The aim of the blog is to help the students to choose and organise a dissertation in an appropriate format. This format can be used for final projects and dissertation on different levels including PhD thesis. Usually, every university or faculty use specific and very well-defined template. Here, find one of a possible approach to organise content, structure and the main chapters
The abstract is a short summary describing the work done as described in the dissertation and should not normally be longer than 300 words. This should enable a reader to decide whether the dissertation might be worth reading in detail. The abstract is not intended to replace any other sections of the dissertation e.g. the introduction.
Remember that abstracts are often published separately as part of a report database and should be succinct enough to allow a reader to assess whether it would be worthwhile to obtain a copy of the full dissertation.
This section includes thanks to all the people who have helped you.
This is a list of every major item in the dissertation including chapter headings and subheadings, each with its page number given. The introduction should be page 1 with all prior pages numbered in roman numerals. Microsoft “Word” can generate contents lists automatically.
4. Glossary of terms
This section consists of a list of all specialist vocabulary or acronyms with a brief explanation of their meanings.
5. The main body of the dissertation
The main body of the dissertation should typically contain the following sections. Students should consult their dissertation supervisor about the most appropriate structure for their individual dissertations.
Chapters may start with an introduction. Use subheadings within chapters and number accordingly. Do not use more than three levels – e.g. 1.2.4, but not 220.127.116.11. Use alphabets, bullet points etc. if you feel it is necessary to have further sub-sections. The conclusion chapter is particularly important.
This contains a brief statement of the background to the subject and the overall aim of the dissertation with reasons for undertaking the work. You need to indicate the structure of the dissertation by making reference to chapters and chapter content. Note that the conclusion at the end of the dissertation should refer back to the aim set out in the introduction.
Chapter One: Aim, Objectives and Research Rationale
You will need to highlight one main aim and no more than five objectives of the dissertation. You must discuss how they relate and how you will measure the outcomes. You will need to provide an explanation of how you will carry out research to address these objectives. You must critically assess possible challenges and difficulties in meeting your aim/objectives. Alternatively use a hypothesis which must be proved by primary, secondary, quantitative and qualitative research. Make sure you use a SMART approach for the aim and each objective. It is important to identify the milestones of your dissertation through the Gantt chart. You should provide an evaluation of your chosen aim and objectives as well as the completed Gantt chart and risk analysis.
Chapter Two: Literature Review
A review of the history and background plus the present state of knowledge of the subject area of the dissertation work should be contained as a stand-alone chapter and should be written for a ‘non-expert’ in the field. A definition of a non-expert would be someone who is a practising, professional work or technologist but not someone who is a recognised expert in the specific area of your dissertation. The key assessment objective for this section of the dissertation is for you to demonstrate that you can adequately describe a construction, management or environmental topic for readers who work in the field of your field research.
Chapter Three: Research Methodology – size, sample and research technique
In this chapter, you must provide background to the range of the possible research methodologies available (questionnaire, survey, interviews, monitoring and observation). The rationale for each of your chosen research methodologies must be clearly given with a discussion of the practicality of actual implementation. The research methodologies chosen must be clearly linked to the aim and objectives of your dissertation and implemented/applied to the specific needs of your dissertation. All research methodology must be accounted for within the Gantt chart. You must clearly demonstrate the whole range of your research including primary, secondary, qualitative and quantitative. There needs to be discussion of the size and sampling of potential participants in the research (for example age, education, social background, managerial position, size and sector of the company). Make sure that in designing the questionnaire, you use a range of question formats (open, closed, probe, Likert scale, multiple choice and opportunity for additional comments). As a result of your research, you must create a relevant and valid database using appropriate, professional graphic presentation and design (tables and figures). The extensive graphical tools provided with Excel will help you here.
Chapter Four: Findings and Analysis
In this chapter, in order to achieve the highest grade, you must show intellectual ability to link, analyse, synthesise and evaluate the aim and objectives of your dissertation with the main findings of the literature review through your results and analysis. You are not required to discuss each individual question posed within this section. Rather you should select three to five key issues relevant and valid for your subject, then analyse these in relation to your research. Some relevant tables and charts can be incorporated into the body of the chapter. The remainder should be attached as appendices.
Chapter Five: Recommendations and Opportunities for Further Research
These form arguably the most important chapter. You should address any further development, improvement and future direction of the current dissertation or provide a rationale for a decision not to pursue a similar investigation. This section should contain a minimum word count of 1000 words.
You should conclude the most important aspects of the dissertation and your findings. It should be concise, logical and relevant for your subject. Reference should be made to the aim and objectives as stated in chapter one of your dissertation. Your conclusion should give a ‘sense’ of the whole project and the main overall message of the dissertation.
In this section, you should summarise all your individual and professional experiences of the dissertation work. Any opportunities and barriers should be clearly identified, and strategies outlined to address these. This will require you to deeply analyse and evaluate your journey, experience and achievements throughout the dissertation.
Information obtained from books or journals must be referred to in the text and in the reference list by strict rules and principles following the Hertfordshire Business School Guide to Harvard Referencing, available at
An example is:
Johnson, G., Scholes, K. & Whittington, R. (2010) Exploring Corporate Strategy: Text and Cases. 7th edn. London: Financial Times & Prentice Hall.
Naoum, S.G. (2009) Dissertation Research & Writing for Construction Students. 2nd edn. London: Butterworth Heinemann.
Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2007) Research methods for Business Students. 4th edn. London: FT & Prentice Hall.
A bibliography is NOT the same as References. Whichever you use, the Harvard style is the same and it must be arranged alphabetically. Here are the differences:
References: References contain a list of all the sources you actually used and ‘cited’ in the text.
Bibliography: A Bibliography contains all the sources of information that you used as ‘background’ reading for the assignment, but you did not actually cite these sources in the text. A Bibliography should not only include books, but any background sources that you think should be mentioned. Do not make a long Bibliography to impress. Only include items that you think provide useful information for the reader.
Detailed mathematical derivations, component data, software listings and general detailed back-up material should be outlined in the appendices, to enable the main text to flow smoothly. The appendices should not form the bulk of the dissertation. The contents of appendices should be chosen with care. Unnecessary software listings and a surplus of data sheets should not be included. No merit will be given for unnecessary appendices. Appendices should be numbered (Appendix 1: Title). A list of appendices must also appear following the References and Bibliography within the contents page.
I hope this short guidance will help you to write and organise your research, final project or dissertation into effective format.
Miodrag S. IVANOVIC
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