Hi dear students! Most probably you have an idea about what a dissertation is. You may have already selected your dissertation topic and have your aims and objectives in your mind. By this time, we expect you to have your dissertation proposal approved. If not, you can learn how to write a dissertation proposal with some simple steps.

Well, the real journey begins here when you start thinking about how to start writing your dissertation. Before you actually put your pen on the paper, it is necessary to understand the complete dissertation structure. You need to be clear with a few points.

  • What are the basic components that structure your dissertation?
  • Apart from the main chapters, what else should be included in the dissertation?
  • What are the requirements of each section of the dissertation?
  • How many words are required in each section?

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In order to answer all the queries, we recommend you get accustomed to the set of requirements given by your university, it will help you understand what these questions refer to and how to perfectly get over each of them with the help of this article.

In this blog, we are going to cover all the aspects of structuring a dissertation to perfection. We will discuss step-by-step each component of the dissertation and you can lay it out with precision.

Note: This will be a general structure which is followed by almost all universities in the UK, Europe and around the globe. You may find little variations while coping with your university-provided structure.

Well, in case there is no proper structure provided by your institute, there is nothing to worry about. You can follow the structure we are going to discuss which will provide you with a comfortable ground for writing your dissertation.

🔍 An Overview Of The Dissertation Structure

A dissertation generally consists of two major components.

  • Primary Components
  • Secondary Components

✅ Primary Components

The primary components of a dissertation are its core chapters which include:

  • First Chapter: Introduction, contains your research question, aims and objectives.
  • Second Chapter: Literature Review, where you discuss your research questions in the light of present literature.
  • Third Chapter: Methodology, highlights your research design and methods used to conduct your research.
  • Fourth Chapter: Results, represents the raw results of your analysis.
  • Fifth Chapter: Discussion, where you discuss multiple variables of your presented result.
  • Sixth Chapter: Conclusion, is here so that you can answer your research questions from the first chapter.

✅ Secondary Components

There are many more components other than the main chapters which include:

  • Title Page
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures & Tables
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Glossary
  • Reference List
  • Appendix

🏠 Structuring Each Component Of Your Dissertation

Now since we are familiar with each of the primary and secondary components of the dissertation, let’s move towards a detailed description of each of them. We will be discussing them in sequence as they appear in your dissertation.

📄 Title Page

The title page is the opening of your dissertation. It is the first page with which your reader will interact while going through your dissertation. It includes some specific information.

  • Title of dissertation
  • The researcher/author name
  • Student ID number
  • Submission date
  • Degree program
  • Research supervisor
  • University logo

Among all these mentions, the title is the one which obviously creates an impact. Your title will decide if the reader is going to continue reading your dissertation or has lost interest. Follow these tips to come up with an engaging title.

  • Make sure your title is succinct and specific.
  • It represents your research questions.
  • Belongs to your area of study.
  • Adds value to existing research or opens up new dimensions.

Here are a couple of examples of some good dissertation titles.

  • An Experimental Analysis of the Effect of Digital Marketing on Consumer Buying Behavior
  • How Community Policing, Police Profiling, and Brutality Affect Minority Community Perceptions of Police

👉 Acknowledgement

Next, you get the chance to thank all the people who have supported you throughout your research. This opportunity comes with an Acknowledgment page. However, not all institutes require you to put up an acknowledgement, but when you do, do it the right way.

It usually consists of a page or even less where you come up with a few sentences thanking most probably the following persons.

  • Your supervisor
  • The research committee
  • Lecturers, professors, mentors, advisors
  • Family members and friends

Here, you will write a short note of thanks to these people acknowledging the efforts they have made for you in regards to this research.

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Abstract or Executive Summary

Although you are required to write the abstract at the completion of your dissertation, it is placed right after your title page or acknowledgement page (if you have written one). It is basically a summary of your whole research which should contain the following key elements.

  • Clear aims and objectives of your research along with their significance towards the area of study.
  • Research design or methods used to conduct the research, be it experimental or descriptive.
  • What were the key findings of your research?
  • Mention the implications of your conducted research highlighting what impact can it create.
  • Finally, mention recommendations and suggestions for future researchers. 

