How a Dissertation is Organized

Many graduate students feel confused when it comes time to start writing their dissertation. As a graduate student, you have completed your course work and taken the candidacy exam, and it is now time to complete your dissertation in order to graduate with a doctorate in your field. One thing you may find helpful is to look over dissertations written by previous students in your program. The guidelines of the graduate school regarding the format of the dissertation may also help, as can your dissertation committee and previous students.

The dissertation structure can vary from one field to another or even from institute to another, but typically a dissertation starts with an introduction. Some students find that it is easier to write the introduction after the dissertation is complete and they know what the total dissertation presents, while others may want to start the introduction early on in the writing process in order to have an idea of the direction of the project. A review of the literature, or a summary of previous work on the topic of interest in the dissertation, is generally required. Other parts include a discussion of the research methodology and the data and/or sample as well as the presentation of the study results. The methodology section lets the reader know how the writer investigated and answered the research questions. The last section of the dissertations is often focused on the conclusions and implications of the research.