How to write a dissertation outline

How to write a dissertation outline

Do you have a dissertation writing assignment and do not know where to start? Do not worry, you are in the right place. This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation outline. How to write a dissertation outline:

 If you are done with your proposal, all you need is to move on to writing your dissertation. To write a compelling dissertation, you must use the correct outline. Many students have no idea how to write a correct dissertation outline.

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A dissertation outline includes the structure used to write a clear and smooth paper. It helps students to focus on research. It helps them to place information in the right section of a dissertation. Before looking at the dissertation outline, it is important to define the dissertation.

What is a dissertation?

dissertation outline

A dissertation is also known as a thesis in some countries. It is a type of research project that has to be completed by undergraduate or postgraduate students. Dissertations show individual research about a certain problem and provide solutions to the problem. It also shows areas where further research about a topic can be conducted.

 A dissertation gives students room to present their findings after research on certain topics and give recommendations about them. It is one of the longest pieces of literature.

Dissertation writing tests independent research skills that the students have gained. Dissertation papers are assessed by professors and instructors to determine the student’s final grades.

Writing dissertation papers is a task that depends on students’ knowledge and skills on a particular subject. Sometimes students can be guided on how to write dissertation papers by their instructors. Some students have no idea what is the order for the dissertation outline section part.

Dissertations are the most important, longest, and most difficult assignments in colleges or universities. They require months of hard work and research before completion. These papers can be very rewarding if the writers are passionate about the topics.

Dissertation outline example

If you are looking for a dissertation outline structure, this article has included one. The structure will vary depending on the nature of your research. A research study can be qualitative or quantitative. This however does not bring a huge difference in the outline stage.

The difference between qualitative and quantitative research is visible in some dissertation headings and subheadings. Despite this being an example of a dissertation outline, your institution might ask for slightly different requirements.

 Ensure you follow the instructions provided by your instructors to write your dissertation outline. The following guide shows how to outline dissertation papers.

Title page

A title is the main heading of a dissertation paper. The title page should have the author’s name, department of study, institution, program, and date of submission.

The title of a dissertation has special requirements. As a result, it requires special attention. Ensure that your title aligns with other sections of your dissertation paper. It should represent the problem to be addressed and the purpose of the problem in a sentence.

The title should mention the important issues being addressed in your dissertation paper. A quantitative dissertation paper should show the relationship between the topic being explored and the population to be studied.


This is an optional section that allows the writer to thank everyone who contributed to their studies. This can include the professor, people who participated in research, family, and friends among others.


An abstract is a summary of your research study. Many students prefer to write abstracts after completing their studies. Your abstract should be 150 words to 300 words long. It should have a summary of the following;

  • Introduction of your topic
  • The problem statement
  • The purpose statement
  • The main research questions
  • Research methodology and design
  • Key participants of the study
  • The main results of your study
  • Recommendations for any future research
  • Conclusion

Table of contents part of a dissertation outline

This is a section that lists all subheadings, chapters, and age numbers. This page gives the readers an overview of the dissertation outline. It also helps them to navigate the paper easily.

All sections of your dissertation should be included in the table of contents. This includes the appendices. A table of contents can be developed automatically in Microsoft word documents.

Chapter 1: introduction

Chapter one includes the introduction of your dissertation paper. It summarizes the topic of study and describes the area you intend to study. This part should have several paragraphs to introduce your study and show the gap you want to fill in research. Your introduction should have the following sections:

  • Background study
  • Problem statement
  • Statement of purpose
  • Research questions
  • Theoretical/conceptual framework
  • Nature of your study
  • A summary of the chapter

Your introduction must be interesting to grab the attention of the reader. It should have a hook sentence that helps them connect the whole dissertation paper.

If you are busy and do not have enough time for writing a compelling introduction, contact to help you. They also answer specific dissertation questions. For example, how to write an anthropology dissertation outline.

Chapter 2: theoretical framework/literature review

A literature review involves a comprehensive summary of previous researches on your dissertation paper topic. It includes a survey of books, scholarly articles, and other relevant sources. The literature review section should describe, enumerate, evaluate, summarize and clarify any previous work related to your dissertation topic.

The process of writing a literature review involves;

  • Narrowing a topic and selecting scholarly works
  • Searching for available literature
  • Reading and analyzing selected works
  • Organizing the works selected and looking for patterns by developing subtopics
  • Coming up with a thesis or a purpose statement for your dissertation
  • Writing your dissertation
  • Reviewing your work

The importance of literature review in the dissertation outline is to understand the existing debate and research on a specific topic. A literature review helps in acquiring and building knowledge in the chosen dissertation topic.

Some students organize their literature review by topic. Others choose to organize it chronologically or using other techniques. It is important to explain how you identified the relevant literature in previous studies.

In this chapter, you should develop an argument that justifies your research. For example, you can show how your research;

  • Addresses a certain gap in the literature
  • Takes a new methodological or theoretical approach to a certain topic
  • Provides a solution to a problem
  • Advances a certain theoretical debate
  • Strengthens and builds existing knowledge with new information

Chapter 3: Methodology

Research methodology deals with the techniques and specific procedures used in dissertation papers. It is used to select, identify, analyze and process information included in dissertation papers. These techniques provide room to analyze and evaluate the overall reliability, relevance, and validity of a study.

