To be clear, there is not one way to write a dissertation. That’s because there is not one dissertation. Instead, every single school you’ll go to will have different rules and guidelines about how your dissertation will be structured.
For that reason, whatever you read in an article like this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. You’d be better off looking at the specifications outlined on your school’s website to know the exact ins and outs of your dissertation.
Nonetheless, there are some guidelines that will hold for all the different types of dissertations. After all, you don’t put the conclusion before the introduction. Here are the things you need to watch out for:
The stuff before the introduction
Here I’m talking about the title page, the abstract, the acknowledgments and the content pages. Interestingly enough, these are generally the last thing that you’ll get to. At the same time, that does not make them unimportant. Quite the contrary, you see these are the first thing that anybody who opens your dissertation will look at. So you better make sure they’re on the money.
Fortunately, that’s not hard to do, as most of these are just a matter of following the instructions given out by your school. Only the abstract is really more challenging. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not a book cover. It does not leave things to the imagination. Instead, it should summarize everything from the introduction to the conclusion.
Next, comes the bit where you cover the literature. Here you take your central claim and support it with literature from your field. Note that you can use the findings from some other fields, but generally this should only be some of what you’re using. Yes, it is strange that we don’t use other academic fields, but that’s the way it is.
If you’re running an experiment then this is where you get into the methods you used, as well as who participated, what scales you used and so on. After that, you’ll get into the analyses of the data you got.
If you’re writing a literature review then obviously this is where you review the literature!
Here you show which of your hypotheses were supported and which were not. You can write this up as H1: XXXX was supported by XXXX but you don’t have to. Some people find it easier to write in more structurally sound English. It can be quite nice to write this way, through your supervisor has to ultimately agree with how you write this part.
Everybody hates references. It’s such an annoying thing to write up correctly! For that reason, make sure that you actually download a good referral program. I used one and though it didn’t write my dissertation for me, it sure helped a lot. The reason? When you add a reference in the text, it will automatically be added to your reference list as well (and done so correctly if you put the information in right).
So check out the options out there for referencing software – particularly as most of them are free!