How To Write a Dissertation Outline

Ginger Abbot

Jun 2, 2022
sitting at computer

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Completing a dissertation is the final step to earning your doctorate. Writing the paper can feel a little intimidating. Having a well-structured layout will help ease your stress. Here is how to write a dissertation outline successfully. 

What Is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a requirement to earn a Ph.D. It consists of researching a topic in your field and presenting a new theory. You can choose the topic. The goal of the paper is to expand on current knowledge or add a new idea. The document should be around 100 to 300 pages in length. After completing the project, you’ll have to defend your argument to a committee. 

Tips on How To Write a Dissertation Outline

Before diving into your proposal, you want to have an idea of what you’re writing about. So, follow these steps for how to write a dissertation outline.

1. Review Other Samples of Student Work

Before starting, check out what previous students have written. Looking at other work can give you inspiration for your paper. It’s an excellent way to get an idea of the basic format. 

See if your professor has past essays they can share with you. Some advisors may even post well-written ones on your school’s website. Also, check online for additional examples, which can help you brainstorm ideas. 

2. Determine Your Topic

The first step when determining how to write a dissertation outline is picking a good topic. The topic is one of the most important parts of your thesis. You want to choose something you’re interested in since you will spend plenty of time researching it. 

Keep in mind you need to draw your own conclusions. Try to find a unique topic or one that hasn’t been overly researched. Another tip is to pick a topic that isn’t too broad. Narrow down your ideas so you can write a clear and concise argument. 

Before picking a topic, do your research and try out a few prompts. Then consult your academic advisor to see which is best. Having a well-thought-out idea makes it easy to write the rest of the sections. 

3. Develop a Methodology for Collecting Data

Once you have a topic, you want to determine the best way to collect information. You can use a variety of methods, such as interviews or questionnaires. Be sure to take careful notes of the data collected. 

Suppose you want to confirm or test a theory. Then quantitative research, such as surveys and experiments, is the best option. However, if you want to understand a concept further, consider qualitative research. The method involves interviews or literature reviews. 

Make sure the method you choose relates to your research question. Money, time, and availability of data are other important factors to consider. 

4. Breakdown the Structure for Your Paper

Each section of your paper plays a role in supporting your overall thesis. Laying out the different parts is a critical step in how to write a dissertation outline. It can help you to organize your thoughts before diving in. 

Here are the sections you want to include:

1. Front page including title, abstract, and table of contents 

2. Introduction

3. Literature review

4. Research methodology 

5. Results of the Study 

6. Summary

7. List of references 

8. Appendices 

Once you have written out the sections, you can now complete a draft. Make sure your main ideas support your argument. If you need help, look for online writing services or ask your advisor for feedback. 

5.  Have Your Advisor Look at Your Draft 

After finishing your outline, let your professor take a look at it. They can help you fix any mistakes or inspire you if you’re feeling stuck.  They know the proper format and what other professors expect. 

You can either send your advisor an email or talk with them after class. If you compose an email, include what stage of the writing process you’re at and any specific questions you have. When receiving feedback, try not to take it personally. Instead, see it as a chance to grow as a writer. 

Benefits of Completing an Outline

Now that you know how to write a dissertation outline, here are some of the main benefits of having one. 

1. Organizes Your Thoughts Into a Sequential Flow 

When you create an outline, it helps you break down each section. Having a clear idea of what each part includes creates a more concise thesis. You can add thoughts chronologically instead of jumping from one idea to the next. 

2. Allows You To Pick Relevant Quotes From Your Sources 

When you create an outline first, it helps you have a focus. Then as you review your research, you can pull quotes supporting your argument. Having relevant citations makes your dissertation stronger. 

3.  Helps With Time Management

Planning your ideas saves you time when writing your paper since you already have a clear focus. Effectively managing your time is key because the paper is lengthy. It also gives you time to write multiple drafts. 

4. Gives You Idea of Where You Should Place Information 

Planning each section makes it easier to see where new information fits in. It allows you to combine ideas that match well together into one section. Once you know where to put the information, you can focus on the actual writing. 

5. Allows You to Start Writing Right Away

Knowing what you want to write about allows you to dive in right away. It can even help with that stubborn writer’s block. Getting started can be challenging, but outlining makes it easier for you to start right away. 

Creating the Perfect Outline

Writing a dissertation takes time, but planning can help. To develop a clear thesis, you want to build an outline. Follow these tips for how to write a dissertation outline successfully. 

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