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Study Skills- Dissertation

A study skills guide with hints and tips to support you in completing a dissertation or large project at university.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a large project that takes place on many university courses. 

There are different sections of a dissertation depending on your discipline and I would encourage you to seek advice from your supervisor concerning the content of different sections in your subject. 


The structure of a literature based dissertation is usually based on themes but it is important to check that you are structuring your dissertation according to the specifications and rules that your department abides by. 

Typical literature based dissertations are broken up into the following sections that are explored in subsequent pages:

  • Title
  • Abstract or summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • Contents page
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Conclusion and recommendations
  • Appendix
  • Reference List

Title Page

This is the first page of your dissertation and will include information such as your:

  • Project Title
  • Type of assignment 
  • Partial or full fulfilment information (e.g. part of a wider degree programme)
  • Degree
  • Subject area
  • Your name 
  • Month and year of submission

Ask your supervisor for the specifics of what you should include and if any additional information is appropriate such as a logo or image. 


Check with your supervisor to see if this is required for your dissertation or not. 

It is a summary of your entire dissertation to enable the basic information to be communicated clearly and concisely. This includes your reason for undertaking the study, methods, findings and conclusions. 

  •  It is a mini-report, which needs to make sense completely on its own.
  • References should not be included.
  • Nothing should appear in the abstract that is not in the rest of the dissertation.
  • Usually between 200-300 words.
  • Written as a single paragraph.

Writing your abstract may be more successful if written after your dissertation as you will have a broader understanding of your project in its entirety. 

Test your knowledge by completing the dissertation quiz below:

Contents Page

A page which details which sections and chapters can be found on each page. 

Your supervisor and subject department should let you know how your contents page is expected to be formatted.


Acknowledgements are space intended for you to thank those who have supported you to complete the dissertation. 

  • This may include the subject of a case study and at the very least, your supervisor. 
  • A dedication is slightly different and means that you want the project to be in memory or considered with a particular person in mind. 
  • This is usually written in a brief manner.


Your appendices should include any secondary information that can help to clarify your research. Most common information included in an appendix are: 

  • Questionnaires
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Correspondence
  • Tables

If you have information that you would like to include but are finding it disrupts the main body of text. It may distract from the main arguments of your dissertation, the information can be included in the appendix section. You should have different numbered appendices for different items such as questionnaires and tables and refer to them as appendix 1, appendix 2 in your text. They should be labelled according to the appendix that is referred to first, in the text. 

Reference List

The reference list is part of your dissertation you may be aware of from previous assignments. It consists of a list of all the sources cited in the body of your work in the appropriate referencing style that you use on your course such as Harvard or Vancouver. 

Ensure that you format your references according to the format used on Cite Them Right Online. There are examples and tutorials on the site to support you to use it effectively. You can also ask questions at the Study Skills Drop ins on Library Talk if you have any questions relating to study skills and referencing. 

Why not watch the video below about using Cite Them Right Online?

It is a good idea to compile your reference list as you undertake research and write your dissertation as otherwise it can end up being a large overwhelming task at the end and it may be difficult and time consuming to find reference information for all your sources.