Dissertation help for PhD students: Practical tips

Writing your PhD dissertation or thesis is enough to leave any student in despair at times. Of course you expect it to be hard work and to challenge your intellectual abilities. But if you’re really struggling, seeking dissertation help is a very sensible solution; you can find useful dissertation services reviews online to help you choose a writing company.

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What are typical problems when writing a dissertation?

· Finding your reading list daunting

At the beginning, you’ll have a long list of texts and sources you want to look at, some of which will be recommended by your supervisor, and others from your own initial reading. But remember that while you work on your thesis, you’ll come across other sources to add to your list. So the length of your reading list can quickly become intimidating.

What should you do? Don’t try to read everything in the first few months. Begin with the books that will help you start to flesh out your thesis. It may also help to categorise your reading list, so that you can keep it organised.

At some point, you will have to stop reading. Although it’s tempting to keep pursuing more sources, if you haven’t looked at a text after years of research on the subject then leave it be. You can always go back to the topic and do additional research later on for a paper.

· Sticking to a hypothesis and not being flexible

When you begin your research, you will probably have a good idea of what your hypothesis will be. That’s helpful, otherwise you will be lost and won’t know where to start! But if you are rigidly determined to stick to that, no matter what happens during the course of your research, there is a danger that your thesis won’t make sense.

Flexibility is essential, as you may come across a source that changes the direction of your research or directly contradicts your thesis. A candidate who insists on maintaining a thesis without adequately justifying that thesis is not going to succeed.

· … or not having your hypothesis worked out

If you don’t have your basic hypothesis worked out, however, where is your research going to start? You will end up flailing about in search of a focus to your research, and probably will waste time on irrelevant reading. Although three or four years may seem a long time at the beginning, you need to spend your time wisely, so don’t lose precious months while you wander down the wrong path.

· Your focus is too broad

Many doctoral candidates make the mistake of proposing a topic that is far too wide. Let’s say you want to research feminist literature. That’s a very wide field. Your supervisor will advise you to narrow it down. You then suggest 19th-century American feminist writers. Still too wide — lots of people have written on this, and at doctoral level you need to focus on a very narrow aspect of your topic that no-one else has yet looked at. What about picking a country that hasn’t been widely covered? Perhaps African literature. And so on, until you end up with a greatly distilled version of your original idea.

· You can’t get the introduction/ conclusion right

Every writer knows the pain of “writer’s block”, and so does every PhD student at some point during their research. It’s an often puzzling phenomenon for the student; how can it be that their research has been completed, yet they can’t fit the last piece of the puzzle together? It’s often the introduction, conclusion, or one of the chapters that eludes them, even though everything else appears fine. This is when it can really help to buy a dissertation chapter — this will help you see where the last piece of the puzzle needs to go, and stop you wasting time trying fruitlessly to tie everything together.

2. Useful tools for research

Writing and researching your PhD can be made easier to manage, thanks to the many tools available for students. By searching, you’ll discover a vast array of useful tools that offer dissertation help, but here are a selection to start you off:

1. My Life Organized

This tool can do all sorts of things. Always forgetting what you need to do at the library? MLO can send you a reminder when you arrive. Or perhaps you’re daunted by the huge task ahead of you? Use the tool to break down the work for your thesis into more manageable chunks. You can also add when work is due, meaning that you’ll always be ahead of yourself.

2. Mendeley

One thing that makes students’ hearts sink is the sheer size of their reading list. You have to read a lot of papers, and it’s easy to get in a mess with all the citations you’ll need to format. Mendeley will make those tasks more manageable. Simply download papers in PDF form; the tool will sync them to the cloud (so no risk of losing them) and annotate useful info. What’s more, you can use the tool to connect with other researchers.

3. Dropbox

Students also fret about the possibility of their computer breaking down and losing their work. Imagine seeing all your efforts disappear, and having to start all over again! Yet many students fail to do something as simple as back up their work regularly. Dropbox allows you to back up your files to your smartphone or other computer, and also keeps a copy in the cloud. Better safe than sorry!

4. MindMup

Mind mapping can be an invaluable way of exploring your topic and discovering new ideas. This tool offers several different aspects that will help you plan your thesis and keep track of all your ideas.

5. BibMe

You’re going to end up with a massive bibliography, there’s no doubt about it. BibMe will automatically build your bibliography and even format it according to your preferred style once it’s completed. A huge timesaver, though be aware that if you choose the free option it will only store your maps for 6 months.

