Dissertation Structure

What is Meant by Dissertation Structure?

Most likely the dissertation will be the longest piece of academic prose you have as of yet been asked to complete. In order to manage the extended word count here required you will need to think very carefully about dissertation structure. This extends to the structure of the overall dissertation as one contiguous piece of academic prose, which presents a coherent argument, as well as to the individual component parts of the dissertation such as the chapter structure and order in which evidence is presented. All of these individual components need to work together in harmony if the dissertation hopes to be persuasive. This means we need firstly to identify the vital information for our study and then to figure out the most efficacious order in which to present this information. This is the essence of structure: finding an economy of balance between the various contributing parts of a prose work. Without doubt finding this balance will be the result of rewriting. An axiom of the academy is that high quality scholarly work is the achieved by rewriting and revision. Achieving high quality structure will depend upon a considered, strategic engagement with evidence and argumentation, honing away superfluous content, so to finally arrive at the most judicious arrangement of information. In this respect we might consider structure as the scaffolding by which critical tools and methods are engaged, enabling us to mount a convincing case. In most cases the better our structure is the more likely we are to have presented a persuasive argument.

What is the best Dissertation Structure?

There are no hard and fast rules as to how to weight the various sections of the dissertation. Instead, this will depend on what exactly your particular thesis requires as well as the specific word count you have been allotted (which will vary from department to department). That said, some broad overall guidelines may be established. So, for instance we might ask how long should a literature review be in a 15000 word dissertation? Certainly a word count of this length suggests a fairly robust literature review, extending most likely to between 3500 to perhaps 6000 in total. Again, the subject matter will be the determining factor. A thesis which places a heavy emphasis on secondary research and theoretical concerns (in the social sciences, say) is likely to require a more in-depth literature review than a paper which focuses on primary research and empirical investigation (in the “hard” sciences for instance). You need to consider what the most efficient course of action will be for your argument. There is no use in expending half of your overall word count on abstract theorising when the brunt of your thesis should be the statistical analysis of a laboratory experiment. Likewise, an entirely theoretically based thesis would be highly disserviced by a one-page literature review. The objective here is to figure out how best to use all the words you have been given; to deduce what elements of order and arrangement will best facilitate your argument.

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