All dissertations are structured into chapters. A typical structure would be as follows.
Chapter 1: Introduction
This chapter provides the rationale for undertaking the research. It is usually fairly brief around 1,000 words - providing a commentary on the following points
• the problem/issue/opportunity under investigation,
• the key theoretical and empirical issues involved,
• the background concerning how the project came about,
• why the topic is important and to whom,
• the design choices that were considered and rejected or selected,
• how the investigation is to be approached,
• the research objectives or research questions,
• how the dissertation is organised – the chapter structure and what may be found ineach chapter.
Chapter 2: A Review of the Literature
You should be selective, but structure this section so as to give a clear overview of the main types of literature available in the field. You may choose to do this thematically or historically.
The literature review might be around 4,000 to 6,000 words and should include:
• an introduction that clearly indicates the aims of the review and the reasons for the structure you have chosen,
• a discussion of the theoretical perspectives of previous authors in your field or related fields,
• a summary of the main empirical findings of previous research and other relevant data, stressing those ideas and empirical findings that are important for your dissertation, including those you challenge and reject and those have proved to be useful to you in developing your own ideas, and which have influenced you significantly,
• your own criticisms of other writers' assumptions, perspectives and arguments which brings out the reasons for the direction of your own research, expressed as a series of research propositions you have deduced from your reading of the literature to be tested empirically, or research objectives which frame a piece of qualitative fieldwork,
• concluding summary of your reasons for the structure and direction of your ownresearch.
Chapter 3: Research Design and Methods
This chapter, which will be around 2,000 words, should include:
• a fuller and more detailed explanation of the research objectives than was outlined in the Introduction,
• a rationale for the choice of research strategy chosen to tackle the research objectives,
• the key concepts, how they are defined and how they are to be measured,
• the theories, hypotheses, models being developed or tested,
• the range and type of data collected,
• a detailed account of the methods used. Comment on the overall approach and justify your choice. For example, is it largely qualitative, quantitative or some combination? In either case you should specify the population of cases that are the focus of the research, comment on the need for sampling, the sampling frames that have been used, the type of sampling, the size of sample, the data collection methods and the data capture instruments. It would also be helpful to identify the particular perspective from which your research has been approached.
• the data analysis procedures used, for example, was statistical inference used in addition to descriptive statistics?
• a discussion of problems/difficulties associated with the implementing the methods used, together with an account of any changes made during the course of the research.
• the limitations of the research design and methods utilised.
Chapter 4: Results
For qualitative research, this is the really tricky chapter. Try to structure into broad topics that your respondents have commented on. Use quotes to illustrate the findings,but be selective. Try to go beyond merely reporting back what respondents have said to you – be analytic. Look for the structures and processes that appear to lie behind what people are saying.
For survey research, there is a fairly standard pattern for reporting results that includes:
• a description of the sample composition,
• univariate analysis of the results,
• bivariate and multivariate analysis looking at the relationships between variables,
• testing for the statistical significance of hypotheses if the sample was a random one,
• discussion of the findings, including their scope and possible limitations.
Use tables and charts selectively – don’t just do a pie chart for each variable. Remember that most of the tables will go into an appendix. In the text, put those tables that bring out the key findings. Normally this chapter will be around 4,000 words.
Chapter 5: Conclusions
This chapter, which is usually around 2,000 words, should really tie everything together. Fairly standard components are:
• a summary of the key findings,
• a comparison of these findings both with your research objectives (or hypotheses being tested) and with the literature you have reviewed,
• the implications of these finding both for academic theory and marketing or retailing practice and for the companies,organisations or individuals who have been thefocus of the research,
• any recommendations you may have,
• how future research may be developed.