How Long Does It Take to Write an Education Dissertation? Guide to Sharing Research Findings

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Writing a dissertation is the culmination of a doctoral education program . It is an exacting task, calling for dedication and perseverance, especially when you experience time constraints due to work or family obligations. Gaining a clear understanding of how long it takes to write an education dissertation and carefully planning your dissertation process—from carving out time in your busy daily schedule to setting achievement milestones to keep a steady pace—are crucial steps to earning a doctoral degree.

It takes longer than a year for most PhD students to complete a first draft of a dissertation. Students typically spend one to two years conducting research and reviewing literature while they complete doctoral courses before tackling a dissertation draft. The writing process typically takes a year or two beyond that. It can take five or more years for PhD students who get stuck in research phases, experience writer’s block, or have a high level of distractions or time constraints. The average time for students to complete all requirements for a doctorate in the US is nearly six years, according to U.S. News & World Report .

The Education Dissertation Timeline

About how long will the dissertation process take? Many factors can influence the dissertation timeline length, such as:

  • Job status : Doctoral students working in full- or part-time positions will need to be diligent about dedicating time to their dissertation work.
  • Academic support : PhD students with strong support from faculty members, mentors, and peers are likely to find greater success in keeping the dissertation process on track.
  • Topic selection : An initial dissertation topic’s success can keep a timeline on track. When doctoral students change a dissertation’s focus midstream, it typically adds extra research time.
  • Time management : Writing a dissertation takes careful planning and scheduling. When students stick to their schedules and work efficiently, they’re more likely to complete their dissertations sooner.

The Dissertation Process

Before doctoral students can submit a dissertation proposal, they must complete all of their doctorate-level coursework and pass their comprehensive exams. This designates them as doctoral candidates. However, just because a student hasn’t achieved candidate status does not mean they can’t or shouldn’t start the dissertation process. On the contrary, students are expected to identify their dissertation topic and start preparing for the proposal while they are engaged in graduate coursework.

Many of the classes offered in a Doctorate of Education (EdD) program will help students explore potential topics and research techniques. For example, American University’s online EdD program includes three weekend residency sessions during which students connect with faculty and participate in workshops to help them develop their dissertations. The program also includes two course sessions on applied research methods to familiarize students with qualitative and quantitative research methods.

The dissertation process includes the following steps:

1. Draft and Defend a Proposal

The dissertation proposal may include the first few chapters of the dissertation. Students must be prepared to defend the proposal to the dissertation committee, which will evaluate the topic itself and approve, deny, or request revisions to the proposal. Many education dissertation topics relate to leadership strategies, literacy, or future learning trends.

2. Conduct Research

This stage can include conducting surveys and interviews on the chosen education topic. Students look for evidence to support their hypotheses, take notes, and conduct interviews along the way.

3. Conduct Literature Review

Students need to gather a broad range of articles and books that are pertinent to their dissertation topic. Resources cited in the dissertation are included in a bibliography.

4. Create an Outline

Structuring research and data in an outline helps students stay focused and organized during the dissertation writing stages.

5. Write the Dissertation

The elements of a dissertation paper can include abstract, introduction, background, hypothesis, literature review, methodology, conclusion, and bibliography sections. Universities often provide templates and style guides to help students format their dissertations correctly.

Tips for Writing a Dissertation

Your dissertation strategy should take into account your unique strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you are most productive in the morning, for instance, schedule your research and writing time for early in the day. To successfully navigate the dissertation process, you should:

Get familiar with the dissertation process before you begin writing. Look at dissertation samples and guideline documents to get a firm grasp on formatting and style. Keep yourself on track by setting milestone deadlines.

Write Often

Don’t put off the writing process. It’s easy to find excuses not to write, such as having a busy schedule or feeling that your argument isn’t fully formed. But sitting down to write every day, for at least two hours (with at least one break), can help you find your voice and establish your structure through experimentation.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Writing a dissertation can be a trial-and-error process. You will have to be self-reliant in many of the independent learning stages, including finding quality research sources and conducting your own studies. Don’t give in to self-doubt when you hit a roadblock and remember not to sacrifice your health and well-being by overstressing about your progress.

