From your earliest essays, assignments and book reports, you have been leading up to your most arduous academic ordeal: how to write a dissertation.

Even though the end reward is great, the challenge is huge. From choosing a research topic for dissertation, to the critical thinking required to discuss the finer points in writing, there is a much to know when it comes to how to write a dissertation.

Perhaps you are wondering what is a dissertation? This might be best explained by discussing your first step which is choosing a research topic for dissertation.

Writing a dissertation requires that you find a critical knowledge gap within your chosen academic subject. One way to go about this is to devise ways to explore it while you meticulously record your findings so that you can later present it in a methodical written report that adheres to word counts, format and structure.

So, if choosing a research topic for dissertation is your first step, then how would you go about that?

Also, you will have to present a hypothesis and then prove it, but how does one establish a hypothesis in the first place?

In this article, we aim to answer these questions as well as provide tips on how to structure a dissertation.  

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Steps for How to Write a Dissertation

As a diligent student, it would not be surprising if you are searching dissertation how to write! Of course, Google may have the answers, but you could also check out examples of past dissertations in our campus library. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that they will resemble books complete with a table of contents, chapters, appendices and a title page.

Grads and Undergrads may also have to write dissertations
Your university may require you to write a dissertation or thesis before awarding you a bachelor degree or master's degree Image by Nikolay Georgiev from Pixabay

So in terms of its length, what is a dissertation? It could be as lengthy as 30 000 words for PhD candidates and include tables, graphs and other visuals too.

Undergraduates and graduate’s dissertations are not usually quite this long, but you will need to know how to structure it which is very much the same:

  • Title page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract and/or introduction
  • The Table of Contents
  • A Literature Review
  • Your Research Methodology
  • Findings
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • A Reference List
  • Appendices

Defending your dissertation proposal in a sequential pattern is critical at the end of the day, however your research method is not likely to follow the same order. Comparable to something like film-making, your work will be gathered together in seemingly unrelated chunks. However, by the end, you know how to write a dissertation so that it makes sense to the reader.

This is probably one of the biggest reasons why you are searching dissertation: how to write!

For instance, you will not be able to write an abstract unless you have the proven theory gained by your research. Similarly, you wouldn’t write your introduction before your research.

To make it more complex, you will need to write a 15-20-page dissertation proposal that is submitted to a dissertation committee for approval. Defending your dissertation proposal by carefully including research methodology, scope, anticipated challenges and a timetable can be a challenge when these points should not be part of your final document.

Learn more about how to write a dissertation.

Choosing a Research Topic for Dissertation   

Dissertation writing would be much simpler if you could simply choose a topic that is associated with your field of study and then write at length about it. But if that was all there was too it, then you would miss out many of the major benefits that make up the writing process.

Completing a dissertation proves that you are able work independently, be single-minded and have the tenacity to see a project through to completion. These factors, not only boost employability but will also serve you well as you complete your thesis too.

When it comes to answering the question to your search, dissertation how to write, you could break it down into various stages.

During the planning stage, before you know what you will research and write about, you will need to get some idea of which topics are unexplored in your field of study. You could start by reading through literature, papers and journals from the past seven to 10 years that are relevant to your field of study.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to go about choosing a research topic for dissertation, you could also read through the dissertations of past students.

By scanning those works, you will find the acronym FRIN next to certain chapters which means ‘Further Research is Needed.’

Your university library likely has past students' theses
Use your university library to explore former students' dissertations for possible research topics in your study subject Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Part of the process to defending your dissertation proposal will include finding three to five topics that are worthy of discussion with your adviser.

Tip: as you go about your initial search to help you choose a dissertation topic, be sure to take copious note about the author, their scope of work, methodology and their conclusions.

Be meticulous about this information because you will need it later in the phase for defending your dissertation proposal and also, for your own work.

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Dissertation: How to Write a Literature Review

While there are no rules for how a literature review should look, there is also some helpful advice on what it should not be.

There are four common strategies to choose from when it comes to writing your literature review.

You could take a theoretical approach to the literature you reviewed by discussing important theories, models and concepts. Alternatively, you could expound on the significance of certain theoretical frameworks that are common to the literature that you read.

You could also take a thematic approach by commenting on the themes and patterns you have seen across different bodies of work.

For example, if your topic addresses inequalities in healthcare, you might decide to designate certain categories like gender, geography and disease types as key themes and then build a literature review around them.

There’s also the methodological strategy which entails writing about findings that have been discovered through different research methods. These could be results through qualitative research or those gained by quantitative research.

Another way to write a literature review is to track a topic’s development is to find information on its first and last published work.

For more information on how to do a literature review and other information to answer your questions on what is a dissertation, click here.

In the end, your literature review is meant to demonstrate how you arrived at your chosen topic, your conclusions and how you intend going forward.

What is a Dissertation without Research Methodology!

Your dissertation should include how you intend to do your research. This is part of defending your dissertation proposal.

While your literature review will focus on how you collect and analyse data, your methodology chapter details your reasons for choosing that data as well as your processes of analysis.

A dissertation’s methodology section usually begins by detailing your strategy and design for research. After that, you should expound on your philosophical approach to the research.

Stating your methods for the collection and analysis of data should take up a significant portion of this chapter. This should be followed by any concerns about limitations or ethics as well as notes about your support for the data’s reliability.

Many dissertation writers report that the research methodology section is the hardest to write, however once you know what should be included and what shouldn’t, it should not be difficult at all.

Talk with your supervisor if you need help with your thesis
When you need help or advice writing your thesis, talk with your dissertation supervisor Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Research Analysis and Presentation of Findings

You may think that the most difficult parts of your academic writing are behind you by the time you reach your findings section. Still, take care to adhere to the requirements for this section.

Your findings chapter is not about debate or justification; it is about conveying the facts that will support your hypothesis.

The appendix section is for findings that don’t tally up with your premise.

The findings chapter will also provide context for your results and should include a reiteration of your research question and research goals. Be mindful that this section is about chronology as well as cohesion.

Every paragraph should yield a result and explanation that leads to the next paragraph. This should continue until you have all the results you need and are able to close the chapter with a concluding paragraph and summary.

Aim to keep your tonality impartial throughout by avoiding justifications, interpretations and opinions.

A PhD dissertation is a marathon project and the findings section is only the halfway point.

To make sure that your work progresses at a good pace, consult with your dissertation supervisor every time you complete a section so that you can continually improve as you progress.

Remember to proof read and

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Niki

Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.