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How to Write a Dissertation? It’s Easy If You Do It Smart

What is a dissertation

what is a dissertation

Officially, the following requirements are made for a dissertation:

  1. Scientific research is conducted personally by the author.
  2. The dissertation contains a set of new scientific results and regulations.
  3. The dissertation has internal unity.
  4. The dissertation demonstrates the personal contribution of the applicant to the development of a scientific problem.
  5. The new solutions proposed by the author are clearly outlined, reasoned, and critically correlated with previously known scientific developments.
  6. Information sources are indicated in the new author’s decisions, showing information gathered from them.
  7. The results of the dissertation research are submitted by the applicant for public defense.

A dissertation is a special scientific work that has nothing to do with a lecture, a propaganda report, a report of an official or public figure, an informational message, or a popular science book. A dissertation should be a truly scientific work, developing and enriching science in a particular branch of knowledge, and is a personal contribution of a scientist to science. Therefore, the author of a dissertation must control himself or herself in order not to get lost in the “non-dissertation” genre. Each type of work is vital, but in a certain area.

A dissertation is one of the most common types of scientific work. At the same time, this is a scientific work of a strictly defined genre, which, like any scientific or literary genre, has its own characteristics, rules, and requirements. As a scientific work, a dissertation should be logical, integral. The author must control himself or herself in order not to stray into another genre.

A dissertation is the work of one person, and is his or her personal contribution to science. A dissertation should be a scientific and qualified work, giving the scientific industry and science in general a certain increment of knowledge.

dissertation outline

This increment of knowledge may have a different form – the discovery of new things, the creation of a theoretical model, a significant improvement in existing knowledge, a refutation of existing conclusions, etc. In any case, a dissertation contains a set of new scientific results that are submitted to the defense in front of highly qualified specialists. These new scientific decisions should be deeply reasoned and critically evaluated based on a comparison with well-known scientific decisions. At the same time, the author should take into account the fact that new scientific results and previously accumulated scientific knowledge are in dialectical interaction, and that scientific research should provide scientific prediction.

While writing a dissertation, you should keep in mind that in science there can not only be new results, as science cannot reject and fail to take into account what has been created earlier. Only the totality of previous works and wholly new works opens the possibility of scientific progression. The most outstanding discoveries are based on the existing scientific foundation.

For example, in the studies of a difficult period of US history – the 1920s-1930s – all results can not be new. Of course, when writing a regular dissertation on this period, one cannot ignore the results of the research of predecessors. Therefore, it should be frankly said that in the new dissertation, particular results are not new. If the dissertation council assesses the dissertation as worthy of awarding the author with a scientific degree, then they are convinced that the applicant, starting from earlier conclusions, offered his or her own new conclusions which deserve high marks and an award.

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How to write a dissertation

How to choose a dissertation topic

how to choose a dissertation topic

The first impulse of any student is to write such a dissertation where many things would be said. If a student is interested in literature, his or her first impulse is to write a paper called “Literature of a New Time.” If a student can not narrow down a topic, at least he or she agrees to the topic of “literature of Italy of the post-war period.”

Such an approach is destructive. These broad topics frighten even scientists. For a twenty-year-old student such a feat is unreal. The young student will either create a banal list of names and add a selection of everyday quotes, or give something innovative and will be branded for gaps in research.

Graduates are always offended by a commission which did not understand anything, but the trouble is that the commission could not understand anything. This is why it is highly desirable for students to take something much more precise and narrow than the broad topic of “literature of Italy of the post-war period.” Such are the following themes: “literary avant-garde in Italy in the first half of the sixties,” or “similarities and differences in fiction by Alberto Savinio, Dino Buzzati, and Tommaso Landolfi.”

narrowing down the dissertation topic

This is how the review topic can be limited and acquire a normal and quite acceptable size. Remember the basic rule: the more specific the topic, the better it works and the more success it will achieve. Should the topic be historical or theoretical? This choice is not relevant to every discipline. For example, a dissertation in the history of mathematics, in the history of Romance languages, or in the history of German literature can only be historical. And in such specialties as composition in architecture, nuclear reactor physics, or comparative anatomy, theoretical or experimental papers are usually defended. But there are specialties, like theoretical philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology, aesthetics, philosophy of law, pedagogy, and international law, where papers of both theoretical and historical content are possible.

Should you choose a topic based on classic or modern material? For many disciplines, this question does not arise at all. Remember that a modern subject is always more difficult than a classic one. Of course, an old author’s work is read more slowly, and the bibliography on it will be longer. But it has already been selected by someone, so you can use ready-made lists of works.

Of course, we should not generalize too much, and it is possible that a talented novice scientist will be able to conduct a historical or stylistic analysis of modern literature with the same depth and philological accuracy as if he or she worked on a classic analysis. You will work on your dissertation at least half a year, and you should choose a topic that will be most interesting so that you will not give up in the middle of work.

