Theories are developed by researchers to explain phenomena, draw connections and make predictions. They are based on existing knowledge, observations, and ideas.
In your thesis or dissertation, the theoretical framework is where you discuss and evaluate the theories that are most relevant to your research. Its main goals are to:
- Define key concepts
- Evaluate and combine relevant theories and models
- Explain the assumptions and expectations that guide your project
By presenting this information, you ‘frame’ your research and justify your approach by showing that your work is grounded in established ideas.
This part of your dissertation lays the foundations that will support your analysis, allowing you to convincingly interpret your results and explain their broader relevance.
Continue reading: Developing the theoretical framework
Deciding on a topic for your thesis, dissertation or research project is the first step in making sure your research goes as smoothly as possible. When choosing a topic, it’s important to consider:
- Your institution and department’s requirements
- Your areas of knowledge and interest
- The scientific, social, or practical relevance
- The availability of data and sources
- The length and timeframe of your dissertation
If you have no dissertation ideas yet, it can be hard to know where to start. Follow these steps to begin narrowing down your ideas.
Continue reading: Choosing a dissertation topic
The conclusion is the very last part of your dissertation or thesis. Its main purposes are to:
- Clearly state the answer to the main research question
- Summarise and reflect on the research
- Make recommendations for future work on the topic
- Show what new knowledge you have contributed
The conclusion should be concise and engaging. Aim to leave the reader with a clear understanding of the main discovery or argument that your research has advanced.
Continue reading: How to write a dissertation conclusion
The discussion chapter is where you delve into the meaning, importance and relevance of your results. It should focus on explaining and evaluating what you found, showing how it relates to your literature review and research questions, and making an argument in support of your overall conclusion. There are many different ways to write this section, but you can focus your discussion around four key elements:
- Interpretations: what do the results mean?
- Implications: why do the results matter?
- Limitations: what can’t the results tell us?
- Recommendations: what practical actions or scientific studies should follow?
There is often overlap between the discussion and conclusion, and in some dissertations these two sections are included in a single chapter. Occasionally, the results and discussion will be combined into one chapter. If you’re unsure of the best structure for your research, look at sample dissertations in your field or consult your supervisor.
Continue reading: How to write a discussion section
An abstract is a short summary of a larger work, such as a dissertation or research paper. The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research so that readers know exactly what the paper is about.
Write the abstract at the very end, when you’ve completed the rest of the text. Follow these four steps:
- State your research question and aims
- Give a brief description of the methodology
- Summarise your most significant findings or arguments
- State your conclusion
An abstract is usually around 150–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the requirements. Place the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents.
Continue reading: How to write an abstract
The introduction is the first chapter of your dissertation, and it’s essential to draw the reader in with a strong beginning. Set the stage for your research with a clear focus and direction.
The overall purpose of a dissertation introduction is to tell your reader what you’re writing about, why it matters, and how you approach it. To write your introduction, you can break it down into five steps:
- Topic and context: what does the reader need to know to understand the dissertation?
- Focus and scope: what specific aspect of the topic will you address?
- Relevance: why is this research worth doing?
- Aims and objectives: what did you aim to find out and how did you approach it?
- Overview of the structure: what will you cover in each chapter?
Continue reading: How to write a dissertation introduction
In your dissertation or thesis, you will have to discuss the methods you used to undertake your research. The methodology or methods section explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of your research. It should include:
- The type of research you did
- How you collected and/or selected your data
- How you analysed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- Your rationale for choosing these methods
The methodology section should generally be written in the past tense.
Continue reading: How to write a methodology
A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.
Conducting a literature review involves collecting, evaluating and analysing publications (such as books and journal articles) that relate to your research question. There are five main steps in the process of writing a literature review:
- Search for relevant literature
- Evaluate sources
- Identify themes, debates and gaps
- Outline the structure
- Write your literature review
A good literature review doesn’t just summarise sources – it analyses, synthesises, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
Continue reading: How to write a literature review
The title page (or cover page) of your dissertation contains all key information about the document. It usually includes:
- Dissertation title
- Your name
- The type of document (eg dissertation)
- The department and institution
- The degree program (eg Master of Arts)
- The date of submission
It sometimes also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and your university’s logo.
Continue reading: Dissertation title page