Sections to Include in a Dissertation

In this article, we’ll present a quick and dirty overview of the sections to include in a dissertation.

Writing your dissertation can be a pretty monumental task. For some students, its a task to relish, while others find it an utter chore. Regardless how you feel about writing your dissertation, if you’re going to do it, you should do it properly!

Getting your dissertation right first time starts with ensuring it is properly structured, and having a clear roadmap of the necessary components can be a game-changer.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the essential sections to include in your dissertation. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and confidence to tackle this academic endeavor head-on.

Sections to Include in a Dissertation

Infographic showing the sections to include in a dissertation

Title Page

There are many different types of dissertation, but if there’s one thing all dissertations have in common, it’s a title page. The title page might seem like a mere formality, but it’s your dissertation’s first impression and it sets the tone for what lies within. Paying attention to detail here can make your work appear polished and professional.

What Goes on the Title Page?

  1. Dissertation Title: Your title should be concise yet descriptive, capturing the essence of your research. It’s the first thing readers will see, so make it compelling.
  2. Author’s Name: Your name should be prominently displayed beneath the title, signaling ownership of the work.
  3. Institutional Affiliation: Include the name of your university or institution. This establishes credibility and context for your research.
  4. Date: Don’t forget to include the date, typically the month and year of submission. This provides temporal context for your work.

Formatting Considerations

  • Alignment: Ensure that all elements on the title page are aligned properly. Centering is the most common alignment choice.
  • Font and Size: Choose a professional font and an appropriate font size for readability. Times New Roman or Arial in 12-point font is a standard choice.
  • Spacing: Pay attention to spacing between elements to maintain a clean and organized appearance.
  • Page Numbering: While not always included on the title page itself, consider whether you’ll include page numbers and where they’ll start in your document.

Tips for a Standout Title Page

  • Clarity Over Creativity: While creativity is welcome, prioritize clarity. Ensure that your title accurately reflects the content of your dissertation.
  • Consistency with Guidelines: Adhere to any specific formatting guidelines provided by your institution or department.
  • Proofreading: Don’t overlook the importance of proofreading your title page. Typos or formatting errors can detract from its professionalism. Consider using reputable dissertation proofreading services.

The abstract is like a condensed version of your entire dissertation, providing a snapshot of your research in a concise and compelling manner. While it appears at the beginning of your dissertation, it’s often one of the last sections you’ll write, as it requires a thorough understanding of your research findings.

The Abstract

Purpose of the Abstract

  • Summarize Your Research: The primary purpose of the abstract is to summarize the key elements of your dissertation, including the research question, methodology, findings, and conclusions.
  • Highlight Significance: It should convey the significance of your research and its contribution to your field. Think of it as your elevator pitch to entice readers to delve deeper into your work.
  • Facilitate Discovery: An effective abstract makes your dissertation more discoverable, allowing others to quickly assess whether your research aligns with their interests.

Components of an Abstract

  1. Research Question or Objective: Begin by clearly stating your research question or objective. This sets the stage for the rest of the abstract.
  2. Methodology: Briefly describe the methods you employed to conduct your research. This includes your approach, data collection methods, and analytical techniques.
  3. Key Findings: Summarize the main findings of your research. Highlight any significant results or trends that emerged from your analysis.
  4. Conclusions: Conclude by discussing the implications of your findings and their significance to your field. Avoid introducing new information in the abstract.

Writing Tips

  • Be Concise: Aim for brevity without sacrificing clarity. Keep your abstract succinct, typically around 150-300 words depending on your institution’s guidelines.
  • Use Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords to improve the discoverability of your dissertation in academic databases and search engines.
  • Write in the Past Tense: Since your research is already completed, write your abstract in the past tense to accurately reflect your findings.

Check out our guide to how to write a dissertation abstract for more help and examples.


The acknowledgements section of a dissertation is important because it allows you to express gratitude for the support and contributions you received during the research and writing process.

This section not only recognizes the direct academic guidance of advisors and faculty but also acknowledges the broader support network including colleagues, family, and friends whose encouragement and assistance can be vital to a student’s success.

Additionally, acknowledgements reflect the collaborative nature of scholarly work, highlighting the interpersonal and institutional relationships that underpin academic achievements. By providing a space for these expressions of thanks, the acknowledgements help to humanize the academic work, revealing the personal efforts and community involvement behind your research.

For more help: how to write acknowledgements.

Section 3: Methodology

In the methodology section of your dissertation, you outline the strategies and techniques you employed to conduct your research. This section provides readers with a clear understanding of how you approached your study, collected data, and analyzed findings. A well-articulated methodology is essential for establishing the validity and reliability of your research.

Purpose of the Methodology

  1. Transparency: The methodology section aims to be transparent about the research process, allowing readers to evaluate the rigor and validity of your study.
  2. Reproducibility: By detailing your research methods, you enable other researchers to replicate your study and verify your findings.
  3. Justification: You justify your choice of research methods, demonstrating why they were appropriate for addressing your research questions or objectives.

