Dissertation Work Breakdown Structure

Constructing a Work Breakdown Structure

To start out, the project manager and subject matter experts determine the main deliverables for the project. Once this is completed, they start decomposing the deliverables they have identified, breaking them down to successively smaller chunks of work.

"How small?" you may ask. That varies with project type and management style, but some sort of predetermined “rule" should govern the size and scope of the smallest chunks of work. There could be a two weeks rule, where nothing is broken down any smaller than it would take two weeks to complete. You can also use the 8/80 rule, where no chunk would take less than 8 hours or longer than 80 hours to complete. Determining the chunk size “rules" can take a little practice, but in the end these rules make the WBS easier to use.

Regarding the format for WBS design, some people create tables or lists for their work breakdown structures, but most use graphics to display the project components as a hierarchical tree structure or diagram.

Since I have started writing my master thesis for my degree in ICT Entrepreneurship, I had to write a project plan. Well, I have written a lot of project plans before but every project has a different plan, right ?

First, let’s see how a thesis project plan outline looks like. This is copied exactly from my project plan.

1.    Introduction    4
1.1.    FORTEKS AB    5
2.    Thesis Purpose    5
3.    Research Questions    5
4.    Thesis Objectives    6
4.1.    Primary Goals    6
4.2.    Secondary Goals    6
5.    Unique Contribution    7
6.    Study Methodology    7
7.    Work Breakdown Structure    7
8.    Time Schedule / Gantt Chart    9
9.    Thesis Organization    10
10.    Risks    11
10.1.    Expected Risks    11
10.2.    Risk Analysis    11

Now let’s examine each section but before we see the “Table Of Contents” there are two more important pages :

Title, title, title

Start your thesis project plan by finding a suitable title for the thesis. Think about including the keywords that would be useful for you, further in your career. For example if you want to work on “e-marketing” after your degree, do use the word in your title.

Examples :

  • An E-Marketing Plan for Forteks AB : A Hands-on Approach
  • Business plan for portable ISP in Bangladesh
  • Trends in Digital Marketing

In your title , don’t forget to include your project examiner’s and supervisors’ names.

Revision History

Every project plan or even every important document has to have a “Revision History” table in which you have columns like “Date”, “Version”, “Description” and “Modifications” so that the reader can see what has been changed and what not before reading the whole document.


This where you write about the purpose of the report and the sections of it. It is also wise to give a brief information about the company and the industry that it operates in if you are going to write your thesis at a company.

[You should have a sub-section to give a detailed explanation about the company]

Thesis Purpose

As the name states, this is where you write your purpose or goal. What are you looking for ? Are you trying to find the truth of the life or do you have a hypothesis to prove ?

Research Questions

Here is an important section where you present your research questions. Generally there are not so many main questions but they can be augmented by sub-questions. For example :

  • How do small-sized companies seem to use Google Ads ?
  • How is customer service used to affect the online customer experience ?

Thesis Objectives

In this part, you as a student must list down your “Primary Goals” and “Secondary Goals”. The first one is usually a break-down version of your thesis purpose and the latter is more general things like “applying theory to real-life situations” or “having experience in Swedish business life”.

Unique Contribution

This part is really important for the thesis supervisors and professors from the school. Since master thesis is really different from the bachelors thesis, they expect you to have a – at least small – footprint in the academic world. They would like to see some uniqueness about your work. Yet, you can do the same research as other thousand people, but you can do it in another way which will make your contribution unique.

Study Methodology

This part is where you write if you are going to interview people or use primary data with experiments or etc. Take a look at the scientific approaches to write something meaningful here.

Work Breakdown Structure

Based on the goals of the thesis the activities should be broken down in a reasonable manner. A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is exactly what you do in this part. You can have stages like “Initial Stage” and list down all the actions that you will take during these stages.I have followed an iterative way of working for my thesis plan.

Example :

  • First Iteration :
    • Review the literature (including articles and online guides) regarding e-marketing strategies.
    • Make a short-term action plan based on the literature review.
    • List down the requirements for the action-plan.
    • Implement the action-plan.
    • Analyze and evaluate the results of the first iteration.
    • Revise the strategy and reflect upon the consequences.
    • Make a report of the experiences and reflections.

Optionally you can state your deliverables and milestones in this part.

Time Schedule / Gantt Chart

Since you don’t have the whole time in the world, you must plan your time accordingly. Gantt Chart is a great tool to see your whole time plan in front of you along with the activities. To create a Gantt Chart you don’t have to use “Microsoft Project” or other expensive software, I found Gannt Project freeware a very powerful tool. You can even export your charts in PNG or PDF using this tiny software.

Thesis Organization

This is where you give some information about your industry supervisor, school supervisor and examiner like name, e-mail, title etc.


Every project has risks, here you state your possible risks and your mitigation plans along with the expected effect of the risks :

Example :


Risk Event


Contingency Plan

Risk Index (P*E)


Schedule Conflicts

Focus on online communication

Be Flexible



Risk Event

Probability (P)

Effect (E)

Risk Index (P*E)


Schedule Conflicts




And your plan seems to be ready now ! Hope you found this post useful, if you want to ask something, please don’t hesitate to comment. I have also created a blog which I will update during my thesis work. Check out my e-marketing master thesis blog.

PS: Your school may have a template for the thesis project plans. You might want to check it too.

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Tags: gantt chart, how to write a plan, how to write a thesis, how to write a thesis project plan, introduction, master thesis project plan, master thesis work plan, project plan, research questions, revision history, study methodology, thesis objectives, thesis project plan, thesis purpose, thesis title, time schedule
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