You need to:

– Choose an extremely narrow topic – for example, check the list of our medical dissertation topics.
– Choose a topic close to the present time, so as not to recite an old bibliography, or should it be so rare a topic that almost nothing is written on it.
– Make sure that the material on the topic is available in the place where you live, and without much effort.

Dissertation topics

The choice of the topic of the dissertation research is important. The correct approach to the definition of the topic affects largely the effectiveness of the entire work of the author. When choosing a topic, its relevance, the novelty of the formulation of a scientific problem, and the needs of practice are taken into account. For example, let’s say you study law. In this case, you can choose one of the following dissertation topics:

  • Forensic characterization of drug smuggling by members of organized criminal groups.
  • Legal regulation of tax calculation.
  • The legal regime of finance in the field of electricity.
  • Financial and legal regulation of the banking sector.
  • Financial and legal regulation of forms of tax control in the USA.
  • USA legislation on joint-stock companies: features of the formation and preservation of authorized capital.
  • Legal features of the formation of supranational authority of the EU in the process of interaction of EU law and the national law of the country members.
  • End of preliminary investigation with indictment.
  • Derivative evidence and its sources in the US criminal process.
  • Indictment in the US criminal process.

If you study other disciplines, check out the following dissertation ideas:

  • Personal peculiarities of the readiness of psychology students for self-realization in future professional activities (psychology).
  • Ecological approach to the urban planning structure of the city (architecture).
  • Effect of succinic acid and its derivatives on the state of free radical processes in experimental animals (biology).
  • Molecular analysis of Hydra embryonic development by subtractive hybridization (biology).
  • Weather and atmospheric circulation patterns in the central polar basin (geography).
  • Child portraits in European painting of the 15th-16th centuries (history).
  • US Reaction to the Revolution in Mexico (history).
  • Arteriovenous malformations of the brain of supratentorial localization in children (clinic, diagnosis, surgical treatment) (medicine).
  • Individual differences in the structure and topography of the extracranial parts of the human vertebral arteries (anatomical and clinical x-ray examination) (medicine).
  • Extracurricular and sports work as a means of overcoming the social troubles of adolescents (pedagogy).

How to start a dissertation

First of all, you should start from collecting material. Never forget to distinguish sources and critical literature. Keep in mind: quite often in the studies there are excerpts from sources, but for you these are already secondary sources. The fact is that with the hasty and random selection of material, you can be close to mixing sources and critical literature.

It is essential to immediately identify the true subject of the study, because it is only on this basis the conclusion is made: the primary sources are available or unavailable to you. Having clarified the picture of the sources, determine also how to deal with critical literature. You will have to read everything on a given subject, that is, everything essential that exists.

When working with books, the primary source is considered to be the original publication or academic publication of the text. An anthology is not the original source. This is a mix of sources, suitable as a first approximation. However, to write a dissertation about anything means trying to find something new that others did not see, and an anthology is only what others saw.

Retellings made by other authors, even with long quotes, are not sources. At best, they can be used as secondary sources. There are many types of secondary sources. However, within the boundaries determined by the subject of the study, sources should be only primary. What is forbidden in the most absolute way is to quote the main author using the text cited by others. In general, in a serious work, nothing is quoted from citations.

When quoting from second hand, it is best to check the quotation also from another source and look carefully if the quotation, or fact, or retelling of someone’s judgment coincides with the second text in which it is also quoted. If it does not coincide, then you should doubt it and decide for yourself whether this quotation should be avoided or whether you will still have to go directly into the original document.

How to write a dissertation introduction

The main part of your dissertation is definitely the introduction. Often readers do not read further. This is bad, but it is the truth. Even if a person reads a dissertation to the end, his idea of work is formed in the introduction. An introduction can range from a fifth to a quarter of your work. In any case, it should occupy at least 15%. What should it contain?

  1. First of all, this is the justification of the topic: why write about it at all? What is interesting here, and why does the topic deserve attention? This is where the research question is formulated. Your task is to explain why this issue is important to deal with.
  2. Then the question arises: what is already known about this? What answers were given to it? Which parts of this question have other people tried to answer? You must present a basic position: this question is illuminated by such and such authors. It is not necessary to state their positions fully. You retell only that which relates specifically to your research question – do not retell the whole study.
  3. Some topics are very well studied. In this case, you will select multiple sources. If the topic is poorly studied, then it is advisable to cover everything. And then, having seen what has already been done, you understand what you have to do.
  4. And the third mandatory part of your introduction is an explanation of the structure of your work: how you break your main research question into smaller ones.

