General Guidelines For Dissertation Formats: Avoiding Common Mistakes


Knowing exactly how to format a dissertation can be tricky, particularly when different subjects often require different things! However, there are some general rules that you should follow regardless of the level you are writing at (whether undergraduate or postgraduate) and whether you are writing about physics, economics, languages or geography. Below are some great guidelines on the most common mistakes to avoid.


  • Don’t forget markers

  • Markers include things like separate chapters indicators, titles, subheadings and other things that distinguish one part of the dissertation from another. These are essential regardless of the subject matter you are writing about. They split up a huge body of text and make it easy to read - not only for the marker, but also for when you are editing. Markers also create much more manageable ways to reference within your own writing (i.e. ‘see Chapter 2’, etc. rather than page numbers, which can be tricky). Additionally, these markers make your writing seem just that bit more professional!


  • Make sure everything flows logically

  • Often, people make the mistake of letting their writing run everywhere freely. But it is no good starting off your dissertation with a really strong introduction if you then follow it with, for example, something completely unrelated to the point you’re trying to make. If you need to deviate slightly from the point in order to present information and/or research to your reader, then you need to tell them that that is what you are doing. Make sure everything flows smoothly. The best way to ensure that you are doing this is to ask someone who knows nothing or very little about the subject matter to read your work and let you know if and where they are getting lost. From there, you can shift stuff around if needed or write bridging paragraphs to make everything just that bit smoother to read and, therefore, understand.


  • Don’t use unnecessary technical vocabulary

  • Markers and other tutors can see straight through students using technical terms when they really aren’t used. It makes your writing stodgy, and it sounds simply awful. It can even make it seem as though you don’t know what you’re talking about! Sometimes, of course, technical vocabulary is essential, and you will know what it means. However, using an unnecessary amount of this sort of vocabulary - or using technical vocabulary when a simpler word would do better or just as well - will not read well.