Writing a dissertation is a big step in a scholar’s rise to the top.  Actually, writing a dissertation is more than a step:  it’s like climbing a big mountain—it’s one of those events viewed as a daunting (if not the most daunting) task you will ever face. But—understanding what a dissertation involves and mastering the process can transform this challenge into a rewarding experience.  So, if you want to know how to write a dissertation, look no further.

This guide offers a step-by-step approach to dissertation writing, with practical tips that will help you to simplify the process.

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.

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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 to Writing a Dissertation

Step 1: Choose a Compelling Topic

Why It Matters

The choice of topic dictates the scope of your research and the interest it will generate. It’s important to select a topic that both sparks your curiosity and fills gaps in existing research.

Things to Remember

  • Focus: If you aren’t focused on the topic you’re writing about, it will be much harder to create a good dissertation.
  • Narrow it down: Don’t choose something that’s too broad.
  • Have a reason: You should be addressing something that no one else has addressed—otherwise, what’s the point?

How to Approach

  1. Brainstorming Session: Start with a broad field of interest and gradually narrow down to specific areas that are under-researched.
  2. Evaluation: Assess the relevance and research scope of each idea by reviewing current literature.
  3. Alignment: Ensure the topic resonates with your scholarly aspirations.

Example

If your interest lies in renewable energy, a compelling topic might be “The Impact of Solar Panels on Rural Communities in South America.”

Step 2: Conduct Thorough Research

Why It Matters

A well-conducted literature review sets the foundation of your dissertation, and it allows you to show the gaps in the existing research that your study will aim to fill.

Things to Remember

  • 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.
  • So, make sure you take good notes during your research time!

Strategies

  1. Resource Hunting: Use academic databases like JSTOR, PubMed, and Google Scholar to gather relevant studies.
  2. Note-Taking: Develop a methodical system for annotating sources, which will aid in referencing and discussions.

Example

While researching, you might find a 2018 study that shows a deficit in the application of solar technology in rural areas, which would give you a perfect “in” for your dissertation.

Step 3: Develop a Dissertation Proposal

Why It Matters

This proposal outlines your intended research, its relevance, and your methodology. Getting approval from your advisor is especially important at this stage as the proposal forms the blueprint of your study.

Things to Remember

  • The thesis statement is the cornerstone of your dissertation and will guide your proposal.
  • 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.

Process

  1. Drafting: Include problem statement, objectives, research questions, methodology, and expected outcomes.
  1. The problem is what your study specifically addresses and hopes to solve or clarify.
  2. The purpose statement focuses on why you are conducting your study (i.e. what purpose does your study serve?).
  3. The study significance expands on the purpose statement and addresses why the study will have value for your field. (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.)
  1. Feedback: Regular consultations with your advisor are vital to refine your proposal and ensure alignment with academic standards.
  1. Once you got some feedback, create your research question(s) and hypotheses.
  2. 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.
  3. Check out this abbreviated dissertation proposal below for a rough idea of how it should look:

Step 4: Meticulously Craft Your Dissertation

Structure Breakdown

Introduction: Set the stage with your thesis statement and give a brief overview of the research.

  1. You’ll include your problem, purpose statement, and study significance.
  2. Give some background on the topic, too.
  3. Make sure your introduction chapter is an appropriate length. If you have to write a total of 100 pages, your introduction shouldn’t be two pages, but it shouldn’t be 30, either.
  4. See the example below for a rough idea of what a good intro looks like:

Literature Review: Deep dive into previous research and establish how your work fills any gaps.

  1. Your literature review may 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.
  2. You want to make sure your reader has a clear picture of what existing research says on the topic.
  3. The example below is abbreviated—your literature review will be much longer and more detailed—but it works to show you the main idea:

Methodology: Clearly describe your research methods and justify your choices.

  1. Make it so clear that your study could be replicated by anyone simply by following your method.
  2. The example below is short on details—the one in your dissertation will be longer and more in-depth—but it gets to the point:

Results and Discussion: Present your findings and their implications in detail.

Conclusion: Sum up your research, restate its significance, and suggest areas for future study.

Dissertation Tips

  • Clarity and Coherence: Maintain a logical flow that guides the reader through your argument.
  • Evidence-Based Arguments: Support your claims with data and citations.

Step 5: Revise, Proofread, and Defend

Iterative Nature

Embrace multiple drafts and revisions as part of the process to refine your dissertation to perfection.

Strategies

  1. Self-Editing: Look for consistency in argumentation and the clarity of your writing.
  2. External Feedback: Seek input from peers and advisors to gain different perspectives.
  3. Defense Preparation: Understand your research thoroughly to confidently articulate and defend your findings.

dissertation topics

Dissertation Topics

Business & Management

  • The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Brand Perception and Consumer Loyalty
  • Remote Work Dynamics: Strategies for Effective Leadership and Team Collaboration
  • The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Transforming Human Resource Management Practices
  • Ethical Considerations in Big Data Analytics for Marketing Decisions
  • Crisis Management in the Age of Social Media: A Comparative Analysis

Education

  • The Effects of Technology on Early Childhood Development and Learning Outcomes
  • Closing the Achievement Gap: Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies in Diverse Classrooms
  • The Impact of Standardized Testing on Student Motivation and Learning
  • Teacher Burnout: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention Strategies
  • The Role of Parental Involvement in Promoting Student Success in Underserved Communities

Social Sciences

  • The Social Construction of Gender in Online Communities
  • The Impact of Social Media on Political Polarization and Discourse
  • The Effects of Gentrification on Community Displacement and Social Inequality
  • The Refugee Experience: Challenges and Strategies for Integration in Host Countries
  • The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories: Understanding Belief Formation and Resilience

Health Sciences

  • The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Mental Health and Well-being
  • Innovations in Telemedicine: Improving Healthcare Access in Rural Areas
  • The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Chronic Pain Management
  • The Long-Term Health Consequences of Childhood Trauma
  • The Impact of Environmental Factors on the Development of Autoimmune Diseases

Other Topic Ideas

  • The Impact of Climate Change on Global Agricultural Practices
  • Machine Learning in Diagnostic Imaging: Improvements and Ethical Considerations
  • The Role of Social Media in Shaping Political Opinions in the 21st Century
  • Blockchain Technology: Opportunities and Challenges in Financial Services
  • Mental Health Outcomes Among First Responders: A Cross-Sectional Study
  • Renewable Energy Systems: Comparing Wind, Solar, and Hydroelectric Power in Terms of Efficiency and Sustainability
  • Urban Green Spaces and Their Impact on City Dwellers’ Mental Health
  • The Evolution of Feminist Literature in the 20th Century
  • Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Automating Customer Service
  • Cultural Tourism and Its Impact on Indigenous Communities
  • Cybersecurity Measures for Protecting Personal Data in the Digital Age
  • Plastic Pollution in Oceans: Analyzing Solutions from Around the World
  • The Effects of Autonomous Vehicles on Urban Planning and Public Safety
  • The Influence of Gen Z on Modern Marketing Strategies
  • The Role of Traditional Medicine in Contemporary Healthcare Systems
  • Economic Models for Evaluating the Long-term Impacts of Pandemics
  • Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering of Humans
  • The Future of Work: The Role of Telecommuting in Business Efficiency
  • The Relationship Between Economic Sanctions and Diplomacy
  • Language Revitalization: Case Studies of Successfully Revived Languages