Dissertation Structures and Word Count


Dissertation Structures and Word Count

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MSc dissertations should be approximately 15,000 words. This is a real target. A maximum of +/- 10% is allowable.


Included in the word count is the main body of the dissertation, interpreted as counting from the first word which generally falls within the “Introduction” and until the very last word in the final chapter.


Other inclusions/exclusions from the word count are as follows:

Component Yes No
Footnotes ü
Numbers in tables/diagrams* ü
Words in tables/diagrams ü
Executive Summary ü
Abstract X
Table of contents X
References/Bibliography X
Appendices X

*If your dissertation contains a large number of tables containing numeric data, you are encouraged to convert them into an image. Words describing the content within the table will be included in the word count, but the numbers in the table will not be counted as they will be in image format.

Students should keep all research data secure. If either of the dissertation markers wish to access your raw data as part of the assessment process, it needs to be shared with the PGT Office.

If appendices are used, they should not be excessive, and should not be ‘essential reading’. If you include an Acknowledgements section, please do not include information that will de-anonymise yourself.



A typical traditional research dissertation is usually broken into four to six chapters, including a short introduction and conclusion. The chapter structure helps break the dissertation into manageable parts and ensures progression from one theme to another. The introduction spells out the focus of the study and its objectives or research questions, explaining why these were interesting to the author and ‘locating’ them in the field. It should also include an outline of the subsequent chapters. In the case of primary research, there should be a separate chapter providing an account and justification of the research design and methodology adopted.

The conclusion should reflect on the implications of your ‘findings’ for wider theory and where relevant, for practice, picking up themes about the rationale of the study in your introduction. How the substantive chapters are organized will depend on personal preference and the nature of the research. However, you must ensure that your treatment is sufficiently analytical, integrating conceptual and empirical material. This integration may run through the body of the work or it may take place largely in a discrete analysis chapter.

  • How this chapter fits into the rest of the dissertation
  • The structure of the chapter
  • The main points which the reader should take from it. Always ensure that your argumentation is as tight as possible and clearly presented.

Dissertations will be different in structure, and different in the relative length of particular chapters, depending on their type, the nature of the research question, and preferences of students and Advisors. The following represents a rough guide only; relevant sections, as well as their appropriate length, will vary substantially from dissertation to dissertation.


The following indicative chapter headings and word counts are only for guidance.


Traditional Research Dissertations

This involves critical engagement with a body of literature, followed by the collection and analysis of qualitative or quantitative data that can help to address gaps in the literature and improve our understanding of a particular subject in business.

Indicative Chapters Indicative Word count  
Abstract 250 (not included in overall word count) Overview of study, approach, broad findings and significance.
Introduction 1,000 Subject, significance, research questions/hypotheses, and structure.
Literature review 4,000 Critical review of relevant literature; identifying gaps or questions in the literature; development of conceptual framework.
Methodology 2,000 Research design and justification of methodological choices, balance of qualitative and quantitative; data gathering (sampling etc); data presentation and analysis; alternative choices, limitations.
Data presentation 6,500 combined Description, explanation and presentation of data
Analysis and interpretation Application of analytical tools to the data collected; evaluation and interpretation of what the data suggests in relation to the research questions/hypotheses; reintegration with general literature; theory implications.
Conclusions 1,500 Summary of answers to research questions/hypotheses, explanation of contribution to knowledge, business relevance, implications for policy, avenues for further research.



Guidelines for Formatting and File Type

Please use a sans serif font (e.g. Arial) in size 12 and double spacing. This is to make it easier to read on a screen for your markers.

Submitting as a PDF helps the file retain your original formatting.

Dissertations that require the inclusion of data such as coding that cannot be embedded in the dissertation .pdf or .doc file type will need to upload this to a separate link to the dissertation file itself.


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