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How to Write a Dissertation – A Few Suggestions

February 25, 2015 - Posted to How to: Writing Dissertation

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So, you’re a little nervous. You’ve never written a dissertation before. But there are some steps you can take that will help you learn how to write a dissertation and make the entire process easier for yourself.

The Proposal

Once you have your research question approved by your advisor, you will need to prepare a proposal for your committee. If you don’t know how to write a dissertation proposal, ask to see some samples. The details may vary among departments and institutions, but in general, they will all contain the same things

  • An introduction that presents your research question
  • A short summary of the preliminary research you have done that relates specifically to your question.
  • An explanation of your objectives – what you hope to learn and to contribute to your field by your research
  • Your methodology – how you intend to carry out your research

The Internet is a great source of explanation too. You can search by the keywords, “how to write a dissertation proposal sample” and you get pages of documents. You might even try searching for proposal samples in your field.

The Literature Review

You’ve written lots of research papers, so you know “the drill.” But the review for the dissertation is just a bit different. You will be summarizing the research of others and reporting it – you will not really be evaluating it other than to show its relevance to your research. This chapter should include the most current and most relevant literature, so prepare to be a bit frustrated as your pour over literature that ultimately you cannot really use – it’s common.

The Methodology

This chapter includes the design that you spoke to in your proposal. The difference is that now you have completed your study and are presenting the data gathered. You must thoroughly explain your design, procedures and instruments as well.

Results and Discussion

This is where the statistical analysis comes in, if you have conducted a traditional study. You must show a statistical significance in order to demonstrate that your research question has been answered. Many students have difficulty with this chapter, and it is common to consult with a statistician who can manipulate the data correctly and provide the appropriate graphics.

The Conclusion

You may or may not have to have a separate conclusion chapter, and, if not, your conclusions are placed in the previous chapter. Concluding remarks should summarize the results of your research and speak to how what you have done may inform future research, perhaps based upon the limitations of what you have done.

A Few More Thoughts

This piece is just a short synopsis of how to write dissertation works, and is by no means meant to be a detailed guideline. As well, the nature of dissertations themselves is evolving, and not all doctoral candidates will produce one that has a traditional research design. For example, many business schools now accept scholarly case studies, and, in some social science fields, other dissertation structures are also allowed. This evolution is good for academia, because there are varied ways in which a doctoral student should be able to demonstrate his/her mastery of scholarly investigation. The most important step for the student is to identify the topic and research and then focus on how to write dissertation proposal pieces that will impress a committee enough to allow a unique investigatory activity.

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