6. OpenThesis

You should look at what other students and researchers have written on your subject; it will save you unwittingly duplicating their work and may also offer useful sources and ideas. OpenThesis offers a repository of theses, dissertations and papers that people have uploaded; upload your completed thesis later so that others may benefit in turn.

7. JSTOR

Journals will be invaluable to any PhD student, as they often provide the latest commentaries on a topic. Your institution will undoubtedly have access to this search engine. You can also use it to search primary sources, which are also essential to a thesis.

3. Dissertation structure. Common requirements

There are several different components that make up a PhD dissertation.

· dissertation acknowledgements

It is good manners to thank anyone who has been helpful to you during the process of working on your thesis. Doing so will also create goodwill should you need to engage with these people in the future. The acknowledgements should be included in your preface, rather than in a separate section, for the sake of brevity.

· dissertation methodology

Your methodology should explain how you intend to proceed carrying out your research. Where did you find your data? How did you collect it? Why were these methods most appropriate for your purpose? You should also acknowledge the existence of other research on the topic, to show that you have a sound knowledge of what has already been done.

· dissertation introduction

You should begin work on your introduction early on in your research, which will give you the opportunity to amend and rewrite it as you get further into your thesis. The introduction should explain which questions you will be tackling in your research and why it is needed; for example, nobody has yet examined the effect of an event on a certain group, or little attention has been paid to a particular work by a well-known author.

· dissertation abstract

An abstract should summarise your thesis and provide an outline of your research and conclusions. Generally it belongs at the start of your dissertation, after the title page. The task of your abstract is to convince readers that the thesis is worth reading. Your abstract needs to be an accurate summary of your research, as it may be held in a separate database. Leave writing the abstract until you have completed your thesis. If you’re finding it difficult, look at dissertation writing services — they’re experienced in writing abstracts.

· literature review in a dissertation

As a thesis writer, you should have a good understanding of other research on your topic. It would be a disaster if you failed to discover that someone had already worked on the same question. So you should be aware of other writing such as essays, books and papers. Your review should identify key points, summarise current knowledge, understand debates on the topic, and introduce how this knowledge could be used to conduct further research. Always keep up-to-date on new research.

· dissertation conclusion

Elements to include in your conclusion:

· What you have concluded, and how it relates to your hypothesis

· How your research has added to previous knowledge

· Questions that arose but that you didn’t have space to answer

· Further research that could be done

Do not:

· Simply repeat the content of your thesis

· Include irrelevant comments

· Add new material

· Omit any mention of the limitations in your research, as if you have written the definitive work

4. Useful tips

When you’re tearing your hair out with frustration at how difficult your dissertation is proving, remember this: every single doctoral student feels the same way. Studying at this level is a huge undertaking, and success takes a lot of hard work, intellectual challenges, and also stress. But the approach you take can help a lot. So try these tips to help your work …

1. Alleviate isolation

It’s all too easy for the PhD candidate to become immersed in their research and forget that the outside work exists. So try to maintain contact with other students, but also non-academics. Do voluntary work, sign up to a fun evening class. Meet up regularly with other doctoral students who can understand the peculiar demands of a PhD. And have fun every now and then — life can’t be all work.

2. Break the task down

The sheer size of the doctoral thesis — you’re basically writing a book — is what many students find daunting. The key is to break it down into smaller tasks. You’re not going to complete it in a few months, so take each step at a time. A dissertation service can help if you’re really stuck.

3. Have faith in yourself

You’re bound to feel that you’re not up to the demands of a PhD at times. But remember this: your university or college thought you were good enough to be accepted onto the PhD programme. They believe you’re capable of producing an interesting thesis, so you should as well.

4. Take time out

This really can’t be stated enough. Spend every waking minute poring over your books and thinking about your PhD, and you’ll burn out very quickly. Set yourself a timetable, and stick to it as much as you can. There are times when you’ll need to be flexible — you can’t get the book you want to read, for example — but in general it will pay off to clearly define ‘work’ and ‘play’ time.

5. Expect to rewrite

Your thesis won’t flow perfectly. You may go through several rewrites before you’re satisfied (or as satisfied as you can be). New material will change the course of your work. Or you’ll find that a section needs to be cut out because it doesn’t fit. So don’t be worried about rewrites; until you print out your thesis and submit it, it is a work in progress.