Doctoral Dissertation Template: Complete Guide with dissertation chapters, sections, and subsections

Dissertation defense

A doctoral dissertation is divided into three distinctive parts as indicated in the previous article: the introductory part, the body section, and the back matter. The previous article discussed the dissertation outline for the introductory part.

The body of a doctoral dissertation is maybe the most important part. This is because it contains the meat of your paper. Here, you will find a doctoral dissertation template with the facts, research, and evidence that you are giving in support of your topic.

Doctoral Dissertation Template

A standard doctoral dissertation has five chapters, each of which will be extensively discussed in this article. Read on to understand what is expected of you in these sections.

I. Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Background of the problem
  • Statement of the problem
  • purpose of the study
  • research questions
  • definition of terms
  • Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations
  • Conclusion

II. Chapter 2: Review of the literature

  • Introduction
  • Search description Conceptual and theoretical framework
  • Conclusion

III. Chapter 3: Research design and methodology

  • Introduction
  • Research design
  • Research questions and hypotheses
  • Population and Sample
  • Data collection and instrumentation
  • Data Analysis
  • Conclusion

IV. Chapter 4: Research findings

  • Introduction
  • Organization of data
  • Statistical analysis

V. Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Introduction
  • Summary of study
  • findings
  • conclusions
  • implications
  • Future research
  • conclusion


Chapter 1: The Introduction

The first part of a doctoral dissertation  is the introduction which is divided into a number of sections:

a. Background of the Problem

What is the basis of this research? The answer to this should be given under this heading. Cite the necessary literature here as needed, and ensure that at the end of it, the readers understand the importance of the study you are carrying out. The background should be between 5 to 6 pages, and it should serve to first grab your reader’s attention.

b. Statement of the Problem

This section takes up approximately 1 to 3 pages, and at the end of it, the reader should understand the issue for concern. Here, you will use statements such as:

“We have seen from previous research what the effect of phenomenon x to standard z is. However, there is not enough information on what x could do to standard b.

c. Purpose of the Study

What is the purpose of the research that you are carrying out? Are you attempting to find new information or are you trying to explain certain phenomena? These questions should be answered under the purpose of the study.

d. Research Questions

Your doctoral dissertation should have at least one or two paragraphs under which you write the questions and the hypotheses used as you carried out the research. You will be answering the questions as you do the research. Both the questions and hypotheses should be written in numbered paragraphs.

e. Definition of Terms

There are terms that you will use throughout the dissertation and you would like the reader to understand their meaning or the context of use. Under this section, you get to define these terms, the choice of which depends on you. Their definition should be in the context of the research and should have a citation for their source.

However, where the term you are listing is “commonly understood,” it doesn’t necessarily require a citation. Also, ensure that the definition is written in complete sentences and should not be underlined.

f. Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

The aim of this section is to give clarification to some points for your reader. Here, you should state the assumption on which the research is based, a few limitations, and state ways through which these limitations are handled.

The limitations in this sections are the factors over which you have no control while the assumptions are those that you “take for granted.” The latter can be seen more actively under the methodology section.

g. Conclusion

This is a 3-paragraph summary of what you have written in the first chapter. The final part should give an idea of how the rest of the dissertation will be written, from chapters two through five. You can also indicate what is in the appendices where you know what it will contain.


Chapter 2: Review of the Literature

The parts of the second chapter of a doctoral dissertation are inclusive of the following sections:

a) Introduction

The second chapter of a dissertation is based on previous research found in books and journals, hence it is written in most past tense. In the introduction of the chapter, you have to allude on what you intend to write after, including the headings that will be used. However, you have to begin with a summary of what you have written in the first chapter.

This section will require the skills of analysis through comparing and contrasting, and the ability to write an accurate report.

 b) Search Description

How did you do your research? What did you find when you did it? These should be described in a few paragraphs under this subheading.

 c) Conceptual and Theoretical Framework

The format you use should cover four main sections:

  1. The research that is related to the dependent variables of the study
  2. The research related to the independent variables of the study
  • Alternative points of view
  1. Issues of measurement

Use double-space between the heading and the beginning of the narrative, and triple space the end of a section or chapter and the next.

d) Conclusion

The conclusion of the second chapter should give a summary of what has been discussed in this section. It should also give a teaser for the chapters three through five.

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Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology

There are three methods that can be used for research in a doctoral dissertation: qualitative, quantitative, and a mix of both methods. The sections in this chapter are dependent on the method research that you are using as will be shown below:

 a) Introduction

This is a 2 or 3 paragraph section that, first, introduces the reader to a new chapter. It also refreshes his or her mind on the previous chapter.

 b) Research Design

Under this, you should give a general description of the research design in words that will be easily understood by your reader. Remember to mention the expected challenged as you use this design.