How to write methodology for your dissertation outline template word

  • Introduce methods to use in your dissertation
  • Establish the connection between the methodologies used in your dissertation
  • Introduce the instruments used in your dissertation
  • Discuss your dissertation`s data analysis
  • Provide the background information for your dissertation
  • Discuss the process of sampling your data and information
  • Address the limitation of your research for the dissertation paper
  • Discuss how your study will comply with the relevant ethical standards

Data for dissertation research can be classified into four types. This is according to the method used to collect data. The four types of data include;

  • Observational
  • Simulation
  • Experimental
  • Derived

e first there chapters of your dissertation are your dissertation proposals. If asked to give the dissertation proposal outline, include them. The other two chapters come after you conduct your study. As a result, the tenses used should change from future to past tenses. A combination of the five chapters makes your complete dissertation outline.

Research methodology provides guidelines for making your dissertation effective, smooth, and manageable. Choosing the right methodology for your research will help you succeed in your study.

Many people ask the question, how long is a dissertation proposal outline? There is no specific answer. The length of your proposal should depend on the depth of your research or topic.

Chapter 4: findings and results

You begin this section by introducing your findings. You can structure this part around hypotheses, sub-questions, or topics.  In some dissertations, the result section is separated from the discussion question. In other disciplines, the two sections are combined.

For example, while using qualitative methods like interviews, data presentation will be combined with the analysis and discussion section. In experimental and quantitative research, the results are presented separately from the discussions.  If you are in doubt about how to present your results and discussions, consult your supervisor.

In the result section, you can include graphs, charts, and tables used in your dissertation. Represent your data without repeating what you have written. Graphs, tables, and charts should visualize the results of your findings or provide more information.

Chapter 5: Discussion and suggestions for advanced research

In this part of your dissertation outline, you should explore the implications and meaning of your results. Interpret the results in detail and explain whether they meet the goals of your research. Also, explain how the results accurately fit the framework built in the earlier sections.

If some results were not expected, provide explanations for why the results might have occurred. It is important to consider any alternative interpretations of information. Also, explain how the results might have been influenced.

In the discussion part, you can reference other works to show how results are connected to the existing knowledge. You can also make recommendations for future research concerning your topic of research.


The conclusion of a dissertation should be a summary of the whole paper. It should provide answers to research questions. It should also restate your thesis statement, problem statement, and the answers to the problem statement. This should leave the reader with an understanding of your research.

Do not add new information. Summarize information included in other sections of your dissertation. Show how your research has contributed knowledge to the topic chosen and why it matters. The conclusion might include any recommendations for future research.

Reference list

A reference list is also referred to as a bibliography. It contains all sources that have been cited in the dissertation. There are several styles of referencing research works. You should follow one referencing style to avoid confusing the readers. Each style has specific formatting requirements for references.

The most common styles used are Harvard and Vancouver. Your instructor may direct you to use APA, MLA, MHRA, or OSCOLA. Ensure you read all the instructions provided for writing a dissertation. Consult with the supervisor if you are not sure.

Spare some time for creating your dissertations reference list. Ensure all the citations are formatted consistently and correctly. You can check this using a free APA citation generator on your computer.


This part should contain supplementary information and materials that are not included in the body section. This information is however important as it helps understand any information that is bulky and cannot be included in the main text of your dissertation paper. 

Appendices are usually placed after the main body but before the works cited or the bibliography section. They have headings that divide different sections.

Materials that can be included in the appendices part include;

  • Long mathematical calculations
  • Detailed technical drawings
  • Raw data tables among other complicated details
  • Sample calculations
  • Supporting evidence
  • Drawings, technical figures, and graphs
  • Emails, letters, and other similar copies
  • Notes from observations
  • Specialized data
  • Survey instruments/questionnaires with results in the text
  • Datasheets specifications

Do not include irrelevant or vague information in the appendix section. Information in the appendix should help the reader to understand and interpret the dissertation paper.

Appendices should have the following characteristics

  • They should be placed at the end of the dissertation paper
  • They should have sections separating them, for example; different sections for interview transcripts, results of questionnaires among others
  • Each appendix should begin on a new page

Your dissertation paper cannot be termed as complete without an appendix. It should contain all information to address the research problem. Information in the appendix is not essential for the dissertation paper. If removed, the paper should not change any aspect.

In a nutshell

Writing a dissertation is a time-consuming and challenging task. A dissertation outline is an integral part that helps the writer to identify the structure and goals of the research. This article has provided a guide on how to write a dissertation outline to help students stay focused while writing dissertation papers.

The general structure of a dissertation includes five chapters. The first three chapters of a dissertation form the proposal while a combination of the five chapters forms a complete dissertation. It is important to understand that your supervisor may provide a slightly different structure depending on the nature of your research.

If you still have a problem in writing or creating a good dissertation outline. Do not worry. Feel free to seek help from the best dissertation writing services.


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