Components of the Methodology

  1. Research Design: Describe the overall approach or design of your study, whether it’s qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, experimental, observational, or case study.
  2. Sampling Strategy: Explain how you selected participants or sources of data. Discuss the criteria for inclusion/exclusion and any sampling techniques used (e.g., random sampling, purposive sampling).
  3. Data Collection Methods: Detail the methods used to collect data, such as surveys, interviews, observations, experiments, or document analysis. Discuss how you ensured the reliability and validity of your data.
  4. Data Analysis Techniques: Outline the techniques employed to analyze the collected data, whether it involves statistical analysis, thematic coding, content analysis, or other qualitative or quantitative methods.
  5. Ethical Considerations: Address any ethical issues related to your research, including informed consent, confidentiality, and potential risks to participants. Describe how you obtained ethical approval, if applicable.

Writing Tips

  • Clarity and Detail: Be clear and thorough in your description of each methodological component, providing enough detail for readers to understand your approach.
  • Justification: Justify your choice of research methods by discussing their suitability for addressing your research questions and objectives.
  • Consider Alternative Approaches: Acknowledge any limitations or alternative approaches that were considered but not chosen, explaining why they were not selected.
  • Use Subheadings: Organize your methodology section using subheadings to clearly delineate each component.

Our guide to writing a methodology provides much more information on this section of your dissertation.

Section 4: Findings

The findings section of your dissertation is where the culmination of your research efforts comes to fruition. It’s the juncture where data transforms into insights, patterns emerge, and hypotheses are confirmed or refuted. This section is pivotal for conveying the substance of your research and substantiating your claims with empirical evidence.

Presenting Your Findings

  1. Organizational Structure: Begin by organizing your findings in a logical and coherent manner. You may choose to present them chronologically, thematically, or by research question, depending on the nature of your study.
  2. Visual Representation: Enhance the clarity and comprehensibility of your findings by incorporating tables, charts, graphs, or diagrams. These visual aids can help readers grasp complex data patterns more readily.
  3. Descriptive Analysis: Provide a detailed description of your findings, including key statistics, trends, or noteworthy observations. Describe the central tendencies, variability, and distribution of your data.

Interpretation and Analysis

  1. Contextualization: Place your findings in context by referring back to your research questions or hypotheses. Discuss how your findings align with or diverge from your initial expectations.
  2. Comparative Analysis: Compare your findings with relevant literature, highlighting similarities, differences, or areas of consensus. Discuss how your results contribute to, challenge, or extend existing knowledge in your field.
  3. Exploratory Insights: Offer insights gleaned from your data analysis, identifying emergent themes, unexpected patterns, or unanticipated relationships. Consider alternative explanations or interpretations where relevant.

Addressing Limitations

  1. Transparency: Acknowledge any limitations or constraints that may have influenced your findings. Be transparent about methodological limitations, sample biases, or data constraints that may impact the generalizability of your results.
  2. Discussion of Outliers: Address any outliers or anomalies in your data, explaining their potential significance or implications. Consider whether they warrant further investigation or analysis.

If you’re struggling to express your findings in the right way, consider using a dissertation editing service. Vappingo’s dissertation editors can help you communicate your main findings in a way your audience can understand.

Section 5: Discussion

In the discussion section of your dissertation, you delve into the meaning and implications of your findings, interpret their significance, and explore their broader implications for your field of study. This section is where you critically analyze your results, compare them with existing literature, and offer insights that contribute to the advancement of knowledge in your area of research.

Purpose of the Discussion Section

  1. Interpretation of Findings: The primary purpose of the discussion section is to interpret and explain the meaning of your findings in relation to your research questions or hypotheses.
  2. Contextualization: You contextualize your findings within the broader body of literature in your field, identifying similarities, differences, or gaps in existing research.
  3. Critical Analysis: You critically evaluate the strengths and limitations of your study, considering factors that may have influenced your results and suggesting areas for future research.

Components of the Discussion Section

  1. Interpretation of Findings: Begin by interpreting your findings in light of your research questions or hypotheses. Discuss the implications of your results and how they contribute to addressing the research aims.
  2. Comparison with Literature: Compare your findings with existing literature, highlighting areas of agreement, disagreement, or divergence. Discuss how your findings extend, confirm, or challenge previous research.
  3. Limitations and Biases: Acknowledge the limitations of your study, such as sample size, methodology constraints, or potential biases. Discuss how these limitations may have influenced your results and interpretations.
  4. Implications and Contributions: Discuss the broader implications of your findings for theory, practice, or policy in your field. Consider how your research contributes to advancing knowledge or addressing real-world problems.

Writing Tips

  • Synthesize and Summarize: Synthesize your findings and key points from the literature to provide a cohesive and integrated discussion.
  • Be Objective: Maintain objectivity in your discussion, acknowledging alternative interpretations or conflicting evidence.
  • Avoid Overinterpretation: While it’s important to interpret your findings, avoid overinterpretation or extrapolating beyond the scope of your data.
  • Future Directions: Conclude the discussion section by suggesting avenues for future research based on the limitations or unanswered questions raised by your study.

