Grad Coach

How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

8 straightforward steps to craft an a-grade dissertation.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Expert Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020

Writing a dissertation or thesis is not a simple task. It takes time, energy and a lot of will power to get you across the finish line. It’s not easy – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a painful process. If you understand the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis, your research journey will be a lot smoother.  

In this post, I’m going to outline the big-picture process of how to write a high-quality dissertation or thesis, without losing your mind along the way. If you’re just starting your research, this post is perfect for you. Alternatively, if you’ve already submitted your proposal, this article which covers how to structure a dissertation might be more helpful.

How To Write A Dissertation: 8 Steps

  • Clearly understand what a dissertation (or thesis) is
  • Find a unique and valuable research topic
  • Craft a convincing research proposal
  • Write up a strong introduction chapter
  • Review the existing literature and compile a literature review
  • Design a rigorous research strategy and undertake your own research
  • Present the findings of your research
  • Draw a conclusion and discuss the implications

Start writing your dissertation

Step 1: Understand exactly what a dissertation is

This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but all too often, students come to us for help with their research and the underlying issue is that they don’t fully understand what a dissertation (or thesis) actually is.

So, what is a dissertation?

At its simplest, a dissertation or thesis is a formal piece of research , reflecting the standard research process . But what is the standard research process, you ask? The research process involves 4 key steps:

  • Ask a very specific, well-articulated question (s) (your research topic)
  • See what other researchers have said about it (if they’ve already answered it)
  • If they haven’t answered it adequately, undertake your own data collection and analysis in a scientifically rigorous fashion
  • Answer your original question(s), based on your analysis findings

 A dissertation or thesis is a formal piece of research, reflecting the standard four step academic research process.

In short, the research process is simply about asking and answering questions in a systematic fashion . This probably sounds pretty obvious, but people often think they’ve done “research”, when in fact what they have done is:

  • Started with a vague, poorly articulated question
  • Not taken the time to see what research has already been done regarding the question
  • Collected data and opinions that support their gut and undertaken a flimsy analysis
  • Drawn a shaky conclusion, based on that analysis

If you want to see the perfect example of this in action, look out for the next Facebook post where someone claims they’ve done “research”… All too often, people consider reading a few blog posts to constitute research. Its no surprise then that what they end up with is an opinion piece, not research. Okay, okay – I’ll climb off my soapbox now.

The key takeaway here is that a dissertation (or thesis) is a formal piece of research, reflecting the research process. It’s not an opinion piece , nor a place to push your agenda or try to convince someone of your position. Writing a good dissertation involves asking a question and taking a systematic, rigorous approach to answering it.

If you understand this and are comfortable leaving your opinions or preconceived ideas at the door, you’re already off to a good start!

 A dissertation is not an opinion piece, nor a place to push your agenda or try to  convince someone of your position.

Step 2: Find a unique, valuable research topic

As we saw, the first step of the research process is to ask a specific, well-articulated question. In other words, you need to find a research topic that asks a specific question or set of questions (these are called research questions ). Sounds easy enough, right? All you’ve got to do is identify a question or two and you’ve got a winning research topic. Well, not quite…

A good dissertation or thesis topic has a few important attributes. Specifically, a solid research topic should be:

Let’s take a closer look at these:

Attribute #1: Clear

Your research topic needs to be crystal clear about what you’re planning to research, what you want to know, and within what context. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity or vagueness about what you’ll research.

Here’s an example of a clearly articulated research topic:

An analysis of consumer-based factors influencing organisational trust in British low-cost online equity brokerage firms.

As you can see in the example, its crystal clear what will be analysed (factors impacting organisational trust), amongst who (consumers) and in what context (British low-cost equity brokerage firms, based online).

Need a helping hand?

how to dissertation

Attribute #2:   Unique

Your research should be asking a question(s) that hasn’t been asked before, or that hasn’t been asked in a specific context (for example, in a specific country or industry).

For example, sticking organisational trust topic above, it’s quite likely that organisational trust factors in the UK have been investigated before, but the context (online low-cost equity brokerages) could make this research unique. Therefore, the context makes this research original.

One caveat when using context as the basis for originality – you need to have a good reason to suspect that your findings in this context might be different from the existing research – otherwise, there’s no reason to warrant researching it.

Attribute #3: Important

Simply asking a unique or original question is not enough – the question needs to create value. In other words, successfully answering your research questions should provide some value to the field of research or the industry. You can’t research something just to satisfy your curiosity. It needs to make some form of contribution either to research or industry.

For example, researching the factors influencing consumer trust would create value by enabling businesses to tailor their operations and marketing to leverage factors that promote trust. In other words, it would have a clear benefit to industry.

So, how do you go about finding a unique and valuable research topic? We explain that in detail in this video post – How To Find A Research Topic . Yeah, we’ve got you covered 😊

Step 3: Write a convincing research proposal

Once you’ve pinned down a high-quality research topic, the next step is to convince your university to let you research it. No matter how awesome you think your topic is, it still needs to get the rubber stamp before you can move forward with your research. The research proposal is the tool you’ll use for this job.

So, what’s in a research proposal?

The main “job” of a research proposal is to convince your university, advisor or committee that your research topic is worthy of approval. But convince them of what? Well, this varies from university to university, but generally, they want to see that:

  • You have a clearly articulated, unique and important topic (this might sound familiar…)
  • You’ve done some initial reading of the existing literature relevant to your topic (i.e. a literature review)
  • You have a provisional plan in terms of how you will collect data and analyse it (i.e. a methodology)

At the proposal stage, it’s (generally) not expected that you’ve extensively reviewed the existing literature , but you will need to show that you’ve done enough reading to identify a clear gap for original (unique) research. Similarly, they generally don’t expect that you have a rock-solid research methodology mapped out, but you should have an idea of whether you’ll be undertaking qualitative or quantitative analysis , and how you’ll collect your data (we’ll discuss this in more detail later).

Long story short – don’t stress about having every detail of your research meticulously thought out at the proposal stage – this will develop as you progress through your research. However, you do need to show that you’ve “done your homework” and that your research is worthy of approval .

So, how do you go about crafting a high-quality, convincing proposal? We cover that in detail in this video post – How To Write A Top-Class Research Proposal . We’ve also got a video walkthrough of two proposal examples here .

Step 4: Craft a strong introduction chapter

Once your proposal’s been approved, its time to get writing your actual dissertation or thesis! The good news is that if you put the time into crafting a high-quality proposal, you’ve already got a head start on your first three chapters – introduction, literature review and methodology – as you can use your proposal as the basis for these.

Handy sidenote – our free dissertation & thesis template is a great way to speed up your dissertation writing journey.

What’s the introduction chapter all about?

The purpose of the introduction chapter is to set the scene for your research (dare I say, to introduce it…) so that the reader understands what you’ll be researching and why it’s important. In other words, it covers the same ground as the research proposal in that it justifies your research topic.

What goes into the introduction chapter?

This can vary slightly between universities and degrees, but generally, the introduction chapter will include the following:

  • A brief background to the study, explaining the overall area of research
  • A problem statement , explaining what the problem is with the current state of research (in other words, where the knowledge gap exists)
  • Your research questions – in other words, the specific questions your study will seek to answer (based on the knowledge gap)
  • The significance of your study – in other words, why it’s important and how its findings will be useful in the world

As you can see, this all about explaining the “what” and the “why” of your research (as opposed to the “how”). So, your introduction chapter is basically the salesman of your study, “selling” your research to the first-time reader and (hopefully) getting them interested to read more.

How do I write the introduction chapter, you ask? We cover that in detail in this post .

The introduction chapter is where you set the scene for your research, detailing exactly what you’ll be researching and why it’s important.

Step 5: Undertake an in-depth literature review

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to do some initial review of the literature in Steps 2 and 3 to find your research gap and craft a convincing research proposal – but that’s just scratching the surface. Once you reach the literature review stage of your dissertation or thesis, you need to dig a lot deeper into the existing research and write up a comprehensive literature review chapter.

What’s the literature review all about?

There are two main stages in the literature review process:

Literature Review Step 1: Reading up

The first stage is for you to deep dive into the existing literature (journal articles, textbook chapters, industry reports, etc) to gain an in-depth understanding of the current state of research regarding your topic. While you don’t need to read every single article, you do need to ensure that you cover all literature that is related to your core research questions, and create a comprehensive catalogue of that literature , which you’ll use in the next step.

Reading and digesting all the relevant literature is a time consuming and intellectually demanding process. Many students underestimate just how much work goes into this step, so make sure that you allocate a good amount of time for this when planning out your research. Thankfully, there are ways to fast track the process – be sure to check out this article covering how to read journal articles quickly .

Dissertation Coaching

Literature Review Step 2: Writing up

Once you’ve worked through the literature and digested it all, you’ll need to write up your literature review chapter. Many students make the mistake of thinking that the literature review chapter is simply a summary of what other researchers have said. While this is partly true, a literature review is much more than just a summary. To pull off a good literature review chapter, you’ll need to achieve at least 3 things:

  • You need to synthesise the existing research , not just summarise it. In other words, you need to show how different pieces of theory fit together, what’s agreed on by researchers, what’s not.
  • You need to highlight a research gap that your research is going to fill. In other words, you’ve got to outline the problem so that your research topic can provide a solution.
  • You need to use the existing research to inform your methodology and approach to your own research design. For example, you might use questions or Likert scales from previous studies in your your own survey design .

As you can see, a good literature review is more than just a summary of the published research. It’s the foundation on which your own research is built, so it deserves a lot of love and attention. Take the time to craft a comprehensive literature review with a suitable structure .

But, how do I actually write the literature review chapter, you ask? We cover that in detail in this video post .

Step 6: Carry out your own research

Once you’ve completed your literature review and have a sound understanding of the existing research, its time to develop your own research (finally!). You’ll design this research specifically so that you can find the answers to your unique research question.

There are two steps here – designing your research strategy and executing on it:

1 – Design your research strategy

The first step is to design your research strategy and craft a methodology chapter . I won’t get into the technicalities of the methodology chapter here, but in simple terms, this chapter is about explaining the “how” of your research. If you recall, the introduction and literature review chapters discussed the “what” and the “why”, so it makes sense that the next point to cover is the “how” –that’s what the methodology chapter is all about.

In this section, you’ll need to make firm decisions about your research design. This includes things like:

  • Your research philosophy (e.g. positivism or interpretivism )
  • Your overall methodology (e.g. qualitative , quantitative or mixed methods)
  • Your data collection strategy (e.g. interviews , focus groups, surveys)
  • Your data analysis strategy (e.g. content analysis , correlation analysis, regression)

If these words have got your head spinning, don’t worry! We’ll explain these in plain language in other posts. It’s not essential that you understand the intricacies of research design (yet!). The key takeaway here is that you’ll need to make decisions about how you’ll design your own research, and you’ll need to describe (and justify) your decisions in your methodology chapter.

2 – Execute: Collect and analyse your data

Once you’ve worked out your research design, you’ll put it into action and start collecting your data. This might mean undertaking interviews, hosting an online survey or any other data collection method. Data collection can take quite a bit of time (especially if you host in-person interviews), so be sure to factor sufficient time into your project plan for this. Oftentimes, things don’t go 100% to plan (for example, you don’t get as many survey responses as you hoped for), so bake a little extra time into your budget here.

Once you’ve collected your data, you’ll need to do some data preparation before you can sink your teeth into the analysis. For example:

  • If you carry out interviews or focus groups, you’ll need to transcribe your audio data to text (i.e. a Word document).
  • If you collect quantitative survey data, you’ll need to clean up your data and get it into the right format for whichever analysis software you use (for example, SPSS, R or STATA).

Once you’ve completed your data prep, you’ll undertake your analysis, using the techniques that you described in your methodology. Depending on what you find in your analysis, you might also do some additional forms of analysis that you hadn’t planned for. For example, you might see something in the data that raises new questions or that requires clarification with further analysis.

The type(s) of analysis that you’ll use depend entirely on the nature of your research and your research questions. For example:

  • If your research if exploratory in nature, you’ll often use qualitative analysis techniques .
  • If your research is confirmatory in nature, you’ll often use quantitative analysis techniques
  • If your research involves a mix of both, you might use a mixed methods approach

Again, if these words have got your head spinning, don’t worry! We’ll explain these concepts and techniques in other posts. The key takeaway is simply that there’s no “one size fits all” for research design and methodology – it all depends on your topic, your research questions and your data. So, don’t be surprised if your study colleagues take a completely different approach to yours.

The research philosophy is at the core of the methodology chapter

Step 7: Present your findings

Once you’ve completed your analysis, it’s time to present your findings (finally!). In a dissertation or thesis, you’ll typically present your findings in two chapters – the results chapter and the discussion chapter .

What’s the difference between the results chapter and the discussion chapter?

While these two chapters are similar, the results chapter generally just presents the processed data neatly and clearly without interpretation, while the discussion chapter explains the story the data are telling  – in other words, it provides your interpretation of the results.

