Detailed Guide on How to Write a Dissertation
A Comprehensive Manual on Effective Dissertation Writing
How to Write a Dissertation
When you come to understand how to write a dissertation, you step on the straight path that leads to the end of your academic journey, or at least to the end of a tough and challenging part of it. The main purpose of writing a dissertation is to demonstrate a student’s academic writing skills alongside with critical and analytical thinking skills. Besides, when a student writes a dissertation or a thesis, he/ she demonstrates that it is possible to conduct a thorough and in-depth research in a chosen discipline and present the obtained results in a comprehensive and clear manner. Another thing that a student can boast of upon the dissertation completion is that he/ she can provide an authentic piece of academic writing written from scratch. Last but not least, a person writing an original thesis or dissertation can make a solid contribution into the academic world by providing scientific value to the research with the studied topic.
If you now wonder how to plan a dissertation, it is first of all necessary to find out what a dissertation is. Most importantly, there is a difference between dissertation and thesis. The term “dissertation” denotes an ultimate result of academic independent paperwork that is usually assigned on PhD level of studying. As such, students who want to gain doctoral degree must provide carefully crafted dissertation writing. A thesis, on the other hand, is usually assigned to students who are on their way to obtaining a Master’s level. Nonetheless, the notion “dissertation” is also utilized when people mean not only the undergraduate dissertation but also the final paper presented by PhD students before their doctoral defense. Despite the fact that there are slight discrepancies between these two types, any dissertation writing is serious and decisive for the academic success and further scientific career.
This comprehensive guide on dissertation writing will guide you through the process of how to structure a dissertation, how to plan dissertation writing in advance, how to overcome all pre-writing stages, how to start a dissertation, and how to make the dissertation successful and effective already in the process of writing. This manual will come in handy both for Master degree students, who only probably plan to apply for a doctoral program, as well as for PhD students, who are right in the process of working on their dissertations.
Many students think that the main thing that makes dissertation writing challenging and tough is the paper length. It is really one of the criteria but it is definitely not the core issue. The most challenging thing about dissertation writing is to be consistent and persistent in the process of working on it. Students fond of research usually start off with great enthusiasm and endless sources of energy. However, they may once or twice come across issues that are hard to handle and that may leave them in great despair, claiming that they are no good for writing such a serious academic paper as a dissertation. These moments are the toughest ones as they slow down the process of writing or even force the student to take a break for some time from working on the dissertation. It is at this pre-writing point that many students actually give up and do not strive for success with their PhD paper. Thus, the hardest part is not to write and organize the dissertation paper but to read a lot, plan, as well as research and analyze the data. For many people, dissertation writing is one of the daunting challenges they have ever faced in life. Still, if you are on the verge of giving up, remember about the rewarding results that will come in the end. Before we start talking about the basics of dissertation writing, we would like to draw our readers’ attention to the most widespread problems students have when writing their dissertation:
Usually, students are given a lot of time for dissertation writing. Still, it may initially seem that it is “a lot.” The time is properly adjusted and planned in advance for a student to properly work on the paper, go through all pre-writing, writing, and post-writing stages, and adequately research the data. However, as many students reckon that writing a dissertation is something like writing a term paper, they postpone the task as far as they can. The hardest thing is to start off and begin gathering materials, reading, and taking notes. Still, when students do begin, it is hard to stop them because there is so much work to do that they are at a loss what to do next. So, if you do not want to put yourself to excessive stress and worries, make sure you manage your time wisely: split the huge task into a few smaller ones, determine your short-term and long-term goals, and there you go! If you cannot do without professional dissertation help, it is also better to think about it in advance.
Insufficient Research Skills
Dissertation writing is the biggest trouble for those students who do not have adequate critical and analytical skills and who claim that it would suffice just to collect some information from different sources and summarize it in the body of the paper or provide a few quotes or citations as supporting evidence. Actually, dissertation writing is more than that as you need to analyze information, present it in a logical manner, and establish connection between different viewpoints.
Insufficient Academic Writing Skills
Apart from being able to research credible sources and provide plausible claims and arguments, it is equally important to organize the material in a consistent, clear, and logical manner. As such, you should be well-versed in the underlying principles of academic writing, formatting, and citation styles.
The very process of dissertation writing may seem really challenging for you but the most important thing is to start and be consistent in your research. Work on the paper step by step and you will definitely attain academic success.
Designing a Dissertation Plan
How to Structure Your Dissertation
A dissertation plan is necessary to create in order to manage your time wisely and know how much time you should devote to each of the paper sections. Read on and find out core steps of working on your dissertation.
