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Dissertation Format:
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Dissertation Format

The dissertation format is fairly standardized across all academic subjects and disciplines. The student beginning the dissertation process should always consult with his or her faculty advisor to make sure there are no "house style" rules governing the dissertation format for dissertations submitted at the student's university. If there are any house rules, however, they will likely be minor changes and the following components of standard dissertation format will most likely all be present.

Dissertation format encompasses two aspects of the dissertation: the formatting of the paper itself, with respect to title pages, supporting chapters, appendices, etc., and the content of the dissertation. The mechanical aspects of dissertation format, including the arrangement of the elements on the title page, the structure of the table of contents, the page numbers and running heads, and other elements, are mostly governed by the style manual that is preferred in the academic field in which the student is working. Most social sciences will require APA dissertation format, while humanities subjects will often require the use of MLA style. In historical research, dissertation format often follows Chicago style. The student will most likely already be aware of the preferred style in his or her field, but he or she should always check with the advisor to be certain.

With respect to the content aspects of dissertation format, most dissertations have the following chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. In the introduction, the student can state the research topic and briefly summarize the body of the dissertation and the findings obtained through the research. In the literature review, the student conducts an extensive discussion of prior research in the field, both to provide a context for his or her research project, and to show that a need still exists for the student's own research.

In the methodology, the student discusses the research study in detail. The student must take care to provide a rationale for each decision he or she has made regarding the methods of conducting the research. In the results chapter, the student reports on the research results. In the case of statistical analyses, the student would note which results are statistically significant and which are not. In the discussion, the student interprets the findings, and draws conclusions he or she has been led to draw through this research. In the conclusion, the student summarizes the entire dissertation once more, notes any limitations to the current study, and suggests possible future research on the topic.