Find a Good Mentor

Students should feel comfortable checking in with a supervisor or committee member when they need support, advice, or encouragement. Making sure that you have an engaged and enthusiastic mentor can make a big difference in the dissertation process. Some mentors encourage regular meetings to keep in touch. Connecting with a group of peers who are also drafting dissertations can give you feedback as well. In addition, university libraries often support dissertation work through research and writing labs.

Sharing Your Research Findings

Once you’ve determined how long it will take you to write your education dissertation, consider how actively you’ll pursue publication. Students often want to share their work with a greater audience so that others can benefit from their insights.

Typically, a university will require students to publish their dissertation in an electronic database. For instance, American University requires students to submit dissertations to the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (PQDT) database and the American University Digital Research Archive (AUDRA).

Publication is also a plus on any academic CV. Some students reformat their dissertation into an article (or articles) for submission to a professional journal, or even as a book for publication. Others present their findings at educational conferences. Regardless of the arena, sharing a dissertation with a wider audience is a rewarding capstone achievement.

Advance Your Career as an Education Leader

Individuals who are passionate about improving the education system through cutting-edge learning strategies should consider pursuing an advanced degree program. American University’s School of Education Online provides a number of high-quality degree programs, including a Doctorate of Education (EdD) in Education Policy and Leadership . The university’s EdD program provides a flexible, part-time learning environment that helps education professionals gain the skills to effect positive change across all school levels and community settings.

What’s the Difference Between Educational Equity and Equality?

The Role of Educational Leadership in Forming a School and Community Partnership

EdD vs. PhD in Education: Requirements, Career Outlook, and Salary

American University, Submitting Your Thesis and Dissertation Files Electronically

Inside Higher Ed, “Give It a Rest”

Inside Higher Ed, “How to Draft a Dissertation in a Year”

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education , “Preparing for Dissertation Writing: Doctoral Education Students’ Perceptions”

U.S. News & World Report , “How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. Degree?”

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The Education Dissertation

The Education Dissertation A Guide for Practitioner Scholars

  • Dan W. Butin - Merrimack College, USA, Cambridge College
  • Description

"With each turn of the page I found myself nodding 'exactly!' Whether as a class text assigned by faculty or as a self-study resource used by students, this book will resonate with readers." —Doug Leigh, Associate Professor of Education Pepperdine University

Use these focused guidelines to help you through every stage of the dissertation process!

Writing a dissertation requires focus and commitment. The Education Dissertation provides a step-by-step process for developing and completing an academically rigorous dissertation in a time-efficient manner.

Written for doctoral students in education who are also currently working in the field, this book provides specific and accessible guidance for the entire process, from finding a topic to conducting the literature review to writing and defending the dissertation. Grounded in adult learning theory, this volume:

  • Offers a clear, easy-to-follow approach that highlights key milestones with concrete goals and workable methods at each step
  • Discusses how practitioner scholars can apply their work experience to the dissertation
  • Includes organizational templates complete with detailed charts, checklists, a timeline, student examples, and rubrics
  • Provides tips throughout to help students think through situations
  • Covers both quantitative and qualitative research

Perfect for practicing educators at any stage of the dissertation process, this resource provides the "big picture" framework as well as the nitty-gritty details.

See what’s new to this edition by selecting the Features tab on this page. Should you need additional information or have questions regarding the HEOA information provided for this title, including what is new to this edition, please email [email protected] . Please include your name, contact information, and the name of the title for which you would like more information. For information on the HEOA, please go to http://ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html .

For assistance with your order: Please email us at [email protected] or connect with your SAGE representative.

SAGE 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, CA 91320 www.sagepub.com

"The book is rich with ideas and strategies for thinking about every phase of the dissertation and for undertaking each phase once it has been carefully thought out."

"The author does an excellent job of taking a serious, technical, overwhelming topic and making it fun and interesting to read."

"With each turn of the page I found myself nodding 'exactly!' Whether as a class text assigned by faculty or as a self-study resource used by students, this book will resonate with readers."