Provide a Dissertation Proposal
A dissertation proposal is not the same as the very dissertation as it only “proposes” what the future dissertation will look like, what it aims to achieve (results, outcomes, etc.), how you are going to gather and analyze data, etc. Before writing a proposal, you might devise a dissertation outline as it will help you to concentrate on aspects you do not want to overlook in your academic paperwork. Dissertation proposal writing is aimed to convince the target audience and your academic supervisor that the research you plan to conduct bears significance and can provide a contribution to the research area you specialize in. Besides, a dissertation proposal is a way to pinpoint that your future research will be valuable and interesting. A proposal is relatively shorter than the final dissertation writing as it merely provides an overview of the paper and includes some predictions of the final results. Besides, it may also help you choose the most appropriate dissertation format. Even if you are not demanded to provide a dissertation proposal, it is still a good idea to write it in order to get a clear picture of your final writing, the number of dissertation chapters, and discuss some crucial points of your final dissertation with your professor or academic supervisor. If you have some flaws or discrepancies in your proposal, you will be able to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the dissertation.
There are the following points you need to pay attention to when designing a dissertation proposal.
Come up with a topic, research question, and formulate an effective title. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the major research problem you intend to solve?
- Why is it a plausible research problem worth consideration?
- What effect does the problem have on the community you belong to?
- How can the problem influence the scientific realm of your subject?
- Why is it crucial to come up with a solution to the central research problem?
- How exactly do you plan to attain the set objectives?
If you want to know more on how to choose an effective topic for your dissertation, read on the article and find out.
All the questions provided above on how to organize a proposal are necessary for organizing your thoughts and planning out the writing process. However, when it comes to choosing the dissertation topic, make sure to devote sufficient time to his process and brainstorm different ideas for the topic choice. Make sure the topic is not merely interesting for you but also worth attention and further investigation. The topic should be original and reasonable. Make sure that it was not researched from A to Z since you will produce no original work and will not contribute in any way to the subject area. Moreover, make sure the title is not overly complex – it should be clear even for the general audience what you plan to research and write about.
When it comes to the formulation of the research questions, make sure the questions are not confusing for you in the first place because if you formulate overly sophisticated questions, you will be struck in a dead end with your study. The questions should be helpful in the process of testing your paper hypothesis and conducting the in-depth study. It is strongly recommended to formulate a few titles for your dissertation and discuss with your professor or academic advisor which one is the best.
Tips on How to Write a Dissertation Proposal
If your aim is to make the proposal persuasive, then it should be easy to read and follow. Make sure to include the following components into your dissertation proposal:
- When you formulate the title, make sure it mentions three objectives of the research. The title should not be extensive as it will not make it clear to the reader what you write about. Therefore, make sure you conform to specificity of the title.
- Make sure you clarify with your professor or academic supervisor whether there is some specific literature you need to consult while preparing your dissertation. If yes, you need to research these books or sources as a priority and take notes. Make sure to provide full citations and mention which role the source plays in your research and how it contributes to the research outcomes.
- The main section of the proposal is the research part. Here you will discuss and analyze the core ideas pertaining to your research hypothesis or main study questions. In the main body, you will clearly outline the core aspects of the dissertation.
- Methodology subsection should reflect on the data gathering and analysis techniques and methods that you utilize. The dissertation can utilize either theoretic or practical techniques as well as rely more on non-empirical or empirical data. Therefore, you need to emphasize on the methods that best fit your research and provide a rationale why those particular methods were chosen.
- Potential results and outcomes should be also discussed in order to shed light on where the paper strives for and what you expect to achieve. Make sure to explain why you expect specific outcomes and what effect they will have on the research area.
- Another section is the writing schedule or time frame that helps a writer manage work on dissertation writing. You may divide the task into smaller steps and set deadline for each sub-task.
- Provide a reference list of the sources you plan to utilize in the dissertation. Make sure to format them according to the required citation style. Also organize them in alphabetical order.
Carry Out Thorough Research
The research stage is decisive for the overall progress of your dissertation writing. As such the research discussion and analysis should be effective, clear, and concise. Nobody would like to read a dissertation where the writer focuses on dozens of irrelevant resources. You need to provide overview of those sources that suit best to the research. Organize a timeframe for separate research stages. Make sure you have a required amount of time for working on a separate source. Remember that you have to read the sources closely and jot down the key information that can be utilized in your research. Moreover, make sure you look for the sources in the right places (use only credible and peer-reviewed sources for dissertation writing). The Internet is a good place to look for a variety of books and articles but please double-check whether the sources are updated and plausible. As a rule, students writing dissertation papers are more encouraged to look for sources in university libraries and online scientific databases. If you do not have free access to the libraries, use Google Scholar as an option for finding credible sources online.
