What is a dissertation?
A dissertation is a piece of academic Writing that you have to submit as a part of PhD or Master’s. As a student, it will be the longest piece of academic writing that you might have done.
What are the elements of a dissertation?
A dissertation has the same main elements, regardless of subject/area of study.
A section dedicated to acknowledging and thanking the people who supported you throughout your dissertation. This isn’t necessarily limited to persons; it could be an organization or an institute as well.
Generally, there are two categories of acknowledgements; professional and personal. Make sure to check your university guidelines on the same.
There is no minimum word count/number of pages, but try to keep this section no longer than 1 page.
Tips to Write a dissertation acknowledgements section:
- Keep the professional acknowledgements first, and the personal ones last.
- If you are stuck, simply begin each acknowledgement with an ‘I would like to thank…’ and follow it up with the names/organizations.
A short summary of your dissertation. It includes the aims and conclusion of the academic document, so that the readers know what it’s exactly about. Ideally, you should write your abstract at the end of your dissertation. It should include:
- Your research problem/thesis statement and objectives
- Your methods
iii. Key results
An abstract should not be more than 300 words and not less than 150 words. Check your university’s guidelines on the word limit.
Write your abstract on a separate page, which should be after the ‘acknowledgements’ and ‘title’ section, but before the ‘table of contents’.
Tips to write an abstract:
- Note down keywords and write 1-2 lines after each chapter. When you start writing your abstract at the end of your dissertation, refine the sentences and link them together. It will be easier to develop a cohesive and coherent abstract this way.
- Read other abstract samples, preferably in the same area of study as yours. These will give you an idea of the structure and style that your abstract should follow.
- Try to keep it compact. Think of it as having a typing limit, and write only what matters instead of filling it with obscure jargon.
The introduction is the first chapter of your dissertation and comes after the table of contents. It should include:
- Topic and context.
- Relevance and scope.
- A brief overview of the structure of the dissertation
Since the introduction is an overview of your dissertation, it is generally written at the end, along with the abstract.
The introduction makes up 10% of the total word limit of your dissertation. So if it amounts to 15,000 words, the introduction shouldn’t be more than 2000 words.
Tips to write your dissertation introduction:
- Write a rough draft of the introduction before you begin writing the dissertation. This will be revised along the way, but it’s a handy method to keep your writing on track and have a general idea of what it should include. You can refer to your research proposal for this, as it will have many of the same elements.
- Keep the overview of each chapter limited to 2-3 lines and not more than that.
A review of the existing scholarly sources/material on a specific topic, in this case, your dissertation topic. Your dissertation review should aim to point out a gap in the existing scholarly material and demonstrate how your research will adequately fill that gap. It gives you an opportunity to position yourself against other researchers working on the same topic/field of study, and develop a theoretical framework for your dissertation. The steps of writing a literature review are:
- Search for relevant sources
- Evaluate the sources
- Identify the gaps/themes
- Outline your literature review’s structure
- Write your literature review
Tips to write a literature review
- Use the right keywords. Make sure that you input the exact keywords that target the research papers you’re looking for.
- Follow the citations on the research papers you find.
- Broaden your research horizons and find out about other research areas that are relevant to your review.
- Even if you find limited articles, take that as an opportunity and read them in depth. You will definitely find a gap in the field that your review will fill in.
In your dissertation, the methodology section explains the methods that you used to undertake your research. This allows the researcher to assess the credibility and validity of your dissertation. Your research methodology should include:
- The type of research you did
- Methods of collection of data
- Method of analysis of data
- Tools to collect data
- Explanation of why you chose the above methods
You should ideally write this section in the past tense. Keep in mind the prescribed citation style guidelines for the methodology.
Tips to write a research methodology
- Avoid going into too much detail about your results when you describe your results. That will come in the conclusion section.
- Focus on your objectives and questions. The methodology section should establish why you chose the methods you did and how were they ideal for your dissertation.
- Write about how you came to the conclusion about using so-and-so methods. This will give the reader an idea that you compared various methods and chose the correct/suitable one according to the demands of your dissertation.
- Discuss the obstacles that you faced during the collection of data. Try to show that you did the most rigorous research as possible in order to erase any doubts about the validity of your research.
The results section is where you report the main findings of your research. It should be written in the past tense and the length of the section depends on how extensive your study is.
Tips to write the results section
- Restate the purpose of your research concisely, so that the reader can re-focus on the core of your research.
- Use the past tense to state your results.
- Don’t use vague terms. Be as specific as possible when writing your results section.
- Write a short conclusion which summarises all your results.
The writer delves into the meaning, interpretation, and importance of the results in this section.
Sometimes, the discussion and the results section overlaps, and in some cases, the discussion is a whole different section. Keep in mind the same tips for the discussion section as the results section.
The conclusion is the last part of the dissertation, in which you state the answers to the main question and show what new knowledge your research has contributed.
A conclusion should ideally be only 5-7% of the word limit of the entire dissertation. So, if your text is 15000 words, the conclusion should not be more than 1000 words.
Tips to write a conclusion
- Keep the conclusion concise and engaging.
- Don’t go around in circles and write rambling sentences.
- Don’t make wild and unsubstantiated claims in your conclusion.
Writing Tools You Can Use While Writing A Dissertation
- Helps you make a timetable and stick to it.
- Helps create tables, charts, diagrams.
- Allows you to input all your data on one easy-to-search platform.
- Has a ‘corkboard’ feature that helps you arrange your writing in the form of a final document.
- Edit sections using the built-in word processor and formatter.
How should you not write a dissertation?
- Don’t begin too early or too late. If you begin writing your dissertation too early, you run the risk of working with limited research, and if you begin too late, you will have to rush through it. With a word count of more than 10k, beginning your dissertation too late and expecting a high grade is useless.
- Don’t structure your dissertation incoherently. Well-researched and written material can be rendered useless if it’s organized poorly.
- Avoid ambiguous statements, colloquial language, silly grammatical mistakes, poor sentence structure, and tedious vocabulary.
- Avoid picking a topic that you’ve not been consistently interested in. Your own lack of interest can reflect in your writing and in turn, will fail to engage the reader.
- Is writing a dissertation hard?
- Writing a piece of academic literature as extensive as a dissertation is hard. But it also depends on every individual and their working style, the amount of preparation one puts, and how well in advance one can start working on the dissertation.
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Writing a dissertation can be tedious and a task. We hope that these tips help you in getting off to a fabulous start! Access more dissertation checklists here.
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