The rest is up to you.

dissertation introduction

How to write the main body of a dissertation

The main text of a dissertation usually consists of three parts: analytical, theoretical, and practical ones, which can be formed in 2-4 chapters. In the analytical part, a review of literary sources and research papers on the topic of the dissertation and their critical analysis is carried out, the range of insufficiently elaborated issues is determined, and research methods and their applicability to the solution of the set tasks are analyzed. The analytical part ends with conclusions about the need for further study of a particular issue.

In the theoretical section, the applicant presents a description of his or her development and methods of their implementation, and presents the course of the study. In the practical part, the results of the calculations are presented, the experiments are performed in accordance with the author’s developments, and the analysis is presented.

How to write a dissertation conclusion

In the conclusion, the results are usually listed. It is not necessary to waste time on trifles. If thirty small results are obtained, do not write about all thirty; write about three, but write deeply, about what you actually could achieve. You will demonstrate a good style if you write about unsolved problems in the conclusion. This shows the author’s culture.

dissertation conclusion

Structure of a dissertation

A classical dissertation usually has the following structure:

  1. Title page
  2. Table of contents (content)
  3. Introduction
  4. Main chapters
  5. Conclusion
  6. List of references
  7. Applications

In the introduction (10-15 pages) the author should formulate the urgency of the problem, reflect the degree of scientific elaboration of the problem being studied, review scientific sources on the research topic, and consider the current state of the chosen scientific direction which has already been done by other authors. The author should indicate that the question is still unclear and therefore requires further investigation in the context of the dissertation.

The logical conclusion of the review should be the definition of the goal, the object and subject of research, and the formulation of a working hypothesis (which was supposed to be obtained as a result of the study). Further, the research methodology is formulated and the source base is determined, with the help of which the main statements to be defended will be justified. In a number of dissertation councils, scientific novelty, as a result of research, as well as approbation of research results, the practical and theoretical significance of a dissertation are reflected in the author’s abstract.

The main takeaway: the title of the dissertation chapters should reflect the content of the object of study and reveal the essence of the object of study! Ideally, one task should be presented in one subsection of the chapter. The number of chapters is determined on the basis of the logic of a dissertation.

dissertation structure

Dissertation chapters

  • Chapter 1 (30-50 pages) as a rule reflects the theoretical and methodological foundations of the analysis of the problem under investigation. An author has his or her own theoretical structure, vision of the problem, and methodological approaches that he/she should relate in this chapter with the already existing theory and methodology to substantiate the author’s approach, which allowed him/her to claim scientific novelty. For a positive perception in accordance with the objectives formulated, it is advisable to divide the chapter into subsections (15-20 pages).
  • Chapter 2 (60-90 pages) reflects the study in accordance with the author’s concept, a statement of his or her own research results. It often contains the tables with the data obtained (not the original, but already processed), drawings, summarizing or illustrating the results, and the explanation of the author about data obtained. The generalization of the obtained results is carried out, which has two main objectives.
  • First, it is necessary to compare the data obtained by you with the results of research by other authors, and secondly, having previously studied modern scientific concepts, determine from the perspective of which of them your data can be explained (or which of them fit your results). If you have done extensive research using serious modern techniques, and your results do not fit into or contradict any of the well-known theories, and if you are convinced that you can believe the obtained data, then your dissertation is of good quality.
  • The conclusion usually consists of 10-15 pages. The number of conclusions in a dissertation should correspond to the number of tasks (ideally, it should to be a solution to these problems). However, in practice this is a rare thing. Two conclusions can correspond to one task, but more rarely, the conclusions correspond a bit to the tasks set. Inconsistencies of conclusions to the tasks should be avoided. If the conclusions do not correspond to the tasks at all, regarding the change of the tasks, no one will notice that earlier, when justifying the choice of the topic, they were different.
  • References are drawn up according to the format style. This is usually no less than 100 sources, but no more than 600, but in dissertations on technical specialties, less sources are used.
  • The applications include the table, schemes for organizing the experiment, samples of questionnaires if used, and tests (if they are developed by you) if they were not included in the main text. Each section of the application is assigned a number (1, 2, 3, etc.).

Dissertation Format

Dissertation format

The dissertation must meet the requirements for work to be printed. When writing a dissertation, the author is required to provide references to the author and the source from which he or she borrows materials or individual results. When using in a dissertation ideas and developments belonging to the co-authors, collectively with whom scientific works were written, an author must note this in a dissertation.

The margins of a dissertation should be one and a half. The font is Times New Roman, font size is 12 points (though this can vary depending on requirements). The saturation of letters and signs should be equal within the line, page, and the whole dissertation. The text is placed on one side of the sheet. The volume of the dissertation is not specified, but is considered to be quite sufficient if the PhD dissertation contains approximately 120-150 pages (the recommended volume is 100-130 pages), and the doctoral dissertation is 300-350 pages.

