An abstract is a short summary of a larger work, such as a dissertation or research paper. It allows potential readers to quickly identify what your paper is about and decide if it’s worth reading. All abstracts should include:
The abstract appears at the very beginning of a document, but it should be the last thing you write. In a dissertation or thesis, include it on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents.
Most abstracts are around 150-300 words, but the length depends on the requirements of your assignment—often you will be given a strict word limit.
Continue reading: How to write an abstract
The introduction is the first chapter of your thesis or dissertation and appears right after the table of contents. It’s essential to draw the reader in with a strong beginning. Set the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose and direction. The introduction should include:
- Topic and context: what does the reader need to know to understand the dissertation?
- Focus and scope: what specific aspect of the topic will you address?
- Relevance and importance: how does the research fit into existing work on this topic?
- Questions and objectives: what does the research aim to find out and how?
- Overview of the structure: what does each chapter of the dissertation contribute to the overall aim?
Continue reading: How to write a dissertation introduction
In your thesis or dissertation, you will have to discuss the methods you used to do your research. The methodology or methods section explains what you did and how you did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of the research. It should include:
- The type of research you did
- How you collected your data
- How you analyzed your data
- Any tools or materials you used in the research
- Your rationale for choosing these methods
The methodology section should generally be written in the past tense.
Continue reading: How to write a research methodology
A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) on a particular topic. It gives an overview of key findings, concepts and developments in relation to a research problem or question. A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it aims to:
- Analyze, interpret and critically evaluate the literature
- Synthesize sources to highlight patterns, themes, conflicts, and gaps
- Show the state of current knowledge in relation to a central research question or hypothesis
Continue reading: How to write a literature review
The title page (or cover page) of your dissertation contains all key information about the document. It usually includes:
- Dissertation title
- Your name
- The type of document (eg dissertation)
- The department and institution
- The degree program (eg Master of Arts)
- The date of submission
It sometimes also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and your university’s logo.
Continue reading: Dissertation title page
When you apply for graduate programs or scholarships, the admissions committee is looking for more than just a list of grades. The statement of purpose (also known as a statement of intent or motivation letter) is your chance to stand out from the crowd and showcase your motivation, skills and potential. It should:
- Outline your academic or professional interests and goals
- Discuss relevant skills, experience and achievements
- Demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program
See an example
Continue reading: Statement of purpose for graduate school
Along with your resume, transcripts and recommendation letters, most graduate school applications also require you to submit a personal statement.
A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.
To write a successful personal statement for graduate school, don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:
- Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
- Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
- Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?
Personal statement example
Continue reading: How to write a successful personal statement for graduate school
A good introduction paragraph is both engaging and informative. The main goals of your introduction are to:
- Catch your reader’s attention and interest.
- Give context and background on your topic.
- Set up the focus and purpose of your essay.
This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability.The writing system of raised dots, widely used by blind and visually impaired people, was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. Although it initially met with resistance from sighted people, Braille eventually became central to blind people's education and autonomy, giving them unprecedented access to cultural activities and social participation.The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new; Braille adapted and simplified existing methods to create the first writing system specifically for blind people. But its success depended on acceptance among sighted people before the social status of blindness could truly be transformed, and this process was shaped by broader debates about disabled people’s place in society.
Continue reading: How to write an essay introduction
The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper or thesis.
In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.
In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.
Continue reading: How long is an essay?
Every piece of academic writing is structured by paragraphs and headings. The number, length and order of your paragraphs will depend on what you’re writing – but each paragraph must be:
- Unified: all the sentences relate to one central point or idea.
- Coherent: the sentences are logically organized and clearly connected.
- Relevant: the paragraph supports the overall theme and purpose of the paper.
To walk you through the process of writing strong paragraphs, we’ll use an example from our interactive essay about the history of the Braille reading system. With each step, we will gradually build up the structure of a paragraph.
Continue reading: How to write a paragraph