For example, if you were researching the factors that influence consumer trust, you might have used a quantitative approach to identify the relationship between potential factors (e.g. perceived integrity and competence of the organisation) and consumer trust. In this case:

  • Your results chapter would just present the results of the statistical tests. For example, correlation results or differences between groups. In other words, the processed numbers.
  • Your discussion chapter would explain what the numbers mean in relation to your research question(s). For example, Factor 1 has a weak relationship with consumer trust, while Factor 2 has a strong relationship.

Depending on the university and degree, these two chapters (results and discussion) are sometimes merged into one , so be sure to check with your institution what their preference is. Regardless of the chapter structure, this section is about presenting the findings of your research in a clear, easy to understand fashion.

Importantly, your discussion here needs to link back to your research questions (which you outlined in the introduction or literature review chapter). In other words, it needs to answer the key questions you asked (or at least attempt to answer them).

For example, if we look at the sample research topic:

In this case, the discussion section would clearly outline which factors seem to have a noteworthy influence on organisational trust. By doing so, they are answering the overarching question and fulfilling the purpose of the research .

Your discussion here needs to link back to your research questions. It needs to answer the key questions you asked in your introduction.

For more information about the results chapter , check out this post for qualitative studies and this post for quantitative studies .

Step 8: The Final Step Draw a conclusion and discuss the implications

Last but not least, you’ll need to wrap up your research with the conclusion chapter . In this chapter, you’ll bring your research full circle by highlighting the key findings of your study and explaining what the implications of these findings are.

What exactly are key findings? The key findings are those findings which directly relate to your original research questions and overall research objectives (which you discussed in your introduction chapter). The implications, on the other hand, explain what your findings mean for industry, or for research in your area.

Sticking with the consumer trust topic example, the conclusion might look something like this:

Key findings

This study set out to identify which factors influence consumer-based trust in British low-cost online equity brokerage firms. The results suggest that the following factors have a large impact on consumer trust:

While the following factors have a very limited impact on consumer trust:

Notably, within the 25-30 age groups, Factors E had a noticeably larger impact, which may be explained by…

Implications

The findings having noteworthy implications for British low-cost online equity brokers. Specifically:

The large impact of Factors X and Y implies that brokers need to consider….

The limited impact of Factor E implies that brokers need to…

As you can see, the conclusion chapter is basically explaining the “what” (what your study found) and the “so what?” (what the findings mean for the industry or research). This brings the study full circle and closes off the document.

In the final chapter, you’ll bring your research full circle by highlighting the key findings of your study and the implications thereof.

Let’s recap – how to write a dissertation or thesis

You’re still with me? Impressive! I know that this post was a long one, but hopefully you’ve learnt a thing or two about how to write a dissertation or thesis, and are now better equipped to start your own research.

To recap, the 8 steps to writing a quality dissertation (or thesis) are as follows:

  • Understand what a dissertation (or thesis) is – a research project that follows the research process.
  • Find a unique (original) and important research topic
  • Craft a convincing dissertation or thesis research proposal
  • Write a clear, compelling introduction chapter
  • Undertake a thorough review of the existing research and write up a literature review
  • Undertake your own research
  • Present and interpret your findings

Once you’ve wrapped up the core chapters, all that’s typically left is the abstract , reference list and appendices. As always, be sure to check with your university if they have any additional requirements in terms of structure or content.  

how to dissertation

Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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20 Comments

Romia

thankfull >>>this is very useful

Madhu

Thank you, it was really helpful

Elhadi Abdelrahim

unquestionably, this amazing simplified way of teaching. Really , I couldn’t find in the literature words that fully explicit my great thanks to you. However, I could only say thanks a-lot.

Derek Jansen

Great to hear that – thanks for the feedback. Good luck writing your dissertation/thesis.

Writer

This is the most comprehensive explanation of how to write a dissertation. Many thanks for sharing it free of charge.

Sam

Very rich presentation. Thank you

Hailu

Thanks Derek Jansen|GRADCOACH, I find it very useful guide to arrange my activities and proceed to research!

Nunurayi Tambala

Thank you so much for such a marvelous teaching .I am so convinced that am going to write a comprehensive and a distinct masters dissertation

Hussein Huwail

It is an amazing comprehensive explanation

Eva

This was straightforward. Thank you!

Ken

I can say that your explanations are simple and enlightening – understanding what you have done here is easy for me. Could you write more about the different types of research methods specific to the three methodologies: quan, qual and MM. I look forward to interacting with this website more in the future.

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions 🙂

Osasuyi Blessing

Hello, your write ups is quite educative. However, l have challenges in going about my research questions which is below; *Building the enablers of organisational growth through effective governance and purposeful leadership.*

Dung Doh

Very educating.

Ezra Daniel

Just listening to the name of the dissertation makes the student nervous. As writing a top-quality dissertation is a difficult task as it is a lengthy topic, requires a lot of research and understanding and is usually around 10,000 to 15000 words. Sometimes due to studies, unbalanced workload or lack of research and writing skill students look for dissertation submission from professional writers.

Nice Edinam Hoyah

Thank you 💕😊 very much. I was confused but your comprehensive explanation has cleared my doubts of ever presenting a good thesis. Thank you.

Sehauli

thank you so much, that was so useful

Daniel Madsen

Hi. Where is the excel spread sheet ark?

Emmanuel kKoko

could you please help me look at your thesis paper to enable me to do the portion that has to do with the specification

my topic is “the impact of domestic revenue mobilization.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dissertation Strategies

What this handout is about.

This handout suggests strategies for developing healthy writing habits during your dissertation journey. These habits can help you maintain your writing momentum, overcome anxiety and procrastination, and foster wellbeing during one of the most challenging times in graduate school.

Tackling a giant project

Because dissertations are, of course, big projects, it’s no surprise that planning, writing, and revising one can pose some challenges! It can help to think of your dissertation as an expanded version of a long essay: at the end of the day, it is simply another piece of writing. You’ve written your way this far into your degree, so you’ve got the skills! You’ll develop a great deal of expertise on your topic, but you may still be a novice with this genre and writing at this length. Remember to give yourself some grace throughout the project. As you begin, it’s helpful to consider two overarching strategies throughout the process.

First, take stock of how you learn and your own writing processes. What strategies have worked and have not worked for you? Why? What kind of learner and writer are you? Capitalize on what’s working and experiment with new strategies when something’s not working. Keep in mind that trying out new strategies can take some trial-and-error, and it’s okay if a new strategy that you try doesn’t work for you. Consider why it may not have been the best for you, and use that reflection to consider other strategies that might be helpful to you.

Second, break the project into manageable chunks. At every stage of the process, try to identify specific tasks, set small, feasible goals, and have clear, concrete strategies for achieving each goal. Small victories can help you establish and maintain the momentum you need to keep yourself going.

Below, we discuss some possible strategies to keep you moving forward in the dissertation process.

Pre-dissertation planning strategies

Get familiar with the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Resources .

Learn how to use a citation-manager and a synthesis matrix to keep track of all of your source information.

Skim other dissertations from your department, program, and advisor. Enlist the help of a librarian or ask your advisor for a list of recent graduates whose work you can look up. Seeing what other people have done to earn their PhD can make the project much less abstract and daunting. A concrete sense of expectations will help you envision and plan. When you know what you’ll be doing, try to find a dissertation from your department that is similar enough that you can use it as a reference model when you run into concerns about formatting, structure, level of detail, etc.

Think carefully about your committee . Ideally, you’ll be able to select a group of people who work well with you and with each other. Consult with your advisor about who might be good collaborators for your project and who might not be the best fit. Consider what classes you’ve taken and how you “vibe” with those professors or those you’ve met outside of class. Try to learn what you can about how they’ve worked with other students. Ask about feedback style, turnaround time, level of involvement, etc., and imagine how that would work for you.

Sketch out a sensible drafting order for your project. Be open to writing chapters in “the wrong order” if it makes sense to start somewhere other than the beginning. You could begin with the section that seems easiest for you to write to gain momentum.

Design a productivity alliance with your advisor . Talk with them about potential projects and a reasonable timeline. Discuss how you’ll work together to keep your work moving forward. You might discuss having a standing meeting to discuss ideas or drafts or issues (bi-weekly? monthly?), your advisor’s preferences for drafts (rough? polished?), your preferences for what you’d like feedback on (early or late drafts?), reasonable turnaround time for feedback (a week? two?), and anything else you can think of to enter the collaboration mindfully.

Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues . Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

Productivity strategies

Write when you’re most productive. When do you have the most energy? Focus? Creativity? When are you most able to concentrate, either because of your body rhythms or because there are fewer demands on your time? Once you determine the hours that are most productive for you (you may need to experiment at first), try to schedule those hours for dissertation work. See the collection of time management tools and planning calendars on the Learning Center’s Tips & Tools page to help you think through the possibilities. If at all possible, plan your work schedule, errands and chores so that you reserve your productive hours for the dissertation.

Put your writing time firmly on your calendar . Guard your writing time diligently. You’ll probably be invited to do other things during your productive writing times, but do your absolute best to say no and to offer alternatives. No one would hold it against you if you said no because you’re teaching a class at that time—and you wouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. Cultivating the same hard, guilt-free boundaries around your writing time will allow you preserve the time you need to get this thing done!

Develop habits that foster balance . You’ll have to work very hard to get this dissertation finished, but you can do that without sacrificing your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Think about how you can structure your work hours most efficiently so that you have time for a healthy non-work life. It can be something as small as limiting the time you spend chatting with fellow students to a few minutes instead of treating the office or lab as a space for extensive socializing. Also see above for protecting your time.

Write in spaces where you can be productive. Figure out where you work well and plan to be there during your dissertation work hours. Do you get more done on campus or at home? Do you prefer quiet and solitude, like in a library carrel? Do you prefer the buzz of background noise, like in a coffee shop? Are you aware of the UNC Libraries’ list of places to study ? If you get “stuck,” don’t be afraid to try a change of scenery. The variety may be just enough to get your brain going again.

Work where you feel comfortable . Wherever you work, make sure you have whatever lighting, furniture, and accessories you need to keep your posture and health in good order. The University Health and Safety office offers guidelines for healthy computer work . You’re more likely to spend time working in a space that doesn’t physically hurt you. Also consider how you could make your work space as inviting as possible. Some people find that it helps to have pictures of family and friends on their desk—sort of a silent “cheering section.” Some people work well with neutral colors around them, and others prefer bright colors that perk up the space. Some people like to put inspirational quotations in their workspace or encouraging notes from friends and family. You might try reconfiguring your work space to find a décor that helps you be productive.

Elicit helpful feedback from various people at various stages . You might be tempted to keep your writing to yourself until you think it’s brilliant, but you can lower the stakes tremendously if you make eliciting feedback a regular part of your writing process. Your friends can feel like a safer audience for ideas or drafts in their early stages. Someone outside your department may provide interesting perspectives from their discipline that spark your own thinking. See this handout on getting feedback for productive moments for feedback, the value of different kinds of feedback providers, and strategies for eliciting what’s most helpful to you. Make this a recurring part of your writing process. Schedule it to help you hit deadlines.

Change the writing task . When you don’t feel like writing, you can do something different or you can do something differently. Make a list of all the little things you need to do for a given section of the dissertation, no matter how small. Choose a task based on your energy level. Work on Grad School requirements: reformat margins, work on bibliography, and all that. Work on your acknowledgements. Remember all the people who have helped you and the great ideas they’ve helped you develop. You may feel more like working afterward. Write a part of your dissertation as a letter or email to a good friend who would care. Sometimes setting aside the academic prose and just writing it to a buddy can be liberating and help you get the ideas out there. You can make it sound smart later. Free-write about why you’re stuck, and perhaps even about how sick and tired you are of your dissertation/advisor/committee/etc. Venting can sometimes get you past the emotions of writer’s block and move you toward creative solutions. Open a separate document and write your thoughts on various things you’ve read. These may or may note be coherent, connected ideas, and they may or may not make it into your dissertation. They’re just notes that allow you to think things through and/or note what you want to revisit later, so it’s perfectly fine to have mistakes, weird organization, etc. Just let your mind wander on paper.

Develop habits that foster productivity and may help you develop a productive writing model for post-dissertation writing . Since dissertations are very long projects, cultivating habits that will help support your work is important. You might check out Helen Sword’s work on behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional habits to help you get a sense of where you are in your current habits. You might try developing “rituals” of work that could help you get more done. Lighting incense, brewing a pot of a particular kind of tea, pulling out a favorite pen, and other ritualistic behaviors can signal your brain that “it is time to get down to business.” You can critically think about your work methods—not only about what you like to do, but also what actually helps you be productive. You may LOVE to listen to your favorite band while you write, for example, but if you wind up playing air guitar half the time instead of writing, it isn’t a habit worth keeping.

The point is, figure out what works for you and try to do it consistently. Your productive habits will reinforce themselves over time. If you find yourself in a situation, however, that doesn’t match your preferences, don’t let it stop you from working on your dissertation. Try to be flexible and open to experimenting. You might find some new favorites!

