How to Write a Dissertation Effectively
July 30, 2018
If you are engaged in the field of scientific work, sooner or later you will come to the point of writing a dissertation, which marks the beginning of a more advanced stage of your academic journey. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate your considerable expertise in conducting original researches in your chosen area of study, as well as present the findings that would carry much weight in terms of scientific novelty and value among the representatives of the academic community.
Before getting straight to the point, let us answer the most critical question, “What is a dissertation?” This term was coined to denote the ultimate result of an independent scientific study for an undergraduate program. Basically, dissertation writing is a self-directed research project that graduate students undertake to get a PhD. Conversely, a thesis is written to acquire a Master’s degree.
A dissertation for an undergraduate program bears much resemblance to the one for a graduate program, although the latter is more challenging and involved. Therefore, these guidelines will come in handy both for undergraduate and doctoral students, who embark on their dissertation projects, as well as for those, who are toiling at their theses for a Master’s degree.
Obviously, crafting a doctoral degree paper is a demanding task, so you have to be prepared to go to great lengths in order to complete it with flying colors. Most graduates kick off their research with zeal, but the magnitude of the work that they have to do throws them off-balance. In fact, the stages of planning, researching, analyzing the results, and presenting this all on paper will be the most tremendous challenge you have ever accepted. In the long run, you will be able to reap the rewards and savor the accolades on your colleague’s part, but you are bound to confront many setbacks before reaching that point. The most common problems and snags that PhD candidates encounter while working on their dissertation include:
- Procrastination. They are sure that they have plenty of time at their disposal, and they keep putting the starting point off. Such approach may eventually put them in a tight spot when the deadline will be looming on the horizon. If you can relate to this habit, do little research on the Internet to figure out the best strategy for yourself.
- Lack of scholarly skills. Students, who are insufficiently experienced in writing for academic purposes, assume they only need to select several relevant sources and paraphrase the information, as well as incorporate some quotes from them. In reality, you are supposed to meticulously examine those materials and include literature analysis in your paper.
- Rudimentary writing skills. While writing your PhD thesis, it is crucial to adhere to the academic writing requirements, which presuppose proper formatting, language, and style. Also, make sure you follow the citation rules.
Even though the project appears to be grueling, the bottom line is to have a well-thought-out plan and go through each stage incrementally. Our explicit dissertation writing tips will navigate you through this intricate process while keeping you at ease.
Step 1: Come up with a viable dissertation proposal
Evidently, a dissertation proposal is a research plan for your project where you clarify things that you are going to cover in your dissertation. It should be convincing so that the committee members realize the value and significance of your project and its final results. This is a substantially shorter piece of writing as opposed to your dissertation, but it is equally as crucial since you are going to prepare a plan of your further steps. Sometimes, the proposal is not obligatory; nevertheless, you should still set it up and discuss its content with your advisor.
The content of the dissertation proposal is usually comprised of the following points:
- What problem does your dissertation aim to solve?
- Why there is a necessity to find a resolution to this problem?
- How are you going to arrive at a solution?
- What methods will you apply to research and tackle the problem?
You should pay thorough attention to these questions as they are instrumental in developing a workable dissertation proposal and your PhD thesis. Another essential stage is the selection of a theme. Make sure your theme has scientific value and might be considered unique and pressing at the same time, which certainly requires much time for brainstorming and making your final decision. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a deadlock because of a too complex question. The question you opt for should lead you to a testable theory that you can substantiate with valid arguments. Therefore, pick a few alternatives for your dissertation title and evaluate them with your mentor before putting pen to paper.
Format of the dissertation proposal
Since your proposal has to be persuasive, its structure has to be logical and easy to follow. The points you should incorporate in your proposal include:
- Dissertation title
- Objectives – three objectives are more than enough. If you aim for more than that, your plan may appear too broad, so you will have to make it more specific.
- Literature – reach out to your mentor to ask if you are supposed to mention some particular references in this section. If you do not need to do that, you should at least include the fields of knowledge, the major works of some scholars you are going to refer to, as well as other sources of information that you will utilize at the point of research.
- Research – this is the major section where you will discuss the concepts behind your research question.
- Methodology – your doctoral thesis can be non-empirical (if the materials you use come from previously published works) or empirical (if you garner data by means of surveys, questionnaires, and other scholarly techniques). In this part, you need to elucidate the methods you applied to data collection.
- Potential outcomes – What conclusions do you think you will arrive at after all the study and data analysis? Expound on the outcome you anticipate coming to.
- Timeframe – map out how and when you are going to manage this or that stage of your dissertation writing.
- Works cited – ask your advisor if you are required to include this section, and he/she will clarify this matter for you.
Step 2: Carry out extensive research
This stage is fundamental because the overall development of your project depends on it. It has to be efficient and methodical so that you do not waste your energy and precious time on resources that will not reinforce your material base. Here are a few pointers that will help you complete this stage successfully:
1. Manage your time
Obviously, it is advantageous to have enough resources that focus on the questions and concepts you are working on. However, sooner or later you will need to be done with researching and move on to the next stage. How much time are you going to dedicate to the research stage? Make sure you set specific time frames and try to stick to them.