  • Guides the student through the entire process of writing a rigorous dissertation from selecting the research topic to defending the dissertation
  • Offers the student a road map complete with detailed charts, checklists, a timeline, many student examples and rubrics
  • Provides numerous "hints" throughout the book to help students think through situations before proceeding
  • Explores the various types of research and the implications of each for the particular research topic selected by the student
  • Incorporates "Try This!" activities at each stage of the process to help students understand important concepts, e.g., how to start a literature review correctly, how to focus research questions, and how to operationalize their ideas

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How to write an undergraduate university dissertation

Writing a dissertation is a daunting task, but these tips will help you prepare for all the common challenges students face before deadline day.

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Grace McCabe

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Writing a dissertation is one of the most challenging aspects of university. However, it is the chance for students to demonstrate what they have learned during their degree and to explore a topic in depth.

In this article, we look at 10 top tips for writing a successful dissertation and break down how to write each section of a dissertation in detail.

10 tips for writing an undergraduate dissertation

1. Select an engaging topic Choose a subject that aligns with your interests and allows you to showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired through your degree.

2. Research your supervisor Undergraduate students will often be assigned a supervisor based on their research specialisms. Do some research on your supervisor and make sure that they align with your dissertation goals.

3. Understand the dissertation structure Familiarise yourself with the structure (introduction, review of existing research, methodology, findings, results and conclusion). This will vary based on your subject.

4. Write a schedule As soon as you have finalised your topic and looked over the deadline, create a rough plan of how much work you have to do and create mini-deadlines along the way to make sure don’t find yourself having to write your entire dissertation in the final few weeks.

5. Determine requirements Ensure that you know which format your dissertation should be presented in. Check the word count and the referencing style.

6. Organise references from the beginning Maintain an alphabetically arranged reference list or bibliography in the designated style as you do your reading. This will make it a lot easier to finalise your references at the end.

7. Create a detailed plan Once you have done your initial research and have an idea of the shape your dissertation will take, write a detailed essay plan outlining your research questions, SMART objectives and dissertation structure.

8. Keep a dissertation journal Track your progress, record your research and your reading, and document challenges. This will be helpful as you discuss your work with your supervisor and organise your notes.

9. Schedule regular check-ins with your supervisor Make sure you stay in touch with your supervisor throughout the process, scheduling regular meetings and keeping good notes so you can update them on your progress.

10. Employ effective proofreading techniques Ask friends and family to help you proofread your work or use different fonts to help make the text look different. This will help you check for missing sections, grammatical mistakes and typos.

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is a long piece of academic writing or a research project that you have to write as part of your undergraduate university degree.

It’s usually a long essay in which you explore your chosen topic, present your ideas and show that you understand and can apply what you’ve learned during your studies. Informally, the terms “dissertation” and “thesis” are often used interchangeably.

How do I select a dissertation topic?

First, choose a topic that you find interesting. You will be working on your dissertation for several months, so finding a research topic that you are passionate about and that demonstrates your strength in your subject is best. You want your topic to show all the skills you have developed during your degree. It would be a bonus if you can link your work to your chosen career path, but it’s not necessary.

Second, begin by exploring relevant literature in your field, including academic journals, books and articles. This will help you identify gaps in existing knowledge and areas that may need further exploration. You may not be able to think of a truly original piece of research, but it’s always good to know what has already been written about your chosen topic.

Consider the practical aspects of your chosen topic, ensuring that it is possible within the time frame and available resources. Assess the availability of data, research materials and the overall practicality of conducting the research.

When picking a dissertation topic, you also want to try to choose something that adds new ideas or perspectives to what’s already known in your field. As you narrow your focus, remember that a more targeted approach usually leads to a dissertation that’s easier to manage and has a bigger impact. Be ready to change your plans based on feedback and new information you discover during your research.

How to work with your dissertation supervisor?

Your supervisor is there to provide guidance on your chosen topic, direct your research efforts, and offer assistance and suggestions when you have queries. It’s crucial to establish a comfortable and open line of communication with them throughout the process. Their knowledge can greatly benefit your work. Keep them informed about your progress, seek their advice, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

1. Keep them updated Regularly tell your supervisor how your work is going and if you’re having any problems. You can do this through emails, meetings or progress reports.