Page numbering is done in series. All pages of the dissertation are numbered in series from the title page to the last page. On the title page the number “1” is not placed, on the next page the number “2” is placed, etc. The sequence number is put in the upper right corner of the page field, without any additional characters (dashes, dots).

In order to understand all features of the format, you need to use a dissertation format sample that you can get from your supervisor.

If you need to insert citations for your dissertation in certain format, use online citation generators like

Dissertation examples

Dissertation examples can be rather helpful if you don’t know where to start, this works with any other paper type – no matter whether you write a paper yourself, or order an essay. For example, you need to write a dissertation on the topic “development of organizational schemes and adaptive strategies for the integrated development of regional mortgages.” In this case, your introduction will be: “The relevance of the research topic is due to the fact that increasing the availability of residential and commercial real estate meets the vital interests of many of our citizens …”

If you write a dissertation in pedagogy and your topic is “modern technologies of civil patriotic education,” the title of the main first chapter may be “Conceptual components of civil patriotic education” and it will start in the following way: “Social and political changes occurring in modern society give particular relevance to civil patriotic education …”

No matter what subject you write a dissertation in, your conclusion may start as follows: “The study allows us to formulate the following conclusions …” It may end with the following sentence: “Thus, the analysis of the research results allows us to consider the goal of the research achieved and the hypothesis proved.”

On our site, you can also find more samples like a dissertation chapter sample on psychology.

Besides, you can check over published dissertations in various databases. Searching works by subject and date will allow you to find ideas for prospective work, define gaps, and great examples to follow. Some access may be provided by your university or college, others give access to any user.

Dissertation writing FAQ

  • Are two months enough to write a dissertation?

Dissertations are no easy task. Students must do a considerable amount of research and formulate their findings in a manner that will be easily accepted by professors. Finding the time to write in between classes, internships, and work is even more difficult. Two months is a critically small amount of time to write a quality dissertation, but it is possible. If you want to conduct high-quality research and write a high-quality dissertation without sacrificing all of your free time, then you may need three or four months.

  • How do I start my dissertation?

The dissertation is the culmination of years of studying and research and something that will set you apart from your peers when you are looking for a job. Firstly, you should develop an outline. It should contain the aim, objectives, literature review (here, you should compare your topic with the findings of other researchers), methods results, discussions and conclusions, and introduction (the first part of the dissertation, where you introduce your issue).

After that, you will need to conduct an in-depth study of the chosen topic and select suitable sources and literature. It is critically important to become familiar with the issue because you must be as confident as possible in each proposed thesis.

  • What is the format of a dissertation?

A dissertation is a document submitted to fulfill the requirements for an academic degree or professional qualification. A dissertation consists of a properly structured and well-referenced argument. It typically attempts to improve upon existing knowledge in the field in some significant way. The abstract summarizes the idea, while the main body of the text elaborates on the points made in the abstract.

The introduction lays out the background and motivation for the work. The methods section describes how the data set was assembled, establishes its credibility, and provides a detailed account of measured variables. The results section describes the statistical analysis performed on data gathered from the methods section and presents the findings and conclusions.

  • What is the difference between an essay and a dissertation?

The amount of work applied to writing determines the difference between an essay and a dissertation. A dissertation is a very long document, usually addressing a specific research question. In the process of dissertation writing, the writer often has to conduct much research to acquire enough credible sources to support their position on the topic. The graduate student also has to cite sources properly and must also research how to cite sources to avoid plagiarizing any information. Academic writing is no simple task; you will need all your knowledge in order to do your own research and write a quality dissertation.

  • How long is a dissertation for a Ph.D.?

A doctoral dissertation is extensive scientific work required to complete a doctoral program successfully. The dissertation comprises a considerable research process conducted by the candidate under the supervision of a Ph.D. supervisor. Many universities provide an option to select dissertation topics in various fields of study.

A doctoral dissertation can take anywhere between three to five years to be completed, depending on the choice of the dissertation topic, availability of literature and resources, methodology, and the timing of submission. Ph.D. dissertations may vary from case to case since there are different types of dissertations. A typical dissertation may be up to 150-200 pages (more or less, depending on the field of study).

  • How to choose relevant literature for a dissertation?

The literature review or methodology chapter is an obligatory part of any dissertation. It is imperative when it comes to a dissertation about social sciences. It is hard to choose the relevant literature for the dissertation due to the large number of sources available and the necessity to show that you know your subject. A dissertation is a scientific work that requires you to conduct an independent study and collect information to support your hypothesis.

The main aim is to research, analyze, and present comprehensive scientific material on the topic. The literature is the basis of the work. Therefore, it has to be correct: relevant, up to date, and directly connected with the dissertation topic. The selection of literature for the dissertation plays a paramount role in the dissertation writing process.

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