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What Is A Dissertation and How To Write One In 12 Steps

Graduating after learning what is a dissertation and how to write one Learning what is a dissertation won’t matter until you enter a doctoral degree program. As one of the final steps to getting a Ph.D. degree, it’ll be the most important academic paper and the most challenging one to ever write in one’s academic career. In this blog, we’ll tell you the structure of a dissertation, tell you the dissertation definition, the proper dissertation format, how to find dissertation topics, and more!

Phd student conducting research in a library

What Is A Dissertation

Your undergraduate dissertation is different from a normal academic paper. Your Ph.D. dissertation will probably also be the longest one you’ll ever write with usual dissertations ranging from 100 and 300 pages according to The Grand Canyon University. When tasked with an essay, you are told what to write about but when it comes to dissertation writing, you get to choose the subject and are also required to make an oral presentation.

The word dissertation was first defined in 1651 as “an extended written treatment of a subject” according to the Royal Literary Fund. They also tell the origin of the word dissertation which comes from the Latin word “dissertare” which means “to debate”. And just like preparing for a normal debate, you must present mastery of the subject through research and presenting credible evidence.

Dissertations are the perfect final output because it is a test of a student’s knowledge and ability to make analyses based on their own research and then defend them. Through what is called the scholarly method, Ph.D. students are expected to do in-depth research, show accuracy in their data, and show investigatory skills as they discuss their chosen topic. One thing to remember when writing a dissertation is that original research doesn’t require you to make a new discovery or something that hasn’t been done in the past. Original research just means you’ve done it yourself.

Student on her way to get her doctoral degree at princeton university

Dissertation Vs Thesis

So what is a dissertation and how is it different from a thesis? Mainly the difference is the degree programs that require them. Master’s degree programs require a thesis and only doctoral degree programs require dissertations. A thesis is also relatively shorter at only 40 to 80 pages depending also on the topic. As we discussed at the very start, a dissertation is at least 100 pages.

Another main difference between the two is a thesis doesn’t require an oral defense and a dissertation does. The purpose of an oral defense is so a panel or committee can ask students questions about their study and challenge their research and investigatory skills. The oral defense is their final chance to justify their methodology choices and how they interpret the data that is presented.

Besides the difference between a thesis and a dissertation, they also share some similarities. Both writing assignments require a defense of the main stance of your topic and require students to use analytical reasoning and critical thinking. Both also require students to show mastery and expertise on their subject and require a lot of time for investigation and research. Most of all, students should be willing to make revisions based on the feedback of their professors, other students, and by the panel they will present the papers to.

Student writes her dissertation guide

Dissertation Writing Guide

At Homework Help Canada, we also believe in preparation before the actual writing stage. Here’s a 7-step guide to get you geared up and ready for the most challenging academic paper of your life.

1. Choosing the right topic

The usual first step to writing any academic paper is choosing your topic. Dr. Alex Patel, a learning development adviser from the University of Leicester’s Learning institute advises students to choose subjects that are meaningful, engaging, and relevant to your career goals. The best way to do this is to choose an idea that you are genuinely interested in because it’ll keep you motivated through this long writing and research process.

The best places to find inspiration for a good topic is through looking at course materials, academic journals, and even newspaper articles. It’s also best to consult your adviser throughout the process to ensure that you’re on the right path. They will be able to guide you on which methodology works best and advise you on what is achievable within your given timeline.

2. Knowing the right requirements

With anything required for school, whether it’s an exam or an academic paper, it’s imperative to read the instructions. Reading the instructions makes for fewer mistakes and understanding what is asked of you will make your path to completing it clearer. Make sure you are familiar with standard protocols in your academic institution, know the faculty’s ethical protocols, and use the correct referencing style guides. Other things you should take into consideration are what the usual academic paper in your discipline looks like, knowing the right word count required, and of course, when and where to submit your dissertation. On top of that, it will also benefit you to learn what is a dissertation structure, what usual source materials are used, how they are used, and the forms of analysis that are deemed important.

3. Having a clear end goal

After making your topic choice, a proposal is usually the precursor to the rest of the writing. It’s always best to consult with your adviser so you stay on the right track. The goal of your proposal is to show your dissertation’s purpose and how you intend on conducting your research. A proposal is an important step because you get to set the parameters of your research and know the scope and limitations of your dissertation. This step mentally prepares you as well for what you’re about to tackle and it’ll give your adviser the chance to make recommendations. Know that throughout your writing process, things are about to change like your title, and based on the data you’ll uncover, your hypothesis may or may not be proven.

To stay clear on your end goal, it’s advised that you do a lot of reading, researching, gathering enough data to analyze, structuring, drafting, proofreading, and finally printing and binding your dissertation.

