Main Dissertation Chapters and Their Characteristics

Main Dissertation Chapters and Their CharacteristicsThe organization of dissertation chapters or sections is referred to as dissertation structure. Unlike layout that is often dictated by an institution, there are no strict fixed rules governing structure of a dissertation but it is generally acceptable that it consists of these chapters:

Title page

Title page contains full title, any sub-title of research work and name of author. It also contains statement about degree under which a dissertation is submitted and date of submission.


An abstract is usually one page that summarizes objectives of research, used methodology and main findings of such work.

Contents list

It lists chapter and section headings with corresponding page numbers.

List of tables, illustrations and diagrams

This is a list of figure and table numbers together with the captions and corresponding page numbers.

Nomenclature list

This is part of dissertation sections that provides list of nomenclature and the definitions of acronyms that are used in dissertation. Ensure that corresponding units if, applicable are included. The good practice is to have different section for nomenclature with Greek symbols in equations and another for acronyms.


It is a good gesture to acknowledge any contributions and assistance of friends and sponsors. Main text is divided into chapters with the appropriate chapter headings. It includes:

  • A chapter that introduces research, motivation, objectives and provides overview of dissertation.
  • Chapter reviewing work that is done in this area
  • Chapter or two describing adopted or proposed methodology in detail
  • Chapter or two presenting main results of work
  • Concluding chapter summarizing main findings of research; statements about main contributions of research and the recommendations for future work.


References are part of dissertation format where you list references cited in the paper.


Contains the parts of dissertation that are well know or do not contribute directly to main text but should be included for completeness. Examples are sample calculations, background information or derivation of published result forming basis for the work.

Spend sometime planning dissertation structure before beginning to write. This in the long run saves time, effort and reduces duplicate text. The dissertation will also be more readable and compact.

At this stage, you should do the following:

  • Think about objectives of the dissertation project focusing on what you did and results obtained.
  • Divide contents into appropriate dissertation chapters and section to help in rationalization.
  • It is permitted ,seek advise of the project supervisor.

Read other dissertations

Try and read copies of dissertation that is written by students in your department so as to gain visual feel about how the paper should be organized and formatting conventions so as gain an idea the way materials should be placed in the relevant chapters.


Use new page when starting distinct part of a dissertation.

Avoid including blank pages as they do not contribute anything to the dissertation. The worst thing is that they may cause confusion to the reader. It makes readers to ask themselves if the author forgot to include something.

Abstract and introduction chapter

An abstract is an essential part of dissertation sections. It is a summary of the research question, methods and results. An introduction explains the background and reasons for choosing the dissertation topic usually in around two pages. The abstract and introduction chapter should be written last after all other main chapter since it is easier to summarize the work done and provide a dissertation overview.

Dissertation Formatting


Double space throughout save for title page, approval page, table or figure headings, extensive quotations and captions. Footnotes, endnotes, appendices, entries in reference section and table of contents are also exempted from double spacing.


Any standard format is allowed provided that it is used throughout the paper. The preferable font size is approximately 12 with the exemption of captions and headings. Font for captions should not be lesser than 9 point and not bigger than 20 point for headings.

Preliminary pages

Standard Dissertation format should have preliminary pages at the start of final document. Some optional pages can also be placed at this section.


Preliminary pages should be numbered in lower case Roman numerals that are centered at bottom part of a page. The number’s bottom should be at least inch from edge of a page except for title page which is counted but is not numbered.


All pages should have a left margin of 1.5″ to allowing space for binding. Margin for right, top and bottom margins should be 1″.

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