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Parts of a Thesis Dissertation

How to Write Your Thesis or Dissertation: Getting Started

Here’s a brief overview of the pieces that make up a good dissertation or thesis; we’ve also written articles about each individual piece – click on the text links to find them.

What is a thesis and how do I write one!? Your thesis or dissertation is basically proof that you’ve learned how to do research and organize your ideas into a paper. Nobody’s expecting it to be perfect, but it has to be pretty good if you want to graduate on time.

Can’t I just pay a thesis or dissertation writing company to write my thesis for me? Yes you can! And after you get it back, and find out that it’s written poorly and full of mistakes, you can send it to PaperPerfect for editing – and we’ll probably tell you that 90% of it is plagiarized. It’s a way better idea to write it yourself, and have us polish it up.

Getting started. The organization of your thesis or dissertation is absolutely and incredibly more important than the content. Great ideas and great writing will sink if you don’t have the underlying structure in place for support. Plus, a research dissertation or thesis is expected to have certain sections – your advisors may simply skip through to make sure it looks like it’s supposed to, so make sure you have all of the following parts in place.

In fact, the easiest way to write a thesis is to break it down into parts first: make a detailed outline with rough notes that you can pour your research into. Then just keep cleaning it up until it works. Most people will tell you to write the content (chapters) first, and write the introduction, conclusion and literature review last. I disagree.

Your introduction and literature review are the map of your ideas; they say exactly what you’re going to do, how your chapters are going to be organized, where you got all your ideas from, and what your main purpose of writing is going to be. How can you write anything meaningful if you write the chapters first? Focus on the destination, the conclusion you hope you will make, and then fill in the content until you’re there.

How to Write Your Thesis or Dissertation: Important Parts

1) Acknowledgments

In this part you should thank your adviser, your faculty or anybody else who’s supported you during your research. Many people include their friends, family or even girlfriends / boyfriends (although we feel this lacks professionalism).

More on Writing an Acknowledgments section of your thesis or dissertation.

2) Abstract

Your abstract is kind of like your sales copy – it’s a brief synopsis of your entire thesis; along with the title, the abstract is what will entice readers to actually look at your dissertation. The length depends on the requirements; an abstract is usually between 300 to 1000 words. It should highlight the fundamental parts of your thesis, which are:

  • Motivation – Why are you researching this? What’s the point? Who cares? Why is it necessary?
  • Problem Statement – What exactly do you hope to fix/learn/solve (this usually involves a ‘gap in the literature’ – i.e. it’s something that’s never been done before).
  • Approach – How do you go about getting the answer? Where do you look? What methods/experiments/books/etc do you utilize in your research?
  • Results – What’s the answer? What do you prove/show
  • Conclusion – Usually this involves showing how your research may be useful for future researchers or to widen the knowledge base of the subject.

The abstract is usually accompanied by the Keywords – a list of related keywords about the subject.

Sometimes researchers also add a Long (3~4 sentences) or Short (1 sentence) statement of the research topic or problem. See if you can squeeze the whole point of your thesis into one sentence, while still keeping all the main pieces. (When people ask you “What’s your thesis about?” – what do you say? This is the research problem.)

Read more on writing an abstract for a thesis or dissertation

3) Table of contents

A strong, clear table of comments. Usually numbered:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS…………………………………………………………………. I

ABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………………………. II

TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………………………………………………… III

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………….. 1

1.1   Research Background and Motivation………………………………………. 1

1.2 Research Project……………………………………………………………………. 2

1.3 Research Structure…………………………………………………………………. 3

4) Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter One is usually the introduction of the thesis or dissertation. It has the following parts – which can actually be divided into sections, with headings.

  • Research background and motivation – A brief intro into the topic or field, the history of research, gaps in the literature; also why you’ve chosen this topic, why is it necessary, why does it matter. This is the WHY.  More on writing a research background and motivation section.
  • Research project – An expanded summary of your thesis. Much like your abstract, but a little longer, this should describe what you did or hope to do and why, as well as your results or conclusions. This is the WHAT.
  • Research structure – An outline of the whole thesis: a chapter by chapter summary. List the chapters and the main points of that chapter (again, while it may be easier to write this after you’ve written the chapters, it’s so much better to plan the chapters out in advance anyway.) Be specific and detailed. This is the HOW.

Read more on writing an introduction for a thesis or dissertation

5) Chapter 2: Literature Review

The purpose of a literature review is to prove that you’ve done your research, really know what’s going on in the field, and are not copying or doing redundant research that is unrelated to what’s actually relevant. Basically, you search through abstracts and pull up everything anybody else has ever done on the subject. Of course the bigwigs/celebrities of your field must be mentioned, but also show some more obscure researchers. (However – don’t use an obscure research if a more famous researcher is actually famous for the same idea.)

Basically, you say “A said this about the topic, but then B said this. And after that C said this, which was countered by D’s claim that….” Keep a timeline. Every topic has a natural progression. Start from the beginning of your particular topic niche, follow through until the most current research that has been done, and then show the ‘gaps in the literature’, or the problems, the sub topic being ignore, the research not yet conducted, the ideas not yet explored, which are solved / answered by your thesis or dissertation.

Read more on writing a literature review for a thesis or dissertation

6) Your Chapters

Each chapter has one main topic or point, and is divided into related sub sections. Stick to your outline, make sure each piece is related to the whole. Provide lots of well documented research. If you’re doing a paper that focuses more on data /experimentation you can include the following chapters or sections:

  1. Methodology – the chapter that explains the different data gathering and data analysis procedures.
  2. Data and Analysis – the presentation of data and information gathered as well as how they were analyzed.
  3. Discussions and Results – this is the part of the thesis paper that provides the explanation of how the research results will resolve the thesis statement problem.

7) Conclusion

Confirm that your original argument / theory has been proven. If it hasn’t (if the results didn’t meet your expectations) then say that clearly and explain. Were there any limitations to the research or unexpected problems? List them. (This is always a good idea, as it shows humility. However, don’t list things that make it seem like you didn’t try hard enough; if you realized after the fact that a particular method could have been improved, say so.) Detail the results of your research and how these results will be useful in the field or to other researchers. Brainstorm future topics of related research that have yet to be covered, which can now be conducted or explored using your research as a base; “future studies can go farther in x direction”…

I hope this guide helps! If you need more information about writing your thesis or dissertation, you can check our Writing Tutorials.

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