4. Write as you research

When processing a lot of information at a given time, it’s best to start your writing progress as you gather the data. This saves you time because instead of just writing down notes, it’s automatically going into your dissertation only to be edited at a later time. You’ll even realize that as you start writing and it doesn’t make sense immediately, you’ll be understanding your topic and creating the dissertation simultaneously. The narrative, analysis, and interpretation of the study in its earliest stages can still be changed but when you begin writing as you research, you slowly build the framework with which you can either build on or take from.

As you write, make sure you’re also taking note of your sources and staying organized. It’s a rough draft, but you also want it to start being cohesive so stay on track!

5. Continue the quest for answers

In learning what is a dissertation, having a critical mindset is imperative. That goes for the data you gather and your thought process as you write. It’s also important to take a mental note of needing to explain to your readers’ certain details you as the author might overlook. Never make the assumption that something is common knowledge just because it is to you as the researcher. If researchers took shortcuts, we might never have the proper answers or facts to anything. Not being curious enough to find the actual truth is an easier way to just be done with writing your dissertation but you might not come up with the right hypothesis. You can’t fake your way into writing a dissertation because you can’t just make up claims without reasonable evidence and compelling arguments.

Dissertations aren’t the only required writing assignments you’ll be tasked with in graduate school. For more help, try out Homework Help Canada’s graduate school essay writing service.

6. Don’t skip editing

At some point in your academic career, you could have gotten away with not proofreading certain essays, especially for larger classes where your professor might not be cracking down on a missing oxford comma or one missing source. Your Ph.D. dissertation is held to the highest standards of academic integrity and should be a polished piece of writing that you would be proud of. To ensure that it is, you also have to allot yourself time just to read through the material you’ve written and really edit it down.

During the editing stage, you have to make sure you’re making clear distinctions between your claims and arguments and which existing theories and studies you’ve used to support them.

If you don’t have the time to edit yourself, Homework Help Canada has professional writers who can help you proofread and edit your work!

7. Relishing in your final output

Writing your dissertation will be challenging, that much is a given. If done right though, it’ll absolutely be one of your biggest academic achievements. If you follow this dissertation writing guide, regardless of the fear you might have and the challenges you will face along the way, you’ll still relish in the fact that you’ve written a dissertation and added value to your chosen discipline through proper research.

When all is said and done, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back and be proud of what you’ve achieved and created.

students writing on white board their dissertation outline

Making A Dissertation Outline

There are five distinct chapters that make up the body of a dissertation according to Antioch University. But unlike a regular essay or research paper, a dissertation is much more official in the sense that it has other parts like the table of contents and even a dedication page if you wish to add one. Here are all the parts that should be in your dissertation outline and what each part entails.

● Title or Cover Page

● Signature or Committee Page

● Copyright Page

● Abstract

● Dedication Page

● Acknowledgments Page

● Table of Contents

● List of Tables

● List of Figures

● Dissertation Body

● Chapter I: Introduction

● Background of the Problem

● Statement of the Problem

● Purpose of the Study

● Research Questions

● Significance of the Study

● Definition of Terms

● Assumptions, Limitations, & Delimitations

● Chapter II: Review of Related Literature

● Search Description

● Conceptual Framework / Theoretical Framework

● Review of Research

● Chapter III: Methodology

● Research Design

● Research Questions

● Setting (Qualitative)

● Participants (Qualitative)

● Population and Sample (Quantitative)

● Instrumentation (Quantitative)

● Data Collection

● Data Analysis

● Chapter IV: Presentation of Research

● Findings

● Chapter V: Summary, Implications, and Conclusions

● Summary of Findings

● Discussion

● Suggestions for Future Research

● Footnotes Page

● References Page

● Bibliography

● Appendix

Student prepares to write a dissertation

How To Write A Dissertation Step By Step

Learning how to write a dissertation is easily learnable with our step-by-step guide.

1. Picking The Right Topic

The first step to how to start a dissertation is choosing your topic. In some cases, your advisor might recommend certain topics that you can choose from. In the event that you must find one yourself, it’s best to read up on recently published work or journals in your field. The key is to look for holes in those studies that you can hopefully shed light on or even answer.

Your dissertation writing process will most likely not be done alone and with each step, you are welcome to set dates with your advisor to make sure you’re on the right track. Have a few topic proposals to discuss with your advisor. The tip here is feasibility. There are many areas and topics to discuss but they have to be researchable and the answers have to be discoverable through quantitative or qualitative research methods or both.

2. Conducting Preliminary Research

Think of your preliminary research as dipping your toes into a wide body of water that is also knowledge. You’ve got to do some reviewing in the form of reading archives, scholarly articles, and even running some tests. The point of this step is to find particular areas where you can further expand your research.

