If you have come to this article chances are you have just begun your dissertation process or are considering pursuing your PhD. You’re probably asking the question, “before I jump in, what exactly am I committing myself to?”
That’s a great question. Why? Because a dissertation takes commitment and dedication. It is a rite of passage from student to scholar and therefore must be earned through hard work and dedication.
By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of the process and as a result will be able to answer whether or not you are ready to take on this academic challenge. The purpose of this piece is to provide you with an embracing definition of the paper itself.
So, what is a doctoral dissertation?
Generally speaking, a dissertation is a required comprehensive paper written during a doctoral program. It is an opportunity to contribute new knowledge, theories and/or practices to your field. Using the research of others as a guide, a dissertation develops and defends a new hypothesis. It shows that you, the candidate, are a scholar capable of life-long self-guided learning.
The purpose of a PhD dissertation is to provide an original contribution to the academic world. If done well, it will show that you have graduate-level teaching capabilities. As a result, this original work will contribute a new thought or idea to the field and will be ready for scholarly publication.
There is no doubt that a completed dissertation is a great achievement and ultimately something to be proud of.
What is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation?
There are similarities between a thesis and dissertation. However, it is the differences that matter. A thesis is a hypothesis while a PhD dissertation is an argument in defense of a thesis.
Most master level programs require you to write a thesis. A thesis is a statement to be maintained or proved. It is a regurgitation of research to show that you are knowledgeable in your field of study.
The master’s thesis is in actuality the beginning of a dissertation. It lays out a hypothesis and highlights the knowledge of others in the field. In contrast, a dissertation showcases your ability to expand on and prove the thesis. In other words, you are adding original thought inspired by the thesis.
The doctoral dissertation demonstrates your mastery of research methods and tools in a specialized field, ability to address major intellectual problems and arrive at a successful conclusion. Above all, it will identify you to other academics as an independent researcher.
The format of the dissertation comes to the essence of academic research and writing itself. The criteria of the format for this paper is usually handled along with the requirements package. In short words, a successful paper will follow these benchmarks:
- Every sentence must be supported with a reference to a published scholarly work or original work. Because every word matters it does not repeat what is found in published sources but rather refers to them for further details. Remember, a thesis is the regurgitation of knowledge and a dissertation is your original contribution.
- Sentences must be clear and grammatically correct. Furthermore, there can be no underlining meaning, no sarcasm, no slang, no contractions. It is a formal academic piece of writing. Every word, sentence, and statement must be clear in its intention.
- The format of a dissertation is closest to that of a book. As a result, chapters flow logically building on theories and explaining research choice before presenting the conclusion in the final chapter.
Structuring Your Dissertation
Because every field of study will have varying degrees of requirements, your best source for the structure is your dissertation advisor. In fact, your best source over the course of this achievement is to remain in close communication with the faculty member who has been assigned as your advisor.
While every dissertation is unique to the field of study, your outline will ususally look like this:
- Preliminary pages
- Title page
- Abstract or summary
- Author’s declaration
- List of figures
- List of tables
- List of accompanying material
- Research Methodology
- Literature Reviews
- Future work
Each of the doctoral dissertation sections serves its unique purpose. Let’s uncover what should exactly be covered in some of the basic sections:
- Introduction – Explains your “why.” How does your research fit into this discussion? Why does your dissertation include the chapters you choose? Why is this dissertation important?
- Research Methodology – Answers the question of how you approached the data collected. This is where you justify your choice.
- Literature Review – A critical analysis of the works read while researching the topic.
- Results – This will include charts, tables, and graphs.
- Analysis – This is the interpretation of the results and research that has been gathered.
- Discussion – This section is an overview of the dissertation and a careful examination of the findings. Here limitations of the study are highlighted and discussed.
- Future work – What additional questions have your research uncovered?
Components of Dissertation Writing
- First, you must choose a topic (see Choosing a Dissertation Topic).
- Second, you will assemble resources and develop a timeline under the guidance of your advisor.
Before writing, you must collect evidence to support your thesis. The most challenging aspect of writing a PhD dissertation is organizing the evidence into a logical flow of information.
Your dissertation advisor will assist in locating resources and make sure your research proposal is on the right track. A calendar of regular contact is agreed on as well as a timetable for completion of work. This will include a reading list and literature reviews for each book.
- Third, at this level, you will be reading all of the time. In addition to your reading list, read everything you can get your hands on in reference to your topic.
- Lastly, while reading – be constantly writing. It is unquestionably essential that you write as you go.
Do not procrastinate. As you read, take notes and don’t rely on your memory. Instead, write the literature reviews as you read the books. As a result, you will be better able to defend each one.
Literature reviews make up a substantial portion of the PhD dissertation so they are worth taking a moment to explain.
These reviews place the work in the context of the literature. It interprets issues surrounding the original topic while describing the relationship of the book to other works under consideration. A literature review will identify new ways to understand the research. It will resolve conflicts in previous studies and overall determine if the piece makes a significant contribution to the topic.
In addition, it will answer the question of what direction the work points to for further research on the topic. It is a mean by which you collect and organize the research necessary to defend your original work.
Once data is collected, begin writing the chapters that describe the research. Don’t start with the introduction. You will first begin with the “meat” of your work. Once you have completed the investigated portion, write your conclusions. Only then will you be able to write your introduction and finally complete your abstract.
Advice from our writers: Begin in the middle and work your way to the outer edges.
How long is a dissertation? It is typically 3X the length of a thesis. A thesis on average is 100 pages making a dissertation 300 or more. This is not an overnight or even a month-long project. Most of all, follow your timeline for completing the small steps along the way.
Plan your writing. At this point in your academic career, you should be past procrastination. Do not fall behind and use your time management skills well. Remember that this is a great achievement, and great things take careful planning and dedication.
Are you ready to jump in? Check our guide to find more tips on academic writing!