How to Write a Dissertation (Committee Approved)

How to Write a Dissertation (Committee Approved)

A dissertation is the culmination of years of study, and the pinnacle of graduate work. When it comes time for you to write your dissertation, though, you may find yourself panicking. Even though you have mastered all the material, and researched the important subject areas in your chosen field, starting your dissertation could be daunting. With the right advisers and writing tutors, you do not need to worry at all. This article will help you take the stress out of dissertation writing by showing you how to make the process smoother and more efficient.

What is a Dissertation?

Graduate students may be called upon to write a dissertation to fulfill the requirements of their program of study. Some, but not all, graduate programs require a dissertation because it represents in-depth research and writing, and demonstrates command of the subject matter. A dissertation should also prove that you have transitioned from being just a student towards being a scholar or a professional in your field.

Your dissertation shows that you are developing what is known as a doctoral identity. After completing your dissertation, you will be one step closer to being a fully-fledged professional, a scholar, or an expert in your field. You will always remain on the path towards learning and professional development, but the dissertation is the first and most critical step of your future professional success.

The Definition of Dissertation

So what is a dissertation? A dissertation is essentially a long piece of writing on a specific area of research. However, a dissertation differs from other long papers you have written in the past. The main difference between a dissertation and anything else you have done before is that you have much greater independence with a dissertation.

With a dissertation, YOU determine what to study and how to study it. You will have advice from your instructors, mentors, and advisors, but the dissertation is a sign that YOU are becoming an expert or professional in a specific subject area.

Depending on your program of study, a dissertation could be a written report on new research that you conduct using experimentation or qualitative methods. Alternatively, a dissertation could be a thorough analysis of a highly specific topic of interest in the arts or humanities.

How Does a Dissertation Differ From a Thesis?

Although a dissertation is usually the “final step” in the pursuit of a PhD, it is not the only thing you need in order to graduate. A dissertation is not the same as a graduate thesis, either. Your thesis is basically the claims you are trying to make with your dissertation, whereas your dissertation represents your proving your thesis to your peers, professors, and mentors. You will need to clarify your area of interest by narrowing down your thesis before beginning to write your dissertation. In this article, we will show you exactly how to do that. Ultimately, your dissertation will reflect your passion and interest in your chosen field.

What is a Dissertation Defense?

Depending on the requirements of your university, you may have to defend your dissertation orally. Make sure you understand the work you did and why it has value for the reader, so you can articulate that during your dissertation defense.

The essence of a dissertation is presenting your work to a community of your peers and most importantly, to your professors, advisors, and other experts who will benefit from your research. During the dissertation defense process, you will face questions about your research just as any expert in their field will be questioned as to how they did their research, why they drew the conclusions they did, and what relevance their research has for the professional community.

Your dissertation may be the first truly meaningful work you have created in the subject area you have chosen, because unlike the papers you produce for classes, a dissertation is not about showing that you understood the material that your professor presented. On the contrary, you write a dissertation because you identified a gap in the literature and want to fill that gap with new and exciting research.

What is the Process of Dissertation Defense?

The process of defending a dissertation will differ depending on your school, your areas of research, and the preferences of your professors. In some cases, you need to deliver a presentation to a small group of people. Some dissertations are delivered to a larger group of people as at a conference.

Generally, your team of academic advisors will grill you, asking relevant questions about your research. Most of the questions will be out of genuine curiosity about the subject. Remember, the whole point of a dissertation is to contribute to the field. That means you will be presenting material even your professors might not have known about or had been aware of before. If people have questions and concerns, that means that they are expressing interest in your work. So don’t get defensive during the defense of your dissertation. The more you master your material, the more comfortable you will feel during the defense process.

The Purpose of a Dissertation Proposal

By the time you are in graduate school and preparing to compose your dissertation, you may be asked to first present a cogent proposal of what you intend to write about. The purpose of a dissertation proposal is to save you time and trouble later on. If you propose a dissertation on a subject that has been written about extensively already, your advisors will tell you. They will ask you to review the literature again and come up with a new and more interesting topic to explore. Alternatively, your proposal might be overly ambitious. Your professors might help show you how to simplify your research methods so you have no trouble completing the work you set out for yourself.

A dissertation proposal is similar to other types of research proposals. You will outline your research hypotheses, offer your theoretical foundations or viewpoints, and provide a brief review of literature. Once you have received approval to proceed on your dissertation, you can begin narrowing down your topic and refining your ideas.