Motivational strategies

Schedule a regular activity with other people that involves your dissertation. Set up a coworking date with your accountability buddies so you can sit and write together. Organize a chapter swap. Make regular appointments with your advisor. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you’ll feel good about showing up for–and will make you feel good about showing up for others.

Try writing in sprints . Many writers have discovered that the “Pomodoro technique” (writing for 25 minutes and taking a 5 minute break) boosts their productivity by helping them set small writing goals, focus intently for short periods, and give their brains frequent rests. See how one dissertation writer describes it in this blog post on the Pomodoro technique .

Quit while you’re ahead . Sometimes it helps to stop for the day when you’re on a roll. If you’ve got a great idea that you’re developing and you know where you want to go next, write “Next, I want to introduce x, y, and z and explain how they’re related—they all have the same characteristics of 1 and 2, and that clinches my theory of Q.” Then save the file and turn off the computer, or put down the notepad. When you come back tomorrow, you will already know what to say next–and all that will be left is to say it. Hopefully, the momentum will carry you forward.

Write your dissertation in single-space . When you need a boost, double space it and be impressed with how many pages you’ve written.

Set feasible goals–and celebrate the achievements! Setting and achieving smaller, more reasonable goals ( SMART goals ) gives you success, and that success can motivate you to focus on the next small step…and the next one.

Give yourself rewards along the way . When you meet a writing goal, reward yourself with something you normally wouldn’t have or do–this can be anything that will make you feel good about your accomplishment.

Make the act of writing be its own reward . For example, if you love a particular coffee drink from your favorite shop, save it as a special drink to enjoy during your writing time.

Try giving yourself “pre-wards” —positive experiences that help you feel refreshed and recharged for the next time you write. You don’t have to “earn” these with prior work, but you do have to commit to doing the work afterward.

Commit to doing something you don’t want to do if you don’t achieve your goal. Some people find themselves motivated to work harder when there’s a negative incentive. What would you most like to avoid? Watching a movie you hate? Donating to a cause you don’t support? Whatever it is, how can you ensure enforcement? Who can help you stay accountable?

Affective strategies

Build your confidence . It is not uncommon to feel “imposter phenomenon” during the course of writing your dissertation. If you start to feel this way, it can help to take a few minutes to remember every success you’ve had along the way. You’ve earned your place, and people have confidence in you for good reasons. It’s also helpful to remember that every one of the brilliant people around you is experiencing the same lack of confidence because you’re all in a new context with new tasks and new expectations. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out. You’re supposed to have uncertainties and questions and things to learn. Remember that they wouldn’t have accepted you to the program if they weren’t confident that you’d succeed. See our self-scripting handout for strategies to turn these affirmations into a self-script that you repeat whenever you’re experiencing doubts or other negative thoughts. You can do it!

Appreciate your successes . Not meeting a goal isn’t a failure–and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. It’s an opportunity to figure out why you didn’t meet the goal. It might simply be that the goal wasn’t achievable in the first place. See the SMART goal handout and think through what you can adjust. Even if you meant to write 1500 words, focus on the success of writing 250 or 500 words that you didn’t have before.

Remember your “why.” There are a whole host of reasons why someone might decide to pursue a PhD, both personally and professionally. Reflecting on what is motivating to you can rekindle your sense of purpose and direction.

Get outside support . Sometimes it can be really helpful to get an outside perspective on your work and anxieties as a way of grounding yourself. Participating in groups like the Dissertation Support group through CAPS and the Dissertation Boot Camp can help you see that you’re not alone in the challenges. You might also choose to form your own writing support group with colleagues inside or outside your department.

Understand and manage your procrastination . When you’re writing a long dissertation, it can be easy to procrastinate! For instance, you might put off writing because the house “isn’t clean enough” or because you’re not in the right “space” (mentally or physically) to write, so you put off writing until the house is cleaned and everything is in its right place. You may have other ways of procrastinating. It can be helpful to be self-aware of when you’re procrastinating and to consider why you are procrastinating. It may be that you’re anxious about writing the perfect draft, for example, in which case you might consider: how can I focus on writing something that just makes progress as opposed to being “perfect”? There are lots of different ways of managing procrastination; one way is to make a schedule of all the things you already have to do (when you absolutely can’t write) to help you visualize those chunks of time when you can. See this handout on procrastination for more strategies and tools for managing procrastination.

Your topic, your advisor, and your committee: Making them work for you

By the time you’ve reached this stage, you have probably already defended a dissertation proposal, chosen an advisor, and begun working with a committee. Sometimes, however, those three elements can prove to be major external sources of frustration. So how can you manage them to help yourself be as productive as possible?

Managing your topic

Remember that your topic is not carved in stone . The research and writing plan suggested in your dissertation proposal was your best vision of the project at that time, but topics evolve as the research and writing progress. You might need to tweak your research question a bit to reduce or adjust the scope, you might pare down certain parts of the project or add others. You can discuss your thoughts on these adjustments with your advisor at your check ins.

Think about variables that could be cut down and how changes would affect the length, depth, breadth, and scholarly value of your study. Could you cut one or two experiments, case studies, regions, years, theorists, or chapters and still make a valuable contribution or, even more simply, just finish?

Talk to your advisor about any changes you might make . They may be quite sympathetic to your desire to shorten an unwieldy project and may offer suggestions.

Look at other dissertations from your department to get a sense of what the chapters should look like. Reverse-outline a few chapters so you can see if there’s a pattern of typical components and how information is sequenced. These can serve as models for your own dissertation. See this video on reverse outlining to see the technique.

Managing your advisor

Embrace your evolving status . At this stage in your graduate career, you should expect to assume some independence. By the time you finish your project, you will know more about your subject than your committee does. The student/teacher relationship you have with your advisor will necessarily change as you take this big step toward becoming their colleague.

Revisit the alliance . If the interaction with your advisor isn’t matching the original agreement or the original plan isn’t working as well as it could, schedule a conversation to revisit and redesign your working relationship in a way that could work for both of you.

Be specific in your feedback requests . Tell your advisor what kind of feedback would be most helpful to you. Sometimes an advisor can be giving unhelpful or discouraging feedback without realizing it. They might make extensive sentence-level edits when you really need conceptual feedback, or vice-versa, if you only ask generally for feedback. Letting your advisor know, very specifically, what kinds of responses will be helpful to you at different stages of the writing process can help your advisor know how to help you.

Don’t hide . Advisors can be most helpful if they know what you are working on, what problems you are experiencing, and what progress you have made. If you haven’t made the progress you were hoping for, it only makes it worse if you avoid talking to them. You rob yourself of their expertise and support, and you might start a spiral of guilt, shame, and avoidance. Even if it’s difficult, it may be better to be candid about your struggles.

Talk to other students who have the same advisor . You may find that they have developed strategies for working with your advisor that could help you communicate more effectively with them.

If you have recurring problems communicating with your advisor , you can make a change. You could change advisors completely, but a less dramatic option might be to find another committee member who might be willing to serve as a “secondary advisor” and give you the kinds of feedback and support that you may need.

Managing your committee

Design the alliance . Talk with your committee members about how much they’d like to be involved in your writing process, whether they’d like to see chapter drafts or the complete draft, how frequently they’d like to meet (or not), etc. Your advisor can guide you on how committees usually work, but think carefully about how you’d like the relationship to function too.

Keep in regular contact with your committee , even if they don’t want to see your work until it has been approved by your advisor. Let them know about fellowships you receive, fruitful research excursions, the directions your thinking is taking, and the plans you have for completion. In short, keep them aware that you are working hard and making progress. Also, look for other ways to get facetime with your committee even if it’s not a one-on-one meeting. Things like speaking with them at department events, going to colloquiums or other events they organize and/or attend regularly can help you develop a relationship that could lead to other introductions and collaborations as your career progresses.

Share your struggles . Too often, we only talk to our professors when we’re making progress and hide from them the rest of the time. If you share your frustrations or setbacks with a knowledgeable committee member, they might offer some very helpful suggestions for overcoming the obstacles you face—after all, your committee members have all written major research projects before, and they have probably solved similar problems in their own work.

Stay true to yourself . Sometimes, you just don’t entirely gel with your committee, but that’s okay. It’s important not to get too hung up on how your committee does (or doesn’t) relate to you. Keep your eye on the finish line and keep moving forward.

Helpful websites:

Graduate School Diversity Initiatives : Groups and events to support the success of students identifying with an affinity group.

Graduate School Career Well : Extensive professional development resources related to writing, research, networking, job search, etc.

CAPS Therapy Groups : CAPS offers a variety of support groups, including a dissertation support group.

Advice on Research and Writing : Lots of links on writing, public speaking, dissertation management, burnout, and more.

How to be a Good Graduate Student: Marie DesJardins’ essay talks about several phases of the graduate experience, including the dissertation. She discusses some helpful hints for staying motivated and doing consistent work.

Preparing Future Faculty : This page, a joint project of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, explains the Preparing Future Faculty Programs and includes links and suggestions that may help graduate students and their advisors think constructively about the process of graduate education as a step toward faculty responsibilities.

Dissertation Tips : Kjell Erik Rudestam, Ph.D. and Rae Newton, Ph.D., authors of Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process.

The ABD Survival Guide Newsletter : Information about the ABD Survival Guide newsletter (which is free) and other services from E-Coach (many of which are not free).

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="how to dissertation"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Guide to writing your thesis/dissertation, definition of dissertation and thesis.

The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master’s degrees. The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree.

Formatting Requirement and Standards

The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style.

“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis

A “papers option” is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page , or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option, your dissertation or thesis is organized as a series of relatively independent chapters or papers that you have submitted or will be submitting to journals in the field. You must be the only author or the first author of the papers to be used in the dissertation. The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout.

ProQuest Electronic Submissions

The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication of the dissertation and abstract in its original form. All Cornell master’s theses and doctoral dissertations require an electronic submission through ProQuest, which fills orders for paper or digital copies of the thesis and dissertation and makes a digital version available online via their subscription database, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . For master’s theses, only the abstract is available. ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy. You retain control over your dissertation and are free to grant publishing rights as you see fit. The formatting requirements contained in this guide meet all ProQuest specifications.

Copies of Dissertation and Thesis

Copies of Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses are also uploaded in PDF format to the Cornell Library Repository, eCommons . A print copy of each master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation is submitted to Cornell University Library by ProQuest.

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7 steps to writing a dissertation

While you may be experienced in revising and writing essays, your dissertation requires careful planning, extensive research, and time management to succeed

Your dissertation is a key part of your degree course and a testament to your ability to conduct research, analyse data, and write a clear argument. Dissertations can be challenging, but they are also rewarding experiences that allow you to explore a topic in-depth and make a significant contribution to your field of study.

To achieve your academic goals, it is important to act on feedback, use your supervision time to your advantage, and demonstrate a strong knowledge of your subject. Whether you're writing an undergraduate, Masters , or PhD dissertation, these seven steps can help you stay on track.

1. Choose your topic wisely

Selecting the right topic is the foundation of a successful dissertation. It is important to choose a topic that is:

  • Relevant to your academic discipline and interests. This will ensure that you are passionate about your topic and have the necessary background knowledge to conduct meaningful research.
  • Intriguing and thought-provoking . A well-chosen topic will inspire you to ask interesting questions and develop original insights.
  • Specific enough to allow for in-depth analysis, yet broad enough to provide enough research material. A topic that is too narrow may be difficult to research or produce meaningful findings, while a topic that is too broad may be difficult to cover in the allowed time and word count.

Consider your career goals and what topics are relevant to the field you hope to work in after graduation. It's also important to be open to change, as it's common for students to modify their dissertation topic as they explore the subject more.

Once you have identified a potential topic, seek guidance from your supervisor. They can help you to refine your choice, identify relevant sources, and develop a research plan.

2. Check what's required of you

Read your marking criteria carefully. It is also important to consult the module guidelines and follow the instructions on any additional parts to your main assignment, such as a project plan, literature review or a critical reflection.

Neal Bamford, associate lecturer at London Metropolitan University, reports that his marking process always begins by 'distilling criteria to what students need to provide and how many marks this is worth.'

'Several dissertations I mark don't include a project plan in their submission. This is worth 20% of the overall mark, so students lose out on a significant portion of their grade'.

Before you begin to plan, make sure you understand what's expected of you. Find out:

  • what academic writing looks like in your discipline
  • the word count
  • when and where you must submit your dissertation.

3. Conduct in-depth research

Research at this stage in the process is often referred to as a literature review. This is where you are expected to gather relevant sources, articles, and studies from libraries, and online academic resources to identify the existing research on your topic and to develop your own research questions.

'Form your own opinion and argue for it using research. A history of the topic is always helpful, as it shows that you understand how things got to this point in time,' says Neal.

Be sure to take careful notes on each source and organise them for easy reference. You need to critically evaluate and analyse the sources to ensure their credibility and relevance to your research. This will be helpful when citing your sources in the writing stage.

