How to Structure your Dissertation
Having submitted my dissertation today, I thought that I would provide you with some tips on how to structure your dissertation. This is the thing that I struggled with the most as I was not shown any examples on what a dissertation should look like or what exactly goes in which section. After asking lots of questions, I got the answers and I would like to share them with you, so you don’t have the same issue as I did.
I would like to share an example of a good structure for a design based dissertation. I have also included details of exactly what needs to be in each section.
Create a suitable title page for your dissertation. The standard things to include on your title page would be; the title of your dissertation (the main attraction title), the sub title (a sentence or statement that will help to describe your title), your name, your year of study and because we are creative people we need to add an image or a collection of images relevant to the dissertation topic.
A list of all of the sections that you have included in your dissertation, all main headings and sub headings should be included in this. This is an optional section, but I would advise you to have it as it makes the document look more professional.
What is your dissertation about and what does it conclude? It is a brief summary of what you did and what you found. This should be around 300-400 words.
This is where you can acknowledge people that you are grateful to for aspects of your dissertation study. It is basically thanking them for the support, advice and constructive feedback that they have provided you with to enable you to be successful on your course. For example, I acknowledged my dissertation module leader, my advisory lecturer and my former lecturer. Again, this is an optional section, but it is a nice one to complete.
Introduction to the aims of your dissertation. It will need to give details of the research topic that you have chosen to focus on, why the topic is of interest and what the knowledge gaps are. Also think about how your dissertation adds value to previous research – what is new about it? It will also include your research question and any sub questions you will be answering. The introduction should give a brief overview of your dissertation structure – what each of your sections will focus on. Again, this should be around 300-400 words.
Where did you distil your information from? Possibly one of the shorter sections. This is where you need to give details on the types of material that you have used to source your information; books, internet, articles, journals, press reports, etc. Consider any limitations of your information, for example,the internet may be only displaying particular perspectives, you need to take this into account with your dissertation and make it apparent that you understand this.
Research and Literature Review
This is where you need to include your research to support your topic as a review of the literature you have read. This is also where you need to include your Case Studies, 2-3 is appropriate and you should aim for around 600-700 words on each.
Here you can discuss in more detail the points that you have made in your dissertation. This is where you need to link your findings with your research question and your literature review This can either be a section within the conclusion or they can be separate.
This must draw a conclusion to and answer your research question. It must reflect points made throughout your dissertation. Do not bring up any additional points that are not previously mentioned. Include criticisms of your own research and where the research around your subject might go in the future.
Make sure you reference where you got your information from both within the main dissertation text and at the end in your reference list. This is a list of anything that you have used within your dissertation.
A bibliography is a list of references that you have looked at, but not directly used within your dissertation as a reference to get your point across.
Additional Optional Sections
There are some additional sections that you can include within your dissertation. I did not use any of these because they were unnecessary for a creative dissertation. It is better to put all of your illustrative materials amongst the main text of the dissertation rather than in its own section as it is easier to refer to.
- List of Acronyms.
- Glossary of Terms.
- Footnotes and End Notes.
- Illustrative Materials.
My Interior Design Dissertation
I will post a copy of my interior design dissertation after it has been graded. If I post it now, the submission might flag as plagiarism as it will already be available online before I submit it – I’m not sure if it’s possible to plagiarise myself, but I won’t take the risk.
When it is posted, you will get a clearer idea about exactly what goes where as you will have an example. It will be in PDF format uploaded to my blog and I’ll include some screenshots of it with annotations to help you. Feel free to learn from it, but please make sure that if writing about the same or a similar subject that you use your own words.