Moreover, you should mention the independent and dependent variable and their contextual definitions.

c) Research Questions and the Hypotheses

In this section, you can simply restate the research questions and hypotheses from the first chapter of your doctoral dissertation. Your research question can be either in the form of a question, suggest a relationship between phenomena and be testable. The hypothesis should be in the form of a statement and should make a suggestion to be later confirmed or denied later in the dissertation.

d) Population and Sample

This section is significant only where the method of research is quantitative. As the researcher, you are expected to precisely define the population represented by this project. Moreover, you should indicate the method you used to pick this representative sample for the research, ensuring that the exact number of subject in the sample is indicated.

The sample unit, for example, the school district or building, should be specified as well. Ensure to indicate the sampling method as well, whether it was random or proportional, or whether you used the total population as a sample.

e) Data Collection and Instrumentation

There is no definite length for this section, as it varies with the amount of content. Here, you are expected to extensively discuss the methods that were used to collect data. These methodologies include the use of questionnaires, mail survey, and participants’ observation, among others.

Each instrument that was used for the research should be indicated in a different section. Under each, be sure to include information concerning the form of the instrument with sample items, the estimates or assurances on the validity of the said instrument, and a reference to the appendix where the reader will find the complete instrument and the correspondence on direction.

f) Data Analysis

Under this section, you should:

  1. Specify the statistical analysis that will be used to answer the research questions in the doctoral dissertation
  2. Cite the literature sources that you have referred to for the discussion of the statistical techniques used

To do this effectively, you can ask for dissertation help from your statistician as concerns the statistical methods, depending on whether the variables are independent or dependent.

g) Conclusion

The conclusion of the third chapter gives a summary of everything that has been discussed. Be sure to summarize the information presented under Population and Sample, Data Collection and Data Analysis.

The sections that have been indicated above occur only where the data being collected is quantitative, which is the most common scenario. Where the data is mixed or qualitative, the sections are different as shown below:

Qualitative Data

  1. a) Introduction
  2. b) Research Design
  3. c) Research Questions
  4. d) Setting
  5. e) Participants
  6. f) Data Collection
  7. g) Data Analysis
  8. h) Conclusion

Mixed Data

  1. a) Introduction
  2. b) Research Design
  3. c) Research Questions and Hypotheses
  4. d) Setting and Sample
  5. e) Data Collection
  6. f) Data Analysis
  7. g) Conclusion

Where you are unclear on the direction your dissertation should take, you can find dissertation help from your supervisors or any academic personnel who is appropriately qualified.


Chapter 4: Research Findings

In the previous chapter, you have informed the reader of the methods used to collect and analyze the data. In this chapter, the actual analysis will take place. The different sections are as shown below:

a) Introduction

This section is from 2 to 3 paragraphs that, first, give a brief overview of the chapter and how it is organized to present the data analysis. Secondly, you should give a review of the problem to be addressed and the purpose of the study as given in the first chapter. Any specialized instruments that were used for the study should also be mentioned here.

b) Organization of Data

The data that you found in the process of doing your research is ambiguous until you give it some order. This is done through its organization in tables and figures. Each of these tables and figures must be referenced in the text but should contain complete information such that the reader will understand it without referring to the text.

c) Statistical Analyses

The research questions and hypotheses that you had indicated in the first two chapters will be used here as an outline. Restate each question and hypotheses then give the results of the tests of assumptions. These results should be drawn from the data that you have presented in the figures and tables.

d) Conclusion

A summary of this chapter should be given here. Also, you can hint at the next chapter using a single sentence.

Note that this chapter is all about presenting data as it was found in the field. Do not do any discussions on the data that was found. If you are confused on the direction you are to take, you can ask for dissertation help from your supervisors or colleagues who did the paper before you.


Chapter 5: Recommendations and Conclusions

This is the final chapter of the doctoral dissertation. Its sections are discussed below:

a) Introduction

This is a single paragraph that should give a review of the five sections in this chapter.

b) Summary of Study

This sections should give the summary of the entire study. This includes, first, a review of the problem under discussion and the type of data being collected. Secondly, the research questions that are the basis of the whole study should be restated as well.

The second chapter on the review of literature should also be summarized in a few sentences. If a survey instrument was specifically used for this review, it should be stated in the summary. The sample population should also be briefly discussed.

c) Findings

The findings from the statistical data analysis in chapter four should be reviewed here. This should be done in the same organized manner that was done in the said chapter.

d) Conclusions

These conclusions are based on the research questions found in chapter one and should be presented in the same order that the questions had. In this section, the researcher is basically saying anything and everything about the research that was conducted. You are even allowed to disagree on what was given in the literature, so long as you can give a clear reason why. These reasons can be drawn from your personal experience or from the data that was collected.

e) Implications

These are suggestions that address the issues that have been raised in the course of the research. They answer the question, what now? Minimize your suggestions to two or three, and in each, don’t state just what should be done, but how it should be done. The quality of thought should be more important than the number of suggestions that you have given.

f) Future Research

In chapter two on the review of the literature, you would have probably come along a few areas of research you feel should have been done better. Mention these areas that you think should be better researched and give your reasons why you feel this is important.

g) Conclusion

This is the final summary of the paper and should be between 1 and 3 pages in length. It includes and review of the statement of purpose, followed by an overview of findings and completed with an overview of findings and the conclusions.

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