Skills Hub

Writing plan

Think about the order for writing your dissertation. This is one way of doing it:

1 Work out chapter headings.

2 Write a couple of sentences about the content of each chapter.

3 Write the section headings for each chapter.

4 Divide each section into subsections, in logical order.

5 Draft a topic sentence for the point for each paragraph within each subsection.

6 Estimate the number of words for each section, then each chapter, then for the dissertation in total.

Source: Trevor Day (2018), Success in Academic Writing, 2nd ed. Palgrave, p.111

Remember to adjust the lengths of the chapters to make sure you are focusing on the most important sections. The literature review and discussion are the most substantial sections.


You could start with the total word count and divide it up into chapters. Then sub-divide each chapter into sections and sub-sections.


Set up your dissertation document

 • Set up your Word document correctly from the start. ITS runs workshops on writing long documents in Word.

Find out which referencing style you should use (APA, Chicago, Harvard, etc), and learn how to use it as early as possible.

Consider using a reference management system - the Library has details on how to use them. You can choose from Endnote, Mendeley or Zotero.

The Library runs workshops on referencing systems.

‘The most important aspect of writing a successful dissertation . . . under pressure is to stay organised. Try to reference as you write.' (Ghaleb, Third-year Geography student)


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