Structure of the Dissertation
You are strongly advised to follow closely the guidelines mentioned in this report in terms of your project’s structure. Your tutor will judge your project according to these criteria, which represent common practice in the academic field. Your creativity and initiative should be better put to use in your choice of methodology, analysis and interpretation of data. The following structure is common to all types of projects in all areas of study. The only difference between projects is the relative importance of each section, determined by the type of project undertaken. The elements detailed should be present in EVERY project.
1. Outline pages
- Declaration of Originality
- Title page
- Table of Contents
- Table of illustrations
- List of tables
- List of Figures
2. Main body of text (divided into Chapters)
Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Literature Review Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 4: Findings/Data analysis Chapter 5: Interpretation of findings Chapter 6: Discussion and conclusion
- List of references
This declaration should be at the front of your project and reproduced exactly as in Appendix II. The student must sign it.
This should show:
The title Your name
Your student ID number
The programme you are on and the year, if applicable The date
A one-page summary which outlines what the report says (this is also referred to in some cases as an abstract). This should concentrate on key points that you might wish a casual reader browsing through the report to notice. It can be thought of as a promotional introduction for the rest of the report.
You should write this last.
It should be in the third person and past tense.
Acknowledgements are part of standard dissertation etiquette and allow you the opportunity to thank any organization or person (including your supervisor) who has provided information or given substantial help during the development of your project.
Table of Contents
This should show:
The full list of sections within the report (including any appendices and reference lists); and
The page number on which each section begins
List of Abbreviations List of Illustrations
This includes the Table of Figures, i.e. the list of all the figures presented in the body of the report.
Table of Tables: This is the list of all the tables presented in the body of your reports.
The Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Data Analysis and Discussion and Conclusion are the chapters of your dissertation. This is where you present your main account of the problem you are writing about. It should be based on analysis, not opinion, and written in the third person, e.g. avoid writing “I feel “. You must back up what you write with evidence and/or argument. This means you must substantiate each assertion you make with references to concepts and models in the literature or by building a logical argument based on previously cited examples/evidence.
This should give a succinct explanation of the aims/context of the report and should include brief details of any information necessary for the reader to understand it. It should explain the purpose of the study and the problems you are trying to solve.
An introduction should answer the following questions:
You should have the answers to these questions in your mind as you undertake the project. However, projects evolve over time and therefore writing the final text for this section is often best left until the end of the project.
The literature review informs the reader of the relevant works already published in your field of research. You should report the main streams of ideas and concepts other authors have developed and that help understanding and justifying your own study. A literature review is a critical review, rather than merely descriptive.
The literature review should answer the following questions:
In the methodology section, you should report how you investigated the problem at hand. Your approach to the investigation should be fully justified i.e. you should show awareness of other approaches and methods, as well as briefly identifying their strengths and weaknesses compared to the selected one. The scope and limitations of the chosen method should also be discussed.
The methodology section should answer the following questions:
Findings and Analysis
In this section, you should analyse your data, using the appropriate technique. Consider presenting material in the form of diagrams, charts et cetera, wherever appropriate. These are easier to grasp and can break up the monotony of long passages of text.
The following questions should be answered:
Conclusion and Recommendations
This is where you sum up the general conclusions you have reached. Your conclusion should include a summary of your results but must also relate them to the aims and objectives identified in the introductory chapter.
Any limitations of your methodology or results should be discussed. Because of these limitations, you should also mention future avenues for investigations.
Recommendations may be included in the conclusion or as a separate chapter. It may not always be appropriate to make recommendations. Conclusions, however, are always required.
Don’t confuse conclusions (where you draw together the threads of the preceding discussion to make some overall points) with recommendations (where you say what should be done about the conclusions you have reached).
Recommendations are actions, which your conclusions lead you to believe, are necessary or would benefit the organisations studied. The recommendations must be based on the analysis, argumentation, and conclusions. They should not be unsubstantiated assertion of opinion.
The following questions should be answered in the concluding section:
This is where you place any information whose inclusion is not central to the main body of the report, but which explains, amplifies or puts in context the arguments and evidence you have presented there. Its main purpose is to allow you to include important information that, if it were included in the main body of the report, would interrupt the flow of the argument you are developing.
Any material in an appendix does not count towards the word length, nor will it attract any marks. You should not, however, load your appendices with material central to your argument in order to subvert the word count. Your tutor will ignore this material and the flow of your argument will suffer as a result.
You do not put any material (e.g. diagrams) that you have to refer to in order to understand the project.
The appendix is an ideal place for, for instance, a copy of your questionnaire, or long lists of numbers, but the main body must include a summary of the information you place in the appendix.
A clear reference to the appendix must be made in the main text.
Ensure that the Project Module Supervisor Contact Sheet is duly completed and included.
List of References
This is the list of sources referred to directly in your report. If you have mentioned a writer or a book (even a course book) you must give full details here.
Strict standards should be followed when quoting other authors’ works in the body
of your report and compiling the list of references. This is explained in detail later.