Organize the resources you are consulting. Make sure you take notes for every book or article you are reading. You will read a plethora of sources while you prepare your dissertation, so do not rely on your brilliant memory – you will hardly remember all features and ideas derived from each source no matter how hard you try. Therefore, you might either take handwritten notes or use such online apps as Evernote, Pocket, etc.
Start Writing a Terrific Dissertation
After you have gathered and systematized the material, it is time to move on with the dissertation writing stage. Here you might have a lot of questions: how to write a dissertation introduction, how to perform an effective literature review, how to analyze the data critically and logically, and many others. The best thing here is not to be in haste and to be consistent in everything you do.
Compose an Outline
Once you have completed a proposal for your dissertation, it will not be a big problem for you to organize a dissertation outline. The outline should be as extended as possible, mentioning all the sections and subsections of each paper aspect. In case you have come up with some new points to the main body of the dissertation, make sure to add them in the outline.
Make Sure You Know How to Write an Introduction for a Dissertation
Introduction is the very first chapter of the dissertation body that should include background information on the research and set the context of what the study is about. It should clarify all the key terms that you will address in the dissertation and provide a clear problem statement. Apart from that, it is necessary to identify aims and objectives alongside with a list of research questions you intend to address and answer. At the end of the introduction, it is recommended to make suggestions about the research outcomes and potential limitations.
Organize a Literature Review
This chapter will be connected to the discussion and analysis of the sources that play a considerable role in carrying out the research. Make sure to outline the most important sources separately.
Make Sure You Know How to Write a Methodology for a Dissertation
This dissertation section will concentrate on the means of locating the sources and connecting them to the dissertation topic. You will also have to pinpoint to how the results and research outcomes are related to the paper analysis and research questions posed at the beginning. Make sure to indicate whether you have a qualitative or a quantitative study (or a mixture of both styles). Highlight the most distinct features in data gathering, sampling, and analysis.
Present Dissertation Findings
This section is the most significant one as it will decide the value and role of your research. Besides, this very section pinpoints to your capacity to critically and analytically discuss your findings and establish connections within different sections of the paper.
Make Sure You Know How to Write a Conclusion for a Dissertation
In the conclusion section, you need to synthesize all the information you have obtained in your dissertation. Make sure to reiterate your research questions (briefly) and indicate whether you have provided answers to them. In other words, you need to present a succinct report on the study results.
Make sure to mention possible research implications and suggest a list of recommendations for the further research on this topic.
Take into close consideration the required citation style for your dissertation writing and make sure to format all sources in accordance to it.
Adhere to the Main Principles of Effective Time-Management
Apart from the timeline you have prepared for the work on your proposal and research, you will need another timeframe for managing the overall process of dissertation writing. Make sure you outline all short-term and long-term goals and the due dates for each goal achievement.
Provide the First Draft
Follow the outline and provide the first draft depending on the research you have conducted and materials you have gathered. Do not put much focus on grammar, spelling, and punctuation – you will have your final draft to consider these issues. Rather focus on ideas organization between paragraphs.
Revise Your Dissertation in Terms of Careful Editing and Proofreading
Editing and proofreading are usually performed after each draft writing but the most scrupulous and attentive work should be carried out when you have finished your final draft. The best advice here is to take some time off after writing because it will be hard to switch over to editing immediately. When you take a break between writing and editing, it will be easier for you to spot mistakes.
When revising your dissertation, make sure you realize the difference between editing and proofreading. The former is focused on improving the content (adding some information or deleting irrelevant) while the latter deals more with brushing up grammar, punctuation, and spelling. As you edit the paper, make sure you pay attention to logical connection and smooth flow of ideas. Consider whether there are any gaps in the information setting and whether something else is needed to add. You need to make sure that the paper is legible and easy to understand. As you proofread, you distract your attention from the content and overall comprehension of the text and concentrate on proper grammar, spelling, citation, format, and punctuation. If you doubt that you can properly proofread your dissertation on your own, you are recommended to seek expert help from professional editing and proofreading services. Thus, you will avoid stress and anxiety and will be sure that the quality of your paper is impeccable.
