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Dissertation Outline:
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Dissertation Outline

The dissertation outline is an essential first step in writing any dissertation. When a student is faced with completing an extended research topic and discussion such as a dissertation, a detailed dissertation outline will help extensively in the planning and execution of the dissertation writing process.

Dissertation outlines follow the standard outline format. Sections of the Dissertation are each listed with Roman numerals. Within each Roman numeral section, subsections are listed using capital letters. Any subsections of these subsections are listed with Arabic numerals. Most students pursuing an advanced degree requiring a dissertation will be familiar with the dissertation outline format.

The major sections of the dissertation are as follows: introduction, literature review, methodology, results/discussion, and conclusion. Each of these is designated in the dissertation outline with a Roman numeral. There are often several supporting sections that make up a dissertation as well, such as a title page, table of contents, index, and abstract. These sections are generally listed by name in the dissertation outline but not designated by Roman numerals.

The real key to an effective dissertation outline is breaking down each major section into smaller, more detailed sections in order to organize and state one's thoughts prior to writing the actual dissertation. A methodology section, for instance, might be broken down into the following components, listed here in actual outline form:

III.  Methodology
A.  Introduction/Overview of research project
B.  Description of data collection tools used
C.  Description of study procedure
D.  Description of results obtained
E.  Description of tools used to analyze results
F.  Description of analysis
G.  Summary/Conclusion

Within each letter-designated subsection of the dissertation outline, the material can be broken down even further, and each new section listed with an Arabic numeral:

A.  Introduction/Overview of research project
1.  Restatement of problem
2.  Restatement of hypothesis
3.  Brief recap of literature review leading to this methodology
4.  Brief summary of research process
5.  Brief encapsulation of results obtained

Dissertation outlines should be as detailed as possible. Each section in turn should be broken down into any relevant sub-sections. When a dissertation outline is completed and every last detail broken down as completely as possible, writing the dissertation is simply a matter of re-writing the outline into conventional prose.