How to Write Your Best Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

When you get to the point of writing a dissertation, you’re clearly near the end of an important stage of your educational journey. The point of this paper is to showcase your skills and capacity to conduct research in your chosen discipline, and present the results through an original piece of content that will provide value for the academic and scientific community.

Before we get any further, let’s clarify one main thing: what is a dissertation?

This term is usually used to present the final result of independent work and research for an undergraduate program. A thesis, on the other hand, is crafted for the completion of a Master’s degree.

Dissertation — the final project that PhD candidates present before gaining their doctoral degree.

However, the term dissertation is also used for the final project that PhD candidates present before gaining their doctoral degree. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about an undergraduate or PhD dissertation; the form of the assignment is very similar, although the PhD project is much more serious.

This guide will be useful both for undergraduate and PhD students, who are working on their dissertation projects, as well as for students developing theses for MA programs.

It’s not easy to write the best dissertation.

Most candidates usually start with great enthusiasm, but this intimidating project can throw them to despair. The process of planning, research, and writing will be the longest and most complex challenge you’ve ever committed to. The end result will be very rewarding, but you might go through several obstacles to get to that point. These are some of the most common problems students have when writing their dissertations:

  • Procrastination. They think there is plenty of time to work on the project, and they keep delaying the starting point. This is a big problem, since these students usually find themselves in frantic stress when the deadline approaches.
  • Lack of research skills. Students who don’t have enough experience with academic writing think they just need to collect few relevant resources and extract relevant quotes from them. That’s far from the truth. You need to analyze those materials thoroughly and discuss them in the paper.
  • Lack of writing skills. The dissertation paper should follow the strict rules of academic writing. You should write in proper form, style, and language; and you should make sure to implement the correct citation guidelines.

Although the challenge seems overwhelming, the important thing is to start from the beginning and complete each stage step by step. We have a guide that will show you the right direction.

Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal

We already explained what a dissertation paper is, but what is a dissertation proposal?

As the term itself suggests, this is a proposal for the final dissertation project, which should persuade the committee members that you’re going to commit to a valuable, interesting, and complex questions. This is a shorter paper than the final dissertation, but it’s equally as important because this is the point when you’ll think of a significant question and you’ll set up a plan for assembling information and writing the paper. Even if the proposal is not mandatory in your university, you should still write it and discuss the points with your mentor.

These are the main points to pay attention to when wondering how to write a dissertation proposal:

Choose the theme, question, and title

- What problem is your dissertation going to tackle?

- Why is it a problem for the research, academic, and scientific community you’ll belong to?

- Why is it important for you to find a solution?

- How are you going to search for the answers?

All these questions are important for making the final commitment. Make sure to brainstorm and choose a theme that will be valuable, unique, and reasonable. You don’t want to end up with a too complex question that would trick you in a dead end. The question you choose should lead you to a testable hypothesis that you can prove with strong arguments.

Discuss few alternatives of the dissertation title with your mentor before you start writing the proposal.

Structure of the dissertation proposal

If you want to make the proposal convincing, its format has to be clean and easy to follow. Here are the points you should include in the proposal:

  • Dissertation title
  • Objectives — Aim for up to three objectives. If you’re too extensive at this point, it will seem like your plan doesn’t have a focus, so you’ll need to narrow it down.
  • Literature — Ask your mentor if you’re expected to list some specific references in this section. If that’s not the case, you’ll at least need to mention the areas of study, schools of thought, and other sources of information you’re going to use during the research stage.
  • Research — This is the main section, where you’ll elaborate the ideas of your research question. You will clearly outline the area of research.
  • Methodology — The dissertation project can be non-empirical (if the resources come from previously published projects) or empirical (if you collect data through questionnaires or other methods). In this section, you need to explain the methods of collecting data.
  • Potential outcomes — Where do you think you’ll end up after all the research and analyzing? Explain the outcome you expect to come down to.
  • Timeframe — Create a schedule that explains how you will manage all stages of dissertation writing within a specific timeframe.
  • List of references — Ask your mentor if you’re supposed to include this part, and he’ll provide you with the instructions.

Step 2: Conduct an effective research

The dissertation research stage is going to determine the overall development of your project. It has to be methodical and effective, since you don’t want to waste your time reading and analyzing irrelevant resources. Here are a few tips that will help you go through it:

  • Make a timeline for the research stage
  • Find the right places to look for sources
  • Organize your resources
The point of the research stage is to show you have read around the topic and you understand the previous research that has been conducted, but you’ve also understood its limitations.

Step 3: Write a mind-blowing dissertation

Now, you’re left with the most important stage of the dissertation writing process: composing the actual project, which will be the final product of all your efforts.

It’s surprising to see that many students have some level of confidence during the previous two stages of the process, but they crack when they realize they don’t really know how to write a dissertation. Remember: you already did a great job up to this point, so you have to proceed. Everything is easier when you have a plan.

  • Make an outline
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Manage your time
  • Write the first draft
Findings stage is the most important in the whole process of dissertation writing, since it showcases your intellectual capacity.

Step 4: Edit and Proofread the Dissertation like a Pro

Now that you’ve completed the first draft of the paper, you can relax. Don’t even think about dissertation editing as soon as you finish writing the last sentence. You need to take some time away from the project, so make sure to leave space of at least few days between the writing and editing stage. When you come back to it, you’ll be able to notice most of its flaws.

  • Start editing
  • Proofread
Editing is focused on the essence, and proofreading is focused on the form of the paper.

Step 5: Get feedback

Before you can submit the dissertation project to the committee, you need to get some feedback.

Start with a friend or colleague who has knowledge in this discipline. You need to trust this person, since the dissertation is your unique intellectual property. Ask about their opinions and suggestions for improvement.

Then, discuss the project with your mentor. He/she will point out any possible weak points, and you’ll get instructions on how to finalize the process before getting ready for the presentation.

The dissertation writing process is a great challenge, which not all students are capable to cope with. You need to keep in mind that you’ve come this far in your studies, so there is no other way to go but forward. Tackle the project stage by stage, and you’ll soon complete the most important paper in your whole educational journey.


Originally published at www.edugeeksclub.com.