Ask for a Feedback
Before handing in the dissertation paperwork, make sure to ask for a feedback. It can be a group mate, a friend or a family member. Preferably, you need a person who is knowledgeable in your subject but on the whole, the main aim why you ask for a feedback is to check whether the text is comprehensible and understandable for readers. Group mates will help you check whether the text is academic and whether it corresponds to the main subject while other people (such as your parents or friends) who do not specialize in your subject area might provide you a feedback on the general comprehensibility of the text.
Guide to Writing a Dissertation
How to Organize Your Paper in an Effective Way
To ease you the process of dissertation writing, we have constructed a guide to writing a dissertation.
Just start writing. Do not postpone dissertation writing till the last moment as the paperwork demands a lot of time and effort. When students are left with insufficient time, they tend to think that they are incapable of providing a quality paper. Actually, they are totally capable – all they need to do is to properly manage time and construct an effective and attention-grabbing introduction.
Move on With the Main Body Writing
If you have been engaged in writing a dissertation proposal, you now more or less know what the main body of your dissertation will comprise of. Before writing a dissertation introduction, it is advisable to provide a proposal, review literature, and report on the existent studies you have utilized in your research. Apart from the main body of the dissertation, you need to provide a paper summary or an abstract. Besides, some academic supervisors demand reports on your dissertation work. If you need to provide a presentation, you might be also asked to submit notes.
Carefully Check Out the Requirements and Dissertation Description
Make sure you adhere to the word count requirements. Writing more than needed is not better than providing insufficient paper length. Usually, students cannot filter what information is relevant and which is not, and this factor may also negatively impact the overall text comprehension. Pay close attention to the dissertation format and required citation style. Make sure all sources are formatted and organized according to the most recent updates of the required citation style. If you have some visuals, make sure to clarify whether they can be provided as parts of the text or in the appendices.
Depending on the discipline and course of studying, you need to pay attention to dissertation structure. As a rule, there are provided templates on the websites of institutional affiliations. So, you are free to use the dissertation guidelines and organize your paper accordingly.
Still, there is one generally accepted structure that contains of the following elements:
- Dissertation title page
- Abstract page
- Table of contents
- Introductory section
- Literature review
- Discussion part
- Good research methodology chapter
- Dissertation analysis of findings
Each chapter of the dissertation has its specific function:
A title page is an indicator what your dissertation is about. Therefore, provide only the most important information on it: dissertation title (briefly and succinctly formulated), discipline, and information about the dissertation writer.
This is one of the shortest parts of the dissertation, which is actually a synopsis of what you have written. You should pinpoint to what you did and how. Highlight the research outcomes, limitations, and recommendations for the study. All in all, focus not only on strengths but also on weaknesses. Although abstract is provided at the beginning of your dissertation, it should be written last after you have conducted the research and properly analyzed it. Also make sure you fit into the word count limit.
When writing this section, you have a chance to mention all individuals who helped you in your process of writing, made some contribution, participated in the research, etc.
Table of Contents
The table of contents is necessary for demonstrating the structure of the dissertation and its main constituents. Make sure you outline all sections and subsections provided in the dissertation or PhD thesis.
Despite the fact that this is the first section of your dissertation research project, it is often written last (approximately the same time as the abstract). The reason is clear: if you have no completed research, you will not know what you are introducing. When writing the introduction, you should keep in mind that it is different from the abstract. So, it should not repeat the information previously mentioned but should expand the material on the dissertation context and the background of the dissertation project. Another aim of the introduction is to provide brief information on what the paper is about.
You need to demonstrate your awareness of the existing literature on the topic and express your ability to analyze and discuss the ideas coherently. When you review the existing literature, you focus on what was already done in the field of research and what gaps there exist. The information you discuss in the literature review should serve as a logical bridge for discussing the main research questions. When discussing literature, you should pay attention to the following contexts of your study:
Writing a Dissertation Methodology
Indicate how you conducted the study and how exactly you have arrived at the results you have obtained. Moreover, pinpoint whether you have a quantitative dissertation or a qualitative one. Remember to provide specific details on data gathering and analysis so that your study could be repeated in similar contexts or environments.
When reporting on study findings, make sure to clarify which format you need to follow. When you are writing a dissertation in scientific disciplines, then there is clear division between the results and their discussion vs. interpretation. On the other hand, if the dissertation is in social studies, there is a general section called “Findings,” which includes both results and their discussion.
