Basic rules for writing doctoral dissertations:

Tips on format and structure

Your doctoral dissertation will be the most important academic document that you produce. It is the culmination of years of work and experience. Your future career will depend on the measured success of your work. A lot of stress and pressure!

The biggest tip when starting on your doctoral dissertation is never, ever underestimate the amount of work that you will have to do to produce the document, and never underestimate the time it will take in order to achieve completion and never underestimate the skill-set that you will need during the process.

Before you start the make sure that you take time to read the instructions that your university has provided you with at least twice. Make notes of any issues that you need to clarify with your professor. Look carefully at the instructions you are given concerning format and structure.

Title page. For a doctoral dissertation this is not the first page, it is the second page. It is not numbered. You must follow the required format exactly. This may seem a minor production compared to the rest of the document but it contains vital information - your name (make sure the spelling is correct) and the month and year of when you met the requirements. Your adviser also needs to sign this page, advising that they have approved the final draft of your dissertation.

Copyright page. This needs to be included.

Acknowledgements and dedications

Main body of the paper.

The abstract. This needs to have all the relevant information regarding the content of your dissertation, your methodology, results and conclusions. You need to check the words limit, and strictly adhere to it. You may find that you undergo several rewrites. It’s a process that can’t be rushed. Allow plenty of time to complete this task and always leave it till last (make notes while you progress through the rest of the document, but leave this task till the rest of the document is complete).

Table of Contents. This should not be rushed and always proofread.

Introduction. Include in this section any tables and figures that are needed to show results and/or illustrations.

Main body of the paper. Make sure that your work is cross referenced and that the referencing format you use is the correct one for your work. Include case studies and interviews. Make use of the appendices section for additional information that you have made reference to in the main part of your document.


Bibliography. Make sure that you include all works that you have cited in your dissertation.

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