Crafting a dissertation requires careful planning and organization. One of the essential tools to guide this process and ensure a coherent, structured final piece is a well-prepared outline. This article will explore more on writing dissertation outlines and provide a template for students. Read on!

What is an Outline: Definition and Purpose

An outline is a systematic and organized plan or layout that delineates your dissertation’s primary and secondary points. Think of it as the skeleton or the backbone of your research work, where each bone represents a different section or argument.

The beauty of an outline lies in its simplicity. Breaking down the complex task of writing a dissertation into manageable chunks provides a clearer vision of the end goal. It’s much like a roadmap that dictates the sequence of your journey and highlights the essential landmarks you must visit along the way.

An outline ensures coherence and consistency. A researcher should not dive into writing without a clear outline. This organized approach ensures that the narrative of your dissertation flows logically from one section to the next, providing clarity for both the writer and the reader.

Having an outline minimizes the risk of overlooking vital components or repeating information. It keeps you aligned with your research goals, ensuring that every piece of information and argument serves your dissertation thesis. An outline is both a guide and a safety net, ensuring your dissertation is comprehensive, cohesive, and coherent.

Useful Outline Writing Tips

  • Start with a Brainstorm: Before diving into the formal structure, write your ideas, arguments, and main points. This rough brainstorming will help shape your final outline.
  • Use Hierarchies: Structure your points hierarchically. Start with the main sections, then break them down into subsections and further into specific points or arguments. This layered approach helps in visualizing the flow and depth of content.
  • Adopt Consistency: Consistency is crucial. Whether using numbers, letters, or bullets, ensure a consistent pattern throughout the outline. This aids in clarity and readability.
  • Categorize and Group: Similar ideas or arguments should be grouped together. This maintains coherence in your writing and helps ensure you don’t scatter points related to one idea in multiple places.
  • Prioritize Information: Not all points carry the same weight. Arrange your arguments and ideas based on their significance and relevance to your central nursing thesis.
  • Limit Redundancy: Ensure each point is unique and serves a specific purpose. Overlapping or repeating ideas can confuse the narrative flow.
  • Use Keywords: Use keywords or short phrases rather than writing lengthy sentences. This makes the outline easier to skim and allows for quicker revisions.
  • Incorporate References: If you come across a vital source or reference while creating your outline, jot it down alongside the related point. This will save time while writing and ensure you don’t forget to incorporate essential references.
  • Review Regularly: Continually revisit and revise your outline as you delve deeper into your research. This process ensures that your outline aligns with your evolving research insights.
  • Remember the End Goal: Always remember your dissertation’s primary objective. Each point in your outline should serve that central thesis, ensuring your work remains focused and purpose-driven.

Sections of Dissertation

This guide will concentrate on the 5-chapter approach, detailing specific variations within the outline.


This section forms the foundation of your dissertation. Here, you will identify the problem, present the context, and state the relevance of your research. You should also clarify the research objectives and the central questions you aim to answer. It’s your opportunity to explain to your readers why your dissertation topic is significant and what makes your research unique.

Literature Review

An exhaustive review of the relevant academic literature to your topic ensures you’re not reinventing the wheel. Identify key theories, methodologies, and nursing findings from past research. Point out areas of consensus, ongoing debates, and any notable gaps in the existing body of knowledge. By doing so, you position your research within a larger academic dialogue and demonstrate its relevance and timeliness.

Qualitative Methodology

You’ll likely use a qualitative approach when your research focuses on understanding human behavior, emotions, or motivations. This section should detail your processes, from interviews to focus groups or observations. Describe how you selected participants, ensured ethical considerations, and used qualitative data analysis methods.

Quantitative Research Methods

Quantitative research is about numbers and statistical analysis. Here, you’ll define the population under study, describe the sampling techniques, and outline the tools (like surveys or experiments) you used to gather data. Highlight any software or specific statistical tests employed in the data analysis.

Combined Methodology Analysis

Mixed-method research combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches to provide a comprehensive perspective. This section illustrates how you integrated both methods to address your research questions. Discuss the rationale behind this choice and the unique insights each dissertation methodology offered.

Research Outcomes

The heart of your dissertation. Detail the results of your research using tables, charts, or qualitative findings as needed. Each result should link back to the research questions or hypotheses. Be clear, objective, and concise, letting the data speak for itself.

Conclusion: Discussion and Future Research Suggestions:

Reflect on your findings. What do they mean in the broader context of your field? How do they advance knowledge? Address the implications of your results for both theory and practice. Furthermore, acknowledge the limitations of your study and propose directions for future research, potentially suggesting new questions or areas that merit exploration.

Dissertation Outline Template for Students

Here’s a foundational template for dissertation sections, which you can tailor to your specific dissertation topic and field of study.


Choose a clear, concise title that accurately represents your research topic.

Dissertation Abstract:

A succinct summary (typically 150-300 words) of your research, including the objectives, methodology, main findings, and conclusions.


A section to express gratitude to those who assisted you in your research journey, including mentors, peers, and any institutions that provided financial or other support.

Table of Contents:

A detailed list of all the sections and subsections in your dissertation, preferably with page numbers.

Chapter 1: Introduction


Delve into the context and history of your research topic.

Purpose of Study:

Clearly state the rationale and objectives behind your research.

Research Questions:

List the central questions you aim to answer.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Previous Research:

Analyze seminal works and foundational studies related to your topic.

Current Trends:

Highlight the most recent developments and debates in the field.

Research Gaps:

Identify areas that previous research might not have addressed, thus justifying your study.

Chapter 3: Methodology


Detail the type of methodology used and the rationale behind choosing it.

Data Collection:

Describe tools and processes for gathering data collection, like surveys, interviews, or experiments.


Explain how you interpreted and analyzed the data, mentioning any software or statistical techniques utilized.

Chapter 4: Research Outcomes

Dissertation Data Presentation:

Use charts, graphs, tables, or qualitative findings to depict your results.


Discuss the main outcomes of your research, linking them to your questions or hypotheses.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Key Findings:

Summarize the primary insights from your research.


Reflect on the broader significance of your findings for the field.

Recommendations for Future Research:

Suggest areas that future scholars might explore, building upon your work.


List all the sources you cited throughout your dissertation, adhering to the required citation style.


Include supplementary material, such as detailed data sets, interview transcripts, or charts. This section covers anything that supports but isn't central to the main text.

Final Thoughts on Dissertation Outlines

An outline is not just a simple list; it’s the skeletal framework of your dissertation, ensuring every key point, argument, and evidence finds its rightful place. But where do you begin? How detailed should it be? How do you ensure coherence between chapters?

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