Structure of a technical document, a suggestion

This page outlines a structure that could be applied to a technical paper, or an MSc dissertation.

This piece of text should be self-contained. Try to explain the work in simple terms. Avoid using technical terms that you may introduce later. (If you must use technical terms, introduce them before you use them.)

  1. Introduction
    1. What is this dissertation all about? (in no more than 30 words)
    2. What motivates this research
    3. What are our objectives? How to measure success?
    4. What is the scope?
    5. [As appropriate:] Overview of the document
  2. Literature survey
    • What has been done?
    • Explain clearly all the works that your work is built upon.
    • Give references.
    • A useful survey would organize the literature into a structure. That would help the reader to see different work more clearly.
  3. Design
    • What are your new ideas?
    • How do your idea tackle the objectives defined above?
    • This section/chapter should be descriptive. By all means provide justifications for every decision, but there is no need to say how good it is.
  4. Experimentation
    1. Experimental design
    2. Results
    3. Interpretation of results; refer to the measures defined above.
  5. Discussion [optional]
    • If you have any points that you want to discuss, discuss them in this section. Avoid discussing them within the above sections, as it could confuse the readers and hinder the flow.
    • You may list the limitations of your work in a section here (alternatively, list them in the Conclusions section/chapter).
  6. Conclusions
    1. Summary on what has been done; be succinct; refer to section numbers in the above text
    2. What are the contributions? How do they meet the objectives defined above?
      (This is the most important part of your dissertation. You’ll be judged by what you claim, and whether you can substantiate them.)
    3. Future work: List 2 or 3 directions, with depth and insight (not just speculations)
Related document: Guide to Technical Writing

Maintained by Edward Tsang; Last updated 2011.07.07