Don't forget to seek guidance from your advisor throughout the research process. They can provide you with valuable feedback, relevant sources, and support.

4. Develop a strong thesis statement

A well-defined thesis statement is a roadmap for your dissertation. It should concisely state your main argument or research question and provide a clear direction for your paper. Your thesis statement will guide your entire writing process, so take the time to fully understand it before you begin to write.

When writing a thesis statement:

  • Be specific and focused - avoid broad or vague statements.
  • Remember that your thesis needs to be arguable - it should be a statement that can be supported or proved false with evidence.
  • Make sure your thesis is realistic - you need to be able to research and write about it in the allotted time and space.

Once you have a draft of your thesis statement, share it with your supervisor and other trusted peers. They can provide you with feedback and help you to refine your statement.

If your research disproves your original statement, it can be a disappointing experience. However, it is important to remember that this is a normal part of the research process.

'Many of my students believe that if they don't find the answer they're expecting, then their work is worthless,' says Neal.

'This is not the case. You don't have to find the answer to produce valuable research. Documenting your process and conclusions, even if they are inconclusive, can help others to avoid repeating your work and may lead to new approaches.'

5. Proofread and edit

After working on your dissertation for such a long time, it can be tempting to end the process once you have finished writing, but proofreading is an essential step in ensuring that it is polished and error-free.

To help with the proofreading process:

  • Read your dissertation aloud . This can help you to catch errors that you might miss when reading silently.
  • Change your environment to see your work with fresh eyes.
  • Focus on one thing at a time such as grammar, spelling, or punctuation to avoid getting overwhelmed.

To edit your dissertation, begin by reviewing its overall structure and flow. Make sure that your arguments are well-organised and that your ideas are presented in a logical order.

Next, check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation carefully. You can use a grammar checker, but it is important to proofread your work yourself to identify stylistic or subject-specific errors.

'Make sure you understand the reference style your university prefers. Formatting and labelling of images, tables etc. is vitally important and will be marked,' says Neal.

You should also ensure that your dissertation is formatted using the correct font, font size, margins, and line spacing.

6. Seek feedback and finalise

Once you have made your final revisions, seek feedback from your advisor or board members.

To get the most out of your feedback, be specific about what you are looking for. For example, you might ask for feedback on the overall structure and flow of your dissertation, the strength of your arguments, or the clarity of your writing.

Be open to feedback, even if it's negative. Remember that your advisor is there to help you improve your work, so it's important to take the time to understand and implement the feedback you receive.

Once you have addressed all the feedback, you can prepare your final submission. It's important to follow the guidelines carefully before submitting. Be sure to hand in your dissertation on time, as late submissions may be penalised or even rejected.

Online hand in is the most common method of dissertation submission, and you will typically need to upload a PDF file to an online portal. Follow the instructions carefully - you may need to provide additional information, such as your student ID number or the title of your dissertation.

Some institutions still require dissertations to be submitted in hard copy. If this is the case, you will need to submit a bound copy of your dissertation to your department office. You may also need to pay the binding fee.

Be sure to check with your advisor or department office for specific instructions on how to submit your dissertation in hard copy. You may have to submit multiple copies of your dissertation, and you be required to to include a title page, abstract, and table of contents.

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  • Read our 5 ways to manage student stress .
  • Discover how to write an essay .
  • Consider our 7 time management tips for students .

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Write the Perfect Dissertation

“A dissertation or a thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on comprehensive research.”

The significance of dissertation writing in the world of academia is unparalleled. A good dissertation paper needs months of research and marks the end of your respected academic journey. It is considered the most effective form of writing in academia and perhaps the longest piece of academic writing you will ever have to complete.

This thorough step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation will serve as a tool to help you with the task at hand, whether you are an undergraduate student or a Masters or PhD student working on your dissertation project. This guide provides detailed information about how to write the different chapters of a dissertation, such as a problem statement , conceptual framework , introduction , literature review, methodology , discussion , findings , conclusion , title page , acknowledgements , etc.

What is a Dissertation? – Definition

Before we list the stages of writing a dissertation, we should look at what a dissertation is.

The Cambridge dictionary states that a dissertation is a long piece of writing on a particular subject, especially one that is done to receive a degree at college or university, but that is just the tip of the iceberg because a dissertation project has a lot more meaning and context.

To understand a dissertation’s definition, one must have the capability to understand what an essay is. A dissertation is like an extended essay that includes research and information at a much deeper level. Despite the few similarities, there are many differences between an essay and a dissertation.

Another term that people confuse with a dissertation is a thesis. Let's look at the differences between the two terms.

What is the Difference Between a Dissertation and a Thesis?

Dissertation and thesis are used interchangeably worldwide (and may vary between universities and regions), but the key difference is when they are completed. The thesis is a project that marks the end of a degree program, whereas the dissertation project can occur during the degree. Hanno Krieger (Researchgate, 2014) explained the difference between a dissertation and a thesis as follows:

“Thesis is the written form of research work to claim an academic degree, like PhD thesis, postgraduate thesis, and undergraduate thesis. On the other hand, a dissertation is only another expression of the written research work, similar to an essay. So the thesis is the more general expression.

In the end, it does not matter whether it is a bachelor's, master or PhD dissertation one is working on because the structure and the steps of conducting research are pretty much identical. However, doctoral-level dissertation papers are much more complicated and detailed.

Problems Students Face When Writing a Dissertation

You can expect to encounter some troubles if you don’t yet know the steps to write a dissertation. Even the smartest students are overwhelmed by the complexity of writing a dissertation.

A dissertation project is different from any essay paper you have ever committed to because of the details of planning, research and writing it involves. One can expect rewarding results at the end of the process if the correct guidelines are followed. Still, as indicated previously, there will be multiple challenges to deal with before reaching that milestone.

The three most significant problems students face when working on a dissertation project are the following.

Poor Project Planning

Delaying to start working on the dissertation project is the most common problem. Students think they have sufficient time to complete the paper and are finding ways to write a dissertation in a week, delaying the start to the point where they start stressing out about the looming deadline. When the planning is poor, students are always looking for ways to write their dissertations in the last few days. Although it is possible, it does have effects on the quality of the paper.

Inadequate Research Skills

The writing process becomes a huge problem if one has the required academic research experience. Professional dissertation writing goes well beyond collecting a few relevant reference resources.

You need to do both primary and secondary research for your paper. Depending on the dissertation’s topic and the academic qualification you are a candidate for, you may be required to base your dissertation paper on primary research.

In addition to secondary data, you will also need to collect data from the specified participants and test the hypothesis . The practice of primary collection is time-consuming since all the data must be analysed in detail before results can be withdrawn.

Failure to Meet the Strict Academic Writing Standards

Research is a crucial business everywhere. Failure to follow the language, style, structure, and formatting guidelines provided by your department or institution when writing the dissertation paper can worsen matters. It is recommended to read the dissertation handbook before starting the write-up thoroughly.

Steps of Writing a Dissertation

For those stressing out about developing an extensive paper capable of filling a gap in research whilst adding value to the existing academic literature—conducting exhaustive research and analysis—and professionally using the knowledge gained throughout their degree program, there is still good news in all the chaos.

We have put together a guide that will show you how to start your dissertation and complete it carefully from one stage to the next.

Find an Interesting and Manageable Dissertation Topic

A clearly defined topic is a prerequisite for any successful independent research project. An engaging yet manageable research topic can produce an original piece of research that results in a higher academic score.

Unlike essays or assignments, when working on their thesis or dissertation project, students get to choose their topic of research.

You should follow the tips to choose the correct topic for your research to avoid problems later. Your chosen dissertation topic should be narrow enough, allowing you to collect the required secondary and primary data relatively quickly.

Understandably, many people take a lot of time to search for the topic, and a significant amount of research time is spent on it. You should talk to your supervisor or check out the intriguing database of ResearchProspect’s free topics for your dissertation.

Alternatively, consider reading newspapers, academic journals, articles, course materials, and other media to identify relevant issues to your study area and find some inspiration to get going.

You should work closely with your supervisor to agree to a narrowed but clear research plan.Here is what Michelle Schneider, learning adviser at the University of Leeds, had to say about picking the research topics,

“Picking something you’re genuinely interested in will keep you motivated. Consider why it’s important to tackle your chosen topic," Michelle added.

Develop a First-Class Dissertation Proposal.

Once the research topic has been selected, you can develop a solid dissertation proposal . The research proposal allows you to convince your supervisor or the committee members of the significance of your dissertation.

Through the proposal, you will be expected to prove that your work will significantly value the academic and scientific communities by addressing complex and provocative research questions .

Dissertation proposals are much shorter but follow a similar structure to an extensive dissertation paper. If the proposal is optional in your university, you should still create one outline of the critical points that the actual dissertation paper will cover. To get a better understanding of dissertation proposals, you can also check the publicly available samples of dissertation proposals .

Typical contents of the dissertation paper are as follows;

  • A brief rationale for the problem your dissertation paper will investigate.
  • The hypothesis you will be testing.
  • Research objectives you wish to address.
  • How will you contribute to the knowledge of the scientific and academic community?
  • How will you find answers to the critical research question(s)?
  • What research approach will you adopt?
  • What kind of population of interest would you like to generalise your result(s) to (especially in the case of quantitative research)?
  • What sampling technique(s) would you employ, and why would you not use other methods?
  • What ethical considerations have you taken to gather data?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your research are/might be?
  • What are the future implications and limitations you see in your research?

Let’s review the structure of the dissertation. Keep the format of your proposal simple. Keeping it simple keeps your readers will remain engaged. The following are the fundamental focal points that must be included:

Title of your dissertation: Dissertation titles should be 12 words in length. The focus of your research should be identifiable from your research topic.

Research aim: The overall purpose of your study should be clearly stated in terms of the broad statements of the desired outcomes in the Research aim. Try and paint the picture of your research, emphasising what you wish to achieve as a researcher.

Research objectives: The key research questions you wish to address as part of the project should be listed. Narrow down the focus of your research and aim for at most four objectives. Your research objectives should be linked with the aim of the study or a hypothesis.

Literature review: Consult with your supervisor to check if you are required to use any specific academic sources as part of the literature review process. If that is not the case, find out the most relevant theories, journals, books, schools of thought, and publications that will be used to construct arguments in your literature research.Remember that the literature review is all about giving credit to other authors’ works on a similar topic

Research methods and techniques: Depending on your dissertation topic, you might be required to conduct empirical research to satisfy the study’s objectives. Empirical research uses primary data such as questionnaires, interview data, and surveys to collect.

On the other hand, if your dissertation is based on secondary (non-empirical) data, you can stick to the existing literature in your area of study. Clearly state the merits of your chosen research methods under the methodology section.

Expected results: As you explore the research topic and analyse the data in the previously published papers, you will begin to build your expectations around the study’s potential outcomes. List those expectations here.

Project timeline: Let the readers know exactly how you plan to complete all the dissertation project parts within the timeframe allowed. You should learn more about Microsoft Project and Gantt Charts to create easy-to-follow and high-level project timelines and schedules.

References: The academic sources used to gather information for the proposed paper will be listed under this section using the appropriate referencing style. Ask your supervisor which referencing style you are supposed to follow.

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Investigation, Research and Data Collection

This is the most critical stage of the dissertation writing process. One should use up-to-date and relevant academic sources that are likely to jeopardise hard work.

Finding relevant and highly authentic reference resources is the key to succeeding in the dissertation project, so it is advised to take your time with this process. Here are some of the things that should be considered when conducting research.

dissertation project, so it is advised to take your time with this process. Here are some of the things that should be considered when conducting research.

You cannot read everything related to your topic. Although the practice of reading as much material as possible during this stage is rewarding, it is also imperative to understand that it is impossible to read everything that concerns your research.

This is true, especially for undergraduate and master’s level dissertations that must be delivered within a specific timeframe. So, it is important to know when to stop! Once the previous research and the associated limitations are well understood, it is time to move on.

However, review at least the salient research and work done in your area. By salient, we mean research done by pioneers of your field. For instance, if your topic relates to linguistics and you haven’t familiarised yourself with relevant research conducted by, say, Chomsky (the father of linguistics), your readers may find your lack of knowledge disconcerting.

So, to come off as genuinely knowledgeable in your own field, at least don’t forget to read essential works in the field/topic!

Use an Authentic Research database to Find References.

Most students start the reference material-finding process with desk-based research. However, this research method has its own limitation because it is a well-known fact that the internet is full of bogus information and fake information spreads fasters on the internet than truth does .

So, it is important to pick your reference material from reliable resources such as Google Scholar , Researchgate, Ibibio and Bartleby . Wikipedia is not considered a reliable academic source in the academic world, so it is recommended to refrain from citing Wikipedia content.Never underrate the importance of the actual library. The supporting staff at a university library can be of great help when it comes to finding exciting and reliable publications.

Record as you learn

All information and impressions should be recorded as notes using online tools such as Evernote to make sure everything is clear. You want to retain an important piece of information you had planned to present as an argument in the dissertation paper.

