A Short Guide to How to Write a Dissertation

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The practice of dissertation writing is a prolific and formative step in the advanced academic world. It typically marks the conclusion of one’s studies and supports their candidature for a professional qualification or degree.

Steps to understand how to write a dissertation

For those required to write a dissertation in order to satisfy the requirements of their degree program, the thought of having to take everything they have learned over the course of the last 3 or 4 years and use that knowledge – and their research and analytical skills – to create a lengthy document capable of delivering some sort of value to thought leaders in the scientific or academic world is stressful. And with good reason. Dissertations are not written overnight.

There are a number of key steps that must be followed in order to write the best dissertation possible.

Step One: Create a solid proposal

The dissertation proposal is the student’s chance to prove to the members of the graduate committee that they are going to address valuable, thought-provoking and complex questions. The proposal should address the following:

  • What complex issue or problem is the dissertation going to explore
  • Why is the above an issue for the academic, scientific or research community
  • Why is it crucial to locate a solution
  • What research techniques will be used

The best format for a proposal is typically one that is clean and does not easily confuse the reader.

Step Two: Research as much as possible

The research phase is one of the most important. The research sources used must be relevant, otherwise valuable time is wasted chasing bad sources.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when researching:

  • Always create a research map or timeline
  • Find the right places to look for additional sources
  • Keep your findings and sources organized

Step Three: Write a fact-based dissertation

After the proposal has been submitted to the committee, providing one was required, and all of the necessary research has been done, it is time to write the dissertation itself. As with any other type of academic writing, there is some merit to be had in first writing an outline.

A basic outline for a custom dissertation includes the following categories:

  1. The Introduction
  2. The Literature Review
  3. The Methodology
  4. The Findings
  5. The Conclusion or Defense
  6. Works Cited or Bibliography

Once the complete outline has been filled in with the necessary information, and all of the sources are organized, the next task is to write the first draft.

Step Four: Proofread, edit and seek a fresh set of eyes

After the first draft has been written, but before the final copy is typed up, it is wise to edit the document for errors and context and then to ask an unbiased person, preferably one with strong knowledge in the subject matter discussed in the dissertation, to read through the document in its entirety and offer honest feedback on the content overall.

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What is a Dissertation – Definition

In order to define dissertation, it is first necessary to have a formative understanding of the meaning of a thesis or essay. Similarly, a dissertation is a piece of academic writing, only on a much larger scale. It is often considered a required final project for those pursuing a high level degree in the medical or social sciences fields.

Understanding what is a dissertation

Notably, a dissertation is, for all intents and purposes, a final year project that is used as a formal assessment of all of the knowledge that a student has acquired while studying for a degree at a college level or higher. Those who lead academic institutions expect that students are capable of taking responsibility for their own learning and that they are able to clearly convey the things they have learned in a literature review.

There are several reasons why a degree program might require its students author a dissertation –especially those degrees that fall into the realm of social sciences, humanities or health sciences. More often than not, a dissertation is used to encourage the student to:

  • Explore their own area of interest
  • Delve further into the topics they have been taught
  • Learn how to deliver knowledge
  • Complete the entire project lifecycle
  • Hone communication, research and intellectual abilities

The thing to remember is that, in many ways, authoring a dissertation is really about actually putting the skills learned to action, rather than simply writing about what was learned.

How long is a dissertation?

Writing a master’s dissertation, or one at any level, isn’t as easy as one might think. It is a long and complex process that often requires a year’s worth of dedication – sometimes even longer. This should not come as a shocking fact, especially given that the average dissertation length is anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 words.

Dissertation is normally broken into a number of dissertation chapters – their exact number might vary. However, they must include the introduction, the research method justification, the literature review, the results, analysis, discussion and conclusion, as well as references, works cited or bibliography section. As a rule, these sections are obligatory.

Please pay attention that a thorough formatting, binding and printing are also a must.

Dissertation vs. Thesis – What’s the Difference

Despite the fact that the words thesis and a dissertation are used interchangeably they are two very different things. The primary difference between the two is the time in which they are completed: a thesis project typically denotes the conclusion of a master’s degree, whereas a dissertation is formally reserved for doctoral studies. They have different purposes as well. A thesis is used to showcase a student’s acquired knowledge throughout the completion of graduate studies. A dissertation, on the other hand, is a chance to contribute new ideas and knowledge to the field being studied in a doctorate program.

Some of Dissertation Examples You May Find Useful

There are a number of resources that can be used to review examples of past dissertations, here are a few:

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