2. Plan meetings Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor. These can be in person or online. These are your time to discuss your progress and ask for help.

3. Share your writing Give your supervisor parts of your writing or an outline. This helps them see what you’re thinking so they can advise you on how to develop it.

5. Ask specific questions When you need help, ask specific questions instead of general ones. This makes it easier for your supervisor to help you.

6. Listen to feedback Be open to what your supervisor says. If they suggest changes, try to make them. It makes your dissertation better and shows you can work together.

7. Talk about problems If something is hard or you’re worried, talk to your supervisor about it. They can give you advice or tell you where to find help.

8. Take charge Be responsible for your work. Let your supervisor know if your plans change, and don’t wait if you need help urgently.

Remember, talking openly with your supervisor helps you both understand each other better, improves your dissertation and ensures that you get the support you need.

How to write a successful research piece at university How to choose a topic for your dissertation Tips for writing a convincing thesis

How do I plan my dissertation?

It’s important to start with a detailed plan that will serve as your road map throughout the entire process of writing your dissertation. As Jumana Labib, a master’s student at the University of Manchester  studying digital media, culture and society, suggests: “Pace yourself – definitely don’t leave the entire thing for the last few days or weeks.”

Decide what your research question or questions will be for your chosen topic.

Break that down into smaller SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) objectives.

Speak to your supervisor about any overlooked areas.

Create a breakdown of chapters using the structure listed below (for example, a methodology chapter).

Define objectives, key points and evidence for each chapter.

Define your research approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods).

Outline your research methods and analysis techniques.

Develop a timeline with regular moments for review and feedback.

Allocate time for revision, editing and breaks.

Consider any ethical considerations related to your research.

Stay organised and add to your references and bibliography throughout the process.

Remain flexible to possible reviews or changes as you go along.

A well thought-out plan not only makes the writing process more manageable but also increases the likelihood of producing a high-quality piece of research.

How to structure a dissertation?

The structure can depend on your field of study, but this is a rough outline for science and social science dissertations:

Introduce your topic.

Complete a source or literature review.

Describe your research methodology (including the methods for gathering and filtering information, analysis techniques, materials, tools or resources used, limitations of your method, and any considerations of reliability).

Summarise your findings.

Discuss the results and what they mean.

Conclude your point and explain how your work contributes to your field.

On the other hand, humanities and arts dissertations often take the form of an extended essay. This involves constructing an argument or exploring a particular theory or analysis through the analysis of primary and secondary sources. Your essay will be structured through chapters arranged around themes or case studies.

All dissertations include a title page, an abstract and a reference list. Some may also need a table of contents at the beginning. Always check with your university department for its dissertation guidelines, and check with your supervisor as you begin to plan your structure to ensure that you have the right layout.

How long is an undergraduate dissertation?

The length of an undergraduate dissertation can vary depending on the specific guidelines provided by your university and your subject department. However, in many cases, undergraduate dissertations are typically about 8,000 to 12,000 words in length.

“Eat away at it; try to write for at least 30 minutes every day, even if it feels relatively unproductive to you in the moment,” Jumana advises.

How do I add references to my dissertation?

References are the section of your dissertation where you acknowledge the sources you have quoted or referred to in your writing. It’s a way of supporting your ideas, evidencing what research you have used and avoiding plagiarism (claiming someone else’s work as your own), and giving credit to the original authors.

Referencing typically includes in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography with full source details. Different referencing styles exist, such as Harvard, APA and MLA, each favoured in specific fields. Your university will tell you the preferred style.

Using tools and guides provided by universities can make the referencing process more manageable, but be sure they are approved by your university before using any.

How do I write a bibliography or list my references for my dissertation?

The requirement of a bibliography depends on the style of referencing you need to use. Styles such as OSCOLA or Chicago may not require a separate bibliography. In these styles, full source information is often incorporated into footnotes throughout the piece, doing away with the need for a separate bibliography section.

Typically, reference lists or bibliographies are organised alphabetically based on the author’s last name. They usually include essential details about each source, providing a quick overview for readers who want more information. Some styles ask that you include references that you didn’t use in your final piece as they were still a part of the overall research.

