Basic Dissertation Structure: Practical Guide & Template

The first step to crushing your dissertation is to master the structure of the essay and identify the information to include in each section. Fortunately, some institutions offer a dissertation guide that enlists the prescribed outline for their faculty and the information needed for each section.

Without the guide, however, determining where to begin can prove a tricky task. This article will highlight the basic dissertation structure and guide you on the parts of your master’s/ doctoral dissertation.

How to structure a dissertation

A dissertation structure describes the arrangement of research content. There are many parts to it, which can be divided into paragraphs. It is crucial to the flow and navigation of research papers.

Different academic disciplines require different dissertation structures. It is important that you check with your department to confirm what kind of structure is required.

If it’s your first time writing a dissertation, you might be confused about the structure of dissertation chapters. With seven sections to look at, managing your dissertation may at times seem like a daunting task. 

Even worse, a poorly organized paper may be shunned by the faculty, causing you to redo your paper severally. Here is the logical way to organize your paper and make the most of your dissertation.

The basic structure of a dissertation

The title page

This is the initial page of your paper. The page should indicate your dissertation’s title, the name of the author, the department of your faculty, the program you are undertaking, and the due date.

In some instances, you may have to indicate the supervisor’s name on your title page. It is thus mandatory to consult your tutor or ask for a dissertation manual to familiarize yourself with formatting the title page. 

When catering for this page, be keen to prepare a grabbing title that captures the key idea of your paper. 

The acknowledgments

This is an optional section that offers us a chance to appreciate the people that took the pains to guide us in completing our paper. However, this section does not accommodate endless rumblings about thanking everyone in your circle. Rather than those who directly impacted your research. 

Some of the people to recognize in this area are; your supervisor, the professors, and peers who helped you gauge the methodologies and refine your argument. Your family and spouse for their support with resources that went into the project.

Be precise in this section and limit your acknowledgments to recognizing the person and their contribution to the paper.


This is a 150-300 summary of your research paper. The abstract should state your research objectives, the research methodology and highlight your key findings. Finally, the abstract should state the conclusion of your research and what these results imply for your study.

Table of contents

This section should enlist all the sections of your paper and indicate the page numbers for each chapter. The table of content thus acts as a navigation tool for readers that are looking for a specific portion of your research content.

List of figures and tables

Like the former, this part should indicate the title of the charts and illustrations used in your work next to their respective page numbers. 

List of abbreviations 

This portion should cover the abbreviations used in an alphabetical order to help the reader decipher various instances in the paper where they encounter an unfamiliar abbreviation. 


Here, define all the jargon used in your work for the sake of the non-experts to deduce what various technical jargons mean. However, this should not cover all English words as it may result in a waste of precious time needed to structure your dissertation. 


The introduction chapter is a crucial portion of your essay that hooks your reader in and highlights the justification for your research and the knowledge gaps in your field. The intro should also cover the background information and provide an overview of your essay structure.

Literature review

This chapter serves as an analysis of existing research on your field and an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. Here, you may address the gap in the existing literature and suggest solutions to the issues that crop up in the existing research.


This is perhaps the easiest portion of your dissertation chapters. The methodology should present the procedure you intend to employ to test your hypothesis along with the justification for selecting the method of research.

You should also highlight the data analysis techniques and enlist the limitations you encountered along with the solutions you employed to maneuver these limitations. 


This chapter of the dissertation should highlight the figures, graphs, and charts that describe your data. Each chart should be properly labeled and have a title explaining the data it contains. Be keen to only present data that is relevant to your research questions and tackle minor formulas and calculations in the appendices section.


The discussion makes the bulk of content in a dissertation chapter structure. This section should further dive in to analyze what your results mean for your discipline and show how your findings support your thesis.

You should also tie your findings down with other research to lend credence to your paper and analyze unexpected results to show that you were keen on your investigation. Towards the end of this section, consider discussing some counterarguments and presenting the data that refutes these claims. 

The conclusion

This part should highlight your key finding and analyze the impact of your paper on the discipline. You can also recommend some of the studies that may be performed to further analyze the issue under discussion. 


The work cited/ reference section should cover all the bibliographies for the intext citations used within your paper.