Planning a dissertation is an intricate task that often triggers stress among master’s-level and doctorate-level students. To start with, you have to select a relevant thesis and perform advanced research to structure a foolproof argument.

However, how do you approach a dissertation? What should you consider in your dissertation word count breakdown? These are some of the issues often faced by students starting on their dissertations. 

This article will guide you on the structure of a dissertation and help you determine the word count distribution for various essays. 

How to structure a dissertation

The master’s dissertation structure can be chunked into three distinct parts. The preliminary pages, the body, and the closing part. Among these parts, the body contributes the largest word count of the paper. 

However, each part is of equal importance as it plays a vital role in helping your reader to discern the entirety of your argument. 

Preliminary pages

This part includes the title page, the abstract, the acknowledgments, and the table of contents. You should note that this part does not contribute to the final word count of your paper. 

  1. The title page

The title page comprises the name, dissertation title, department, institution, and program of study. Some institutions also require you to indicate the due date and your registration number and to insert the university logo.

If it is poorly formatted, the title page may hint at a sloppy paper, causing your tutor to develop a poor attitude. A well-formatted title page helps you make a good first impression and also to communicate your thesis.

  1. Acknowledgments

This should be a brief section thanking all the parties that helped you to see your paper to its completion. 

  1. Abstract

The abstract bears the most weight among preliminary pages. This section should range between 250 and 300 words and showcase the methodology, aims of your paper, and your key results and conclusion.

The abstract is thus a summary of the thesis and helps a reader gauge how relevant your paper is to their query. We recommend that you write the abstract after completing your paper as you will be better positioned to capture the entirety of your argument.  

  1. Table of Content

After your abstract, outline the chapters, subchapters, and subheadings adjacent to their respective page numbers. You may consider using the heading style in word to easily create a table of content that captures all sections within your paper. 

The body

This section comprises your argument, claims, methods, and results and comprises the bulk of your paper. Ideally, the body should carry 70% of your paper, thus making up to 7000 words in the 10, 000-word dissertation structure.

  1. The introduction

This section outlines the topic, purpose, and relevance of your paper. Although it serves a similar task as the abstract, it is longer and touches on the background of your study while showing the scope of your work.

The introduction chapter should take 5% of the total word count or 500 words in the 10000-word dissertation. This section should contain the research question and objectives and outline the methodology used to analyze your hypothesis. 

  1. The literature review

This chapter takes up to 30% of your total dissertation word count. As such, a 10000-word dissertation should allow not more than 3000 words for the literature review. 

Within your review, evaluate your research and discuss the theories, methods, and gaps within the existing research. You may opt to consult various sources to analyze the literature review of common sources. 

Next, draw connections between your sources and justify your research based on the weaknesses of existing research. Also, propose a new solution, setting a basis for your thesis and research methods.

  1. Methodology

The methodology should show your procedure in a manner that is easy to replicate and show the applicability of your approach. Also, justify your selection criteria and show the method of data collection while discussing various ethical considerations, challenges, and the solutions to such challenges. 

This section comprises 15% of your paper’s total word count. As such, avoid lengthy narrations of the research minutia and only highlight the key tools and procedures used in investigating your claims. 

Be keen to outline the tools and materials used to allow for the replication of your research. Finally, show the reason why your approach was best suited to investigate your research questions. 

  1. Results

Like the former, the results chapter should carry no more than 15% of your paper’s total word count. Here, concisely show your observations and include the relevant tables, graphs, and comments. 

You could also connect and highlight briefly how the results support your thesis. It is best to avoid bias and to include all the results whether they support your claim or not. The sums and calculations can be added to the appendix to ensure that you stay within the word count limit for this chapter.

  1. Discussion

This section is among the larger chapter in your dissertation structure. The discussion section carries 30% of the total word count and should analyze the meaning and implications of your findings.

Here, highlight the implications of the results to your hypothesis and state various limitations of your research. Finally, account for various unexpected results and analyze the implications of the results to the existing research in your field. 

  1. Conclusion

Like the abstract, this section should offer a summary of your work. The conclusion discusses the key objective of your paper and shows the justification for your research. 

You may also offer recommendations for future research and suggest the methods that could be used to better analyze various elements of your study. 

The closing 

The closing comprises the reference list and appendices. References should cover all the bibliographies in the style that has been proposed by your tutor. When working on the appendices, ensure to label them properly, allowing your reader to gauge the nitty-gritty computations behind your results. 

The dissertation word count breakdown

Here’s a succinct summary to help you maneuver the word count allocation for each section of your paper. 

Dissertation structure template

Title page


Abstract: 250- 300 words

Table of contents

Introduction: 5%

Literature review: 30%

Methodology: 15%

Results: 15%

Discussion: 30%

Conclusion: 5%


8000-word dissertation structure

Title page


Abstract: 250- 300 words

Table of contents

Introduction: 400 words

Literature review: 2400 words

Methodology: 1200 words

Results: 1200 words

Discussion: 2400 words

Conclusion: 400 words


10, 000-word dissertation structure

Title page


Abstract: 250- 300 words

Table of contents

Introduction: 500 words

Literature review: 3000 words

Methodology: 1500 words

Results: 1500 words

Discussion: 3000 words

Conclusion: 500 words


15, 000-word dissertation structure

Title page


Abstract: 250- 300 words

Table of contents

Introduction: 750 words

Literature review: 4500 words

Methodology: 2250 words

Results: 2250 words

Discussion: 4500 words

Conclusion: 750 words