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Writing a dissertation or thesis may be the crowning glory of the university experience for many students. Whilst the final product will be something to be proud of for many years to come, getting started may often be the hardest stage.
Here is a consideration of the critical elements of a dissertation or thesis, in general whilst additional sections may be included a good dissertation, all of the following elements will usually be included as detailed below.

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What are the Key Elements of a Dissertation or Thesis?

Introduction – This section should give the reader a brief introduction to the topic at hand. The purpose of the introduction is to firstly, to stir the interest of the reader to carry on reading the dissertation. Secondly, the introduction should give a justification as to why further research into the field is relevant and justified.

Research aims and objectives – This section tells the reader exactly what the dissertation will achieve. In general a dissertation should have only one research aim and then a number of research objectives, which will allow the research aim to be achieved.

Methodology – This section will outline to the reader the specifics as to how the project will achieve the relevant aims and objectives of the dissertation. Depending upon one’s institution the methodology can be included, either before or after the literature review.

Literature review – This section should summarise the previous research into the chosen subject, as outlined by other academics working in the field of research. This section will typically outline the key definitions and debating points within and around an area of interest.

Findings and analysis – This may be considered as the critical section of a dissertation, it is in this section that a researcher get to “contribute” towards the existing body of literature on a subject. In this section the researcher should analyse and comment upon the findings of both primary and secondary research. This may also be the ideal place to compare and contrast the results of such research, with that of the literature review.

Conclusions/Recommendations – This section should give a short and succinct summary of what has been found in conducting the research for the project. One method is to take the initial research objectives and try to give as succinct answer to each, if relevant. If the subject matter lends itself to the method, a set of recommendations may be added. This is often a valid inclusion for those writing a business related dissertation or thesis.

What are the Optional Extras of a Dissertation of Thesis?

Recommendations for further research – One optional inclusion is to give the reader a set of recommendations as to what further research may be conducted in the field. If doing so, recommendations should be based on gaps in the current project or interesting areas which arose, but for which the researcher did not have time to investigate further.
Personal reflections – Some institutions encourage students to include a short personal reflection of the project, this can add a human touch to a dry subject, as well as helping the writer to focus on the project as a learning experience.