Academic papers, particularly theses and dissertations, usually follow an established structure or format composed of five main sections. Universities adhere to this format to standardize research writing regardless of fields or disciplines, and to make it easier for advisers, panelists, and peer reviewers to evaluate these papers.
Nevertheless, the following discussion provides a guideline and outline to thesis and dissertation writing in consideration of the five major sections, as well as the supplemental sections. Hence, this article also lists down or enumerates and describes the parts of a thesis or dissertation.
The Structure: Guideline and Outline to Thesis and Dissertation Writing
Abstract or Executive Summary
The abstract or executive summary of the research should summarize the topic or subject under investigation, the aim of the research, the methodology used, and the main conclusions and recommendations. The typical word count for this section is around 300 to 500 words.
Chapter 1: Introduction
As one of the major sections of a thesis or dissertation, the introduction essentially provides the readers of an overview of what the research is all about, especially the topic or subject, what it intends to investigate or answer, and the background that underpins the entire research pursuit. It consists of three sub-sections:
• Background of the Study: Contains a brief discussion of the topic or subject and introduces the entire research pursuit to the readers. It also contains a brief literature review or an overview of the current gap in research. This section can also include a brief discussion of the way the paper is structured.
• Aims and Objectives: Includes a clear and precise statement of the aims of the research, in addition to the more specific objectives. Note that objectives can be stated in the form of research questions. The objectives or research questions should contribute directly to the achievement of the stated aims.
• Scope and Limitation: Justifies the feasibility of the research and its relevance, as well as identifies and describes its focus and the parameters used to establish the scope and limitation of the entire research undertaking.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
The literature review identifies, examines, and describes previous studies that are related to the topic or subject of the research. The main goal of this section is to identify gaps or shortcomings in a particular field or discipline that the current research intends to address. In addition, it can also provide a detailed discussion of the theoretical and conceptual framework used by the current research,
Below are quick pointers on how a literature review should be approached and written:
• It should identify the appropriate academic and/or professional fields or disciplines of the literature and places the current research or its topic or subject within a particular scope.
• It should identify and describe the main themes in the literature that are important and useful to the current research undertaking.
• It should identify the connections or discontinuities between the themes in the literature or the research gaps the current research intends to fill.
Chapter 3: Methodology
Another major section of a thesis or dissertation is the methodology part. Often the shortest and easiest to write, it outlines the method used in the pursuit of the research undertaking, particularly by explaining why such method is used. Essentially, this section should also explain what, when, where, how, and why the research did what he or she did to get the results.
Below is a brief guideline in writing the methodology section:
• It should discuss the nature of the questions the researcher are asking and choose an appropriate methodological stance for answering them.
• It should describe, explain and justify the research methods, especially the research paradigm and research approach, that the researcher has chosen
• It should describe the practical and technical aspects of conducting the research to include the sampling technique or data gathering procedure employed.
• It should discuss any ethical issues connected with the entire research undertaking in consideration of privacy considerations and data handling, concerns over human subjects, and academic integrity.
Chapter 4: Results and Analysis of Findings
The longest part of thesis and dissertation writing is the section that discusses the results and analyses of the findings from the methodology. There is no format or standardized structure in writing this section. However, the following are pointers for organizing the discussion of results and analyses:
• It should describe what the researcher has found out and what it means to the current research undertaking.
• It should refer back to the literature review and the conceptual framework by evaluating and connecting previous studies and the framework.
• It should include figures and tables, if needed, that would summarize the results, where appropriate.
• It should be compared with the hypotheses or expectations held before the conduct of the research or the actual pursuit of the methodology.
Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations
As the last major section of a thesis or dissertation, the conclusion and recommendations mark the closure of the research undertaking. Take note of the following guideline:
• Summarize the main argument of the research
• Either discuss the validity and reliability of the findings and arguments or reflectively critique the account provided in your dissertation
• Frame the conclusions and recommendations whenever appropriate
• Discuss any issues concerning the implementation of the conclusions or recommendations.
Take note that all conclusions should connect back to the aims and objectives of questions of the research, as stated in the introduction section. As an additional pointer, the researcher can use the aims and objectives as subheadings for organizing the discussion of the conclusions. In other words, each conclusion can be presented under a corresponding subheading based on the aim or objective.
Note that the conclusion should not introduce new ideas, topics or subjects, or materials. However, the research can raise questions for future research directions through recommendations.
The appendices contain a list, description, and presentation of all tables and figures used in the entire thesis or dissertation writing. It can also present the research instruments used, such as a survey questionnaire or FGD guide. However, the word count from this section is not included in the entire word count of the entire paper.
All materials used in the entire paper, including those mentioned in the literature review, should be referenced according to the academic referencing format prescribed by the university. The use of many references is a positive feature of a good thesis dissertation. In addition, proper referencing and citation also influence marks or grades.