If you are not receiving quality feedback from your academic advisors, it is always a good idea to change them at this early stage rather than waiting until it is too late. At this stage of your academic career, you are in control and you do need to choose supportive advisors because they may become your future colleagues.

How Long Are Dissertations?

The length of a dissertation depends on the subject. There is no easy or straightforward answer to this question, because your dissertation should ultimately be however long it takes for you to thoroughly explicate your subject or present the relevant research. As long as you complete all the necessary sections of the dissertation, the length is less important than the quality of its content. Some people say their dissertations are around 10,000 words; others say to aim for around the length of a book.

Parts of a Dissertation

Each and every dissertation is different. There are no formulas when it comes to a dissertation, any more than there are formulas for writing books. Ultimately, though, you need to divide your dissertation into sections. The sections make it much easier for your reader, and also help you to write a better and more organized dissertation. Here are a few of the most common parts of a dissertation:

1. Background and Introduction

Introduce your reader to your topic. You'll include the problems or subjects you are interested in, why you have chosen to pursue this subject, what relevance your research may have to future researchers or to real world applications. Your advisors will help you determine what else to include, but you might want to also include an overview of what other researchers have found before you, and how your work differs from theirs.

2. Review of Literature

A formal review of literature is a core component of almost every dissertation. You can organize your literature review by themes, showing what prior researchers have found or what other scholars have said about the subject.

3. Methodology

In the social sciences you will include a methods section. Even in the humanities, you might show how you are going about your research. This is a critical part of your dissertation because it enhances your credibility as a scholar.

4. Results

This is where you present the raw results of your research. If you are writing a dissertation in the social sciences, it may be where you include quantitative results like statistics. If you are in the humanities, you would convey the results of your investigation concurrently with the discussion and analysis sections.

5. Discussion and Analysis

Discussion and analysis is the heart and soul of your dissertation. This is where you truly shine as a scholar and independent researcher.

6. Conclusion and Suggestions

Your conclusions wrap up your analysis, and also provide suggestions for future research or application.

Steps on How to Write a Dissertation

1.  Choose a Good, Well-Defined Topic

If you aren't focused on the topic you're writing about, it will be much harder to create a good paper. That's important to remember when you're looking for the right topic. Don't choose something that's too broad. You need a narrow focus so you can stay on topic and make sure you provide value to your readers as they examine your study.

2.  Do Your Research

Research is the most important part of your dissertation. The information you find on your topic will be transferred to your paper through quotes and properly cited paraphrasing. Make sure you take good notes during your research time. You want to make sure you understood what you read while researching, and also where the information came from. Taking notes allows for that, and also helps you refer back to anything you might not be clear about when you start writing.

3.  Create Your Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the cornerstone of your dissertation. It tells the reader what the paper will be about, and what you intend to prove or address throughout the document. Your thesis should be clear and specific, and should let the reader know which "side" you're on or what you will be arguing.

4.  Identify Your Problem, Purpose Statement, and Study Significance

The problem is what your study specifically addresses and hopes to solve or clarify. The purpose statement focuses on why you are conducting your study (i.e. what purpose does your study serve?). The study significance expands on the purpose statement and addresses why the study will have value for the greater community or society. If you can't determine why your study should be conducted or what purpose it will serve, you may have to adjust your problem statement or even your topic to make sure you have a topic and problem statement that will provide value to the reader.

5.  Create Your Research Questions and Hypotheses

The next step is to create your research question(s) and hypotheses. Some dissertations require both, and some only need one or the other. Unless you have specific instructions from your professor, you can choose which you use and how many of each you have. Make sure any questions or hypotheses you use in your paper can actually be studied and relate back to the topic and the problem statement.

6.  Write Your Introduction Chapter

Now you're ready to write your introduction chapter. You'll include your problem, purpose statement, and study significance, along with any other sections required by your professor or school. Many people include some background on the topic, too. Make sure your introduction chapter is a realistic length for the rest of your dissertation. If you have to write a total of 100 pages, your introduction shouldn't be two pages, but it shouldn't be 30, either. Strive for balance.

