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Document Design

is designed to be a tool that assists with the logical design of documents. Dissertations should also have a logical design, and so this chapter briefly examines the form of this, and discusses ways of mapping this design on to physical file structures.

Most dissertations have a structure that broadly approximates to the following:

1. Preamble:
containing such items as dedication (if desired), acknowledgements etc. Usually less than a page in length.

2. Introduction:
explaining what the project was about; describing the chief objectives; outlining any constraints on the solution; introducing keywords and explaining them. (Loosely conforms to ideas of problem specification.)

3. Background:
describing techniques or tools appropriate to the problem and its solution. May be more than one chapter if there are several of these. It may be difficult to determine just how much to include under this on occasion, there is a need to provide enough information for an educated reader to understand the rest of the dissertation, without swamping them with unnecessary details.

4. Solution:
describing how the problem was tackled by you (design plus a bit of the implementation information if appropriate). This is your chance to explain what you did, and why you made particular decisions.

5. Results:
summarising the experiences of implementing the solution; modifications needed as a result of this; whether the effects were expected, whether the project results met the objectives etc, and if not - why.

6. Conclusions:
providing a concise summary of what was achieved; how well it met the objectives; any more general observations about these; scope for any further development/extension of the ideas or your solution.

7. Bibliography:
is an important component. It doesn't need to be large, but it should be enough to show that you read around the topic and looked for ideas other than those suggested by your supervisor!

8. Appendices:
should be included as necessary. These supplement the material of the main chapters by providing the details that would obscure the structure of a chapter, but which would be needed by anyone who wanted to use your work.

The above is a very general framework, and will usually be implemented in some variant form. However, it does provide the start point for dissertation design. A suggested implementation plan is as follows:

  1. List an outline of topics along the lines above.

  2. Convert this to chapter headings.

  3. For each chapter, list the topics to be covered.

  4. Convert these to section headings and section content outlines (topic lists).

  5. Check through for consistency and omissions.

  6. Begin writing!

The order in which sections and chapters are written is a matter of personal preference. Provided that you have a good content plan for each chapter, the ordering of development can be relatively flexible. The rest of this chapter explains how you can physically structure your document so as to support this flexibility.

Next: Sectioning into files Up: Structuring a Dissertation Previous: Structuring a Dissertation