Dissertation structure involves two basic categories:
- The Structure of the Content itself
- The Structure of the Finished Piece
Here you will find all of the necessary information to ensure that what you finally submit is perfectly written, formatted, and structured to meet the expectations of your committee and department.
Follow the “Rules”
Every institution is different, and every department within an institution may be very different in terms of their guidelines and specifications for the Ph.D. dissertation. Your first step is to read through the manual that has been provided by your advisor – not just a cursory “look through” – but a thorough reading, so that you are absolutely clear about all of the requirements. If you are unsure about anything, it is your responsibility to meet with your advisor and get clarification. For example, what format style is required – APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, Turabian, etc.? Make sure you are fully familiar with that style and, if not, then get a format guide – they’re free online, but chances are your department has one of those too. As well, you may find a very specific font requirement – do not fail to follow this “rule” – nothing could be worse than to have the entire work finished and bound, only to discover that the font is incorrect!
The Dissertation Chapters
Institutions vary on chapter structures as well. Some want five chapters; others want four. And what is to be included in each chapter is clearly spelled out in the manual you have. You may have read dissertations during you review of the literature phase of your work, and you probably saw works with different numbers of chapters, but your job is to follow your school/department specifications. Usually, the chapter structures are as follows:
The Five Chapter Structure
Chapter I: The Dissertation Introduction
Chapter II: The Review of Literature
Chapter III: The Methodology and Instruments
Chapter IV: The Results of Your Research
Chapter V: The Discussion/Conclusion
The Four Chapter Structure
Chapter I: The Introduction
Chapter II: The Literature Review
Chapter III: The Methodology, Instruments, and Results
Chapter IV: The Discussion and Conclusion
Your title has one purpose – to introduce your research question. With that in mind, it must be in scholarly format and language style. For example, a title might read: “A study of the Efficacy of Differentiated Programming on At-Risk Middle School Students, Grades 6-8.” The title is pretty critical, because it will tell future researchers if this dissertation is something they may want to read as they are preparing their own literature review for a research question that might be quite similar to yours. If you are unsure about the wording of your title, see if you can find samples of others that may “fit” yours and use them as models. Barring that, you can always request a written title from a Ph.D. field expert from your disciplinary area, by contacting TrustedDissertations.com.
There may be guidelines for this in your manual. If not, be certain that you check with your advisor before sending that dissertation off for binding. Some schools are pretty “picky” about this, and you don’t want to make a mistake – it’s a horrible first impression to your committee!
Only a professional company should complete the binding process. Gen4erally, the options are as follows:
- You can select a custom hardcover binding or a “fabric” binding, which might be of cow hide or some other sturdy material.
- Dependent upon your department guidelines, you will need to select what goes on the front cover and what goes on the back. Sometimes, the school want the seal on the front along with the title and author embossed as well; some institutions want a title and author name and date on the front and then a photo and short bio on the back; still others may want the title, photo and bio on the front cover. When you place your order, be very specific and very careful!
- Be certain that the binding company you select will both stitch and then glue your pages – this is a standard requirement. A copy of your dissertation will be going into the library and it must be just as specified.
- Make more than the number of copies you think you will need. Each committee member and your advisor will get a copy; family members may want copies; you want one or two for yourself; one will have to go to the library. Just be certain to order more.
One final tip: Chances are you will be emailing your final dissertation to the book binding company, and, of course, you will have a copy of your dissertation on your desktop and on a flash drive as well. Just so you don’t take any chances with catastrophes – computer crash, flash drive defect, etc. – print out one hard copy of your dissertation, place it in a large “baggie,” seal it, and place it in your freezer. Print another copy and leave it with a friend or family member; make a back-up of the flash drive and store it somewhere other than in your home. This ensures that you will always have your dissertation, eve after a horrible natural disaster!