3. Reading Secondary Literature

Whatever topic you choose, one thing’s for sure, other academicians have written about it in the past and that should be one of your first clues when researching. Your dissertation will even contain a whole subsection on a review of related literature where you discuss what other authors and academics have written about and said about your chosen topic. It’ll be important to start here when researching to not make any redundant findings and to help build on what has already been laid out by others.

4. Writing A Research Proposal

To ensure that you’re on the right track, you’ll first have to present a research proposal and get an approval from your advisor before you begin writing your dissertation. This step is crucial so your advisor can also give you feedback. You also want to save time because the research process takes almost a whole term to complete. This step ensures that you don’t waste any time pursuing a moot topic.

5. Researching

In learning what is a dissertation, you’ll realize that your aim in writing is to create an original contribution to the larger body of knowledge within your field of study. In order to do this, a ton of research is necessary.

Depending on your academic discipline, research can take different forms so really make sure that you read up on a lot of data while simultaneously working with your advisor so they can steer you in the right direction.

There are plenty of research methods you can try like speed reading to get as much information as you can!

6. Looking at Samples of Dissertations

Looking through samples of dissertations will really idealize what this assignment means. Unlike any other research paper you’ve done in your academic career, you’ll realize that a dissertation is essentially like writing a book. In some instances, you would even be encouraged by your advisor to publish your dissertation online so that others can benefit from your study. Your dissertation could potentially be one of many sources that others could look to as secondary literature for their studies.

A student’s laptop showing partially done dissertation

7. The Writing Process

We’ve enumerated above what the outline of a dissertation looks like. You should know that the writing process is not exactly linear. The most important part to start on is the body of your dissertation. Other menial parts like the table of contents, dedication, etc., can be left for last. Ideally, you can also start easy by starting with the introduction by stating the problem and writing the purpose of the study and its significance to get the ball rolling. The most time you should spend writing is really the body where most of your data gathered from the research will be discussed.

8. Meeting With Your Advisor

Regular meetings with an advisor are normal when you begin the dissertation writing process. Your advisor will provide you with helpful feedback, identify research issues, and even bring up solutions.

9. Writing your Introduction and Conclusion

You might want to start learning how to start a dissertation introduction or how to start a dissertation conclusion, but it’s actually best to leave these two steps for last. You’ll never know the conclusion of your research until the very end so you might even have to reframe or restructure your theoretical framework. It’ll be best to have all your data analyzed before writing the final introduction and conclusion.

10. Editing

Editing your dissertation will go beyond checking for grammar and spelling errors. You’ll find that editing your draft will be very tedious considering the number of pages you’ll be proofreading. The main aim of editing is to ensure coherence in your arguments and make sure that your dissertation is readable and understandable by any reader.

It’s best to break down the editing process by doing it chapter by chapter. You’ll realize there are parts that are redundant and could use some clearing-up. Make sure you never miss this step.

11. Making Revisions

During the process of writing your dissertation, you could feel very isolated and your perspective could be skewed, biased, or too focused. It’s important to seek feedback not only from your advisor, but other members of the committee panel, and even have your dissertation peer-reviewed. The purpose of this is to allow other perspectives that you could have missed. Feedback from others is valuable because you can incorporate them to strengthen your dissertation.

12. Defending Your Dissertation

Your dissertation defense is the final step to passing. You get to present your findings, explain your methodologies, and share your study with a panel where they can question your dissertation so it’s best to be prepared.

More than thinking of your dissertation defense as an exam, it’s more closely related to a discussion. If you’ve done all your research and writing correctly, you should know your dissertation like the back of your hand and there will be no excuses as to why you won’t be able to answer the panel’s questions.

You must defend your dissertation with confidence and show mastery of the subject. Speaking skills might not be your strong suit, but you can definitely practice! Read our blog on how to improve your speaking skills to ace your dissertation defense!

Students listening to a lecturer

Get Dissertation Help From Homework Help Canada!

If you’ve ever wondered, “can someone help write my dissertation?”, that’s a resounding yes from Homework Help Canada. You can get Ph.D. dissertation help today from one of our writers who are MA and Ph.D. graduates. All you need to do is provide them a subject or your topic of choice and one of our professional writers will assist you during the writing process! This is a unique one-on-one opportunity to get support as you work towards getting your doctoral degree!

There’s also no need to worry because Homework Help Canada has written over 20,000 papers for students worldwide and we keep our customers’ personal information completely confidential. With such a long paper to write, this is definitely not the time to rely on AI writing websites, especially because professors now have the means to check if your papers were written by AI.

With Homework Help Canada’s wide range of services, you will no longer need to know what is a dissertation and you can allow us to help you instead. Check out our list of services to see what else Homework Help Canada can do for you today!