Write a Flawless Dissertation

Start to write a fantastic dissertation immediately once your proposal has been accepted and all the necessary desk-based research has been conducted. Now we will look at the different chapters of a dissertation in detail. You can also check out the samples of dissertation chapters to fully understand the format and structures of the various chapters.

Dissertation Introduction Chapter

The introduction chapter of the dissertation paper provides the background, problem statement and research questions. Here, you will inform the readers why it was important for this research to be conducted and which key research question(s) you expect to answer at the end of the study.

Definitions of all the terms and phrases in the project are provided in this first chapter of the dissertation paper. The research aim and objectives remain unchanged from the proposal paper and are expected to be listed under this section.

Dissertation Literature Review Chapter

This chapter allows you to demonstrate to your readers that you have done sufficient research on the chosen topic and understand previous similar studies’ findings. Any research limitations that your research incorporates are expected to be discussed in this section.

And make sure to summarise the viewpoints and findings of other researchers in the dissertation literature review chapter. Show the readers that there is a research gap in the existing work and your job is relevant to it to justify your research value.

Dissertation Methodology

The methodology chapter of the dissertation provides insight into the methods employed to collect data from various resources and flows naturally from the literature review chapter.Simply put, you will be expected to explain what you did and how you did it, helping the readers understand that your research is valid and reliable. When writing the methodology chapter for the dissertation, make sure to emphasise the following points:

  • The type of research performed by the researcher
  • Methods employed to gather and filter information
  • Techniques that were chosen for analysis
  • Materials, tools and resources used to conduct research (typically for empirical research dissertations)
  • Limitations of your chosen methods
  • Reliability and validity of your measuring tools and instruments (e.g. a survey questionnaire) are also typically mentioned within the mythology section. If you used a pre-existing data collection tool, cite its reliability/validity estimates here, too.Make use of the past tense when writing the methodology chapter.

Dissertation Findings

The key results of your research are presented in the dissertation findings chapter . It gives authors the ability to validate their own intellectual and analytical skills

Dissertation Conclusion

Cap off your dissertation paper with a study summary and a brief report of the findings. In the concluding chapter , you will be expected to demonstrate how your research will provide value to other academics in your area of study and its implications.It is recommended to include a short ‘recommendations’ section that will elaborate on the purpose and need for future research to elucidate the topic further.

Follow the referencing style following the requirements of your academic degree or field of study. Make sure to list every academic source used with a proper in-text citation. It is important to give credit to other authors’ ideas and concepts.

Note: Keep in mind whether you are creating a reference list or a bibliography. The former includes information about all the various sources you referred to, read from or took inspiration from for your own study. However, the latter contains things you used and those you only read but didn’t cite in your dissertation.

Proofread, Edit and Improve – Don’t Risk Months of Hard Work.

Experts recommend completing the total dissertation before starting to proofread and edit your work. You need to refresh your focus and reboot your creative brain before returning to another critical stage.

Leave space of at least a few days between the writing and the editing steps so when you get back to the desk, you can recognise your grammar, spelling and factual errors when you get back to the desk.

It is crucial to consider this period to ensure the final work is polished, coherent, well-structured and free of any structural or factual flaws. Daniel Higginbotham from Prospects UK states that:

“Leave yourself sufficient time to engage with your writing at several levels – from reassessing the logic of the whole piece to proofreading to checking you’ve paid attention to aspects such as the correct spelling of names and theories and the required referencing format.”

What is the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

Editing means that you are focusing on the essence of your dissertation paper. In contrast, proofreading is the process of reviewing the final draft piece to ensure accuracy and consistency in formatting, spelling, facts, punctuation, and grammar.

Editing: Prepare your work for submission by condensing, correcting and modifying (where necessary). When reviewing the paper, make sure that there are coherence and consistency between the arguments you presented.

If an information gap has been identified, fill that with an appropriate piece of information gathered during the research process. It is easy to lose sight of the original purpose if you become over-involved when writing.

Cut out the unwanted text and refine it, so your paper’s content is to the point and concise.Proofreading: Start proofreading your paper to identify formatting, structural, grammar, punctuation and referencing flaws. Read every single sentence of the paper no matter how tired you are because a few puerile mistakes can compromise your months of hard work.

Many students struggle with the editing and proofreading stages due to their lack of attention to detail. Consult a skilled dissertation editor if you are unable to find your flaws. You may want to invest in a professional dissertation editing and proofreading service to improve the piece’s quality to First Class.

Tips for Writing a Dissertation

Communication with supervisor – get feedback.

Communicate regularly with your supervisor to produce a first-class dissertation paper. Request them to comprehensively review the contents of your dissertation paper before final submission.

Their constructive criticism and feedback concerning different study areas will help you improve your piece’s overall quality. Keep your supervisor updated about your research progress and discuss any problems that you come up against.

Organising your Time

A dissertation is a lengthy project spanning over a period of months to years, and therefore it is important to avoid procrastination. Stay focused, and manage your time efficiently. Here are some time management tips for writing your dissertation to help you make the most of your time as you research and write.

  • Don’t be discouraged by the inherently slow nature of dissertation work, particularly in the initial stages.
  • Set clear goals and work out your research and write up a plan accordingly.
  • Allow sufficient time to incorporate feedback from your supervisor.
  • Leave enough time for editing, improving, proofreading, and formatting the paper according to your school’s guidelines. This is where you break or make your grade.
  • Work a certain number of hours on your paper daily.
  • Create a worksheet for your week.
  • Work on your dissertation for time periods as brief as 45 minutes or less.
  • Stick to the strategic dissertation timeline, so you don’t have to do the catchup work.
  • Meet your goals by prioritising your dissertation work.
  • Strike a balance between being overly organised and needing to be more organised.
  • Limit activities other than dissertation writing and your most necessary obligations.
  • Keep ‘tangent’ and ‘for the book’ files.
  • Create lists to help you manage your tasks.
  • Have ‘filler’ tasks to do when you feel burned out or in need of intellectual rest.
  • Keep a dissertation journal.
  • Pretend that you are working in a more structured work world.
  • Limit your usage of email and personal electronic devices.
  • Utilise and build on your past work when you write your dissertation.
  • Break large tasks into small manageable ones.
  • Seek advice from others, and do not be afraid to ask for help.

Dissertation Examples

Here are some samples of a dissertation to inspire you to write mind-blowing dissertations and to help bring all the above-mentioned guidelines home.

DE MONTFORT University Leicester – Examples of recent dissertations

Dissertation Research in Education: Dissertations (Examples)

How Long is a Dissertation?

The entire dissertation writing process is complicated and spans over a period of months to years, depending on whether you are an undergraduate, master’s, or PhD candidate. Marcus Beck, a PhD candidate, conducted fundamental research a few years ago, research that didn’t have much to do with his research but returned answers to some niggling questions every student has about the average length of a dissertation.

A software program specifically designed for this purpose helped Beck to access the university’s electronic database to uncover facts on dissertation length.

The above illustration shows how the results of his small study were a little unsurprising. Social sciences and humanities disciplines such as anthropology, politics, and literature had the longest dissertations, with some PhD dissertations comprising 150,000 words or more.Engineering and scientific disciplines, on the other hand, were considerably shorter. PhD-level dissertations generally don’t have a predefined length as they will vary with your research topic. Ask your school about this requirement if you are unsure about it from the start.

Focus more on the quality of content rather than the number of pages.

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Phrases to Avoid

No matter the style or structure you follow, it is best to keep your language simple. Avoid the use of buzzwords and jargon.

A Word on Stealing Content (Plagiarism)

Very straightforward advice to all students, DO NOT PLAGIARISE. Plagiarism is a serious offence. You will be penalised heavily if you are caught plagiarising. Don’t risk years of hard work, as many students in the past have lost their degrees for plagiarising. Here are some tips to help you make sure you don’t get caught.

  • Copying and pasting from an academic source is an unforgivable sin. Rephrasing text retrieved from another source also falls under plagiarism; it’s called paraphrasing. Summarising another’s idea(s) word-to-word, paraphrasing, and copy-pasting are the three primary forms plagiarism can take.
  • If you must directly copy full sentences from another source because they fill the bill, always enclose them inside quotation marks and acknowledge the writer’s work with in-text citations.

Are you struggling to find inspiration to get going? Still, trying to figure out where to begin? Is the deadline getting closer? Don’t be overwhelmed! ResearchProspect dissertation writing services have helped thousands of students achieve desired outcomes. Click here to get help from writers holding either a master's or PhD degree from a reputed UK university.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a dissertation include.

A dissertation has main chapters and parts that support them. The main parts are:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research Methodology
  • Your conclusion

Other parts are the abstract, references, appendices etc. We can supply a full dissertation or specific parts of one.

What is the difference between research and a dissertation?

A research paper is a sort of academic writing that consists of the study, source assessment, critical thinking, organisation, and composition, as opposed to a thesis or dissertation, which is a lengthy academic document that often serves as the final project for a university degree.

Can I edit and proofread my dissertation myself?

Of course, you can do proofreading and editing of your dissertation. There are certain rules to follow that have been discussed above. However, finding mistakes in something that you have written yourself can be complicated for some people. It is advisable to take professional help in the matter.

What If I only have difficulty writing a specific chapter of the dissertation?

ResearchProspect ensures customer satisfaction by addressing all relevant issues. We provide dissertation chapter-writing services to students if they need help completing a specific chapter. It could be any chapter from the introduction, literature review, and methodology to the discussion and conclusion.

You May Also Like

Are you looking for intriguing and trending dissertation topics? Get inspired by our list of free dissertation topics on all subjects.

Looking for an easy guide to follow to write your essay? Here is our detailed essay guide explaining how to write an essay and examples and types of an essay.

Learn about the steps required to successfully complete their research project. Make sure to follow these steps in their respective order.

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Home » Dissertation – Format, Example and Template

Dissertation – Format, Example and Template

Table of Contents

Dissertation

Dissertation

Definition:

Dissertation is a lengthy and detailed academic document that presents the results of original research on a specific topic or question. It is usually required as a final project for a doctoral degree or a master’s degree.

Dissertation Meaning in Research

In Research , a dissertation refers to a substantial research project that students undertake in order to obtain an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. or a Master’s degree.

Dissertation typically involves the exploration of a particular research question or topic in-depth, and it requires students to conduct original research, analyze data, and present their findings in a scholarly manner. It is often the culmination of years of study and represents a significant contribution to the academic field.

Types of Dissertation

Types of Dissertation are as follows:

Empirical Dissertation

An empirical dissertation is a research study that uses primary data collected through surveys, experiments, or observations. It typically follows a quantitative research approach and uses statistical methods to analyze the data.

Non-Empirical Dissertation

A non-empirical dissertation is based on secondary sources, such as books, articles, and online resources. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as content analysis or discourse analysis.

Narrative Dissertation

A narrative dissertation is a personal account of the researcher’s experience or journey. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as interviews, focus groups, or ethnography.

Systematic Literature Review

A systematic literature review is a comprehensive analysis of existing research on a specific topic. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as meta-analysis or thematic analysis.

Case Study Dissertation

A case study dissertation is an in-depth analysis of a specific individual, group, or organization. It typically follows a qualitative research approach and uses methods such as interviews, observations, or document analysis.

Mixed-Methods Dissertation

A mixed-methods dissertation combines both quantitative and qualitative research approaches to gather and analyze data. It typically uses methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups, as well as statistical analysis.

How to Write a Dissertation

Here are some general steps to help guide you through the process of writing a dissertation:

  • Choose a topic : Select a topic that you are passionate about and that is relevant to your field of study. It should be specific enough to allow for in-depth research but broad enough to be interesting and engaging.
  • Conduct research : Conduct thorough research on your chosen topic, utilizing a variety of sources, including books, academic journals, and online databases. Take detailed notes and organize your information in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Create an outline : Develop an outline that will serve as a roadmap for your dissertation. The outline should include the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Write the introduction: The introduction should provide a brief overview of your topic, the research questions, and the significance of the study. It should also include a clear thesis statement that states your main argument.
  • Write the literature review: The literature review should provide a comprehensive analysis of existing research on your topic. It should identify gaps in the research and explain how your study will fill those gaps.
  • Write the methodology: The methodology section should explain the research methods you used to collect and analyze data. It should also include a discussion of any limitations or weaknesses in your approach.
  • Write the results: The results section should present the findings of your research in a clear and organized manner. Use charts, graphs, and tables to help illustrate your data.
  • Write the discussion: The discussion section should interpret your results and explain their significance. It should also address any limitations of the study and suggest areas for future research.
  • Write the conclusion: The conclusion should summarize your main findings and restate your thesis statement. It should also provide recommendations for future research.
  • Edit and revise: Once you have completed a draft of your dissertation, review it carefully to ensure that it is well-organized, clear, and free of errors. Make any necessary revisions and edits before submitting it to your advisor for review.

