Divide-and-Rule Principle Enacted
Some researchers claim there is no pre-established and rigid dissertation structure; others say there is. Actually, the truth is somewhere in-between. You may apply general guidelines first and then follow specific requirements of your academic sphere. Dissertation generalities determine the structure of a research paper as follows:
- Dedications, Acknowledgments
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Literature Review
- Chapter 3: Requirements and Methodology
- Chapter 4: Results and Discussion; Analysis of Data Collected
- Chapter 5 Conclusions
- References, Bibliography
Title page includes:
- Dissertation title
- Student's name followed by the preceding degree and date of graduation if relevant
- Reason for submitting the project, which will usually be a partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree
- Department and university name
- Date of submitting the work
Abstract is the gateway to the whole dissertation structure. You are to employ 300-500 (or more, if necessary) words telling the reader everything they can expect to find in the research, in a summary form. No references or quotes are found here.
Dedications and Acknowledgments are half-a-page sections written to thank everyone (the difference between the two is the degree of intimacy involved) who has contributed greatly (or even a bit) to your project. Sequence of importance is up to you.
Table of Contents is a list of headings and subheadings, neatly laid out, with page numbers. For all previous pages you should use Roman numerals, such as i, ii, iii, iv, etc.
Introduction of about 150 words in length outlines “The Big Issue”, that is, what you are going to write about: the importance of your topic, present-day state of the field, research problems in the subject area. This section takes 10% of the whole paper volume. This section should be a sort of “New Readers start here”. Assume the reader has little or no knowledge of the subject matter. You need to describe the state of the art, or what has happened so far. The first paragraph tells the reader something about the subject, so that they can know a little before they start the “interesting” bit.
Literature Review is a review of the relevant theory, the presentation of both classical and recently published information about the subject. This segment accounts for 20-25% of the entire dissertation.
Methodology speaks about what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Subsections are determined by the topic. It consumes up to 20% of space. Possible subdivisions:
- Research Background (Research Hypotheses; Questions; Objectives)
- Research Design and Methodology
- Research Purpose (Exploratory, Descriptive, Explanatory, Prescriptive)
- Research Approach (Deductive versus Inductive Approach; Qualitative versus Quantitative Approach)
- Research Strategy (Qualitative Sampling, Qualitative Data Collection, Qualitative Data Handling)
- Credibility and Quality of Research Findings (Reliability, Validity, Quality)
Findings and discussions section represents a substantial 25-30% chunk of a research. These two parts illuminate what you have discovered and what you have concluded from it. In a dissertation, and particularly at Master’s level, considerable analysis is sought after, not a simple description. Dissertation evaluators look even beyond to a detailed and visionary strategy for further development (depending on the dissertation subject area).
Conclusion/Recommendations should be short and concise, approximately one page and a half. You could include areas that may be worth researching further, and dwell upon contributions, implications, and limitations of your research.
References section is a list of works, documents, and sources from where you have quoted in the text of the dissertation; whereas Bibliography is an optional list of books and other published work you have consulted in order to gain insights but without quoting per se.
Appendices may include properly formatted:
- Sample questionnaires
- Pictures and photographs
- Graphs and diagrams
- Letters and maps
- Tables of primary data, etc.
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