Section 6: Conclusion

The conclusion section of your dissertation is the culmination of your academic journey, where you bring together the threads of your research and reflect on its significance. It’s your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your readers and underscore the importance of your contributions to your field of study.

Summarizing Your Findings

  1. Recapitulation: Begin by summarizing the key findings and insights gleaned from your research. Provide a concise overview of the main points covered in your dissertation, reinforcing the central arguments or discoveries.
  2. Answering the Research Question: Revisit the research question or hypothesis posed at the outset of your study. Reflect on whether your findings have provided a clear answer or resolution to the research question, and how they contribute to advancing knowledge in your field.

Reflecting on Significance

  1. Implications for Theory and Practice: Discuss the broader implications of your findings for theory, practice, or policy. Consider how your research addresses gaps in existing literature, sheds light on pressing issues, or informs future directions for research or application.
  2. Contributions to the Field: Reflect on the original contributions of your study to your field of study. Highlight any novel insights, methodological advancements, or theoretical frameworks generated by your research.

Addressing Limitations and Future Directions

  1. Limitations: Acknowledge the limitations of your study, including methodological constraints, sample biases, or data limitations. Discuss how these limitations may have impacted your findings and suggest avenues for future research to address these limitations.
  2. Future Research Directions: Propose potential areas for future research based on the unanswered questions, unresolved issues, or new lines of inquiry identified through your study. Consider how future research could build upon or extend the findings of your dissertation.

Section 7: References

The references section of your dissertation is where you provide a comprehensive list of all the sources cited in your work. It serves as a crucial component of academic integrity, acknowledging the scholarly contributions of others and providing a roadmap for readers to locate the sources you’ve consulted.

Importance of Proper Referencing

  1. Credibility: Proper referencing enhances the credibility of your dissertation by demonstrating that your arguments are grounded in existing literature and informed by scholarly discourse.
  2. Avoiding Plagiarism: Accurately citing sources helps you avoid plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense. By giving credit to the original authors, you uphold ethical standards and maintain academic integrity.
  3. Facilitating Further Reading: The references section enables readers to find out more about the topics you’ve explored in your dissertation by providing a list of sources for further reading and research.

Formatting Guidelines

  1. Citation Style: Follow the citation style specified by your institution or department, such as APA dissertation formatting, MLA formatting, Chicago, or Harvard formatting. Ensure consistency in formatting throughout the references section.
  2. Entry Format: List each reference in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Include all necessary bibliographic information, such as author(s), publication year, title, journal/book title, volume/issue/page numbers, and DOI or URL (for online sources).
  3. Indentation and Spacing: Use a hanging indent for each reference, with the first line flush left and subsequent lines indented. Maintain consistent spacing between entries.

Citing Different Types of Sources

  1. Books: Include the author(s), publication year, title, publisher, and place of publication for books.
  2. Journal Articles: Provide the author(s), publication year, article title, journal title, volume(issue), page numbers, and DOI or URL for journal articles.
  3. Web Sources: For online sources, include the author(s), publication date (if available), title of the webpage or article, website name, URL, and access date.

Checking for Accuracy

  1. Verify Citations: Double-check each citation for accuracy, including spelling, punctuation, and formatting. Ensure that all information is complete and correctly formatted according to the citation style guidelines.
  2. Cross-Check References: Cross-reference your in-text citations with the entries in the references section to ensure that every source cited in your dissertation is included and vice versa.


The appendices section of your dissertation provides supplementary material that supports and enhances the understanding of your research. This section is where you include additional information that is too detailed, lengthy, or tangential to be included in the main body of your dissertation but is still relevant to your study.

Purpose of Appendices

  1. Supplementary Material: Appendices allow you to include supplementary material that provides additional context, data, or analyses related to your research.
  2. Enhancing Clarity: Appendices can help enhance the clarity and comprehensiveness of your dissertation by providing detailed information that supports your arguments or findings.
  3. Accessibility: Including supplementary material in the appendices ensures that readers have access to relevant information without cluttering the main body of your dissertation.

Types of Material to Include

  1. Raw Data: Appendices are an appropriate place to include raw data, such as survey responses, interview transcripts, or experimental results, that support your findings.
  2. Additional Figures or Tables: You can include additional figures, tables, charts, or graphs in the appendices that provide further visualization of your data or analyses.
  3. Technical Details: Appendices are suitable for including technical details, methodologies, or calculations that are necessary for understanding your research but are too detailed for the main text.

Formatting Guidelines

  1. Organization: Organize the appendices in a logical order that corresponds to their relevance to the main text. Number each appendix sequentially (e.g., Appendix A, Appendix B) and include descriptive titles for clarity.
  2. Clarity: Ensure that each appendix is clearly labeled and identified in the main text of your dissertation, where appropriate, to guide readers to relevant supplementary material.
  3. Consistency: Maintain consistency in formatting and style throughout the appendices section, following the same citation style and formatting guidelines used in the rest of your dissertation.