What are the Sections of a Dissertation?

Writing a dissertation requires more breadth and depth than a thesis; however, many of the sections included in a thesis are present in a dissertation. The major differences between the two graduate projects are the extension in the literature review, rigorous methodology, and stronger contribution to the field in the dissertation. In both projects, the organized written product supports a systematic process of exploring and contextualizing a research problem.

In the dissertation, the introduction will include a conceptual framework and a more comprehensive background, significance, and purpose. Articulate references provide support for each of these sections in chapter one and throughout the dissertation. In this chapter, develop a theoretical rationale aligned with the research problem, such that the reader has a wider lens through which to understand the problem.

The literature review in chapter two extends the topics identified in the introduction. The references often include recent research, seminal theorists, and novel work that provide the foundation for the study. In chapter two, develop a path that provides clarity for the context of the study. Help the reader understand the importance of a specific problem through your conceptual framework.

The methodology in the study will often include a larger sample size or a more intricate plan, such that the data is triangulated. There may be additional validated and reliable instruments in the dissertation to strengthen the thoroughness of the data collection process. By the end of the third chapter, a student is likely to have to defend the proposal and obtain approval of the institutional research board prior to collecting data. Therefore, include solid qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methodology in this chapter.

Chapter four will include the findings derived from the data collection. The difference in the dissertation is that there may be additional statistical tests or analyses employed to derive the findings. Restate the research questions, share the results in an organized fashion, including tables, figures, and graphs to illustrate your findings, and summarize the key points before moving to the discussion chapter.

The chapters after the first four may also vary based on your particular field, department, and committee. For example, if writing this as a book, you may include additional background context or narrative to develop the story. Chapter five may include the implications for policy, literature, and practice. Share the limitations of your study, recommendations for future researchers endeavoring a similar topic that offer ways to extend your research, and your own conclusions about the research questions based on your findings.

In summary, the dissertation is a more sophisticated thesis that draws upon seminal research, offers a novel idea, and should stimulate readers with a thorough presentation of the problem and solid recommendations.  At the end of the writing process of the dissertation, you will again have to defend your work in front of a committee; it’s paramount that this work demonstrates strong research skills. Weave the breadth and depth of the research throughout the dissertation in order to present a solid, scholarly product!

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