7.  Use the Research You Did to Write Your Literature Review

Next, you can start writing about all the research you did. Your literature review will likely be the longest chapter of your dissertation, especially if you're relying on it to provide a lot of information for the methodology and data analysis sections that come after it. In some 100 dissertations, the literature review can take up 50 to 60 pages. Your paper may vary, though, so follow the guidelines given by your instructor and make sure you cover past literature thoroughly. You want to make sure your reader has a clear picture of what other researchers have done in the past.

8.  Write Your Methodology Section

The methodology section is where you describe the study you're doing. How you're going to conduct that study and what variables you're using need to be addressed thoroughly and clearly. Your study should be able to be replicated by a researcher in the future, so your methodology has to be explained well enough to allow for that.

9.  Gather and Analyze Your Data

Once you've described how you're going to collect and analyze your data, it's time to do just that. Gather up all the data for your study, whether that comes from the literature review, surveys, interviews, observation, or any other method, and perform your analysis. You want to make sure your analysis is done correctly, so you can feel confident about the results.

10.  Write Up Your Analysis

When you write up your analysis, don't just say what you discovered. Make sure the reader understands how you analyzed the data, and whether there are any parts of the methodology that could not be completed for any reason. You should be clear on what you discovered.

11.  Interpret and Defend the Results of Your Study

Your analysis of the data is important, but you also have to show that you understand what the analysis means when relating it back to the problem, purpose, and significance of the study. Tell your readers what the results mean, and how they affect the problem. Defend what you've done and discovered, and show its value.

12.  Make Sure Your Reference Page is in the Right Style and Covers All Your Sources

Your sources should be properly cited throughout your dissertation, but you also need a reference page that includes all of them. Make sure to cite them in the style requested by your professor.

13.  Edit and Proofread Carefully Before Turning in Your Work

Don't turn in your work until you've edited and proofread it very carefully. You don't want simple mistakes to lower your grade. Reading your dissertation out loud can help you discover awkward wording or anything that doesn't make sense, so you can change it before you hand in the document.

Sample / Example Dissertation Titles

Tick Tock: The Symbolism of the Clock in the Works of Lewis Carroll

Blue Power: Quantitative Research on How Community Policing Empowers Law Enforcement Officers

Genesis of Grief: Tracing the Origins of Transnational Terrorism in the Middle East

Dissertation Assistance

No one ever writes a dissertation alone. You will have help every step of the way from your professors and advisors. If they are not helping you, then find ones who do! You can also easily get help from professional writing tutors and experts in your field who can give you dissertation assistance. Do not despair, and never be afraid to ask for help. Even the most qualified professionals need to ask for assistance.

How to Find A Dissertation Editing Service

Finding dissertation editing services online is easy, but you do need to ask questions before you begin. Make sure you tell your editor everything about your work, and clearly express your needs. When you find a good dissertation editing service, you are taking the first step toward completing your graduate degree. An editing service may help you restructure your dissertation, clean up your grammar, or provide you with advice on how to strengthen your defense. If English is not your first language, an online dissertation editing service can be extremely helpful.

Dissertation Examples

It can be helpful to see samples of other peoples’ dissertations before you begin. When you read dissertation examples in your subject area, you can see how yours could or should look, what sections to include, and possibly even what to avoid.

What Are Dissertation Services?

Dissertation services may include anything from proofreading to coaching you to help you reach your goals. Proofreading your dissertation is much more than just running spellcheck in Microsoft Word. You want to make sure your grammar is right and all your sentences flow and make sense. Don't rely on Word or another document program to ensure your dissertation doesn't have errors. You are always better off relying professional dissertation services to help you edit and compose your dissertation. The relatively small investment you make in dissertation services will pay off tremendously in the future.

How to Buy a Dissertation Online

Many people buy their dissertation online from a professional. It's easy to procrastinate when you have weeks or even months before your dissertation is due, but it takes time to complete it. You don't want to have to rush at the end, which is why many people rely on online dissertation services. Be careful who you buy your online dissertation from, and work with someone who understands the importance of your work.


Congratulations! If you have made it this far in your graduate career, you are well on your way towards receiving your PhD and becoming a professional. As with any major project, the key to completing a good dissertation is starting early. If you start working on your dissertation now, you will have plenty of time to seek assistance when you need it. The process will go smoothly, and you will enjoy the pride and sense of accomplishment when you receive your degree. 

This writing tool and over 126,443 example essays, tutorials,
study guides and more are available for immediate download!