How to Write a Dissertation: Tips & Step-by-Step Guide

Congratulations! A dissertation is your last step before getting your doctoral degree. But, no matter how great the excitement is, the frustration and panic might be overwhelming. And it’s understandable as there is a lot of pressure on you right now.

A dissertation includes: an introduction, literature review, methods, results, descussion, & conclusion.

The good news is that there is nothing to worry about if you have quite enough time before the deadline. Indeed, you might even complete the paper in a week, but it’s just too much stress. Our comprehensive guide has everything you need to know about the dissertation. So try to set your mind to writing a successful paper and follow the instructions below!

❓ What Is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a final project that students develop and present before getting their Ph.D. title. In fact, its format is quite similar to the one that undergraduates use for their thesis. However, the dissertation is much more serious work.

Ph.D. candidates are required to conduct original research and present the main findings in a piece of academic writing. It also has a specific structure that you should follow. The main parts to include in your dissertation are the introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, a discussion about the implications, and conclusion. Indeed, there may be other additional elements, but you should check with your supervisor and college requirements first.

The definition of this type of academic writing also suggests that you need to have a specific set of skills, such as methodological and analytical ones. However, if you are an excellent writer, beware of such obstacles as procrastination and poor time-management!

Dissertation vs. Thesis

The main difference between a dissertation and a thesis is that they are done at different levels of higher education. Usually, the work that Ph.D. candidates do is called the dissertation, while undergraduates and graduates present their thesis papers. Of course, the length of research is different for the two types of academic writing as well.

How Long Does It Take to Write a PhD Dissertation?

A Ph.D. dissertation suggests that you would collect and analyze the data for your research throughout the whole studying process. Therefore, you should count on spending at least one to two years on everything. However, the writing itself can only take the last three months before the deadline.

Can You Write a Dissertation in a Week?

It is possible but not recommended. There are some exceptions when students managed to write the whole dissertation in one week. However, it doesn’t mean you should postpone it so much! The more time you leave for yourself, the less stress you feel. So we strongly suggest you to start preparing as soon as possible!

👣 How to Write a Dissertation: Main Steps

A dissertation is a serious academic document made in accordance with the requirements and containing the results of original research. Before one starts writing the text, it is necessary to do a lot. In this article, we will not dwell on how to conduct dissertation research. There is a considerable amount of materials on this topic. For example, Richard Reis (a Stanford University professor) talks in his blog about choosing a dissertation topic. Indiana University offers a short and straightforward algorithm for developing a research question. There are many materials on how to choose credible sources as well. Below we will explain what the components of a dissertation outline are and how to develop them.

How to Write a Dissertation Introduction

An introduction can be considered an attention grabber, which simultaneously sets your research direction for the readers. There are several questions a good introduction should answer.

What is your paper about? Here you present the chosen topic and add some context so that even the readers unfamiliar with it can understand your work.
How can the topic be narrowed?You should specify the aspect of the topic you want to work on.
Why does your dissertation matter? Highlight the relevance and try to explain why all this job is worth doing.
How do you intend to approach this task? There should be some information about the specific goals you want to achieve and a few words regarding your methodology.
What will your content look like? It’s the place where you should briefly describe your research’s main parts going chapter by chapter.

Don’t forget that it’s not necessary to start with the introduction, but most students chose to begin the writing process with it since it can boost your motivation!

How to Write a Literature Review

Everything you can find that is related to the chosen topic should be overviewed in this section. It includes books, articles, and even conference recordings. The aim is to give your readers the context by discussing the past findings in the field.

Moreover, thanks to a literature review, you can identify the gaps that may still exist in knowledge. Also, it clearly shows whether your idea is fresh or not. There is no point in doing so much work only to find out similar research already exists.

While this section is intended for the readers, you may deepen your knowledge of the topic during the literature research. By looking through other works, you might come up with the idea for the methodology since they are from the same field of study and can be applicable to your dissertation. And there are definitely the opposing points of view which can be useful as well.

How to Write a Methods Section

A dissertation is a serious academic writing piece, so you have to describe the methods you choose for research. A methodology section is where you discuss everything you do and how you do it. You would need to include several aspects.

  1. Introduce your methodological approach. Here, you only give general information about the topic and highlight why you chose a particular research type.
  2. Explain how you collect the data. Depending on the topic, you would prefer either quantitative or qualitative data collection methods.
  3. Speak about how you’re going to analyze the data. However, don’t give too many details since the results should be presented later.
  4. Justify your choices. You should be able to clarify why the chosen methods are the best for your research and why others wouldn’t be suitable.

Also, remember who you are writing for so that you give the appropriate background. You also need to be careful with picking only reliable sources.

How to Write a Results Section

Only after explaining how you collected and analyzed the data, you should bring on the results! All the key findings need to be highlighted here in a coherent manner. However, avoid presenting your perspective in this section as it should be saved until the discussion.

