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Last edited 04 Nov 2020
Construction dissertation guide part 6 - Structuring and writing
Typically dissertations are structured as follows:
- Title page, including the author’s name, department, date.
- Declaration that the dissertation is the author’s own work, that it has not been submitted elsewhere and that sources of information have been acknowledged.
- Table of contents.
- Table of cases (if any).
- Table of figures (if any).
- Literature review.
- Research methodology.
- Appendices (references, bibliography, questionnaire templates, interview transcripts, and so on)
This should be a honed, updated and focused version of the initial proposal abstract that was written early in the research proposal stages. It should be between 200-400 words in length and should summarise the research problem that was investigated, the methods used and the overriding conclusions that were reached.
 Introduction chapter
This chapter is used to introduce the area that is being investigated by the dissertation. It needs to encompass the reasons behind the investigation, what in particular made it a pressing concern, and the rationale behind it. It should include the hypothesis if there is one, as well as the aims and objectives of the research.
It should then provide an overview of the work done and the methodology used, followed by the main conclusions that were reached and whether or not the hypothesis can be supported. It may include a brief guide to the dissertation, listing the chapters together with a one-sentence summary.
The literature review should present information in a logical and ordered way, properly attributing statements to their sources. It should involve critical assessment of literature, and should not just present a series of cut and pasted quotes. An appraisal at the end of the chapter should sum up the general implications of the accumulated material from the review and how this shaped the project as a whole.
This describes the evolution of the research from the initial idea through to the formulation of objectives and hypothesis and the methods used to arrive at the overall conclusions. It will identify the overall scope of the study, the reasoning behind the research methods chosen as well as those that were not, and offer the reader clarity as to how and why the project was undertaken.
It may rationalise the questions that made up the questionnaire and interview stage and clarify why those questions were asked and what was expected from the answers of the respondent.
Alternatively, if the research adopted a problem-solving methodology, the chapter could provide a rationale for experiments that were carried out. Detail should be given as to the variables that were considered and the way in which they were measured.
This presents the research itself, how it was collected, and any limitations (such as response rates). If there is a large amount of data this may be presented in an appendix, with just a summary in the main body of the dissertation.
This should examine the findings of the research and prepare the ground for the conclusions chapter that follows. The general structure should be the hypothesis that was posed, the result/finding and then the interpretation and what this means in relation to the other findings and in the wider context of the report.
This summarises the approach taken, the data accumulated and the findings that were made. It should consider whether the objectives were achieved and whether the hypothesis was proved.
 Conclusion chapter
Conclusions do not repeat the contents of the dissertation, but draw out wider findings. They might consider whether an alternative hypothesis could have been proposed, or an alternative approach adopted and might assess the contribution to the body of knowledge and what future research should be undertaken.
It is important to keep in mind that assessors have limited time to mark dissertations and they are likely to focus on the introduction, methodology, summary and conclusions. If key findings are only to be found 'hidden' within the rest of the body of the dissertation, the assessor may not find them.
Correct referencing is a very important part of a successful dissertation. If referencing is inadequate the work could be construed as plagiarism. There are many different standard forms of referencing so it is essential to check with the particular university department as to which form they prefer to see adopted. See parenthetical referencing for more information.
References must be given if another writer’s ideas are drawn upon or if a direct quote is made. Whilst quotations can be effective in terms of making a particular point or drawing comparisons and contrasts between alternate points of view, it is important not to overuse them.
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