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Jul 14th 2020

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

how to write a dissertation
Table of contents
  1. Let's Start with the Definition: What Is a Dissertation?
  2. Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal
  3. Step 2: Conduct an effective research
  4. Step 3: Write a mind-blowing dissertation
  5. Step 4: Edit and Proofread the Dissertation like a Pro
  6. Step 5: Get feedback
  7. Wrapping It Up: How to Write a Dissertation

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. You should also make the dissertation interesting and unlike any other academic paper that's already been published.

Your mindset is an important part of the process. Think of it this way: if you follow this dissertation guide and you still don't manage to write the paper, you can always rely on the best dissertation writing service. With that sense of security, you'll carry on doing your best.

Let's Start with the Definition: What Is a Dissertation?

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.

Why Is Writing a Dissertation So Hard?

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. Procrastination is one of the first signs that you need academic writing help.
  • Lack of research. 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 can choose unusual dissertation titles, but you should write in proper form, style, and language; and make sure to implement the correct citation guidelines.

The dissertation may seem like an overwhelming challenge. We offer the tips that make the dissertation seem like something you can do. You'll slowly head into the right direction when you follow this guide on how to write a dissertation step by step.

Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal

dissertation writing

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.

Often students get stuck with this part of the dissertation and ask for dissertation proposal writing help at professional services. That's also okay as it can be really difficult to write or there is completely no time for it.

Step 2: Conduct an effective research

dissertation guide

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
  • It's important to find enough resources to fully understand the phenomenon you're focused on, but you'll need to stop researching at one point or another.

    Many students fall into a trap: they think they have to read everything that was ever written regarding the dissertation question they are about to elaborate. How much time do you plan to spend in the research stage? Make a timeline and stay committed to it.

    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.

  • Find the right places to look for sources
  • The Internet is a good starting place during the research stage. However, you have to realize that not everything you read on the Internet is absolutely true. Double-check the information you find and make sure it comes from a trustworthy resource. Use Google Scholar to locate reliable academic sources. Wikipedia is not a reliable source, but it can take you to some great publication if you check out the list of references on the pages of your interest.

    Librarians are really helpful at this point of the project development. Don't avoid the actual library and ask the librarian to provide you with some interesting publications.

  • Organize your resources
  • You have to take notes; otherwise you'll end up seriously confused and you won't know where you located a certain important argument that you plan to use. Use Evernote, Penzu, or another online tool to write down notes about your impressions, as well as the sources you plan to reference.

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

how to write a good 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
  • You already have the dissertation proposal, which is a preliminary outline for the actual dissertation. However, you still need a more detailed outline for the large project. Did the research stage lead you in an unexpected direction? Make sure to include the new points in your outline.

    This is a basic outline that will make it easier for you to write the dissertation:

  • Introduction
  • To understand how to write a dissertation introduction you need to know that this chapter should include a background of the problem, and a statement of the issue. Then, you'll clarify the purpose of the study, as well as the research question. Next, you'll need to provide clear definitions of the terms related to the project. You will also expose your assumptions and expectations of the final results.

  • Literature Review
  • In this chapter of the dissertation, you will review the research process and the most important acknowledgements you've come down to.

  • Methodology
  • This part of the dissertation is focused on the way you located the resources and the methods of implementation of the results. If you're writing a qualitative dissertation, you will expose the research questions, setting, participants, data collection, and data analysis processes. If, on the other hand, you're writing a quantitative dissertation, you will focus this chapter on the research questions and hypotheses, information about the population and sample, instrumentation, collection of data, and analysis of data.

  • Findings
  • This is the most important stage in the whole process of dissertation writing, since it showcases your intellectual capacity. At this point, you'll restate the research questions and you will discuss the results you found, explaining the direction they led you to. In other words, you'll answer those questions.

  • Conclusions
  • In the final chapter of the dissertation, you will summarize the study and you'll briefly report the results. Don't forget that you have to explain how your findings make a difference in the academic community and how they are implied in practice.

    At the end of this chapter, include a "Recommendations for future research" section, where you'll propose future research that will clarify the issue further. Explain why you suggest this research and what form it should take.

  • Bibliography
  • Use the recommended citation style for your field of study, and make sure to include all sources you used during the research and writing stages.

  • Manage your time
  • You'll need another timeline, but this one will be focused on the writing process. Plan how to complete your dissertation chapter by chapter. When you have attainable goals, it will be easier for you to write the project without getting overwhelmed by its length and complexity.

  • Write the first draft
  • There is no life-changing advice to give at this point. You just need to stay away from distractions, stick to your timeline, follow the outline, and complete the first draft. You already have what it takes; now you're ready to do the real work.

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

  • Don't ignore these steps
  • Once you figure out how to write a dissertations, you may think you are done with efforts. Students assume that editing is an easy step they cover right before they hand out their project. Don't do that. Editing takes a lot of time, so stay committed to your project until it's 100% complete.

how to write a dissertation step by step

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
  • There is a substantial difference between editing and proofreading: editing is focused on the essence, and proofreading is focused on the form of the paper. You need to deal with the essence first, since it would be silly to proofread the dissertation to perfection and then start getting rid of unnecessary parts and adding more details.

    Pay attention to the logical connection between each argument. Are there any gaps in information? Fill them in with more details you collected through the research stage. Maybe you got carried away with the explanations at some point? Make sure to reduce the volume of those parts and clarify them as much as possible. The point is not in quantity; it's in quality and clarity.

  • Proofread
  • Finally, it's time to do the final few readings and catch all spelling, grammar, and style errors you made. Read word by word, sentence by sentence, and consult a dictionary or thesaurus if you have any doubts.

    If you notice that you're struggling through the stages of editing and proofreading, you should know you're not the only one with such problem. You are too attached to this project and it's difficult for you to see the flaws in it. That's why it's recommended for students to use an proofreading service that will bring their projects to perfection. This is a smart investment that will save you from embarrassment after all that effort and stress you went through.

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.

Wrapping It Up: How to Write a Dissertation

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.

Don't let anyone make you think that writing a dissertation paper is easy. It's not. This may be one of the most challenging, lengthy and time-consuming projects you've encountered. On the other hand, you've achieved a lot during your academic journey. This is the tip of the iceberg - the last step that will open the doors to the career you've envisioned. All you need is motivation and guidance. Hope you already got this after reading our guide.

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