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What is a dissertation?

Posted: June 30, 2017 To: Dissertation WritingBy: Neighthan
What is a dissertation?

Students who are already in graduate school have at least heard the term dissertation. If they are in UK schools, it is the name for the culminating project to earn a Master’s degree; in U.S. schools, it is the culminating project for a Ph.D. So, the specific dissertation definition depends upon where a student is enrolled.

The Common Elements

Despite the fact that you might define dissertation writing in terms of your degree program, there are elements that are all common to a dissertation meaning. The best way to really get to what is a dissertation is to go through the process that will be required as you produce one.

With luck, you will have a better understanding of exactly what you are facing and can be better prepared – this is a complex project.

It Begins with a Topic Selection

Nothing happens until you identify your research question. Begin with a broad topic area that interests you. Within that topic area will be research that others have already completed, usually published in dissertations. Your best approach is to study that research and come up with something to research yourself.

Here’s the thing about researchers. In their conclusions, they usually make suggestions for further research. These suggestions could help you find a research question.

Your research question should be approved by your advisor before you proceed. Again, make certain it is one that you have interest in, not something that someone else (e.g., you advisor) wants you to research.

The Master’s or Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal

Many students wonder exactly what is a dissertation proposal?

The dissertation proposal is the first major piece of writing you will do as you begin your dissertation. And most institutions and/or departments will have a dissertation proposal template for you to follow. Take it seriously. It will tell you exactly what you must include and how you are to include it.

In general, the dissertation proposal must include the following:

  • A clear statement of your research question
  • A justification of the research question – why is it important and how will it contribute to the body of knowledge in your field?
  • A review of the early research you have completed thus far to demonstrate that this is an important question
  • A description of your research design and process. Is this a quantitative or a qualitative study? How will your research be completed? What instruments will you use?
  • What is your timeline for completing the research and for submitting the final dissertation product?

If you have any questions about producing your proposal, find a dissertation proposal sample or two and review them carefully.

Before you begin to write, make sure that you have crafted a dissertation proposal outline based upon your department guidelines. Follow this outline as you create this piece.

You may also have questions about the dissertation proposal length. There is no set answer; however, if you have studied other proposals in your department, you will have a good idea. Generally, the proposal is about 10 pages in length, but this may vary.

Make no mistake about this. Your advisor/committee will review your proposal very carefully. It is not unusual for proposals to be sent back for revision. Take your time and get it right.

Now the Real Work Begins

You will have very specific sections/chapters of your dissertation. A Master’s dissertation will have sections; a doctoral dissertation will contain chapters. This, in fact, is often cited as the difference between thesis and dissertation structure. It is not a significant difference, actually, because the process of production will follow the same steps for both.

  1. The Literature Review

This section or chapter will delve into all of the other research that has been conducted related to your research question. This is really like a research paper, only it must be precisely and carefully crafted.

If dissertation writing students find need to seek help from writing services, it is often with this chapter. There is a fear that some critical piece of literature may be overlooked or that the structure of the review itself may be difficult. If a writing service is found that actually has Ph.D. scholars in the topic area, then this is often a wise choice.

  1. The Methodology Chapter

This is the chapter in which you detail your research design, including your experimental and control groups, or your random sampling descriptions, the type of research you are conducting (quantitative or qualitative) and the results you are looking for. You will also speak to the instruments you have used and how these were administered.

  1. The Results

Now you are ready to report the results of your research. This chapter will report the data you collected, and it will be reported both in prose text and visually, in graphs, charts, etc.

  1. Discussion

Now the statistical analysis. What did your results actually show? Was there a significance that will demonstrate an answer to your research question? This is where the math comes in. Fortunately, there are computerized methods of crunching the numbers. Your job is to put the right numbers into the right formulae to get the statistical results you need. This is another area in which students often seek help, for many are not statisticians and find this work too challenging.

  1. Conclusion

Time to wrap it all up. Did you answer your research question? What constraints did you face in your research? What recommendations would you make for future research in this area? This chapter requires good organization and a compelling ending.

  1. Introduction

Most students write this chapter last, because it is best done after the entire project is completed. This chapter introduces the research question and gives the reader a brief outlay of what is to come without revealing the results of the research. The point of the introduction is to whet the appetite of the reader to want to read your entire work and discover the answer.

Other Important Considerations

There are some other important things to think about and to do as you complete your dissertation, as follows;

  1. Complete a dissertation outline for each chapter before you begin to write. It will keep you on track as you write
  2. Be sure that you understand how to cite a dissertation in the way your department requires. This will of course include the format style you are to use, which will determine both your in-text and your end-of-text references. You may be required to provide “notes” or annotations of some of these references. Be certain to follow the guidelines of our advisor and department.
  3. Don’t forget about your dissertation defense. You will be meeting with your committee to defend what you have done. You need to prepare for this by identifying any issues in your research and be willing to address them.

How Long is a Dissertation?

There is no specific answer to this question. The average length of a dissertation for a Master’s degree is about 60-75 pages. For a Ph.D. work, the length will be anywhere from 150 – 200 pages. Discuss length with your advisor, but, in truth, it will need to be long enough to cover everything in your research.

There you have it. Now, you know pretty clearly what a dissertation is and what you will be facing as you attack this project. With motivation, a project of interest, and the self-control to see it through, you will get through this. Many before you have.

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