The most common questions, the researchers come up with regarding abstracts are, whether an abstract is included in the word count and how long should an abstract be. To be very clear, the abstract is not included in the word count of your dissertation and it should be about 100 to 500 words depending upon the length of your dissertation. Most abstracts are around 300 words.

Table of Contents

To provide your readers with an overview of the structure of your dissertation, come up with tables of contents containing headings and subheadings, along with the page numbers. It is usually placed right after the abstract section.

Include all the main parts of your dissertation in the TOC (table of contents), including abstract, references and appendices.

Pro Tip: We recommend you use a headings style in your dissertation so it will be easy to create TOC through the MS Word automatic TOC generator. Mention only level 1, level 2 and level 3 headings in the TOC, not all the subheadings that have been used in the dissertation.

List of Figures & Tables

After the table of contents, researchers usually add a list of tables and figures they have used in their dissertation. Although it is not necessarily required, however, it is used in order to guide your readers if you have used multiple tables and figures throughout your research.

Pro Tip: We recommend you use the Add Caption feature for all the tables and figures in the dissertation so that you can generate a list with an automatic feature in MS Word.

List of Abbreviations

While structuring your dissertation, it is recommended that you list down the abbreviations and acronyms you have used in the dissertation. List them down in alphabetical order right after the list of figures. You can also put it before the TOC.

Pro Tip: The right way to use abbreviations and acronyms in your dissertation is to use the phrase in full and mention the acronym in parentheses when you first utilise it. Later, you can use its acronym throughout the dissertation.


Suppose you find that you have used so many technical terminologies and words that may be difficult for readers to understand. In that case, you can list them down under the Glossary section in alphabetised order. Here you can mention a short definition or description of the words so it could be easy for your readers to understand them.

As of now, we have covered almost all the secondary components apart from the reference list and appendices which will be discussed after the core components.

Introduction Chapter

To start with the core components, we will first deal with the first and foremost chapter of your dissertation which is the introduction.

Count on this chapter as the beginning of your dissertation and do not think as you have written the same things in the abstract. An abstract is a separate document and your actual dissertation starts here with dissertation introduction writing. You will be answering some of the most important questions in this chapter.

  • What is your topic?
  • How is it significant to your area of study?
  • What are your research problems or questions?
  • What are the objectives of your research?
  • What is the scope of your research?
  • What limitations you may face while carrying out the research?
  • How are you going to address the questions you raised?
  • What is your thesis statement?
  • What will be the structure of your research?

These are almost all the areas which you will be highlighting in your introduction section. In the opening, grab your readers’ attention with an attractive topic and define why you have selected this topic to conduct your research. Then disclose your research questions and discuss the objectives you are willing to achieve through this research.

While highlighting the scope of your study, mention the limitations as well. Next, give a short description of your methodology like what methods you will be using to conduct the research. Finally, come up with a thesis statement to explain what you are expecting from your research along with giving a short overview of the structure of your dissertation.

Word Count: The actual word count of your dissertation starts from this chapter. Introduction makes up to 10-15% of your whole dissertation. For instance, you are preparing a dissertation of 10,000 words, so your introduction should be around 1,000-1,500 words.

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Literature Review Chapter

The next in line is the second chapter of your dissertation, which is the Literature Review. The purpose of this chapter is to analyse your topic based on the present literature.

You will be identifying a few things in this chapter like if your research is fitting into a bigger picture by contributing something original to the area of study. This chapter can be easily structured into three main parts that are introduction, main body and conclusion.


While starting this chapter, you need to define your research statement under the reflection of previous studies. Further, demonstrate how the selected research will lead you towards answering your actual research problems.

In the introductory part of the literature review, you should also highlight the inclusion and exclusion of the literature. Talk about gaps you have found while reviewing various research and how your paper is going to fill those gaps.

Main Body

The main body of your literature review consists of various long paragraphs where you can also use headings and subheadings if required to discuss the selected research. You can start your review from general subjects and then specify them to your research question. For instance, SEO in general and SEO for retailers in specific.

