. Now it is time to pay attention to elements that are probably already included in the manuscript's rough draft but require proper organization and editing before submission.

Reference list

All sources used in research and text should be listed in alphabetical order and formatted according to requested style and structure. Pay attention to required editions, as sometimes professors have specific requirements, such as using APA 6th edition instead of citing dissertation APA 7th edition - the current one. Instructions may have other specific notes, such as a demand to include sources you consulted with but didn’t cite in the text. Students also use automatic referencing tools integrated into word processing software so that they won’t omit in-text citations while working on content. We suggest including all sources on this page as soon as they are utilized in the text. This prevents unintentional plagiarism issues and unsupported claims overlooked in the paper. 


If you wonder what to include in a dissertation structure apart from already mentioned essential components, you should think about what additional information that helped you to inform your research will add value to your text but goes beyond its scope. Any supporting details and materials that are not directly related to conducted analysis can be included in appendices that are not counted towards total word count and final grade. This is the information that is good to know, as it adds depth and improves general understanding of the topic. Still, it should not be included within the paper as it will be considered off-topic given the study's context.

Editing And Proofreading Stage

Finishing writing and creating a layout of a dissertation, does not mean your work is over. Take your time, re-read the entire completed manuscript later, and fix all language issues that you might have overlooked whilst writing. Hiring the best dissertation editing services to have someone check your paper with a fresh eye is a good idea, especially if English is not your mother tongue. Making a dissertation error-free is essential, as simple typos or awkward grammar issues in a Master’s or PhD-level paper affect a grader's perception. It could create the impression that you finished the paper hours before the submission deadline and didn’t even bother to proofread it. This is not a thing that changes the final grade in a better way. 

Do not forget to check whether dissertation format and structure are consistent throughout the entire document. This means not only Harvard or APA style application but also general textual elements such as fonts, size, highlights, indents, or page numbers. Dissertation is a type of work where all details count and contribute to the final outcome. Polished final paper demonstrates that you care about the outcome and are also ready to apply extra efforts. 

Anything Else?

Now you have a grasp of all required parts of a dissertation so that professor’s feedback will no longer be a surprise. Completing the entire project may be a rather challenging and not always possible thing to do. Yet, you may always request experts’ assistance with either a specific chapter or an entire dissertation project. Understanding basic structure requirements is essential anyway because you need to know what parts the expert is currently focused on and what else the professor might expect of you.

Posted by Chris M., August 03, 2021