The clear definition is essentially a large piece of work at the end of a doctorate. However, a full dissertation meaning is a little different: it is an academic argument; a piece of scholarly writing that is based on some research or data that a scholar has done, during their studies. It is used to show that the student can take information and form a cohesive and sensible argument that addresses a question or hypothesis. As such, a dissertation should bring together all those skills that a student has learned while getting the degree. This includes research skills and methodological skills. It is helpful to define dissertation as a continuation of all those other assignments and essays that a student had to write throughout their education. This involves collecting data, synthesizing it, and putting it into academic form. It is also an ability for a student to explore their area of study.
What is a Proposal?
A dissertation proposal is a primary step in the drafting process. Your proposal sets the stage for the research that you’ve done. The proposal is like a table of contents for your research. The proposal will help you write the actual work and should be around 10-15 pages long depending on the length of the complete work assigned by your instructor. Prepare for your data collection and analysis to not go exactly how you planned it. Before embarking on a novel-length dissertation, take the time to make your proposal.
Proposal Outline and Length
Because the proposal is the first step, drafting and outlining it is crucial. Mostly, all proposals contain similar aspects. A proposal template would look something like this:
- 2-3 pages An Introduction and a Summary of significance (A quick recap of your topic. Highlight the focus of your paper and your research question.)
- 3-6 pages Methodology (How you plan to obtain data and how you will conduct your analysis. This section should reveal the resources needed and the amount of time dedicated to the project.)
- Aims and objectives (your hypothesis/what you plan to prove)
- 6-10 pages Literature review (Which works did you use to construct your research? Discuss literature that relates to the topic and was covered by other people in the field.)
- Research constraints (a disclaimer/what went wrong. Especially critical in a Ph.D. proposal as some might try to prove or disprove your work)
- 1-page Research timetable would outline core sections of the paper.
The following step is to gather information for each subheading. Keep in mind that the structure of your dissertation proposal always depends on the specific requirements of your course. Some courses stress that aims and objectives are a separate section in the dissertation proposal while they completely omit the methodology or the literature review section. Make sure to clarify this with your professor.
Related: How to Write a Research Proposal
Dissertation vs Thesis
The main difference is that a thesis is written at the end of a master’s program while a dissertation is written during doctoral study. A thesis could simply be a compilation of research while dissertation is an opportunity to contribute something new to your field. In a thesis, you research a topic and expand upon the subject for which you just got a master’s degree for. Also, a thesis is at least 100 pages in length while a doctoral dissertation is a lot longer because they include background research and other information which makes it at least twice as long as a thesis.
Read more: What is a thesis statement
Before drafting your dissertation, you should draft an outline. Here is a short format guide of your whole dissertation:
- Title Page
- Table of Contents
- List of Tables (if any)
- List of Abbreviations (if any) in alphabetical order
- Introduction (including your research question or hypothesis)
- Literature Review (how you set your research topic up and how it fits into the existing field of study.)
- Methodology (why you chose the methods you chose to answer the research question.)
- Findings (description and presentation of your data, evidence, or case study.)
- Discussion (the cumulation of your argument: literature, methodology, and findings to create synergy.
- Conclusions and recommendations (Reflect on the research study and include recommendations and final evaluation of the research. Do not include new ideas as they should go in the discussion.)
- Bibliography (a list in alphabetical order of all the external sources that you used to do your research)
- Appendices (such things as questionnaires, interview transcripts, pilot reports, detailed tables, etc.)
Before embarking on your dissertation writing process, it would be a smart decision to seek out a database and find other works in your field. Analyze it and see the structure of the sample. If you are not able to find a dissertation that is close to your field of study or would be helpful to you while writing your own, then you can order one online. That way, you’ll either have a ready-made custom dissertation to base your work off of, or a very well-done example of one that you can use for reference any time you want.
How To Cite
Depending on your prescribed citation format, the citation structure for dissertations is different.
- APA style:
- Structure: Last, F.M. (Date published). Title (Doctoral dissertation or Master’s thesis). Retrieved from [database name]. (Accession or Order no.)
- Example: Jancosko, E.A. (2018). Lord Byron’s influence on contemporary literature (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Jstor. (Accession No. 0503554980)
- MLA style:
- Structure: Last name, First Name. Title. Diss. Name of University, Year Published. Web. Date accessed.
- Example: Overturf, Timothy Silas. Investment banking practices in Humboldt County. Diss. Humboldt State University, 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2021.
What About the Lengh?
On average, a dissertation is a minimum of 21 pages and a maximum of 2000 pages long.
The average length ranges from 100 to 200 pages.
An abstract is a summary of the entire dissertation. It should necessarily give an overview of the research that you’ve done. The purpose of an abstract is to give the reader an idea of what the dissertation is about. Consider all the elements of your proposal and attempt to include them. Include your hypothesis and research question.
Defense: The defense is a significant milestone in the closure on your graduate career. There are three main steps to do before, during, and after your defense:
- Before: make sure you schedule everything in advance. Be ready to address any questions about your work. Follow all graduate school rules and deadlines.
- During: Prepare your presentation. Answer every question. Be patient during the defense. Be able to identify any weakness in your data collection process or research.
- After: Celebrate! Provide copies of your dissertation to your friends and colleagues.
Writing Advice From Our Professional Writer
If you’ve carefully followed the steps in this article and you have your outline sorted, and you've got a pile of research notes together, it's time to knuckle down and start writing. You don’t need to start from the beginning of your dissertation. My advice is to write your introduction for a paper like this last. It will be much easier when you know exactly how your argument has developed. Another piece of advice is to start on the part of your essay that you know you'll find easy and then use your outline to order them correctly. As you rapid-fire draft your essay, you will most likely need to conduct further research, so be prepared to expand your works cited as you write. Another valuable tip is to obtain a unique style of writing. In a longer piece like this, your writing style is crucial to effectively communicate your ideas to your audience. A well-planned and researched dissertation will not reach its full potential if it has poorly expressed ideas or unclear phrasing. Allowing plenty of time for writing will avoid this issue. Let yourself get creative and explore. Be prepared to work through multiple drafts, and refine your work each time and don’t forget to take long breaks between editing your dissertation.