Dissertations: Writing up and formatting

The writing up process for a dissertation can seem overwhelming and messy, but this is normal. It is a good idea to start planning and writing sections as you go along rather than waiting until you feel like you have done all your research. You may have a chapter outline, but it is always good to plan each chapter individually to give yourself more structure. Schedule plenty of time for proofreading, checking references, formatting and printing, as these tasks require attention to detail and concentration, so you don’t want to feel stressed when doing them.

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources:  


The structure of your dissertation will vary depending on your subject, so always check your module information and if in doubt, ask! Many dissertations in science subjects follow a report-style structure. In the social sciences, the findings and discussion may be combined and organised more thematically. In the arts and humanities, the structure may be entirely thematic, with each chapter on a different theme. 

Break it down

The writing process can seem intimidating, but you can think of each chapter as roughly the length of an essay or short assignment, and you can write those! Look at this guide for more advice on the writing process:


Most people end up using Microsoft Word to create their dissertation but one thing that can prove challenging is that the formatting requirements are sometimes more complex for dissertations than for other assignments. Microsoft now has a searchable training website where you can get help to get the most out of Word. YouTube is also a good place to go if you want to be shown how to do less familiar things. 

Automatically create a contents page

Save yourself time and make your dissertation look neater by using headings to create a contents page. This video shows you how:

Insert a landscape oriented page

Use section breaks if you want to make one section of your dissertation behave differently to another. This is really useful if you want to put a table or picture in your dissertation in a landscape orientation rather than portrait, or if you need to change the style of page numbering after the first few pages. This video shows you how to do it: 

Final checks

Your dissertation is a chance to showcase your skills, so your markers will be looking for a professional text, demonstrating accurate referencing and well-presented writing. Look at this video for tips on a polished finish: