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Dissertation Writing Guide

Why Did We Write This Guide?

Writing a dissertation is the final step towards earning a PhD degree. It is the culmination of years of hard work, research and planning. And yet the percentage of successful dissertation submission is going down each and every year. Several students drop out in the first year of their PhD course. Many others procrastinate and submit their dissertations much later than expected. Yet few others drop the idea in the last minute. Following our guide helps to complete your dissertation on time. It gives you a complete list of do’s and don’ts and the hurdles you are likely to encounter while writing your dissertation. So read on.

Who is this guide for?

We have written this for all the PhD students who need a bit of dissertation help. Our dissertation writing experts, however, insist that this guide would be suitable for all ages of students in higher academia. It can also be written for those seeking assignment help, essay help or coursework on a particular subject.

How to use this guide for dissertation writing?

This dissertation writing guide is a user-friendly manual for all PhD students or the students in higher academia. It covers all the aspects of dissertation writing: research question, research concept paper, chapters, bibliography and references. Each section relates to a particular theme. It tells you what to do and how to go about it. It warns you against the possible impediments which you can face and how to overcome them, should you face one. So read on…

What is a dissertation?

Students seeking dissertation writing help is no stranger to the concept. However, a brief recapitulation might not be out of place.
A dissertation is lengthy piece of formal writing, written by a student in order to fulfill the requirements necessary for a PhD degree.

WHY IS A DISSERTATION SO IMPORTANT?

A dissertation is the most important body of work you have to compose in your entire academic lifetime. There are many reasons why writing a dissertation is paramount; and these reasons are why universities have made dissertation an indispensible part of their syllabus. The factors have been discussed below:

  • A dissertation reveals your capacity and skills as a researcher
  • This type of assignment adds to your final grades and has the power of affecting your CGPA
  • A dissertation helps in demonstrating whether you posses certain abilities. It helps display whether you’re able to identify your own area of interest, whether you can carry out extensive research on the topic you have chosen, whether you can express yourself clearly through your write-up and whether you have the skills to execute this mammoth task on your own
  • A dissertation helps you to prepare for your career, and a well-written dissertation can land you a really good job
  • A dissertation is a way of testing your knowledge and your grasp of the subject matter
  • Dissertations also have a role to play in the pursuing of higher studies and can determine whether you will get admission in the university of your choice

All in all, a dissertation is one type of assignment that cannot be ignored if you want to have bright future prospects – whether academically or in relation to your career

What are the main parts of a dissertation?

Let us begin by deconstructing a dissertation. What are the main parts of a dissertation? What to include and what not to include?
A dissertation as we mentioned before is a formal piece of writing of considerable length which consists of the following parts:

1. Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of the entire dissertation. It consists of the research question along with chapter outlines and the conclusion. This is the first thing that a person is going to read in your dissertation so write it well.

2. Research question

The next important component is the research question. It is the fundamental question that defines your research and forms the crux of the research. This should come in the introduction; preferably in a separate section. Additionally this portion should be written well since people would be drawn towards the rest of the dissertation by your research question. The stronger the question is, the likelier it is to evoke curiosity.

3. Literature review

Another equally important part is to give an overview of all the existing research work done on the subject. This is crucial because it serves two purposes: firstly, it lets your dissertation committee know that you have a good grip on the existing literature on the subject and the questions you should be asking. Secondly, it gives a holistic perspective to the students on the topic of your research and helps them to place your research within larger area of study.

4. Chapters

Chapters form the main pillars of your dissertation. A well written dissertation neatly divided into five or more chapters is your best bet. Anything less than three is too short and anything more than five is bit too lengthy. Five chapters seem perfect. Each chapter should concentrate on a particular topic and should be written in a manner so that it can make for an independent reading.

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5. Bibliography

Many students think bibliography an unnecessary imposition on the student community already reeling under the pressure of writing a dissertation. A bibliography is a tabular list of the names of the authors who have been consulted by a student while writing the dissertation. All the sources of direct and indirect influences should be mentioned. Although it might seem like an imposition, it is important that you write full length bibliography.
Let’s guide you on how each component of the dissertation should be framed if you are composing a 10000-word long dissertation. Here is a standard dissertation framework.

Proposed Title of the Dissertation

Basic components Proposed Distribution of Word (%) Total Word Count
Abstract    

Chapter 1:Introduction

Research Aim

Research Objectives

10% 1000 Words

Chapter 2:Literature
Review

25% 2500 Words

Chapter 3:Research
Methodology

Research Approach

Research Design

Data Collection
Procedure

Data Sources:
Primary and Secondary
Or Both

Qualitative:Specific
Model{Thematic and
Interview etc.}

Quantitative:Specific
model{Regression,
ANOVA, T test,Z test,etc}
Or Both

Population and Sample:
Sampling Technique:
please specify}

Sample Size:
{Please specify}

20% 2000 Words

Chapter 4:Analysis

30% 3000

Chapter 5:Conclusion

15% 1500

References

{Count and Style}

   

Appendix

Transcript

Data

Ethical Form

   

Now let us understand the finer aspects of each component of the dissertation.

How to hunt for dissertation topic?

The first thing that you will need for writing a dissertation is an interesting topic to work upon. Students in grad schools spent a large part of their PhD coursework flitting from one topic to another. Others drop the very idea of doing a research. Many change their supervisors midway because of the changes done on the dissertation topic. All these have dreadful consequences for the dissertation project as a whole. Here are 10 killer tips on how to choose a dissertation topic, how to stick to that topic and what not to do while choosing a topic.

  • Relevance is the key. Whether you are choosing on your own or are dependent on the supervisor while choosing a topic, it is advised that your topic should be relevant. Relevance should be judged in terms of the contribution that the research work can make to the broader field of study. You should be up to date to the current developments in your fields. This is particularly true in the field of medicine, genetics, microbiology, IT and engineering.
  • Your research should attract funding. All researchers know the pain one has to endure while finding financial resources for a research project. As such try that the topic of your research should be such that it would automatically attract funding. Cutting-edge research work is likely to attract more funding. Projects on cancer research, HIV, genetics and stem cell are likely to attract both academic and corporate funding.
  • Your topic should not overlap exactly with your peers or any other research works currently being undertaken. This devalues the novelty of your research work.
  • Select your topic in consultation with your supervisor. Your supervisor should be well aware of the field of research you are undertaking. This is due to the fact that selection of the supervisor should be based on a large extent on the topic chosen.
  • Your supervisor might help you in finding a suitable research topic. Always take his or her help. He or she should be well aware of the current research trends and might suggest a word or two on possible research subjects.
  • Alternatively, you can attend seminar, workshops, graduate courses, summer schools and internships to come up with possible research ideas. In higher academia, these are the areas where ideas germinate. You would be talking to other academicians, learning about their research work and getting inspired. Famous astrophysicist Steven Hawking got the idea of his dissertation from a lecture on Black Holes by the famous English Mathematical physicist Roger Penrose.
  • Talking to your fiends can help too. You can have brainstorming sessions where each one of you can come up with an informal presentation on a particular research topic. Alternatively, you can join a reading circle or a student group which can help you to come up with research topic.
  • You should never choose a topic which is outdated, overworked or entirely irrelevant. Your committee is not likely to pass it. Further, you are unlikely to get any kind of research funding for your topic.
  • Do not forget to approve your dissertation topic by committee and your supervisor formally.
  • Finally do not delay. One cannot harp this point more. The more you spend on searching for a topic the lesser time you have for finishing the research work. Our advice is to find a topic as quickly as possible and get down working.

How to formulate a research question

A research question defines your research. The stronger the research question is the better it is. It shows that you have quite a hold over the existing literature and a good grasp over the research questions which have been previously asked by the scholars in your field. Here is a list of 5 things that you should keep in mind while formulating a research question:

  • A strong research proposal must past the “so what” test. This means how important your research is to the larger field of research. How relevant it is to the contemporary world and how is it going to benefit your research field. So if you researching on stem cell therapy, then you must justify your research by suggesting how your research is going to find a cure for people suffering from terminal diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS.
  • Think whether your research question is going to find you funding or not. This again is related to the relevance of your research project. You are unlikely to find any funding if your research question is irrelevant and outdated.
  • Keep your research question focused and narrow. So if you are researching on substance abuse then instead of asking how substance abuse occurs, ask what is the relationship between early childhood experiences and substance abuse in later years.
  • Always think of areas of research which have not been touched upon instead of focusing on areas which have already been done to death.
  • Finally, do not forget to mention the scope and limitations of your research. It is understandable that you would not be able to accommodate all the research themes. So try to be realistic and set research goals which would be easily achievable.

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What are the chief research methodologies?

The process used to collect information and data for the purpose of writing a dissertation is called dissertation research methodology. It consists of a number of processes. Here are the 5 top research methods.

Interviews

An interview is a conversation between two persons (an interviewer and an interviewee) in which questions are asked in order to get information for research purposes. It is quite a popular method for getting qualitative information. It is common in social sciences, marketing and psychology. There are many types of interviews: formal and informal; open and close ended etc. In formal interviews, the same set of questions is asked to everyone. In an informal interview, the style is conversational. In an open-ended interview, questions are deliberately kept broad and open-ended to elicit responses that can be analyzed more cogently. On the other hand, fixed and closed interviews are based on a set of pre-determined question and answers where the interviewer has to choose one of the answers given.

