Guidelines for elaborating scientific dissertations within the UNESCO Chair in Interculturality, Good Governance and Sustainable Development, University of Bucharest
The word “dissertation” comes from the Latin “dissertare” meaning “to debate”.  The first recorded use of the term “dissertation” in English was in 1651. Its meaning was “an extended written treatment of a subject”. This implies that a dissertation not only researches the topic but it reviews different points of view about the subject existing in the pertinent scholarly articles and books.

In the academic communities, a dissertation is a detailed written discussion on a carefully chosen topic. This discussion is the result of an in-depth independent research aiming at enlargement of the knowledge existing in the given disciplinary or interdisciplinary field.

A master’s dissertation is the final research paper that a student has to develop under the supervision of a scientific advisor in case of successful completion of all the academic requirements during the study programme. It should reflect the level of graduate education (level 7 in the Qualifications Framework adopted in the European Higher Education Area) and the specific content of the study programme in terms of knowledge and skills acquired in the various disciplines composing the curriculum of the study programme.


There are plenty of criteria that should be considered in an integrative manor in the selection of the dissertation paper topic and of the scientific advisor. The list below enumerates the most important ones which should not be omitted:

  • Compatibility with the specific field of study and relevance for the academic qualification offered in the end of the studies;
  • The dissertation’s content has to fully cover the chosen topic by making use of appropriate knowledge gathered by the student during her/his study period;
  • Professional and scientific interests of the student demonstrated during the studies as well as employment opportunities and future professional prospective in the personal development of each student;
  • Limitations existing in the detailed documentation of the topic, in collecting field data and information as well as in making use of methodological tools and processing quantitative and qualitative data;
  • The scientific advisor should be interested on her/his turn in the topic suggested by the student and previous research and/or professional activities have to be at least indirectly related to the dissertation topic;

Extensive and good communication between the student and the scientific advisor during the classes or in extra-curricular work represents a positive complement in ensuring a smooth collaboration during the writing of the dissertation and its successful public defence.

The key to dissertation writing is research. It starts with identification, selection and valorisation of scholarly sources on the dissertation topic. It is recommended to start with a general survey of the refereed literature, which can be helped by finding review papers in the field of research. This is followed by an in-depth survey of the papers connected to the dissertation topic. Out of these papers and books only relevant ideas and facts which are closely related to the chosen topic have to be selected in order to help you to write your own assessment of the research topic. In other words, this library documentation helps you to give a summary of the science behind the dissertation and to provide a literature review of relevant work published in the area of the dissertation. This literature review summarises, on the one hand, the key theoretical knowledge needed as a background for the development of the dissertation, and, on the other hand, it provides an overall summary of the research methodology that the author intends to apply in the development of the dissertation. The best references are refereed journals andreviewed books. Much web-based material is not refereed and, unless confirmed from other sources, makes poor reference. Thus, it is not un-reasonable to use web- resources as a starting point of the research. However, it is recommended to confirm any information included in the paper from refereed or reviewed sources and reference those sources in the dissertation.
Most of the dissertation topics require besides library documentation also a field research consisting in quantitative data and/or qualitative information collection and processing. Clear presentations of the methodology and tools involved in the field research as well as a short description of the procedure(s) applied have to be included in the dissertation. The outcomes of the field research have to be discussed by comparing the findings with the outcomes of similar researches presented in the reviewed literature.

The dissertation has often a pre-determined size in terms of pages or word length. The Bucharest University UNESCO Department recommends a length of 60 pages for the core text of a dissertation paper. There are good academic reasons for having such a limit, in particular in the development of the skill to write concise, clear and rigorous documents.

Usually, a page (word) length of more than ±25% constitutes an excessive difference from the recommended standard size of the dissertation paper and will attract a penalty via the assessment scheme. The size (word) limit refers to the core text and does not include references and/or appendices or statistical annexes.


