Sequence of contents: an overview

Each dissertation must contain, in the following order:
  • a title page with copyright statement (see sample on the Forms section). This needs the title and your name in the position of the window in the cover – please ask for binding covers in time for you to check that your title is in the right place.
  • an acknowledgements’ sheet (optional)
  • contents list with pagination. Conventionally, pagination for the sections up to, and including, the glossary are in roman numerals with the remaining text in ordinary numbers. Appendices are not numbered as part of the ongoing text.
  • word count should be given at the end of the contents list
  • list of tables/figures/charts etc (if appropriate)
  • list of abbreviations (if appropriate)
  • list of appendices (if appropriate)
  • glossary of terms (optional)
  • structured abstract – see advice below

Advice about writing your abstract

Write this last.

Use a highly structured format (e.g. BMJ) and include information that clearly and concisely summarises the work in between 150 – 250 words containing four basic, structured parts.

  • Background describing why the study was done and clearly summarising your aim and objectives
  • Methods used – what was done
  • Results – what you found, highlighting and noting importance of key points
  • Conclusions.

The Objective/Hypothesis of the Structured Abstract

CLEAR statement of a PRECISE, and REALISTIC goal

If more than one objective, indicate primary vs. secondary.

Common mistakes:

non-specific, ill-defined objectives; poorly developed

objective too broad to address in given study; not testable

methods and results do not address stated objective/hypothesis

Materials/Methods of the Structured Abstract

Provide enough detail to allow reader to judge validity of the work

Information to include:

study design

research setting

patients or participants

description of the intervention

listing of primary (and secondary) outcome variables

statistical methods

Results of the Structured Abstract

Should flow logically from the methods

FULLY address the stated objective


Include baseline characteristics of study population.

Include appropriate numerical results

Include Sd’s or 95%CI’s

Do not bias the abstract – present important positive and negative findings

If in the abstract, must be in the paper


Should be fully supported by the data presented

Should relate directly to the stated objective

Do not overstate the conclusion!

Other Tips

Strive for easy readability

Use short declarative sentences

Avoid excessive reliance on abbreviations

Spell out abbreviations first, unless commonly recognized (i.e. BP)

Do not procrastinate!!!!

Following the abstract, go on to the sections of the main text arranged in numbered chapters and with subheadings as needed to guide the reader.

The recommended order is shown below:

• Introduction / background
• Methods
• Results
• Discussion
• Conclusions
• Recommendations
• References
• Appendices

These are described in more detail in the next section.