How to write a dissertation

Guided dissertation writing process:

  1. Opt for an ideal topic
  2. Initiate preliminary research
  3. Craft a research proposal
  4. Execute primary research
  5. Create a dissertation outline

This article serves as your ultimate resource for mastering the art of dissertation writing. Within these words, you’ll unlock a complete guide that demystifies the entire process, from selecting the perfect topic to submitting a polished masterpiece. We’ll meticulously dissect the dissertation’s structure, breaking it down step by step to eliminate confusion and instill confidence in your abilities. Additionally, you’ll encounter many practical examples that provide a clear roadmap for each aspect of your dissertation, ensuring you grasp every nuance. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll possess the knowledge and inspiration to embark on your dissertation journey with success and certainty.

How long is a dissertation

Determining how long is a dissertation is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Page counts or word limits fluctuate depending on the academic degree pursued, specific field of study, educational institution, and geographical location. To provide a general sense of expectations, consider the following approximate guidelines:

Bachelor’s: 10,000–15,000 words (35–50 pages)
Master’s: 18,000–22,000 words (65–80 pages)
Doctorate: 80,000–100,000 words (200–300 pages)

Writing a dissertationon represents a substantial undertaking akin to authoring a full-fledged book. It’s essential to remember that the provided figures are approximate and that the actual lengths can vary considerably. Notably, dissertations in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) often exhibit shorter lengths than those in non-STEM disciplines.

How to write a dissertation introduction

Writing a dissertation introduction is crucial as it sets the stage for your entire research study. Here are the key steps and elements to consider when crafting a practical dissertation introduction:

1. Start with a Hook or Engaging Opening

Begin with an attention-grabbing statement, anecdote, or a relevant quote to pique the reader’s interest.

2. Provide Context

Give background information about the broader topic or field in which your research is situated. Explain why this research area is important and relevant.

3. State the Research Problem or Question

Clearly articulate the specific research problem or question your dissertation aims to address. Be concise and precise in your wording.

4. Establish the Research Significance

Explain why your research is significant and what contribution it makes to the existing body of knowledge. Mention any gaps in the current literature that your study addresses.

5. Outline the Research Objectives or Hypotheses

State the objectives of your study or the hypotheses you intend to test. These should be directly related to your research problem.

6. Provide a Brief Overview of the Methodology

Give a concise overview of the research methods and techniques you used. Explain why these methods are appropriate for addressing your research question.

7. Discuss the Dissertation Structure

Briefly outline how your dissertation is structured. Mention the main sections and their order, which helps the reader anticipate what to expect.

8. Highlight the Scope and Limitations

Address the scope of your research, including what it covers and what it does not. Acknowledge any limitations or potential constraints.

9. Set the Tone and Style

Establish the tone and style of your dissertation. It should be scholarly, professional, and objective.

10. Transition to the Literature Review

Conclude the introduction by smoothly transitioning to the literature review section. Mention that you will review relevant literature to provide a theoretical framework for your study.

11. Revise and Refine

After drafting your introduction, revise and refine it multiple times. Ensure clarity, coherence, and conciseness. Eliminate jargon and unnecessary complexity.

12. Seek Feedback

Share your introduction with peers, advisors, or colleagues to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.

13. Proofread and Edit

Thoroughly proofread and edit the introduction to eliminate grammar and spelling errors. Make sure it adheres to your institution’s formatting guidelines.

Remember that the introduction should be informative but shorter. It should provide a clear roadmap for the reader and motivate them to continue reading your dissertation. A well-crafted introduction not only introduces your research but also convinces the reader of its importance and relevance.

Dissertation structure

Title page

The central element of your dissertation’s title page is, indeed, your title. Your dissertation title should concisely encapsulate the subject matter under discussion, and it should establish a clear connection with your research question or thesis statement. It’s essential that anyone who reads the title can readily comprehend the focus of your work.

Regarding the formatting of the title page, this may vary based on your educational institution’s guidelines and the preferred style. Typically, you will include details such as the university’s name, your program, and the date. For precise instructions, it’s advisable to consult your advisor or refer to your institution’s specific requirements.


This section provides an opportunity for expressing gratitude to those who contributed to your dissertation’s completion, similar to a dedication page or an acceptance speech. If you decide to include this section, it’s advisable to maintain a formal and concise tone.


The abstract, positioned at the beginning of the dissertation, offers a concise overview of the paper’s core elements. It summarizes the key points covered in the paper and briefly mentions the research methodology. Typically, abstracts consist of a single paragraph, spanning about 300 to 500 words.

It’s worth noting that the term “”abstract”” is sometimes used interchangeably with “”executive summary.”” While colloquially, they may appear the same, there’s a technical distinction: An executive summary discusses the research’s findings or conclusions, whereas an abstract does not delve into these aspects.

Table of Contents

The table of contents catalogs all chapter titles, headings, and subheadings, accompanied by their respective page numbers. Additionally, it encompasses supplementary sections, such as the bibliography appendices, and optionally, areas like a glossary, a list of abbreviations, or a list of figures and tables.

List of Figures and Tables

In cases where your dissertation contains numerous visual aids, such as figures or tables, this section provides a comprehensive list of these elements along with their corresponding page numbers. Think of it as a navigational guide for images and charts.

List of Abbreviations

Similarly, if your dissertation incorporates a multitude of abbreviations, it’s advisable to include an alphabetized key at the outset of your paper to elucidate the meaning of each abbreviation. This is especially valuable if your dissertation employs field-specific abbreviations that may be unfamiliar to readers outside your discipline.


A glossary serves as a repository for defining complex terminology employed in your paper, functioning as a miniature dictionary. Similar to the list of abbreviations, the glossary proves helpful when your paper uses specialized jargon that may need to be more familiar to readers outside your academic field.

Literature Review

In this section, you assess primary and secondary sources related to your topic, identifying research gaps. The literature review also establishes your theoretical framework.


Describe your research process, including data collection and analysis methods. Mention any equipment used and address potential biases.


This chapter often presents your findings, whether data or analysis, with visual aids. Organize it logically based on empirical or nonempirical research.


Contextualize your findings, explaining their significance and fit within your theoretical framework. Share insights and address surprises.


If you were wondering on how to write a dissertation conclusion, here is the solution, summarize your research, restate the thesis or research question, and avoid introducing new data.


List all sources with total citations and adhere to a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).


Include supplementary materials like maps or transcripts at the end if relevant to your topic. Each additional item is called an appendix.

Dissertation examples

Dissertations vary in style based on the subject, research method, institution, region, and degree type. Reviewing dissertation examples can be helpful, but ensure they closely match your own. Consider using the NDLTD to find a relevant dissertation; it lets you filter from over 6 million entries by keyword, language, year, or tag.

To sum up

In conclusion, writing a dissertation is a significant academic endeavor that demands meticulous planning and commitment. As we summarize this article on how to write a dissertation, it becomes clear that success in this task hinges on careful topic selection, thorough research, effective organization, and constant communication with mentors. Furthermore, maintaining a clear structure, adhering to academic guidelines, and revising diligently are essential for producing a scholarly dissertation. While the journey can be challenging, it is also advantageous, providing opportunities for personal growth and contributing valuable insights to one’s field of study. Remember, patience, persistence, and unwavering dedication are the keys to triumph.