Here you provide a brief review of your own research within the framework of a larger context. You can take a step back and look at the research rationale presented earlier. As such, in the discussion section, pinpoint to what you have attained and what contribution your research made. When reflecting on the overall research, make sure to emphasize not only strengths but also weaknesses and limitations of the project.
Writing a Dissertation Conclusion
The chapter will briefly summarize the results obtained in the dissertation. You will provide a concise summation of your findings and will underline whether you have gained the set goals and objectives.
Make sure you properly structure the list of references that you have consulted or reviewed in the dissertation writing. Make sure that the references will be structured in an alphabetical order.
Clarify with your professor whether appendices are included in the total word count or not. Usually, they take up much space, so they are not counted into the total paper length of the dissertation.
Plan a Detailed Structure of Your Dissertation
If your dissertation is easy to read and follow and is logically organized, then it will most probably be enjoyable and interesting for your examiners to read and evaluate. Having a clear and consistent structure is obligatory as your readers are not distracted by mistakes and flaws. Therefore, providing a plan is advisable if you want to make the dissertation adequately organized.
First of all, you can start with enlisting all the elements you would like to include in the paper. At this point, it is not necessary to structure the possible sections in the right order – just brainstorm ideas what paper constituents you would like to have.
Second, make sure you jot down the most important information or at least the central ideas of the literature you are reading and reviewing.
Third, decide whether you will implement some graphs, tables, figures, diagrams or other visuals into the paper.
After you have a drafted version of what information you would like to include in the dissertation, try to define the order in which you would like the sections to appear. After you have organized the list of subheadings for the main paper sections, try to think what constituents, aspects or ideas each section will focus on. As such, provide a list of subsections under the name of each dissertation chapter. Further, as you have notes that you took while reading the sources, indicate which scholarly sources would fit into which section. Try to format citations and quotations immediately as you relate them to each of the sections. Do not postpone citing them according to the given style as you will later lose track of your notes and it will be time-consuming to find the sources you took the quotes from.
When proofreading and editing the dissertation, make sure you check that the sections are well-balanced. Also keep in mind the word count limit. First of all, make sure you have reached the required minimum and also pay attention to whether you have not exceeded the words. Writing much information, especially if it is not necessary and relevant is not a good thing either.
It is crucial to be able to critically analyze and evaluate the whole paper or separate dissertation chapters. Sometimes, you are required to submit the dissertation in parts, so make sure you edit and proofread each dissertation section upon completion. Do not wait till the whole paper is written.
Develop a Strong Argument
To develop a strong argument, you need to make it answer the following questions:
- Why the chosen topic is significant to study in detail
- Why your chosen research method or design is better than others for the research of your topic
- Why your selected data-analysis method fits best
- Why your data interpretation, analysis, and summary are plausible.
When you study literature and use opinions of other scholars as supporting evidence or illustrative examples, take into consideration the following approaches towards implementing literature review in your dissertation:
- You may agree, disagree, confirm, accept or defend a scholar’s opinion
- You are free to suggest a new way of looking at matters
- You can state that there exist specific restrictions, boundaries or limitations to a given viewpoint
- You can add your own thoughts (adequately supported) that will make the existing theory more credible
- You can reject or refute a scholar’s argument or opinion
- You can pinpoint to the lack of supporting evidence or inaccuracy of a specific claim.
When writing any academic paper, especially a dissertation, you need to be convincing with what you claim. At the same time, as you are providing an authentic and original research, you need to pinpoint to the limitations of the research as well and indicate which gaps you encountered and how they can be eliminated in the future studies. When setting prognosis, try to be realistic and analytical in your claims.
Improve the Dissertation Content
Once you have written the first draft of your dissertation, you can switch over to the improvement part. Take some time to distract your attention from writing and only then start reviewing the paper. First of all, skim read the table of contents and the headings of each dissertation chapter. Then pay attention to the opening paragraphs of each chapter and see how well the headings reflect the main idea of the dissertation sections. Afterwards, skim read conclusive paragraphs at the end of each dissertation chapter – pay attention to whether the core issues and research questions were solved.
How to Know When to Stop Writing
Stopping to write a dissertation may be equally as hard as starting to write it. The most important aspect is to know when to stop. Make sure you provide only relevant information that fits your topic. Omit examples and illustrations that are odd ones out.
- Carve out enough time for planning the dissertation layout.
- Come up with a few appealing dissertation topics and then decide which one you will choose for yourself.
- Carefully plan a distinct structure for chapters development.
- Research information closely and carefully; use only credible, peer-reviewed sources.
- Edit and proofread your dissertation before submission.