Do mention the gaps that still need to be filled in terms of future work on the selected literature based on your research questions.


While concluding this chapter, you may summarise your understanding of the topic using various study models. Associate your findings with your research question and discuss opportunities for future research work.

Word Count: A literature review chapter is around 20-25% of the actual word count of the dissertation. For instance, for a dissertation of 10,000 words, the literature review is around 2,000 to 2,500 words.

Pro Tip: Make sure to use recent research studies not more than 5 to 7 years old to keep your arguments more authentic. You can utilise academic databases like Google Scholar, JSTOR, and PubMed for searching various relevant literature.

Methodology Chapter

Now comes the most crucial segment of your dissertation. It is basically the backbone of your research and your dissertation as well. It would not be wrong to say, that all the previous hard work has been carried in order to come up with this chapter. 

Here you will be discussing how you have proceeded with your research and what methods and research design have been used to grasp the answers to your research questions. You will also be required to put up information about your study population, sampling techniques, interviews, etc from which you managed to collect the data. Let’s have a look at some key elements so that you can structure your methodology chapter as per the requirements.

  1. Start the chapter by introducing your overall approach towards data collection, analysis and interpretation. Give a rationale of your selected approach i.e. Quantitative, Qualitative or Mixed Methods. 
  2. Next, come up with a blueprint for your readers by highlighting your research design, and research strategy and defining how it links to your research questions.
  3. Keeping an emphasis on ethical considerations, reflect in detail about your participants, study population and why they have been selected in reference to your objectives.
  4. Mention the techniques you have used to collect the data, be it interviews, surveys, or questionnaires.
  5. Discuss how you have analysed and interpreted the collected data in order to achieve your objectives.

Word Count: Usually, methodology chapters encompass 15-20% of the word count allocated for the dissertation. For a dissertation of 10,000 words, 1,500-2,000 words for this chapter is considered good.

Pro Tip: Referring back to your research questions, research objectives and topic is essential in every step you perform in your Methodology chapter to show the relevance of your work.

Results Chapter

Now it’s time to represent the results that you have drawn from the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data in the methodology chapter. In this section, you need to show your results in raw form. There is no need to define the meanings of the results as it will be done later in the Discussion chapter.

Note: Some institutes may ask to come up with a collective Results and Discussion chapter. If this is your university’s requirement, you must come up accordingly.

If you have used qualitative analysis, you will be representing your results in the form of thematic analysis, contextual analysis and/or theoretical frameworks. Whereas, in the case of quantitative analysis, the representation of results may occur using demographic data, descriptive and inferential statistics, etc.

Word Count: The results chapter is around 10-15% of the whole dissertation. If you are writing a dissertation of 10,000 words, your results chapter may be around 1,000-1,500 words.

Discussion Chapter

Since you have presented your results in the previous chapter, now you need to discuss them in detail. The discussion chapter is meant to come up with the proper analysis and interpretation of your results concerning your research questions, objectives and aims.

  • You can start by giving short highlights of your research questions, aims and objectives.
  • Further, summarise the results which you have collected through data collection.
  • Next, you need to analyse these results with respect to the selected existing literature. Mention the similarities and differences you have observed in the light of your research questions.
  • Showcase your critical thinking by mentioning any limitations you faced and how it has impacted your research.
  • Come up with your findings and their impact on the field of study.
  • Now, align the whole discussion for your research objectives while concluding this chapter.
  • Finally, emphasis upon the future exploration opportunities that your results may provide to other researchers.

This discussion chapter is one of the most crucial parts of your dissertation where you are connecting all the dots. Try not to repeat your findings, however, explain them well.

Word Count: The word count of the discussion chapter is 20-25% of the whole dissertation making it 2,000-2,500 words for a dissertation of 10,000 words.

Conclusion Chapter

Now, since you are about to start dissertation conclusion writing, you have almost made it. You can celebrate your success! However, it still requires a lot of attention to come up with your conclusion the right way.

Now you need just to summarise all your chapters linking back to your research questions. The conclusion chapter allows you to clearly answer your research questions and make a succinct argument about your aims and objectives. You can emphasise how your research has made a significant impact on the respective field.

