The Art of Dissertation Writing
The Dissertation is broadly defined a comprehensive academic work based on some key thesis statements. For this reason, the dissertation has become so synonymous with thesis that even in the dictionary it can be found that there is a third meaning of the thesis as a dissertation. Especially in Australia dissertation is known as a thesis. Generally, the dissertation can be written at both PhD as well as master level. Here I will concentrate on PhD dissertation as it is considered as the final product of a 3-4 years of long research. Generally, before starting your PhD dissertation you have to submit a detailed research proposal delineating the research plan. A PhD dissertation is an assemblage of many essays and can also produce 2-3 research articles. The following few key points about the dissertation should be always kept in mind while planning it.
- Formulate a clear question or thesis statement that your dissertation will try to answer.
- Review the appropriate literature to find the research gaps.
- Engage in primary research to answer the question or the research gaps.
- Justify the methods you are going to choose for the same.
- Present and discuss your findings, and their relation with the original thesis statement(s).
Planning of a dissertation is not going to be complete, unless and until the structure of a dissertation is not completely clear to the student. In the following, the structure of a dissertation is discussed in detail.
The structure of a dissertation:
The following two diagrams will provide a glimpse of various sections of a dissertation and their relative weightings.
Source: Cumbria University – Research Dissertation UNSW Australia Current Students
It should contain a clear title of the entire dissertation. The title should be informative as well as short.
The abstract is a very important component of a dissertation. Generally, the core idea of the dissertation is expressed in abstract within 300-500 words. Writing abstract is often very helpful for a student as it generally clarifies different ideas of the dissertation in a concrete manner. The abstract should contain information about all the key points of a dissertation as mentioned earlier.
You should mention people or organizations who have helped you during your research.
Table of content:
Should demonstrate the organization of your dissertation.
Although this is the first thing the reader is going to read, however, it is often suggested to write the introduction at the last. This is because introduction should aptly lay the foundation on which the rest of the dissertation should be built. The Introduction should typically begin with the thesis statement. Along with it, the introduction should be written interestingly so that it motivates the reader to read the entire dissertation.
Literature review is an integral part of a dissertation as through this portion only, the researcher justifies that there is a need as well as scope for primary research. This portion should be as detailed as possible, ensuring a comprehensive study of all the relevant past literature in a coherent manner.
This section should contain the details about the methods you have used to test the hypothesis in your primary research. In the beginning of this section, you should justify your choices of various methods. Along with highlighting the benefits of the methods you have chosen, you should also acknowledge the limitations of the chosen methods and how you have overcome those limitations in your research. Except this, various ethical issues you have faced during the research should also be jotted down and the means you have managed those ethical issues. This portion should also ideally contain your reflections while doing the field work. If you are doing some laboratory experiments, then all the necessary details should be provided so that if someone else wants to, then can actually replicate the same experiment to verify the result you obtained. In case of conducting fieldwork, details about the field location should be mentioned.
This is the section which actually lists all the results you have obtained by application of various methods. In case you employ statistical analysis, then you should clearly mention different variables, statistical models as well as the particular statistical software you have used for the analysis.
This section can be considered as the heart of your thesis. Here you should critically relate the wider context of your research with the specific findings from it. You should also identify specific patterns or relationships in the result. This section should be completely interpreted and no new citation should be introduced here. This section will also provide the ‘so what’ portion of your work, which means it will explain how the research is relevant in the context of policy or for the society.
The conclusion should reiterate the overall finding and then should delineate the scope for further research. You should also include a reflective account of how successful you consider yourself in conducting this piece of research and where you could have improved.
You should always remember that your dissertation is the product of 2-3 years of your time and thus you should invest enough time to properly plan and conceptualize it.