How to Write a Dissertation: 8 Easy Steps

Carolina Jacobs

Apr 23, 2021

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Your dissertation is the culmination of your academic career. It’s how you prove that you’ve mastered every lesson and should become the newest professional in your field. Even if you’re ready to graduate, you might dread the idea of starting the writing process. This guide explains how to write a dissertation in eight easy steps so you don’t have to stress while finishing a high-quality proposal.

1. Learn What a Dissertation Means

Students often confuse dissertations with thesis papers. They’re both highly researched written proposals that ask questions and answer them. They also need to receive approval before you can obtain your degree.

The difference is your education level. If you’re planning for your dissertation, you’ve likely already written an extensive thesis project. Students must complete their thesis before graduating with their master’s degree. A dissertation happens before getting your doctoral degree.

The topics are also very different. Thesis papers can cover whatever interests you within your field of study. Dissertations must ask questions and present research that no one wrote about before. Disprove or prove an original hypothesis with more in-depth work than a thesis paper.

2. Delve Into Research Topics

The key to a good dissertation is an original research topic. If you’re trying to earn a Ph. D. in education, you might write about providing better career guidance for high school students. It’s a broad topic that gives you room to ask specific questions and won’t leave you in a writing corner. It’s also clear, concise and relevant to both your degree and modern society.

Your research should also hold your interest. You’ll spend plenty of time with this paper and the reading materials related to it, so avoid any questions that seem boring. When you’re excited to write your dissertation, you’ll use your time effectively and knock out research that makes your writing easier.

3. Draft Your Proposal

No one enjoys staring at a blank first page. It’s intimidating and may overwhelm you. Instead, make a rough draft for your proposal. It guides your writing and proves why your advisor or committee should approve your topic.

Write your primary research question so it’s your starting point. Next, list existing literature or research that relates to your topic. Provide specific examples of published works supporting your question or asking why no experts addressed it before now.

A few other things to include in your proposal are details like:

  • The title
  • Potential outcomes
  • Your timeframe

Finish your proposal with a few sentences regarding how you’ll research the literature and craft it into a paper. Proposals should focus exclusively on your plan for your paper and not become the dissertation’s first draft.

4. Start the Introductory Chapter

After receiving approval, it’s time to battle your dissertation anxiety and start the introductory chapter. Remind yourself why you chose your topic and try self-care habits to release your initial stress. You’ll begin your writing in a better mindset that supports a solid dissertation.

The first chapter sets the scene for your initial question and the research supporting it. Provide background for the problem, state what you’re going to answer in the paper and why the topic is significant. When your reader finishes the chapter, they should want to turn the page and jump into the literature.

5. Write Your Literature Review

Go back to the literature in your proposal and read through everything you referenced. Note what aspects the articles and books cover so you know what hasn’t been addressed by your research. Catalog everything that you might want to reference in your dissertation.

Give yourself enough time to digest everything. Let the topics marinate in your mind so you fully grasp what they talk about and how they relate to your proposal. When you decide to include new literature, draft a review for it. Each miniature review should summarize what the article covers, point out existing research gaps, and explain why it’s an integral part of your proposed research. 

6. Dive Into the Research

Once you’ve created an extensive library of relevant literature, expand your research. You’ll need to explain your methodology, how you collect data from your research materials, and how you’ll analyze it. These specific steps are additional proof to the approval board that you know how to handle heavy topics and improve your future career field through research.

Figuring out how to write a dissertation takes a while, but the research part sometimes takes the longest. Don’t forget to take care of your mental health by enforcing breaks and getting enough sleep. You may want to run across that graduation stage, but neglecting your health won’t get you there any faster.

7. Answer the Research Questions

Answering your research question and the topics that branch off of it require strategic analysis. If you’re exploring your question and want to go in-depth on a discussion topic, you’ll use qualitative research methods like extended observations and open-ended questions. Quantitative research uses graphs and numbers to prove your theory.

Your strategy depends on your proposal topic and your degree. Mathematics, science, and business students may find quantitative proof more useful than qualitative. Ask your advisor for their opinion on using one method or using a bit of both if you’re not sure which would be most beneficial. 

8. Discuss the Conclusions and Implications

After reading and writing about your topic, your final chapter will address your conclusions and any related implications. Anyone writing about giving career guidance to high school students could conclude that improved career guidance might reduce college dropout and unemployment rates. Your research’s short and long-term effects are relevant to your proposal because they become the final proof that you’re an industry expert. 

Discover How to Write a Dissertation

Learning how to write a dissertation combines steps like these with real-world practice. Get your thoughts and research onto paper for your proposal. Work through drafts and notes to refine your ideas. You’ll finish with a dissertation that demonstrates your pride and passion for your field.

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