Improving the structure and content of a PhD dissertation

You can easily improve upon the structure and content of your PhD dissertation so long as you take the time to follow these guidelines. The length of your dissertation is imposing to be sure, and the length alone can cause many people to panic, but you can write a great dissertation by sticking to the following structure:

  1. Start with your title page. This should be formatted based on your institution, and it is important that you follow the guidelines you are given precisely. More often than not, this page is where you include the title, your name, and the name of your institution.
  2. Add your abstract. This is the part of your dissertation that will be viewed by the most people. While a handful of people may read the entire dissertation, most people in your field will read just this part. Therefore, you can improve the structure and content of your PhD dissertation by making sure this area is self-contained. You want it to describe the problem you are going to address, mention the methods you use to solve the problem, the results you have, and your conclusion. The length should be between 100 and 300 words based on your institution. Think of this section as the resume for a job application, one which grabs the readers’ attention and encourages them to read more.
  3. Add some acknowledgements You would be hard pressed to find someone who conducted every part of their dissertation without any help.
  4. Table of Contents Give the reader a guidebook, a path so that they know where they are traveling.
  5. Introduction This is where you tell the reader what your topic is and why they should care. Give them any background they need to fully understand your topic.
  6. Review some literature Talk about what others have talked about before you. Summarize relevant case studies or peer reviewed articles.
  7. Body This is where you talk about your theory, discuss the materials and methods you used to conduct any tests, and what results you found. Talk about the implications this has for the bigger picture, what errors could have been made, and how someone could recreate or expound upon your experiment.
  8. Conclusion Briefly touch upon what further avenues this content provided or how it could be improved in the future.
  9. Don’t forget to reference!

    Add your references and appendices as per the requirements of your institution.