Historical research

This mode of qualitative research is quite popular in history. There are four key sources for carrying out this kind of information:

  • Archival sources or old historical documents which are preserved in the archives and the museums
  • Secondary sources which include books and journal articles
  • Governmental reports like census data etc
  • And literary sources like autobiographies, memoirs and recollections.

Survey

Among all the methodologies of quantitative research, survey is the most important. Statistical surveys are undertaken to reveal quantitative results about populations. Some examples of surveys are census, polls and market research analysis.

Case study

Being a part of qualitative research methodology, a case study is a research methodology where theories are applied in real life case scenarios in order to examine whether these theories have validity or not. It is quite a popular methodology in social sciences. However, now-a-days, it is majorly used in law and business. In law, a student is given a situation involving a legal dispute and he is asked to come up with a suitable legal outcome of the dispute. On the other hand, a business case study involves a real or a fictive situation of a business enterprise and the student is asked to come up with some business strategies which would help the company to come out of this situation.

Theoretical analysis

This method is quite common for theoretical subjects like philosophy, English, comparative literature, cultural studies, film studies, gender and queer studies etc. Basically, in this method, we try to apply high philosophical theories to literature, cinema, drama and contemporary situations, not just as formulas but as critical exercises which would help us to question given assumptions about our human society.

How to write chapters for your dissertation?

Next, we move on to writing your chapters. They form the main pillars of your dissertation. They make up the main body of your dissertation and you would be judged on the basis of your chapters. Do keep in mind the following tips while writing your chapters.
1. There should be a minimum of five chapters including introduction and conclusion. Anything less than five is unacceptable in a dissertation. On the other hand, a dissertation which runs into several unnecessary chapters is unlikely to impress your dissertation committee either.
2. Next, let’s talk about research themes and how to organize them. It is possible that you would be dealing with multiple themes. Do not cram them into one or two chapters. Try to divide it into several small chapters, each dedicated to a particular research theme. Here is an example:
Suppose your research theme is the banking practices of large global corporations and how they affect poor third world nations then try to divide this into three separate chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Global financial institutions like IMF and the World Bank
  • Chapter 2: Financial policies of international banks like Citibank, American Express and how they try to arm-twist poor countries to give them unethical tax-cuts which augment their profit.
  • Chapter 3: Chronic poverty of third world nations and how they are forced to accept the terms and conditions of the big banks.

3. Try to keep the chapters short and compact. Inordinate length of chapters might put your dissertation committee off.
4. Finally, your writing style should be simple yet effective. Your readers should enjoy what you have written.

How to do citations and bibliography?

Both require special skills and technique. Citations are acknowledgements of references which you have used in the course of writing your dissertation. A bibliography is a tabular list of the names of the author and their books which you have used. Both are necessary for your research.
Citations: There are four ways to cite your sources. They are dictated by various educational institutions. They are APA, MLA, Harvard and Chicago.

  • Harvard follows in-text citation which is parenthetical in nature. So the name of the author and year of publication should come in the text within parenthesis. Here is an example:
    John Williams: Finance Accounting, New York, 2001
    According to Harvard style, it should be written like this:
    John Williams, 2001.
  • Chicago style follows end text citations. They are either written as footnotes or as endnotes. Here is an example:
    Porter Stephen, Principles of Advanced Accounting, Minnesota, 1989.
    According to Chicago style, it should be written in the following manner:
    Porter Stephen, Principles of Advanced Accounting, Minnesota, 1989.
  • APA referencing is the style followed by American Psychological Association. It is followed in science subjects and is more or less the same as other in-text citation styles.
  • Finally, MLA referencing is followed in all humanities based subjects. It simply states the author’s name along with page number. So if the reference is the following:
    John Hamilton, Introduction to Literary Theory, London 1996
    Then simply write,
    (Hamilton, p. 26)
Bibliography

It is the final step of a dissertation. It lists all the references you have used in an alphabetical order. To make it neat and clean, you can further divide them into books, journals and internet resources.

Writing a dissertation: A recapitulation

  • Topic is supremely important. The more interesting your topic is the more likely you are to find a supervisor and funding.
  • Try to formulate a strong research question. It should show a good grasp over your field of study.
  • Your research chapters should be five in number.
  • Each chapter should concentrate on a particular research theme.
  • Writing style should be clear and simple.
  • Do not forget to cite all your references.
  • Do a thorough proofreading and copy-editing to make your dissertation error-free.
  • Finally, remember that your dissertation is the final step towards getting a PhD degree. Writing a successful dissertation would ensure a thriving career in the field of higher academia. So write it well.

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