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Practical dissertation sections

Here are the sections of a practical dissertation, the purpose of each section and the writing style.

Title page

The title of your dissertation and the author - you!


A summary of your dissertation. 

Table of contents

Set up your table of contents at the start - go to ITS for workshops on creating long documents in Word.


Thank the people who helped you with your dissertation.


Analytical writing

• Go from general to specific. Start with the general theme and move towards focusing on your topic.
• 10% of word count


• Grab your reader's attention - why is this study of interest?
• Context - show how your study fits within your discipline in general
• Focus in on the narrower context, within the sub-discipline
• Aims of the study - could be questions to answer or hypotheses to test
• Introduce your argument
• Overview of structure of dissertation

Literature review

Analytical writing

• Show how your work fits within the context of others' work. Select and comment on the relevant literature. 

• This is a substantial section of your dissertation - 25 to 30%


Descriptive writing

• Describe the procedure for your investigation. For qualitative methods, you'll need to explain your methodology - why you chose these methods.


Descriptive writing

• Quantitative study - graphs, charts, tables
• Qualitative study - descriptions of interviews, quotes
• Highlight points of interest


Analytical writing
• Interpret the findings and relate them to the aim of your investigation. It is important to relate them to the wider literature in your literature review. Discuss any limitations of your methods/findings.
• This is a substantial section of your dissertation, like the literature review - about 30%.


Analytical writing

• Refer back to questions at the start and summarise your findings.
• 10% of word count

You may discuss:
• Implications of your findings
• Limitations of your research
• Recommendations for further work or actions to take


Include any raw data, interview transcripts etc in consultation with your tutor.


All the sources you used in the correct referencing style for your discipline.

Source: Sections based on Trevor Day (2018) Success in Academic Writing, 2nd ed. Palgrave, pp.109–110


Example introduction structure

The development of the solar-panel industry in the UK in the early 2000s

  • Dramatic intro sentence, e.g. skyline in Brighton filled with 116 wind turbines, capable of powering half the homes in Sussex
  • The need for solar panels to provide alternative energy
  • Worldwide development of the technology
  • Solar-panel industry in the UK 
  • Focus of dissertation – argument about the development of the industry in early 2000s
  • Introduce sections of dissertation

Notice how the introduction starts with the general context and gradually narrows down to the focus of the dissertation.

Next page - Theoretical dissertation sections