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Dissertations offer you a great opportunity to investigate a topic of particular interest to you with a view to discovering new knowledge or new practice.

Take a look at our online Dissertation tutorial for an overview of what's involved in writing a dissertation or research project. 

TIP - There are different types of dissertation so ensure you read your dissertation assignment brief carefully to see what you are expected to do. 

We will cover the following topics in this guidance:
1. Types of dissertations
2. Finding a topic and writing proposals
3. Structure
4. Skills  
5. Sections
6. Supervisors
7. Further information


1. Types of dissertations

Dissertations usually fall into one of two main types;

  1. Research based i.e. you carry out a piece of original research as part of your study.
  2. Review or audit. This could be a detailed literature review perhaps combined with reflective practice and asking for recommendations to develop a new idea, procedure or policy

2. Finding a Topic and Proposals

Ask yourself:

  • Is the topic of academic significance?
  • Is the topic manageable in the time available?
  • Is it a suitably narrow focus?
  • What is your own standpoint on the topic? How do your values and beliefs affect your research?
  • Have you created a balanced and objective approach to your research?


3. Structure

Research Dissertation
A fairly typical structure is as follows:

  • title page
  • contents page
  • abstract
  • introduction
  • literature review
  • methodology
  • results:
  • findings
  • conclusion
  • recommendations (where appropriate)
  • appendices (if necessary)
  • reference list/bibliography (using Cite them Right)

Review Dissertations

An sample structure could be:

  • title
  • contents page
  • abstract
  • introduction
  • main body – search methodology, lit review, critical discussion divided into themes or issues
  • conclusion
  • Proposal (if required)
  • appendices (if necessary)
  • references / bibliography (using Cite them Right)

framework review dissertation

4. Skills

Many of the skills you use in completing your essays will be vital when writing your dissertation. Why not take a little time to refresh these skills by clicking on the following links:

Planning and layout
Critical thinking
Critical reading
Critical Writing
Developing arguments – check out the Essay Frameworks or have a look at this website.


5. Sections

This section outlines the sections commonly found in dissertations.  Please read your module guide and/or check with your tutor about the sections that are required for your particular dissertation.  

Each section has specific requirements. Throughout you are expected to maintain a critical stance to ensure you create a deep understanding of the topic.

Introductions –Include a motivation for your research, the key research question you are to explore and a brief overview of each chapter.

Conclusion – Draw realistic conclusions from your study. Ask yourself:

  • What are the most significant findings?
  • What are the implications and significance of the findings for practice and/or policy?
  • What are the limitations of the study?
  • What are the recommendations for further work or for a policy or procedural change?

See some examples of conclusions.

The Academic Phrasebank also provides some good tips.

6. Supervisors

Enlist the support of your dissertation supervisor. They will be able to help you with defining your proposal, selecting your methodology and check you are on track to answer your topic.

7. Further guidance

The Final Chapter resource from Leeds University is a very good guide to  tackling your dissertation.

There is a useful checklist within the Leeds resource.

Academic Phrasebank – a fabulous resource showing you phrases and words in introduce your dissertation, critically analyse your findings or use evidence in your discussions.