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Writing a dissertation

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Structuring the dissertation report

The structure of your report or dissertation and the titles of the sections or chapters will vary depending upon the individual research study, your course assessment requirements and the subject area you are working in. A typical list of sections would be:

Cover sheet or title page

The title (which is not usually the same as your research question or hypothesis) needs to describe the whole work. It can be difficult to formulate so give it some careful thought.

Abstract

Outline what you originally set out to do, state your argument and briefly indicate your conclusions and recommendations. For more information on writing abstracts, see our topic 'Abstracts'.

Acknowledgements

If people have given assistance with the dissertation it is usual to thank them for it.

Table of contents

The contents page(s) provides an overview of the dissertation, so write chapter and section headings with care.

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to inform the reader about the problems/issues which are to be investigated, the reason(s) for the research, and what you aim to establish.

Literature review

This requires you to examine, discuss and comment critically on the most relevant literature in your area of research (see above).

Research methodology

This should provide an explanation and justification for the approach taken. It should also explain why you developed the dissertation project as you did. Any problems or limitations in relation to data collection or analysis should be discussed here.

It is usual to incorporate the introduction, literature review and methodology sections in your first chapter but there are alternatives - discuss this with your tutor.

Statement of results / Analysis and discussion

The content will be determined by the approach you have used. This is where you present your arguments and provide supporting evidence. You will also provide an interpretation of your findings. This section typically contains two or three chapters.

Conclusions and recommendations for further research

A conclusion is a statement that tells us what the evidence means. So, make sure that any conclusions you draw here are justified in the body of your work. Do not add spurious conclusions for which there is no evidence in your dissertation.

Having drawn your conclusions you should be able to recommend further lines of research. You might be in a position to recommend proposals or changes which could make a positive contribution to your subject area or profession.

The conclusion and recommendations can form one or two chapters - again discuss with your tutor.

Notes

Any notes on a point not central to your argument, should be placed at the end of the relevant chapter and given the heading 'Notes' or at the foot of the relevant page. A superscripted number attached to the end of the relevant sentence or paragraph should link to endnotes and footnotes. Whether you use a footnote or endnote usually depends upon how extensive these notes are.

Appendices

Use these for including copies of your questionnaires, interviews, and so on. Do not provide appendices containing unnecessary or irrelevant material.

Bibliography or list of references

Make sure that you cite and reference all your sources correctly and in the required style. Most courses at Leeds Beckett use the 'Harvard' system as outlined in 'Quote, Unquote'. Check any guidance you have been given about which referencing system you should use.