Dissertation Outline

A college dissertation is a very long document. To be able to plan your writing properly you’ll need to write a dissertation outline.

The first stage of the academic writing process is planning.

The plan that you’ll need to write will be proportional in length to the length of the final written document. So an average essay plan would only be half a page to a page long. But a plan of a thesis would be much longer. Quite possibly at least ten pages.

Your dissertation outline is a tool to help you write a better thesis. This means that it needs to help you. By spending time planning and writing your outline you’ll be able to focus your thoughts and make sure you don’t forget anything.

The dissertation outline will help you write better.

Take your time over writing the outline. Keep coming back to it and trying to improve it. The outline is an evolving document.When writing your dissertation outline you should start wide and then get more detailed. That means planning your chapters first following one of the two outline organizations given on the thesis writing page.

Once you’ve got your rough outline you can start to add more details. Add the subsections within each chapter. Plan all the different pieces of information you need to put in each part of the thesis and the order that you’ll present them.

As you think of and plan different sections you might need to rearrange some of the information you’ve already set down. This doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the planning process. It’s better to do this now than when you’re in the middle of writing and it’ll involve much more work to make the changes, as they could very well result in major rewrites.

It’s best if you write your outline as a bullet point list. This makes it easy to make changes and you can also easily tell how much information you’ve got in each section and subsection.

Once you’ve got a structural outline that you’re happy with you can start to add more details to each section. You could add:

  • Important references, so you don’t forget them
  • Important points to make
  • Links to other sections
  • Short summaries of important references
  • Where you’ll uses figures or tables to present data or results
  • Anything that’ll help you write your thesis


When writing about a topic as detailed as your dissertation will be, it’s possible to have many subsections, as follows:

  • Chapter 1
  • Subsection 1.1
  • Subsection of subsection 1.1.1
  • Another subsection 1.1.1.1
  • Even more subsections 1.1.1.1.1
  • Again, another subsection 1.1.1.1.1.1


While this might seem clear to you it’s not the best way of writing a thesis. Try to just have the first 3 types (chapter, subsection and subsection of subsection). Try to plan your thesis so that the information you want to include can fit into this structure. If there are too many subsections the reader ends up forgetting what the previous sections were and therefore how the information they’re reading now relates to the main topic of the thesis.

Remember that your outline is there to help you write a better dissertation. So if it needs to change, change it. The outline is never finished; you should keep on up-dating it until you’ve finished writing your thesis.

So while the dissertation outline won’t be marked it’ll make sure that you write the best thesis you can, which will enable you to pass your viva at the first attempt with only minor corrections needed, which is what everyone wants.


If you need any help with your thesis I can read and correct what you written. I can’t and won’t write it for you but I can help improve what you do write. See the page about my proofreading service.



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