Therefore, there shouldn’t be any interpretation of the results just yet.

Also, you are not always required to include the results section in your dissertation. It usually depends on the type of research. For instance, some qualitative papers mix the finings into the discussion section.

Quantitative research would usually present a lot of numbers, statistical results, and visual elements. For example, in qualitative methods that use interviews, you can only point out specific topics and themes. Pay close attention to the recurrent patterns and particular responses. You can add further information for both research kinds, such as tables, graphs, and interview scripts, in an appendix.

How to Write a Discussion Section for a Dissertation

Finally, it’s time to interpret the key findings! In this part, you are supposed to mention how the results are related to the thesis statement. Here’s a list of the essential components for a discussion section, but you are welcome to make any adjustments necessary.

  1. Summarize the main findings. The summary should only be one paragraph with a brief but comprehensive answer to the thesis question.
  2. Interpret the results. Highlight their significance and explain it to the readers even if it seems obvious. You might find it easier to follow the same structure you chose in the results section.
  3. Describe the implications. It’s essential to show what place your findings take in the existing knowledge. Are there any fresh insights? Do the results challenge any theories?
  4. Write a few words about the limitations. You should explain why something couldn’t have been derived from your study. It can be due to the methodology or unexpected obstacles.
  5. Give some recommendations. Finally, suggest the direction for further research.

How to Write a Dissertation Conclusion

Writing a dissertation conclusion is not such a challenging task if you didn’t skip the previous sections. Generally, it shouldn’t take more than seven percent of the total word count. There you need to cover the points below.

  1. Answer your thesis question. However, just repeating the same from the results section won’t do. You need to sum it up in a few clear and coherent sentences.
  2. Include a quick summary of the research. You might want to explain the methodology and expectations once again. Basically, it would look like your plan of action.
  3. Write some recommendations. If you didn’t mention them in the previous section, it’s time to do it here.
  4. Highlight the significance. The readers should understand how valuable your paper is. Think about the contributions your research has made in the field of study.

After the conclusion, the dissertation usually needs to have an abstract, list of references, bibliography (if required), and appendices.

🖋️ Dissertation Writing Tips

There are huge differences among fields in what constitutes a great dissertation. Still, here are some tips to get you started on any dissertation.

✔️Review your proposalDon’t just check your dissertation proposal abstract. Read the whole thing thoroughly. Do this even if your dissertation proposal length is 100 pages. You should make sure you’re working on your dissertation according to your proposal. Otherwise, you’ll have upset committee members.
✔️Check the guidelinesReview your graduate program and university guidelines. It’s hard enough to write and defend a dissertation once. Imagine repeating the process because you didn’t meet these guidelines. Get it right on the first try.
✔️Talk to your graduate advisorThis hopefully sounds like obvious advice. But too many graduate students feel ignored by their dissertation advisors. You must insist upon getting a dissertation or thesis help from them. This means you should ask if they can review a draft. At a minimum, ask for their thoughts before you start writing your dissertation. In general, contact with Ph.D. advisors is the key to grad school success.
✔️Ask your peers for helpDo this before you start writing. Ask other graduate students if they can read your chapters as you finish them. Find someone to read your dissertation discussion. Find someone else to read your dissertation results. Get scrutiny and help from peers now. Then, you’ll be way more confident about your completed text.
✔️ProofreadProofread, proofread, and then proofread again! A well-written dissertation does not have any spelling errors or typos. Remember: you can make your committee happier during your dissertation defense. You may even want to use an editing service to proofread your text.
✔️Think of your committeeAsk yourself, “Will this please my committee?” Think about your committee members. Consider their previous concerns. Ponder their research programs. And cite their research! Making your committee happy is vital to a successful defense. Your committee probably has some big egos. Don’t offend them now! Flatter them, but not too much.
✔️Check your table of contentsDo the pages listed in your table of contents match your sections? This is a common error. But it’s easy to fix. So fix it!
✔️Check the formattingMake sure your dissertation is properly formatted. University dissertation guidelines can be very strict. Few students meet all the formatting guidelines on the first submission. Many universities have checklists for this. Use them! They’ll save you some trouble.
✔️Stay calm! This doesn’t sound very smart. But it’s vital to your success! Try meditation. Take up yoga. Exercise daily. These things help!

🔗 References

Comments (4)

Jason
Jason

Wonderful post. Dissertation Research is a difficult job but you share here amazing tips that help every student to write an essay.

Custom Writing
Custom Writing

Thank you for your kind words, Jason!

I. R.
I. R.

Helpful post as usual! All students need to complete his dissertation results section! Thank for your help very much!

Donna
Donna

Hi, thank you very much for the help on writing a dissertation results section! I found your blog extremely helpful to students who have problems with writing their papers!

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