Conclude it by giving a detailed reflection on the limitations of the complete research process and how your work opens up the opportunity for future researchers to explore the field.

Word Count: It is around 10-15% of the whole dissertation. It is around 1,000 to 1,500 words for a dissertation of 10,000 words.

Pro Tip: Never introduce new ideas in the conclusion chapter. Don’t be repetitive and do not include new sources while structuring the conclusion of your dissertation.

Reference List

Once you have written the dissertation, you need to list all the references you have used throughout the text under this section. While preparing the reference list, check for these points to ensure its accuracy.

  • List down your references in alphabetical order.
  • Make sure to mention each detail in every particular reference.
  • Follow the specific paper style (referencing style) throughout the paper and prepare your references accordingly.

Some most common citation styles include APA, MLA, Chicago,  Vancouver, etc. It may also depend upon your provided university guidelines or your specific field of study.

Pro Tip: We recommend you use automatic citation generators, for instance, Cite This For Me or Mendeley. It will help you come up with perfect citations. Never try them manually, as you may miss little details.

Note: Some institutes may ask you for a bibliography instead of a reference list. There is a slight difference between both of them. While listing references, you mention sources from which you have used the information in your paper to avoid plagiarism and give acknowledgement to the actual researchers. However, while coming up with the bibliography, you are required to mention the sources which informed your thinking but are not directly used in your dissertation.


You are provided with a section where you can include supporting information which is not directly related to your research but supports it somehow. You can also include data which serves as evidence of your provided information.

Structure your appendix section with separated centred headings as Appendix A, B, C or Appendix I, II, III depending upon your chosen paper style.

You can mention survey questions, interview transcript and similar documents here.

Note: Be careful! Do not use the appendices section to cut down the words from your dissertation by mentioning important data that relate directly to your research. You will not be marked on the data presented here.

🗑 While Summing Up On Structuring Your Dissertation

The structure of your dissertation includes various components. Let’s have a quick look at, in sequential order, all the components in one go.

  • Title Page
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract or Executive Summary
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures & Tables
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Glossary
  • Introduction Chapter
  • Literature Review Chapter
  • Methodology Chapter
  • Results Chapter
  • Discussion Chapter
  • Conclusion Chapter
  • Reference List
  • Appendices

You have six core components which make up the word count of your dissertation. Everything above the core chapters and after them is NOT included in the word count. Here is a quick word count distribution of a dissertation.

  • Introduction Chapter (10-15% of the total word count)
  • Literature Review Chapter (20-25% of the total word count)
  • Methodology Chapter (15-20% of the total word count)
  • Results Chapter (10-15% of the total word count)
  • Discussion Chapter (20-25% of the total word count)
  • Conclusion Chapter (10-15% of the total word count)

Along with the word count distribution, we hope that this guide has provided you with some real details on how you can smoothly structure your dissertation by emphasising every single aspect. If you think, we have missed something on any particular instance, feel free to contact us or comment your thoughts to share your opinion. Wish you all the very best with your dissertation endeavours.

❓ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How long is an abstract of the dissertation?

The abstract of the dissertation is around 100-500 words depending upon the length of your dissertation. This is not counted in the total word count of the dissertation.

Q2: How should my dissertation be structured?

Your dissertation is divided into Primary and Secondary components.

Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion as primary components.

Title Page, Acknowledgement, Abstract, Table of Contents, Reference List and Appendices as secondary components.

Q3: How many chapters are there in a dissertation?

There are typically 6 chapters in a dissertation.

  • Introduction Chapter
  • Literature Review Chapter
  • Methodology Chapter
  • Results Chapter
  • Discussion Chapter
  • Conclusion Chapter

Q4: What is the word count limit of a dissertation?

It depends mainly on the guidelines of your institute. However, generally following are the word count limits of a dissertation for various degree levels.

  • 10,000 to 30,000 words for undergraduates.
  • 25,000 to 50,000 words for Masters.
  • 60,000 to 80,000 words for PhDs.