How To Write A Dissertation: A Complete Guide

A dissertation is a lengthy academic paper required for earning an academic degree. Typically, students write dissertations towards the end of a program to demonstrate their knowledge and ability to contribute original research to their field. Whether a student earns a degree or not relies on the quality of the dissertation and its presentation.

Thus, it is one of the most challenging research papers to write for students. It demands considerable time, focus, and effort. While sharing similarities with standard research papers, dissertations hold additional elements not commonly found in other academic writings. 

To help you create a top-notch dissertation, we offer foundational guidance to assist you in writing a dissertation paper with confidence.

How To Write Dissertation: Step-to-Step Guide

1- Selecting the Right Topic

Choosing the right topic is essential for dissertations, especially at the doctoral level. You need to ensure that your research is not only important but you also have information to meet your page requirements. 

When deciding on a topic, aim to put your ideas in the form of a thesis statement or research question. A thesis statement is a single sentence that encloses the main point you’re trying to convey in a single sentence, while a research question simply poses an inquiry that your research aims to address.

2- Conduct Initial Research

After choosing your topic, start conducting some initial research to gain a solid understanding of its current status. You don’t need to fully address your research question at this stage, but by the end of this step, you should have a good idea of where to find relevant information.

While reviewing sources, make sure to take notes of any significant discoveries or prominent theories related to your topic. Write down any questions that arise for further exploration. In the meantime, start considering the structure of your dissertation; this will be helpful when drafting a research proposal.

3- Submit a Research Proposal

In more advanced dissertations, such as those required for doctoral programs, you might have to present a research proposal before starting your work. In this proposal, you have to outline your plans for the dissertation, explaining how you intend to tackle a research gap and the methodology you’ll employ. Your supervisor will then review the proposal and decide whether to approve or reject it based on its quality.

4- Conduct Main Research

Once you’ve completed your initial research and your proposal has been accepted, it’s time to start one of the most critical phases in dissertation writing: main research.

Your goal here is to look deeply into your topic, aiming to learn all the knowledge researchers have accumulated so far. It’s essential to clearly define the boundaries of your research gap so that you know precisely what aspects to explore or analyse.

You’ll also need to examine both primary sources (materials directly linked to an event, such as eyewitness accounts or raw experimental data) and secondary sources (materials derived from secondhand sources, like books interpreting historical events or analyses of raw data).

5- Create a Dissertation Outline

Creating a research paper outline can provide you with a framework for your dissertation prior to writing it. Although not a formal component of dissertations, an outline is immensely beneficial for an organisation. It allows you to rearrange topics, points, and evidence before committing them to paper.

Your dissertation outline should outline the key content of each core chapter (introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion). If you plan to include direct quotes or passages, indicate their location in your outline to streamline the writing process.

6- Drafting the Initial Version

Writing a dissertation can take a significant amount of time, whether it’s days, months, or even years. Prepare yourself for the long process ahead. If you’ve planned your outline well, writing the first draft is mainly about following your plan and expanding on your ideas.

The main body of your dissertation should be simple enough; focus on presenting your data or analysis step by step. Your research and findings will ultimately do the talking themselves.

Many students find writing the introduction challenging. Unlike other details, the introduction can be challenging as it requires thinking broadly and abstractly about your topic. Likewise, the conclusion of your research paper requires a broader treatment of the subject and can be more difficult to tackle.

7- Seek Guidance from Your Advisor

Your advisor is your go-to person throughout the dissertation writing journey. Feel free to reach out to them with any queries, and make it a point to keep them in the loop as you work on your initial draft.

Once you’ve finished your first draft, invite your advisor to review it. They can identify any potential issues or point you in a new direction for improvement. Don’t be shy about seeking dissertation help; supporting you is part of their role.

8- Seek Feedback

Apart from receiving feedback from your advisor, try reaching out to others for additional input on your work. 

It would be beneficial to have someone with expertise in your field provide a professional perspective, but anyone knowledgeable in dissertations can offer useful insights on how to improve yours. The more feedback you gather before finalising your draft, the more polished your dissertation will be.

9- Write The Final Version

Once you’ve gathered all your feedback, proceed to write the final draft, incorporating all the suggested changes and enhancements. 

While certain sections may remain unchanged, others might require to be rewritten completely. This is also a good opportunity to trim any content that isn’t directly relevant to your main topic. In the meantime, you may find it necessary to introduce entirely new sections to address any issues that were overlooked in the initial draft.

10- Edit and Proofread

The final step before submitting your dissertation is to thoroughly proofread and edit your dissertation. We suggest going through your dissertation multiple times, at least once, with a focus on identifying grammar errors or misspellings. You can also make use of an online spell-checker to catch any spelling mistakes and ensure accuracy.

11- Defend your dissertation

In certain programs, you’re required to give an oral presentation to a panel of experts on your dissertation topic. This is called a dissertation defence, as the panel will ask challenging questions to make sure your research and findings are reliable.

A dissertation defence can be a nerve-racking experience, not only because it involves public speaking but also because it influences whether you receive the degree. Try your best to stay calm and remind yourself that almost everyone with an advanced degree has gone through it—and if all goes well, you won’t have to do it again!

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