Dissertation Format

The format of a dissertation may vary depending on the institution and field of study, but generally, it follows a similar structure:

  • Title Page: This includes the title of the dissertation, the author’s name, and the date of submission.
  • Abstract : A brief summary of the dissertation’s purpose, methods, and findings.
  • Table of Contents: A list of the main sections and subsections of the dissertation, along with their page numbers.
  • Introduction : A statement of the problem or research question, a brief overview of the literature, and an explanation of the significance of the study.
  • Literature Review : A comprehensive review of the literature relevant to the research question or problem.
  • Methodology : A description of the methods used to conduct the research, including data collection and analysis procedures.
  • Results : A presentation of the findings of the research, including tables, charts, and graphs.
  • Discussion : A discussion of the implications of the findings, their significance in the context of the literature, and limitations of the study.
  • Conclusion : A summary of the main points of the study and their implications for future research.
  • References : A list of all sources cited in the dissertation.
  • Appendices : Additional materials that support the research, such as data tables, charts, or transcripts.

Dissertation Outline

Dissertation Outline is as follows:

Title Page:

  • Title of dissertation
  • Author name
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Date of submission
  • Brief summary of the dissertation’s research problem, objectives, methods, findings, and implications
  • Usually around 250-300 words

Table of Contents:

  • List of chapters and sections in the dissertation, with page numbers for each

I. Introduction

  • Background and context of the research
  • Research problem and objectives
  • Significance of the research

II. Literature Review

  • Overview of existing literature on the research topic
  • Identification of gaps in the literature
  • Theoretical framework and concepts

III. Methodology

  • Research design and methods used
  • Data collection and analysis techniques
  • Ethical considerations

IV. Results

  • Presentation and analysis of data collected
  • Findings and outcomes of the research
  • Interpretation of the results

V. Discussion

  • Discussion of the results in relation to the research problem and objectives
  • Evaluation of the research outcomes and implications
  • Suggestions for future research

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of the research findings and outcomes
  • Implications for the research topic and field
  • Limitations and recommendations for future research

VII. References

  • List of sources cited in the dissertation

VIII. Appendices

  • Additional materials that support the research, such as tables, figures, or questionnaires.

Example of Dissertation

Here is an example Dissertation for students:

Title : Exploring the Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Academic Achievement and Well-being among College Students

This dissertation aims to investigate the impact of mindfulness meditation on the academic achievement and well-being of college students. Mindfulness meditation has gained popularity as a technique for reducing stress and enhancing mental health, but its effects on academic performance have not been extensively studied. Using a randomized controlled trial design, the study will compare the academic performance and well-being of college students who practice mindfulness meditation with those who do not. The study will also examine the moderating role of personality traits and demographic factors on the effects of mindfulness meditation.

Chapter Outline:

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Background and rationale for the study
  • Research questions and objectives
  • Significance of the study
  • Overview of the dissertation structure

Chapter 2: Literature Review

  • Definition and conceptualization of mindfulness meditation
  • Theoretical framework of mindfulness meditation
  • Empirical research on mindfulness meditation and academic achievement
  • Empirical research on mindfulness meditation and well-being
  • The role of personality and demographic factors in the effects of mindfulness meditation

Chapter 3: Methodology

  • Research design and hypothesis
  • Participants and sampling method
  • Intervention and procedure
  • Measures and instruments
  • Data analysis method

Chapter 4: Results

  • Descriptive statistics and data screening
  • Analysis of main effects
  • Analysis of moderating effects
  • Post-hoc analyses and sensitivity tests

Chapter 5: Discussion

  • Summary of findings
  • Implications for theory and practice
  • Limitations and directions for future research
  • Conclusion and contribution to the literature

Chapter 6: Conclusion

  • Recap of the research questions and objectives
  • Summary of the key findings
  • Contribution to the literature and practice
  • Implications for policy and practice
  • Final thoughts and recommendations.

References :

List of all the sources cited in the dissertation

Appendices :

Additional materials such as the survey questionnaire, interview guide, and consent forms.

Note : This is just an example and the structure of a dissertation may vary depending on the specific requirements and guidelines provided by the institution or the supervisor.

How Long is a Dissertation

The length of a dissertation can vary depending on the field of study, the level of degree being pursued, and the specific requirements of the institution. Generally, a dissertation for a doctoral degree can range from 80,000 to 100,000 words, while a dissertation for a master’s degree may be shorter, typically ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 words. However, it is important to note that these are general guidelines and the actual length of a dissertation can vary widely depending on the specific requirements of the program and the research topic being studied. It is always best to consult with your academic advisor or the guidelines provided by your institution for more specific information on dissertation length.

Applications of Dissertation

Here are some applications of a dissertation:

  • Advancing the Field: Dissertations often include new research or a new perspective on existing research, which can help to advance the field. The results of a dissertation can be used by other researchers to build upon or challenge existing knowledge, leading to further advancements in the field.
  • Career Advancement: Completing a dissertation demonstrates a high level of expertise in a particular field, which can lead to career advancement opportunities. For example, having a PhD can open doors to higher-paying jobs in academia, research institutions, or the private sector.
  • Publishing Opportunities: Dissertations can be published as books or journal articles, which can help to increase the visibility and credibility of the author’s research.
  • Personal Growth: The process of writing a dissertation involves a significant amount of research, analysis, and critical thinking. This can help students to develop important skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and communication, which can be valuable in both their personal and professional lives.
  • Policy Implications: The findings of a dissertation can have policy implications, particularly in fields such as public health, education, and social sciences. Policymakers can use the research to inform decision-making and improve outcomes for the population.

When to Write a Dissertation

Here are some situations where writing a dissertation may be necessary:

  • Pursuing a Doctoral Degree: Writing a dissertation is usually a requirement for earning a doctoral degree, so if you are interested in pursuing a doctorate, you will likely need to write a dissertation.
  • Conducting Original Research : Dissertations require students to conduct original research on a specific topic. If you are interested in conducting original research on a topic, writing a dissertation may be the best way to do so.
  • Advancing Your Career: Some professions, such as academia and research, may require individuals to have a doctoral degree. Writing a dissertation can help you advance your career by demonstrating your expertise in a particular area.
  • Contributing to Knowledge: Dissertations are often based on original research that can contribute to the knowledge base of a field. If you are passionate about advancing knowledge in a particular area, writing a dissertation can help you achieve that goal.
  • Meeting Academic Requirements : If you are a graduate student, writing a dissertation may be a requirement for completing your program. Be sure to check with your academic advisor to determine if this is the case for you.

Purpose of Dissertation

some common purposes of a dissertation include:

  • To contribute to the knowledge in a particular field : A dissertation is often the culmination of years of research and study, and it should make a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge in a particular field.
  • To demonstrate mastery of a subject: A dissertation requires extensive research, analysis, and writing, and completing one demonstrates a student’s mastery of their subject area.
  • To develop critical thinking and research skills : A dissertation requires students to think critically about their research question, analyze data, and draw conclusions based on evidence. These skills are valuable not only in academia but also in many professional fields.
  • To demonstrate academic integrity: A dissertation must be conducted and written in accordance with rigorous academic standards, including ethical considerations such as obtaining informed consent, protecting the privacy of participants, and avoiding plagiarism.
  • To prepare for an academic career: Completing a dissertation is often a requirement for obtaining a PhD and pursuing a career in academia. It can demonstrate to potential employers that the student has the necessary skills and experience to conduct original research and make meaningful contributions to their field.
  • To develop writing and communication skills: A dissertation requires a significant amount of writing and communication skills to convey complex ideas and research findings in a clear and concise manner. This skill set can be valuable in various professional fields.
  • To demonstrate independence and initiative: A dissertation requires students to work independently and take initiative in developing their research question, designing their study, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. This demonstrates to potential employers or academic institutions that the student is capable of independent research and taking initiative in their work.
  • To contribute to policy or practice: Some dissertations may have a practical application, such as informing policy decisions or improving practices in a particular field. These dissertations can have a significant impact on society, and their findings may be used to improve the lives of individuals or communities.
  • To pursue personal interests: Some students may choose to pursue a dissertation topic that aligns with their personal interests or passions, providing them with the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic that they find personally meaningful.

Advantage of Dissertation

Some advantages of writing a dissertation include:

  • Developing research and analytical skills: The process of writing a dissertation involves conducting extensive research, analyzing data, and presenting findings in a clear and coherent manner. This process can help students develop important research and analytical skills that can be useful in their future careers.
  • Demonstrating expertise in a subject: Writing a dissertation allows students to demonstrate their expertise in a particular subject area. It can help establish their credibility as a knowledgeable and competent professional in their field.
  • Contributing to the academic community: A well-written dissertation can contribute new knowledge to the academic community and potentially inform future research in the field.
  • Improving writing and communication skills : Writing a dissertation requires students to write and present their research in a clear and concise manner. This can help improve their writing and communication skills, which are essential for success in many professions.
  • Increasing job opportunities: Completing a dissertation can increase job opportunities in certain fields, particularly in academia and research-based positions.

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How to tackle the PhD dissertation

Finding time to write can be a challenge for graduate students who often juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. Mabel Ho provides some tips to make the process less daunting

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Is it time to turn off turnitin, use ai to get your students thinking critically, taming anxiety around public speaking, emotions and learning: what role do emotions play in how and why students learn.

Writing helps you share your work with the wider community. Your scholarship is important and you are making a valuable contribution to the field. While it might be intimidating to face a blank screen, remember, your first draft is not your final draft! The difficult part is getting something on the page to begin with. 

As the adage goes, a good dissertation is a done dissertation, and the goal is for you to find balance in your writing and establish the steps you can take to make the process smoother. Here are some practical strategies for tackling the PhD dissertation.

Write daily

This is a time to have honest conversations with yourself about your writing and work habits. Do you tackle the most challenging work in the morning? Or do you usually start with emails? Knowing your work routine will help you set parameters for the writing process, which includes various elements, from brainstorming ideas to setting outlines and editing. Once you are aware of your energy and focus levels, you’ll be ready to dedicate those times to writing.

While it might be tempting to block a substantial chunk of time to write and assume anything shorter is not useful, that is not the case. Writing daily, whether it’s a paragraph or several pages, keeps you in conversation with your writing practice. If you schedule two hours to write, remember to take a break during that time and reset. You can try:

  • The Pomodoro Technique: a time management technique that breaks down your work into intervals
  • Taking breaks: go outside for a walk or have a snack so you can come back to your writing rejuvenated
  • Focus apps: it is easy to get distracted by devices and lose direction. Here are some app suggestions: Focus Bear (no free version); Forest (free version available); Cold Turkey website blocker (free version available) and Serene (no free version). 

This is a valuable opportunity to hone your time management and task prioritisation skills. Find out what works for you and put systems in place to support your practice. 

  • Resources on academic writing for higher education professionals
  • Stretch your work further by ‘triple writing’
  • What is your academic writing temperament?

Create a community

While writing can be an isolating endeavour, there are ways to start forming a community (in-person or virtual) to help you set goals and stay accountable. There might be someone in your cohort who is also at the writing stage with whom you can set up a weekly check-in. Alternatively, explore your university’s resources and centres because there may be units and departments on campus that offer helpful opportunities, such as a writing week or retreat. Taking advantage of these opportunities helps combat isolation, foster accountability and grow networks. They can even lead to collaborations further down the line.

  • Check in with your advisers and mentors. Reach out to your networks to find out about other people’s writing processes and additional resources.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your work. Writing requires constant revisions and edits and finding people who you trust with feedback will help you grow as a writer. Plus, you can also read their work and help them with their editing process.
  • Your community does not have to be just about writing!  If you enjoy going on hikes or trying new coffee shops, make that part of your weekly habit.  Sharing your work in different environments will help clarify your thoughts and ideas.

Address the why

The PhD dissertation writing process is often lengthy and it is sometimes easy to forget why you started. In these moments, it can be helpful to think back to what got you excited about your research and scholarship in the first place. Remember it is not just the work but also the people who propelled you forward. One idea is to start writing your “acknowledgements” section. Here are questions to get you started:

  • Do you want to dedicate your work to someone? 
  • What ideas sparked your interest in this journey? 
  • Who cheered you on? 

This practice can help build momentum, as well as serve as a good reminder to carve out time to spend with your community. 

You got this!

Writing is a process. Give yourself grace, as you might not feel motivated all the time. Be consistent in your approach and reward yourself along the way. There is no single strategy when it comes to writing or maintaining motivation, so experiment and find out what works for you. 

Suggested readings

  • Thriving as a Graduate Writer by Rachel Cayley (2023)
  • Destination Dissertation by Sonja K. Foss and William Waters (2015)
  • The PhD Writing Handbook by Desmond Thomas (2016).

Mabel Ho is director of professional development and student engagement at Dalhousie University.

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Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

The sun is shining but many students won't see the daylight. Because it's that time of year again – dissertation time.

Luckily for me, my D-Day (dissertation hand-in day) has already been and gone. But I remember it well.

The 10,000-word spiral-bound paper squatted on my desk in various forms of completion was my Allied forces; the history department in-tray was my Normandy. And when Eisenhower talked about a "great crusade toward which we have striven these many months", he was bang on.