A dissertation paper is likely to contain the sections mentioned bellow arranged in the following order:

  • Title page
  • Abstract (up to 2 pages)
  • Statement of authorship
  • Contents page
  • Introduction (up to 5 pages). This section needs to grab the attention of the reader (s), showing that you understood the title and that you are clear about the purpose and objectives of your dissertation. The Introduction will tell the reader not only the research hypothesis and the expected outcomes, but also the means you are considering (existing knowledge in the literature and methods available) in order to fully cover the dissertation topic and reach the goals.
  • Chapter 1: Literature review (up to 30% of the core text). It is recommended that you offer a convincing résumé of pertinent articles, studies and books published in the area of your dissertation and are relevant for the questions or problems you intend to investigate. This chapter is a summary of the science behind your dissertation. Please note that the literature review must be defined by the title of your project and cannot take the form of an article by article enlisting. It is rather a problem solving driven overview and must show what knowledge has been established and agreed upon in the area of your dissertation and outline their strength and weaknesses.
  • Chapter 2: Research methodology focuses on methods, tools, instruments. This part is expected to summarize the key theoretical principles of research in the respective field and to provide a summary of the qualitative and quantitative investigation methods and techniques you intend to apply in your research in order to achieve the expected results.
  • Chapter 3: Study case: case presentation and discussion of the findings. This chapter has a first part dedicated to the presentation of the case and it ends by revealing the questions/problems that you will investigate and offer solutions aiming to solve ore improve the situation observed. The second part shortly describes the research process and concentrates on the presentation and in-depth discussion of the results by contrasting them eventually with previous research outcomes uncovered in the literature overview.
  • Conclusion/Recommendations for further research (up to 3 pages)
  • Bibliography (References)


Once you have gathered and organised enough material you can begin to turn it into written prose. To write effectively requires sustained concentration over long periods of time. Even with the incremental authoring possibilities that word processing offers, writing is best done in long uninterrupted sessions. Whatever you chose to do, the text must be consistent!

There are rules you can follow which may make the task easier and which will certainly improve the quality of your writing. Our advice is to:

  • Keep your potential readership in mind (your supervisor and the external examiners and probably, students of the next generation);
  • Identify commonality among the ideas expressed in order to clarify the text and eliminate redundant ideas;
  • Use sections and subsections to suggest some kind of hierarchical relationship between the various parts of the research paper. Do not exaggerate and keep with a balanced segmentation of the text of each chapter/section into subsections and/or paragraphs. Each chapter/section should begin on a new page with a few sentences that tell the reader what he/she will find in the section. This has the effect of "softening up" the reader so that when they move on to the body of the section they feel confident about the direction in which you are taking them. They are reassured at regular intervals when they encounter ideas which you have told them to expect.
  • Follow stylistic conventions related to academic writing. For instance, you should follow the next recommendations:
    • Avoid colloquialism;
    • Use rather the third pronoun (It is/ It has been ....) instead of writing for the first one (I have...). Not even We have/We consider can be used without the special acceptance of the supervisor for a limited number of cases;
    • Avoid shortened forms such as don't or there's, etc.

The core text of a dissertation paper includes usually small tables and less then half a page diagrams (graphs). The larger ones are placed in the Appendices of the dissertation paper. Each table or graph is identified by a number and introduced by a title that explains the content and gives time and space coordinates for the data included in its construction.

Number and title are placed above the table or diagram.

The source of data is compulsorily specified bellow each the table or diagram.

Following these rules increases the credibility and attractiveness of your dissertation paper.

It is recommended to put in the core text in brackets the name and year of the investigated work and list in the end of the dissertation paper the authors in alphabetical order.

For example:

In the text you cite:

“The existence of ozone in the upper atmosphere was first proposed in 1881 (Hartley, 1881), based on the sharp cut-off below 300 nm in the solar spectrum. This hypothesis was not confirmed until thirty years later, when Fabry and Buisson (1913) demonstrated the close correlation between the absorption spectrum of ozone and the solar irradiance spectrum between 230 and 340 nm…..”

Then, in the end of the dissertation you enumerate in the reference list:


  • Fabry, C. and H. Buisson (1913), L’absorption de l’ultraviolet par l’ozone et la limite due spectre solaire. Phys. Paris 3, pp. 196-206.
  • Hartley, W. N. (1881), On the absorption of solar rays by atmospheric ozone. J. Chem. Soc. 39, pp. 111-128.


Another way of referencing consists in using numerical superscripts in the core text in order to insert footnotes in the end of the respective page. And yet a bibliographical list of all references has to be prepared and inserted in the end of the dissertation paper.

Nota bene: It is essential that all sources used in the preparation of the dissertation are properly acknowledged. Failure to do this is plagiarism which will is severally punished.

For the technical layout of the dissertation please follow the recommendations given in: GHID ELABORARE LUCRARI STIINTIFICE.

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