It is important to maintain this list as soon as you start your research. As you complete your research, you can add more sources to your bibliography to ensure that you have a comprehensive list throughout the dissertation process.

How to proofread an undergraduate dissertation?

Throughout your dissertation writing, attention to detail will be your greatest asset. The best way to avoid making mistakes is to continuously proofread and edit your work.

Proofreading is a great way to catch any missing sections, grammatical errors or typos. There are many tips to help you proofread:

Ask someone to read your piece and highlight any mistakes they find.

Change the font so you notice any mistakes.

Format your piece as you go, headings and sections will make it easier to spot any problems.

Separate editing and proofreading. Editing is your chance to rewrite sections, add more detail or change any points. Proofreading should be where you get into the final touches, really polish what you have and make sure it’s ready to be submitted.

Stick to your citation style and make sure every resource listed in your dissertation is cited in the reference list or bibliography.

How to write a conclusion for my dissertation?

Writing a dissertation conclusion is your chance to leave the reader impressed by your work.

Start by summarising your findings, highlighting your key points and the outcome of your research. Refer back to the original research question or hypotheses to provide context to your conclusion.

You can then delve into whether you achieved the goals you set at the beginning and reflect on whether your research addressed the topic as expected. Make sure you link your findings to existing literature or sources you have included throughout your work and how your own research could contribute to your field.

Be honest about any limitations or issues you faced during your research and consider any questions that went unanswered that you would consider in the future. Make sure that your conclusion is clear and concise, and sum up the overall impact and importance of your work.

Remember, keep the tone confident and authoritative, avoiding the introduction of new information. This should simply be a summary of everything you have already said throughout the dissertation.

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COMMENTS

  1. What is a Dissertation? Full Guide & Resources for 2024

    Definition of an Ed.D. Dissertation. An Ed.D. dissertation is a 5-chapter scholarly document that brings together years of original research to address a problem of practice in education. To complete a dissertation, you will need to go through a number of scholarly steps, including a final defense to justify your findings.

  2. How Long Does It Take to Write an Education Dissertation ...

    The Education Dissertation Timeline. About how long will the dissertation process take? Many factors can influence the dissertation timeline length, such as: Job status: Doctoral students working in full- or part-time positions will need to be diligent about dedicating time to their dissertation work.

  3. SCHOOL OF DOCTORAL PROGRAMS EDUCATION - Liberty University

    1.2 Purpose of this Handbook. The purpose of this handbook is to provide information about the dissertation process. and related policies. The handbook is a guide for the dissertation, including ...

  4. Guide to the Doctor of Education (EdD) Dissertation

    Dissertations are typically very long, in-depth works. Many dissertations are between 100 and 200 pages in length or longer, and seek to comprehensively investigate a specific issue or problem in education.

  5. The Education Dissertation | SAGE Publications Inc

    Provides tips throughout to help students think through situations. Covers both quantitative and qualitative research. Perfect for practicing educators at any stage of the dissertation process, this resource provides the "big picture" framework as well as the nitty-gritty details. Available Formats. ISBN: 9781412960441.

  6. Advice for starting a PhD dissertation | THE Campus Learn ...

    A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion. The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social ...

  7. How long is a dissertation? - Scribbr

    How long is a dissertation? Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education: An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words. A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words. A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words.

  8. How to Write a Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide | BestColleges

    Most dissertations run a minimum of 100-200 pages, with some hitting 300 pages or more. When editing your dissertation, break it down chapter by chapter. Go beyond grammar and spelling to make sure you communicate clearly and efficiently. Identify repetitive areas and shore up weaknesses in your argument.

  9. How to write an undergraduate university dissertation

    10 tips for writing an undergraduate dissertation. 1. Select an engaging topic. Choose a subject that aligns with your interests and allows you to showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired through your degree. 2. Research your supervisor. Undergraduate students will often be assigned a supervisor based on their research specialisms.

  10. The 8 Most Asked Questions About Dissertations

    Other research indicates that academic reforms that help students with their work reduce dropout rates, ensuring more students complete their dissertation and earn the coveted title of doctor. 4. How long is a dissertation? Most dissertations are 100 pages or longer — roughly the length of a book.