Structure of Dissertation

Although you are free to structure your dissertation how you choose (heeding your
supervisor’s advice) you may find it easier to include all the material necessary by using the
following structure. Inevitably you will need to make decisions as to what to include in which
section, if in doubt, devote your best critical material to those sections that carry the most of
the mark weighting.
Your dissertation with a total of 15,000 words (14000 words dissertation and 1000 words
executive summary) should include the following elements:
 Title page (see example on SurreyLearn)
 Executive summary (1000 words; 10% of marks): Set out on its own immediately
after the title page. This often takes the form of a series of summary statements,
ordered under similar headings to those used within the Dissertation. These
summarise the key information or findings. The Executive summary should be written
for an intelligent layman.
 Declaration of Originality (see SurreyLearn)
 Ethical Approval Form
 Table of contents: An outline of the entire dissertation in list form, setting out the
sequence of the sections with page numbers. It is conventional to number the
preliminary pages (executive summary, table of contents) with lower case Roman
numerals (i.e. (i), (ii), (iii) etc.) and the main text pages (starting with the first chapter)
in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3 etc.) as shown below:
List of Tables i
List of Figures ii
List of Abbreviations iii
Acknowledgements iv
CHAPTER 1 (Title) 1
1.1 (First section heading)
1.2 (Second etc.)
1.3 (Third etc.)
 List of tables and figures: A table is a presentation of data in tabular form; a figure is a
diagrammatic representation of data or other material such as graphs, photographs,
images or maps. Tables and Figures should be numbered consecutively according to
chapter (e.g.: Table 1.3 is the third table in Chapter 1, and Figure 4.2 is the second
figure in Chapter 4). Each should be separately listed with page numbers.
 List of abbreviations: Abbreviations should be used sparingly, and those that are not
self-evident or in common use should be explained where they first appear in each
chapter by giving the full expression and the abbreviation in brackets, e.g. ‘gross
domestic product (GDP)’. Abbreviations not in common use should appear at the
beginning of the dissertation.
Useful rules for abbreviations:
No full stops in abbreviations consisting of initial capital letters, UK, US (adjective), EEC,
OECD, BBC, UN. Note: ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘United States’ should be spelt out when
used as nouns;
No full stops after abbreviations ending with last letter of word abbreviated, Dr Mr Mrs St;
Full stops to be used in abbreviations consisting of phrases or single words, e.g., i.e., cet. par.,
op. cit., et al., p., pp., vol., No.
 Introduction and/or definition of research problem:
The introduction should set out the purpose and scope of the dissertation, clearly
explaining what it is about, how it is structured, but more importantly, why the
research is necessary and to whom. You need to ensure that the academic and applied
rationale is well explained and justified. An academic rationale should answer the
questions “Why don’t we know this already? Why is more study on this topic
needed?” and an applied rationale should demonstrate the relevance of the topic to
contemporary business environments. The section should end with the main aim and
objectives of your study.
 Literature review (this may be more than one chapter):
This section gives an overview of the context and background to the research
problem. It builds on your problem definition and aims and objectives and so is an
expansion of the concise arguments you make there. It is probably the section that
will give you most scope to show off the wide range of sources you have consulted.
Although based on existing literature, you should still present your material critically.
 Methodology:
This section evaluates and justifies the research methodology that will be used to
obtain the data to answer the research questions. It states the research problem,
discusses the operationalisation of hypotheses (where relevant), discusses the research
instrument used, the method of collecting the data – including sampling, the analysis
of the data and the validity and reliability of data. It should contain enough detail to
allow someone else to repeat your study.
 Analysis/ Findings/ Results:
You should present your data in an appropriate form, which may include tables,
graphs or in the case of qualitative data, verbatim quotes. Select the format that best
suits your data, and do not present your data in more than one form. Ensure that the
text around your presented data pulls out the key findings, rather than repeats what is
already given. A table/figure should never be presented without supporting
text. Tables and figures should be clearly and consistently labelled either above or
below, and the reader should be able to understand the table/figure from the title
without referring to the text for explanations. Units of measurement, the year to which
the data refer, geographical area covered, and sources should be clearly stated. The
labels in the text and in the lists should correspond exactly.
 Discussion:
It can be hard to know which section to discuss your results – this or the preceding
one – and you may decide to combine these two sections into one or more chapters
based on theme, depending on your topic and your supervisor’s views. However, what
is vital is that your Dissertation contains sufficient analytical discussion in addition to
the more descriptive ‘scene setting’ material of the literature review sections, and
presentation of results. It is here that you will compare and contrast your findings with
those already reported in the literature.
 Conclusions:
Here you need to answer the “So what?” question. What significance do your research
findings have? For whom? Why? and How? In this chapter you link the research
problem with literature review and findings, stating what you can conclude based on
the work conducted. Based on your conclusions you should comment on managerial
implications, the limitations of the research, suggest further work and better ways to
resolve the problem.
 Full list of references used in the dissertation:
You should provide correctly formatted bibliographic details for every citation
included in the dissertation. Do not include material which is not referred to in your
text. Use the Harvard Referencing style, for more information see
 Appendices:
Often misused and misunderstood, an appendix should only be used to include
supplementary (but non-essential) material which, if included, would disrupt the flow
of the text. Appendices are not marked so do not include any vital information, e.g.:
results of analysis, in one if you want the content to be considered as part of the
assessment. Appendices do not contribute to the overall word length.