I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible (but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious) topics. Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…

1 ) If your dissertation supervisor isn't right, change. Mine was brilliant. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else – providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it. In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success.

2 ) If you mention working on your dissertation to family, friends or near-strangers, they will ask you what it's about, and they will be expecting a more impressive answer than you can give. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics – war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of 1970s disability legislation. But they're not the ones marking it.

3 ) If they ask follow-up questions, they're probably just being polite.

4 ) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid – or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it.

5 ) There will be one day during the process when you will freak out, doubt your entire thesis and decide to start again from scratch. You might even come up with a new question and start working on it, depending on how long the breakdown lasts. You will at some point run out of steam and collapse in an exhausted, tear-stained heap. But unless there are serious flaws in your work (unlikely) and your supervisor recommends starting again (highly unlikely), don't do it. It's just panic, it'll pass.

6 ) A lot of the work you do will not make it into your dissertation. The first few days in archives, I felt like everything I was unearthing was a gem, and when I sat down to write, it seemed as if it was all gold. But a brutal editing down to the word count has left much of that early material at the wayside.

7 ) You will print like you have never printed before. If you're using a university or library printer, it will start to affect your weekly budget in a big way. If you're printing from your room, "paper jam" will come to be the most dreaded two words in the English language.

8 ) Your dissertation will interfere with whatever else you have going on – a social life, sporting commitments, societies, other essay demands. Don't even try and give up biscuits for Lent, they'll basically become their own food group when you're too busy to cook and desperate for sugar.

9 ) Your time is not your own. Even if you're super-organised, plan your time down to the last hour and don't have a single moment of deadline panic, you'll still find that thoughts of your dissertation will creep up on you when you least expect it. You'll fall asleep thinking about it, dream about it and wake up thinking about. You'll feel guilty when you're not working on it, and mired in self-doubt when you are.

10 ) Finishing it will be one of the best things you've ever done. It's worth the hard work to know you've completed what's likely to be your biggest, most important, single piece of work. Be proud of it.

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How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

Published on 9 September 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes.

The introduction is the first section of your thesis or dissertation , appearing right after the table of contents . Your introduction draws your reader in, setting the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose, and direction.

Your introduction should include:

  • Your topic, in context: what does your reader need to know to understand your thesis dissertation?
  • Your focus and scope: what specific aspect of the topic will you address?
  • The relevance of your research: how does your work fit into existing studies on your topic?
  • Your questions and objectives: what does your research aim to find out, and how?
  • An overview of your structure: what does each section contribute to the overall aim?

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Table of contents

How to start your introduction, topic and context, focus and scope, relevance and importance, questions and objectives, overview of the structure, thesis introduction example, introduction checklist, frequently asked questions about introductions.

Although your introduction kicks off your dissertation, it doesn’t have to be the first thing you write – in fact, it’s often one of the very last parts to be completed (just before your abstract ).

It’s a good idea to write a rough draft of your introduction as you begin your research, to help guide you. If you wrote a research proposal , consider using this as a template, as it contains many of the same elements. However, be sure to revise your introduction throughout the writing process, making sure it matches the content of your ensuing sections.

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Begin by introducing your research topic and giving any necessary background information. It’s important to contextualise your research and generate interest. Aim to show why your topic is timely or important. You may want to mention a relevant news item, academic debate, or practical problem.

After a brief introduction to your general area of interest, narrow your focus and define the scope of your research.

You can narrow this down in many ways, such as by:

  • Geographical area
  • Time period
  • Demographics or communities
  • Themes or aspects of the topic

It’s essential to share your motivation for doing this research, as well as how it relates to existing work on your topic. Further, you should also mention what new insights you expect it will contribute.

Start by giving a brief overview of the current state of research. You should definitely cite the most relevant literature, but remember that you will conduct a more in-depth survey of relevant sources in the literature review section, so there’s no need to go too in-depth in the introduction.

Depending on your field, the importance of your research might focus on its practical application (e.g., in policy or management) or on advancing scholarly understanding of the topic (e.g., by developing theories or adding new empirical data). In many cases, it will do both.

Ultimately, your introduction should explain how your thesis or dissertation:

  • Helps solve a practical or theoretical problem
  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Builds on existing research
  • Proposes a new understanding of your topic

Perhaps the most important part of your introduction is your questions and objectives, as it sets up the expectations for the rest of your thesis or dissertation. How you formulate your research questions and research objectives will depend on your discipline, topic, and focus, but you should always clearly state the central aim of your research.

If your research aims to test hypotheses , you can formulate them here. Your introduction is also a good place for a conceptual framework that suggests relationships between variables .

  • Conduct surveys to collect data on students’ levels of knowledge, understanding, and positive/negative perceptions of government policy.
  • Determine whether attitudes to climate policy are associated with variables such as age, gender, region, and social class.
  • Conduct interviews to gain qualitative insights into students’ perspectives and actions in relation to climate policy.

To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline  of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

I. Introduction

Human language consists of a set of vowels and consonants which are combined to form words. During the speech production process, thoughts are converted into spoken utterances to convey a message. The appropriate words and their meanings are selected in the mental lexicon (Dell & Burger, 1997). This pre-verbal message is then grammatically coded, during which a syntactic representation of the utterance is built.

Speech, language, and voice disorders affect the vocal cords, nerves, muscles, and brain structures, which result in a distorted language reception or speech production (Sataloff & Hawkshaw, 2014). The symptoms vary from adding superfluous words and taking pauses to hoarseness of the voice, depending on the type of disorder (Dodd, 2005). However, distortions of the speech may also occur as a result of a disease that seems unrelated to speech, such as multiple sclerosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This study aims to determine which acoustic parameters are suitable for the automatic detection of exacerbations in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by investigating which aspects of speech differ between COPD patients and healthy speakers and which aspects differ between COPD patients in exacerbation and stable COPD patients.

Checklist: Introduction

I have introduced my research topic in an engaging way.

I have provided necessary context to help the reader understand my topic.

I have clearly specified the focus of my research.

I have shown the relevance and importance of the dissertation topic .

I have clearly stated the problem or question that my research addresses.

I have outlined the specific objectives of the research .

I have provided an overview of the dissertation’s structure .

You've written a strong introduction for your thesis or dissertation. Use the other checklists to continue improving your dissertation.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem
  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an outline of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarise the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

George, T. & McCombes, S. (2022, September 09). How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction. Scribbr. Retrieved 6 May 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/introduction/

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Other students also liked, what is a dissertation | 5 essential questions to get started, how to write an abstract | steps & examples, how to write a thesis or dissertation conclusion.

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Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Hybrid Workshop: Regular Session

June 8, 2024 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm, about this event.

This combined workshop (registrants can attend in person or online) covers the submission process for format review and demonstrates how to use the automated templates to format MSU theses and dissertations to the requirements set forth in the Standards for Preparing Theses and Dissertations: 8th edition. These templates were designed to help an author organize and format their document with minimal effort so that their focus can be on the content of their document. Those who have already started writing or have already defended are welcome to bring their current documents (either on flash drive or email attachment) to start the process of placing their content into the template

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Four UW–Madison students receive Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships

Four UW–Madison students have been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Mellon Foundation to support their innovative and creative dissertation research.

The Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships support doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences with up to $50,000 including funds for research, training, professional development, and mentorship. The four fellows at UW–Madison are among 45 overall, selected from a pool of more than 700 applicants. They are:

  • Kuhelika Ghosh , doctoral candidate in English with a minor in Culture, History, and Environment
  • Fauzi Moro , doctoral student in History with a minor in African Cultural Studies
  • Anika M. Rice , doctoral student in Geography with a minor in Community-Engaged Scholarship
  • Vignesh Ramachandran , doctoral student in Geography

Read more about each Mellon/ACLS Fellow below.

Kuhelika Ghosh

Kuhelika Ghosh

Ghosh’s dissertation explores multispecies gardens in Anglophone Caribbean literature and culture from the 1960s to the present, bringing together postcolonial studies and ecocritical approaches.

“I am interested in the ways that Afro-diasporic women’s gardening practices in the Caribbean region often engage with nonhuman rhythms relating to seasonal time, harvest and fallow, and the lives of insects, birds, and other species,” she said.

Through this work, Ghosh demonstrates how human gardening practices and the rhythms of many different species found in gardens of various types relate to postcolonial food politics and responses to empire. Ghosh explained that the original kitchen and market gardens began during plantation slavery as provisions grounds, which were plots of land set apart from plantations for enslaved people to grow their own food.

The project uses literary texts, visual culture, little-studied archival materials, and physical gardens to create new theories about key problems in cultural study, including voice, rhythm, and spatiality. Ghosh takes an interdisciplinary approach that crosses through literary studies, environmental studies, history, and visual cultures, which gives her dissertation the boundary-pushing trait the Mellon/ACLS fellowship seeks to encourage.

“By focusing on small-scale cultivation, women’s care work, and ‘inconsequential’ multispecies creatures, my project sheds light on the many minor figures in the postcolonial Caribbean that have the power to create change in food justice movements,” Ghosh said.

She also said agricultural scholarship tends to be biased toward men’s labor, while women make up a significant portion of the agricultural labor force in the Caribbean – especially through domestic spaces like backyard gardens. She seeks to highlight Caribbean women’s perspectives and voices around the topics of food justice and postcolonial politics.

“I hope my research brings to light the importance of gardens as a feminist practice, postcolonial agricultural strategy, as well as a form of art in itself,” Ghosh said. “Gardens are often seen as ‘minor’ in the field of the environmental humanities, but my dissertation attempts to demonstrate that although a garden may be minor in terms of area, it has political, ecological, and social significances for marginalized populations in the Caribbean as well as in other postcolonial spaces around the globe.”

Fauziyatu Moro (Fauzi)

Fauzi Moro

Three miles north of Accra’s central business district, the city’s largest migrant enclave, Nima, houses migrants from various African countries. Moro explained that in the nine decades of Nima’s existence, its residents have embodied a distinct Afro-cosmopolitan identity that has thus far gone unnoticed by scholars of African urban history, migration, and the African diaspora.

Moro’s dissertation and an open-access digital archive emerging from her work theorizes Nima as an internal African diaspora and an unprecedented site of pan-African consciousness. This is facilitated by migrants’ urban leisure which speaks to an ethos of global Black solidarity, Moro said.

“By centering intra-Africa migrants’ social imaginations and amusements in the making of Accra’s pan-African and transnational history, my dissertation offers a glimpse into the possibilities of researching migration and urbanization in Africa through the category of leisure as opposed to migrant labor,” Moro said. This challenges scholars to reassess assumptions about working-class intra-Africa migrants, while introducing ideas about migrants’ roles as key historical actors in creating and socially transforming African urban spaces, she added.

Moro’s project centers on migrants’ narratives, social imaginations, and visual and material culture, creating a retelling of the history of Accra. This is underscored by multi-disciplinary methods including oral sources, state and migrants’ personal archives, print media, and literary and visual analysis.

“Migrants’ oral histories and personal archives are particularly crucial to my methodology because they anchor the counter-narrative I seek to provide about Accra’s intra-Africa migrants whose lives and experiences often come to us through the skewed lens of crime, poverty and/or chaos. My research is, thus, undergirded by a quest to make visible the histories of Africa’s urban migrants as told in their own voices,” Moro said.

Anika M. Rice

Anika M. Rice

“In this context, how families leverage landholdings for migration is central to livelihoods, agrarian change, debt, and situated meanings of land,” Rice said.

Land access is often left out of discussions about the root causes of migration in Central America, Rice explained. Her research provides a grounding point that takes seriously the role of land access and how land is used in the decisions that families make about migration.

Rice will collaborate with groups of predominantly Maya K’iche’ women with migrant family members who seek to understand possibilities for collective resistance against the structural and institutional impacts of migration. These groups are part of the Jesuit Migration Network‘s programming in Guatemala.

“I intend for my research to center the agency of K’iche’ women and other marginalized folks in communities of origin, and affirm the right to migrate with dignity,” she said.

Rice said that while there has been important work on transnational migration in host and transit countries, as well as on the intersections of migration and agrarian change, there is limited attention to the gendered impacts of migration in communities of origin and how migration is tied to land access. Her dissertation will use community-based research approaches to engage with the experiences of women with migrant family members, showing their strategies for survival and persistence.

Previous scholarship has often focused on the head of household and on remittances sent home from migrants. Rice’s methods will integrate household surveys with ethnographic work that engages with how multiple family members in different social positions relate to and may leverage specific parcels of land for migration.

“Elevating voices from communities of origin, with a focus on how women are organizing, is central to the co-production of knowledge on social relations, mobility and the environment,” Rice said.

Vignesh Ramachandran

Vignesh Ramachandran

Scientific management, also known as Taylorism, focuses on economic efficiency and labor productivity. Ramachandran’s research focuses on how digital Taylorism – such as automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and algorithm-based management practices – affects delivery workers. Ramachandran uses a worker’s inquiry methodology that emphasizes collaborative, action-oriented research conducted alongside workers to document the effects of digital Taylorism.

