Dissertation Chapters: Questions and Answers

When thinking about the structure of dissertations, students shouldn’t limit themselves with any canons or traditions. Nevertheless, students should divide dissertations into chapters, which in turn may be divided into paragraphs. Recently, researchers often represent three to four sections without additional division. Some scholars believe that dissertation chapters should have equal volume. This should hardly be considered as a norm. One chapter can be small, the other – much larger. The structure of the dissertation and volume of its parts should be determined by the student or supervisor, proceeding from the most rational and logical distribution of text through the chapters.

dissertation chapters

Q: What are dissertation chapters?

A: Dissertation chapters are the main structural units of the text. Each title should be formulated to be equal with the dissertation topic and to not appear to be wider than the topic in terms of content. The chapter represents only one aspect of the topic and the title should reflect this subordination.

The logical structure of a dissertation cannot arise independently or at once. In order to make it clear, you should mentally simulate the thesis as a logical whole and construct a detailed structure that will disclose all your findings in a readable text. First, it is advisable to develop such a “layout” in the form of a plan, reflecting on the correct title for each paragraph and arranging them appropriately.

When dividing your paper into chapters and paragraphs, remember logical topic disclosure. Therefore, on the one hand, you shouldn’t include in the plan structural points that are out of the scope of the dissertation topic or connected with it only indirectly, and on the other hand, the plan should fully reveal the topic. The dissertation outline is like a logical skeleton of exposition, and in this skeleton everything should be in its place.

Q: Should a dissertation have chapters?

A: As any academic writing, every dissertation should have a structure. It’s made to make your research more logical and easy to write. Your topic will have several chapters that will describe all significant parts of your research. If your dissertation research will be written as a continuous text, it will be hardly readable and most likely misunderstood.

Q: How long are dissertation chapters?

A: A single chapter may be 30-40 pages in length, whereas the same chapter published in primary literature may only be 10 or so pages long in a journal.

How to Write Dissertation Chapters

A classical PhD dissertation should follow the next structure: title page, table of contents, list of abbreviations, introduction, the body of dissertation consisting of several chapters, summary, practical part (if needed), list of references, and appendices.

You will be able to write a structure to your dissertation only after profound study of available literature related to your topic. Also, you should decide what kind of research and experiments you should do for your dissertation research. You can ask your advisor for a meeting and discuss dissertation chapters and receive a list of recommended sources to use while writing.

You can stick to the following sample dissertation structure and organize your own dissertation chapters.


In this chapter, you need to justify the choice of the research topic, reflect its relevance, show scientific novelty, and practical and theoretical significance. Usually it is 1,500-5,000 words long.

CHAPTER 1. General literature review.

  • Introduction
  • Background of problem
  • Statement of problem
  • Purpose of the study
  • Research questions
  • Significance of study
  • Definition of terms
  • Assumptions and limitations
  • Conclusion

Make sure that the title of the chapter is in accordance with the dissertation title. For example, with “Analysis of the effectiveness of applying psychotherapy among adolescents,” the first chapter may be a literature review which analyzes the historical background on this subject existing to date. It is necessary to assess how much this issue is covered, what has already been done by other authors, what are the white spots, and what areas need further research. The logical conclusion of this chapter is the formation of goals, tasks, key points, a working hypothesis, as well as the main provisions that will be discovered in the following chapters. For some dissertations it is also important to specify the object and the example of the study. Usually this chapter may vary from 8,000 to 20,000 words.

CHAPTER 2. Methodology.

  • Introduction
  • Description of research
  • Concepts or theoretical framework
  • Review of research methods

It is important to describe in detail the organization of the experiment, techniques, equipment used, and to give detailed information about the subjects. After reading this chapter, there shouldn’t be questions about how you received your data. Anyone who reads it should understand how to conduct a similar study (for example, to check your results). Usually this chapter may vary from 5,000 to 15,000 words.

CHAPTER 3. Findings.

  • Introduction
  • Research organization
  • Research questions and hypotheses
  • Setting and samples
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Conclusion

This chapter often contains tables with received data (drawings that summarize or illustrate the results and the author’s explanations about certain data). Usually this chapter is divided into paragraphs in accordance with the logic of the presentation of the material. This chapter may be from 10,000 to 20,000 words.

CHAPTER 4. Discussion and recommendations.

  • Introduction
  • Findings discussion (organized by research questions or hypotheses)
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion

The discussion of the results has two main objectives. First, it is necessary to compare the data with the results of previous authors, and secondly, using modern concepts, it is necessary to determine from which position one can interpret the data. This chapter may be from 15,000 to 25,000 words.


  • Introduction
  • Summary of findings
  • Conclusions (organized by research questions or hypotheses)
  • Discussion
  • Suggestions for future research
  • Conclusion

The conclusion usually contains a summary of research findings, discussions, and suggestions for future research. The number of conclusions should correspond to the number of tasks stated in previous chapters. (Of course, ideally, your conclusions should reveal a solution to these issues.) However, in practice this occurs infrequently. You should avoid incompatibility between conclusions and tasks set at the beginning of your dissertation. If this happens, you can change those tasks or rename – it is not forbidden. For a number of dissertations it is recommended to formulate practical recommendations based on the received data from experiments. This chapter may be from 1,500 to 12,000 words.

If you will find that some chapters are too long in comparison to others, think of dividing them into two different chapters. For the last few years it has been a common practice that chapters have unequal volumes, but everything depends on context and the entire dissertation structure. Also, ask your supervisor for advice, as he or she knows better about what the dissertation committee is expecting to see from students.