The purpose of this stage is to demonstrate that you are well read on the topic and you are conversant with the previous studies that have been conducted, but you also should realize that these resources merely lay the foundations of your independent project.
2. Look for sources in the right place
The Worldwide Web is an enormous storage of information, so you might want to start search on the Internet. However, not everything you will find there is credible. Thus, always double-check materials and make sure they come from a reliable source. For this purpose, use Google Scholars as it is an online storage system of trustworthy scholarly literature.
Additionally, do not shun the actual library as librarians are skilled enough to provide you with a variety of invaluable publications.
3. Sort out your resources
While researching, you have to jot down some information to avoid the state of confusion when you do not know where you stumbled across a certain powerful argument that you are eager to incorporate in your doctoral degree paper. Take advantage of various online tools, including Penzu or Evernote to keep your notes and references that you will later refer to organized.
Step 3: Craft an outstanding dissertation
Now, it is high time you got round to a paramount stage of the dissertation writing process, which is presenting the results of your research and putting forward some novel ideas that altogether form a brainchild of yours.
It is amazing to observe how many students radiate confidence during the previous stages of the work, but they become intimidated when they realize that they are unversed in how to write a dissertation itself. Keep in mind the fact that you already accomplished a lot and you have to proceed to tackle the challenge completely. Besides, everything seems easier when you follow a well-structured blueprint.
You already have a dissertation proposal at hand, which may be a tentative outline for your PhD thesis. Nevertheless, you will still have to enhance the outline for a large project like this one. Did the research stage result in some unexpected breakthrough? Ensure that new points are included in the outline as well. This is an outline with all the basic sections for you to alleviate the process of writing.
The first chapter should revolve around a background of the issue you research and an assertion of the problem. Next, you will state the purpose of the study along with the research question. Then you will provide lucid definitions of the key notions and terms pertinent to the project. Moreover, you will need to include your speculations and expectations of the findings.
2. Literature Review
This chapter focuses on reviewing the research process and enlisting critical publications that played an immense role in forming assumptions and reinforcing them.
This section is devoted to scientific methods, approaches, and techniques that you utilized to locate and analyze the resources, as well as to yield the final results. If you are working on a qualitative doctoral degree paper, you should reveal the research questions, environment, respondents, collection of data, and data analysis process. If your PhD thesis is of quantitative nature, you will discuss the research question and assumptions, data on the population and sample, tools used for gathering information, data collection, and data analysis.
This chapter is of utmost significance in the entire process of dissertation writing since it demonstrates the magnitude of your intelligence. Here, you should mention the research questions and expound on the results you obtained, focusing on specific ideas they led you to.
In the concluding section of your dissertation, you will restate the principal stages and points of your study, as well as report the findings. Remember you have to explain why and how your results will be beneficial to the academic community and mention their practical application. At the end of the conclusion, save some space for a “Recommendations for future research” chapter, where you will suggest the direction that future research should take to investigate the issue further. Clarify what form the research should take and why.
Adhere to the proper citation style recommended for your area of study, and make sure to enlist all literature you used while researching the issue and writing.
You will need specific timeframes but this time for the writing process. Organize it chapter by chapter to know exactly when you are supposed to be done with this or that stage. This way, you will avoid procrastination, and you will not be perplexed by the length and complexity of your project.
Here, you have to be organized and stick to a well-thought-out plan; you already have everything you need, so you should be ready to implement the real work.
Step 4: Edit and Proofread
First and foremost, editing and proofreading are not the same. While editing is aimed at correcting the content, proofreading is about double-checking the form of the paper. You need to handle the content first since it would be unreasonable to proofread the dissertation and then start removing redundant parts and adding more details.
Now, it is time to make a few final steps and scan your PhD thesis for spelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes. Read carefully and consult a dictionary if needed. If you notice that you are stuck with the stage of editing and proofreading and cannot move any further, this is because you are too fond of your brainchild and cannot spot any shortcomings. That is why you should turn to an editing service that will polish your dissertation to perfection. This is a smart move that will help you present your paper in the best light possible.
Step 5: Ask for feedback
Before presenting your project to the committee, you need some feedback. Look for it among friends and colleagues, who have some expertise in this field of knowledge. You need to vouch for this person as your dissertation is your legal property. Reach out to them and ask them to appraise it objectively.
Then, talk about the project with your advisor. He/she will detect any possible flaws and instruct you what to do to submit an impeccable PhD thesis.
The dissertation writing process is regarded as the pinnacle of your scientific path and here you need to exploit and showcase all your intellectual capacity to be able to go through this challenge with flying colors. Remember that the darkest hour is always before the dawn, so you should pluck up the courage and write a dissertation and the next thing you know is that you are at the top of the professional hierarchy in your field of expertise.