A dissertation is lengthy piece of academic writing undertaken by a student as a part of his academic coursework usually to obtain a degree. All Ph.D. and M.Phil. degrees require the submission of an essay on a compulsory basis. Some universities and colleges in the US insist on bachelor’s dissertation too. While this is the formal understanding of PhD, for most of the students, academic life means endless wait to complete dissertation, perils of delay, blow-hot blow-cold relation with the supervisor and the perpetual hand to mouth condition because of lack of scholarship.
5 easy steps to write a dissertation
Frame a dissertation proposal
Framing a dissertation proposal if the most important task. It starts by
- Organizing your thoughts about what have been taught in class
- Framing a research question based on that
Rummage through your class notes, make a mental note of the main points touched upon by the teacher (you may use sticky notes or the digital ones that are available on your computer). Then compare the notes with the topic at hand and try to figure out whether they match or not. Once you know the main points, you have already half-won the battle. You can then simply elaborate upon each of the points and do your research accordingly.
Once you have done your research, you are now ready to formulate a research question. A research question is the central question of your dissertation which guides the rest of your research. You can modify, question or critique your dissertation question. It is best if you come up with the research questions after you have the research findings at your disposal.
Formulate a dissertation methodology
A dissertation methodology is the method which has been used to obtain your research findings and write your dissertation. In order to get your methodology just ask yourself the following question:
“How have you done your research?”
You can do your research by scientific experiments, theoretical observations, logical reasoning, conduct oral interviews, surveys, taking interviews etc. There are an endless numbers of ways to obtain your research findings. You have to be true to the methodology being used and follow it strictly.
Write the dissertation structure
Next in importance is the structure. A dissertation contains the following structure:
- An introduction
- Three chapters
- A conclusion
All the preliminary things like research question, abstract, literature review must come in the introduction. The next three chapters should be exclusively on the research findings. Research should be thorough and divided into different chapters. Each chapter should concentrate on a particular research theme. Finally all the main issues discussed should be neatly brought together in the conclusion.
Nail the style of dissertation writing
Even a well-researched dissertation can fail to fetch good grades if it is not well-written. Students who are in the field of humanities and social sciences are expected to write in a highly advanced prose style that should be free from proofing errors. On the other hand, those in highly technical disciplines like hard sciences or medicine are also expected to write, at least, correctly. Some subjects like economics and business contain a fair share of theoretical analysis too. Hence, adapting a good writing style cannot hurt. While you are writing your dissertation just keep in mind the following tips:
- Understand the content well
- Choose your words well
- Follow an easy but a formal academic style of writing.
- Even though academic style is preferred, try to avoid jargons
- Proof check and copyedit.
For further help on dissertation writing, consult our article on the same.
Know the art of citation and bibliography
Citation refers to the act of acknowledging names of previous writers and scholars whose works have been used directly or indirectly. However, academia behooves that there should be a particular style of citing your sources. Each professor or a college has specific requirements. In totality, there are four common styles:
- Harvard referencing style
- Chicago referencing style
The scope of the article does not allow us to deal with all the styles separately. Just follow the two points below:
1. Know your citation format:
There are various citation styles. Ask your college professors about their preference and follow it. If not, then follow either the Harvard or Chicago citation formats. Science students can use the APA (American Psychological Association) citation format, while humanities students can go for the MLA (Modern Languages Association) format.
2. Do not mix up the formats:
It is a serious offence to mix up citation formats. Suppose if you are using Harvard citation format, then include author’s name and date within the main body of the text. On other hand, if you are going with the Chicago style then use footnotes and bibliography and never in-text citations.
A bibliography is an alphabetical list of all the sources you have used in writing a dissertation.
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