“Through this methodology, this project outlines the racializing and disciplining effects of algorithms in shaping the lives of immigrant delivery workers,” Ramachandran said. “In doing so, it also hopes to discover how digital Taylorism produces residual after-effects, like solidarity and care, that propose other modes of social life under the managerial control of algorithms and digital technology.”

Innovations in automation and AI are constantly changing the terrain of labor and work, Ramachandran said. Many of those innovations are implemented in the gig economy and push workers to work harder and faster, while corporations increase their profits, he said. His dissertation challenges “disembodied” descriptions of technological innovation by centering perspectives of immigrant delivery workers.

“Many working class immigrants in New York City have been doubly subjected to the effects of imperialism—faced with austerity, militarism, and climate crisis in their home countries, and border violence, policing, and structural poverty in the U.S.,” Ramachandran said. “In this context, my research challenges race-neutral accounts of the gig economy by situating exploitation in the gig economy within the long [duration] of racial capitalism and imperialism, and by documenting stories of immigrant worker resistance amidst this violence.”

Ramachandran said his approach to dissertation research “re-introduces the workers’ inquiry as an innovative form of collaborative research that academics can undertake with workers.”

“Whereas companies like Uber, Grubhub, and Doordash spend millions on research and development to maximize profit in the gig economy, the workers’ inquiry turns to the experiences and situated knowledge of workers to document and contest exploitation in their workplace,” he explained. “In this case, this project builds on over two years of community-engaged research with undocumented South Asian delivery workers and community organizations to understand how resistance to exploitation in the gig economy takes place at the intersection of digital technology, labor, and everyday immigrant life. Moreover, the project develops the importance of collaborative, community engaged methodologies in the broader humanities and social sciences.”

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Two Penn Ph.D. candidates awarded 2024 Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

The school of arts & sciences awardees are arielle xena alterwaite, who is pursuing a ph.d. in history, and katherine scahill, who is pursuing a ph.d. in music..

A spilt image shows Arielle Alterwaite in the left half, posing with arms crossed and leaving against the exterior of a brick building, and the right side shows Katherine Scahill looking at the camera against a wallpapered background of tan and dusty red print.

Two University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. candidates in the School of Arts & Sciences have been named to the 2024 class of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship , administered by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars .

The Newcombe Fellowship, funded by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation , is the largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values in interesting, original, or significant ways. Fellows receive a 12-month award of $31,000 to support the final year of dissertation writing.

Arielle Xena Alterwaite , a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History , and Katherine Scahill , a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Music , were named as 2024 Fellows.

Alterwaite’s research explores Haiti’s sovereign debt in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution in her dissertation, “Empire of Debt: Haiti and France in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World.”

“With support from the Newcombe Foundation and its interdisciplinary focus, I look forward to deepening the ways in which I can bring my work to broad audiences,” Alterwaite says. “My hope is that this archivally grounded historical account of Haitian debt in a global context can speak to international activists, legislators, and policymakers who take the ethical ramifications of finance seriously.”

History department chair Sophia Rosenfeld says it’s no surprise that Alterwaite continues to win an extraordinary number of major external fellowships, including, now, the Newcombe.

“For her dissertation, she has taken on a crucial topic in 19th century Atlantic history—the massive debt that a newly independent Haiti owed to the French state—and she has managed both to find brand-new sources for understanding it and to generate new explanations that have real implications for thinking about sovereign debt and reparations for slavery today,” Rosenfeld says.

Scahill’s dissertation, “The gendered politics of religious authority in Thai Buddhism: Voice, embodiment, and sonic efficacy in the movement for female monastic ordination,” is based upon ethnographic fieldwork with three communities of female Buddhist monks (bhikkhunīs) in Thailand. Drawing on the fields of religious studies and music studies, her dissertation investigates the sonic practices bhikkhunīs employ to establish alternate channels of recognition, given that women’s ordination is not accepted at a national level.

“I am honored to have been selected as a 2024 Newcombe Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Fellow. The Fellowship will provide me with the resources and time I need to adequately engage with the stories and practices shared at bhikkhunī monasteries,” Scahill says. “I am truly grateful for this opportunity.”

Timothy Rommen, chair of the music department, says he’s unsurprised that Scahill’s “excellent” work continues to be recognized. 

“Katherine’s dissertation intervenes at the intersections of ethnomusicology, religious studies, and gender studies to explore what she calls efficacious chant. What makes her project so interesting and innovative is her recognition of a set of lacunae within the study of Buddhist chant,” he says. “While text, context, and religious labor have all been explored, very little has been written about the female monastics on which this dissertation is focused or on the role of ‘voice’ within their practice. Katherine zooms in on the ways that chant helps train monks to stabilize their own bodies while also making them aware of the body’s instability. We are all convinced that Katherine’s dissertation will make a signal contribution to several disciplines.”

Funding at the dissertation stage remains a vital way to support up-and-coming scholars. Since its creation in 1981, the Fellowship has supported more than 1,300 doctoral candidates with essential time and resources to complete their writing. Newcombe Fellows have gone on to be noted faculty at domestic and foreign institutions, leaders in their fields of study, Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, and more.

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Mom delivers baby in car hours before defending her Rutgers doctoral thesis

  • Updated: May. 08, 2024, 3:05 p.m. |
  • Published: May. 08, 2024, 11:30 a.m.

Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez

Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez delivered her son, Enzo, hours before defending her dissertation at the Rutgers-New Brunswick Graduate School of Education. Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

  • Tina Kelley | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Giving birth and defending a doctoral dissertation could easily be considered among the most stressful items on a bucket list. For Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez, it was all in a day’s work. One day’s work.

She even grabbed a shower in between.

On March 24, Brevard-Rodriguez, director of Aresty Research Center at Rutgers University, was finishing up preparations for her doctoral defense the next day. Eight months pregnant with her second child, she didn’t feel terrific, but she persisted.

She was trying to hone down to 20 minutes her remarks on “The Beauty Performances of Black College Women: A Narrative Inquiry Study Exploring the Realities of Race, Respectability, and Beauty Standards on a Historically White Campus.” The Zoom link had gone out to family, friends, and colleagues for the defense, scheduled for 1 p.m. the next day.

“Operation Dissertation before Baby,” as she called it, was a go.

But at 2:15 a.m. on March 25 her water broke, a month and a day early.

As the contractions came closer and closer, her wife drove her down the Garden State Parkway, trying to get to Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair before Baby Enzo showed up.

But the baby was faster than a speeding Maserati and arrived in the front seat at 5:55 a.m., after just three pushes. He weighed in at 5-pounds 12-ounces, 19 inches long, and in perfect health for a baby four weeks early.

“I did have to detail her car afterward,” the new mom said of her wife.

Brevard-Rodriguez was feeling so good after the birth that she decided against asking to reschedule her thesis defense.

“I had more than enough time to regroup, shower, eat and proceed with the dissertation,” she said. She had a quick nap, too. The doctors and nurses supported her decision and made sure she had access to reliable wifi at the hospital.

She gave her defense with a Rutgers background screen. When she learned she had passed, she dropped the fake background, and people could see Brevard-Rodriguez in her maternity bed, and Enzo in her wife’s arms.

“I said, ‘You guys missed the big news,’ and they just fell out,” said Brevard-Rodriguez, who waited for the reveal because she didn’t want extra sympathy from her dissertation committee.

Melina Mangin, chair of the Educational Theory, Policy & Administration Department at the Graduate School of Education, was astounded.

“Tamiah had delivered a flawless defense with zero indication that she had just given birth,” she said. “She really took the idea of productivity to the next level!”

Finishing her doctorate in education and having her last child were fitting 40th birthday presents to herself, Brevard-Rodriguez said. She turned 40 in November and returns to work in late August.

Tina Kelley

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

    Craft a convincing dissertation or thesis research proposal. Write a clear, compelling introduction chapter. Undertake a thorough review of the existing research and write up a literature review. Undertake your own research. Present and interpret your findings. Draw a conclusion and discuss the implications.

  2. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  3. How to Write a Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

    Dissertations typically include a literature review section or chapter. Create a list of books, articles, and other scholarly works early in the process, and continue to add to your list. Refer to the works cited to identify key literature. And take detailed notes to make the writing process easier.

  4. How to Write a Dissertation

    The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter). The most common dissertation structure in the sciences and social sciences includes: An introduction to your topic. A literature review that surveys relevant sources.

  5. What Is a Dissertation?

    Revised on 5 May 2022. A dissertation is a large research project undertaken at the end of a degree. It involves in-depth consideration of a problem or question chosen by the student. It is usually the largest (and final) piece of written work produced during a degree. The length and structure of a dissertation vary widely depending on the ...

  6. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  7. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George.Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process.It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to ...

  8. Dissertation Strategies

    Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues. Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

  9. How to Structure a Dissertation

    Table of Contents. Table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper's contents. Depending on the level of detail in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader the page number on which said information may be found at.

  10. Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

    Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started. The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working ...

  11. How to Write a Dissertation Proposal

    A dissertation proposal describes the research you want to do: what it's about, how you'll conduct it, and why it's worthwhile. You will probably have to write a proposal before starting your dissertation as an undergraduate or postgraduate student. A dissertation proposal should generally include: An introduction to your topic and aims

  12. Guide to Writing Your Thesis/Dissertation : Graduate School

    The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree. Formatting Requirement and Standards. The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole ...

  13. 7 steps to writing a dissertation

    Whether you're writing an undergraduate, Masters, or PhD dissertation, these seven steps can help you stay on track. 1. Choose your topic wisely. Selecting the right topic is the foundation of a successful dissertation. It is important to choose a topic that is: Relevant to your academic discipline and interests.

  14. How to Write a Dissertation

    Work a certain number of hours on your paper daily. Create a worksheet for your week. Work on your dissertation for time periods as brief as 45 minutes or less. Stick to the strategic dissertation timeline, so you don't have to do the catchup work. Meet your goals by prioritising your dissertation work.

  15. Dissertation

    The format of a dissertation may vary depending on the institution and field of study, but generally, it follows a similar structure: Title Page: This includes the title of the dissertation, the author's name, and the date of submission. Abstract: A brief summary of the dissertation's purpose, methods, and findings.

  16. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic. The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development ...

  17. How to tackle the PhD dissertation

    The PhD dissertation writing process is often lengthy and it is sometimes easy to forget why you started. In these moments, it can be helpful to think back to what got you excited about your research and scholarship in the first place. Remember it is not just the work but also the people who propelled you forward.

  18. Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

    8) Your dissertation will interfere with whatever else you have going on - a social life, sporting commitments, societies, other essay demands. Don't even try and give up biscuits for Lent, they ...

  19. Advice to faculty who are chairing their first dissertation (opinion)

    Decide, if in a co-chairing situation, who should be the first point of contact. Engaging in this conversation with your advisee shows that you are human and understand that, as two busy people, you can figure out how to work together. While it's important to have this discussion at the beginning of the dissertation process, you should ...

  20. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  21. Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Hybrid Workshop: Regular Session

    This combined workshop (registrants can attend in person or online) covers the submission process for format review and demonstrates how to use the automated templates to format MSU theses and dissertations to the requirements set forth in the Standards for Preparing Theses and Dissertations: 8th edition. These templates were designed to help an author organize and format their document with ...

  22. Four UW-Madison students receive Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation

    Her dissertation scrutinizes the intersectional roles of land access and gender in migration decisions and outcomes in Guatemala's western highlands. "In this context, how families leverage landholdings for migration is central to livelihoods, agrarian change, debt, and situated meanings of land," Rice said. ...

  23. Digitization Project Expands Access to Drexel Theses & Dissertations

    May 8, 2024. The Drexel University Libraries recently completed a project to digitize more than 6,000 graduate theses and dissertations that were previously available in print format only. While most of Drexel's recent theses and dissertations are available online through the Drexel Research Discovery portal, the University's research ...

  24. This mother delivered a baby and a PhD dissertation on the same day

    New Jersey mom Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez recounts the day she was working on her doctoral dissertation presentation from Rutgers University when she went into labor. Space trash crashed into a ...

  25. Dissertation layout and formatting

    Revised on February 20, 2019. The layout requirements for a dissertation are often determined by your supervisor or department. However, there are certain guidelines that are common to almost every program, such as including page numbers and a table of contents. If you are writing a paper in the MLA citation style, you can use our MLA format guide.

  26. Two Penn Ph.D. candidates awarded 2024 Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation

    Two University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. candidates in the School of Arts & Sciences have been named to the 2024 class of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, administered by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars.. The Newcombe Fellowship, funded by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, is the largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and ...

  27. Mom delivers baby in car hours before defending her Rutgers doctoral thesis

    Published: May. 08, 2024, 11:30 a.m. Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez delivered her son, Enzo, hours before defending her dissertation at the Rutgers-New Brunswick Graduate School of Education. Nick ...