How to Write a Dissertation?

Writing a Dissertation

Dissertation is a major stepping stone in a scholar’s academic journey. Obtaining a PhD marks the start of dream job searching. Attaining Master’s and PhD degrees places one at a better position of securing more prestigious jobs in their field. This article is thus helpful to the student as it will assist them during writing of a dissertation.

Definition of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a detailed work submitted when finalising a doctorate degree. A better definition is, an academic reasoning and scholarly literature grounded on a scholar’s research data. A dissertation aims to display all acquired skills by a scholar.

Research and methodology are among skills tested by a dissertation. It is therefore important to clarify dissertation as a progressive testing of all assignments a scholar has tackled during their higher education. Such assignments include data collection, data synthesis and analysis. Dissertation seeks to investigate a scholar’s skills in their field.

There are a number of challenges that doctoral students come across while tackling dissertation such as:

  • Incapacity to adequately define dissertation and its objectives;
  • Procrastination that is, postponing the work until it is too late to do a quality paper;
  • Poor research prowess and inability to effectively and appropriately use research tools;
  • Writing skills that are inadequate therefore producing substandard work;

These problems may be devastating. Therefore, it is helpful to go through this guide so as to understand what a dissertation is and how to write it. The first step in writing a dissertation is writing a proposal.

Proposal definition

As mentioned above, writing a proposal is the first step of writing a dissertation. This proposal will present what the scholar has researched. It is more of a summary of the research. The proposal is important as it will assist the writer in doing the attested paper. The length of the proposal should be between 10-15 pages based on what has been allocated by the instructor. Students should be aware that data collection and analysis may not be as expected. Prior to start working on a long dissertation, invest your time in working on the proposal to ensure confusion doesn’t arise midway.

Outline of a proposal

Keeping in mind that the proposal is the basic step of a dissertation, it is essential to make a draft and an outline. Below is a suggested proposal outline:

  • Introduction of around 2-3 pages that gives a brief explanation of the significance of the topic while emphasizing the focal point of the paper and research question.
  • Methodology to carry around 3-6 pages. Explain how you intend to collect data and methods of data analysis. Here, one should highlight the resources, tools and material required and the time estimation for completion of the project.
  • Objectives to be clearly stated as a hypothesis describing what you intend to demonstrate.
  • Literature review follows covering around 6-10 pages. Here, explain the literature work employed to come up with your research. Be keen to use only literature that is related to the topic.
  • Research constraints. This is a renunciation or explanation of what might have gone wrong. It comes in handy especially when some people try to evince or disprove your paper.
  • Finally, a 1-page timetable for your research that outlines the main segments of the paper.

Proposal sample

The proceeding step is the collection of data for each segment. Remember that the dissertation proposal’s structure is usually dependent on the particular guidelines of your course. It is normal to find some courses demanding for aims and objective of the proposal are in a different segment and entirely doing away with the methodology or literature review segments. To avoid messing up, confirm with your instructor on this matter. The first step in writing a proposal is coming up with the research topic, research question and title:

  • What issue is the project attempt to address?
  • Why is it important to solve the issue?
  • How will proof material be obtaine d?

Difference between Dissertation and Thesis

The key distinction between a thesis and a dissertation is that a thesis is written by scholars while completing their Master’s degrees while the latter is at the end of a doctoral degree. A thesis is merely an accumulation of research while a dissertation offers the student with an opportunity to come up with something new that can impact positively in the field of study. During thesis writing, the student explores a topic and expounds on the theme for which the Master’s degree has been attained. The thesis is usually about 100 pages. However, a doctoral dissertation is way lengthier since it includes background information and other additional information that give it the extra length.

Before embarking on writing a dissertation, pick a topic considering those offered or one of your choice.

Examples of dissertation topics


  • The types of alcohol consumption among campus students
  • The measures of batting behaviour among campus students
  • The duty played by homework assignment on daily routine of international students
  • The impacts of being a taxi driver on student’s behaviour
  • The effect of instructor’s amazing behaviour on nurturing innovativeness among the young.


  • Ethics in the workplace in transnational organisation such as Walmart
  • A business plan based on the manufacturing of musical equipment
  • A business plan proposing assessment of a strategy
  • Verifiable scrutinization of the performance of a business and its leadership
  • Handling the millennial generation


  • How fighting terror themes have impacted on criminal laws across the globe
  • An interpretive inspection of the law of omissions hindrance
  • An analysis of criminal irresponsibility associated with the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007
  • Analysing cases registered in the criminal justice sector
  • The importance of race and gender in the system of criminal justice.


  • How full text databases affect the search engine results
  • The analysation of applications developed for increased energy effectiveness
  • Currently unearthed outlooks to risk management emanating from a particular software
  • Current outlooks to surveying the conduct of adware, malware and other various viruses
  • Disposability and flaw discovery on the 4G wireless network

Structure and outline of Dissertation

In order to prepare your dissertation, it is important to first draw up an outline:

  • Title page
  • Objectives. There should be at most three objectives
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures
  • List of abbreviations
  • An introduction. It consists of the research question and the hypothesis.
  • Literature review. It includes all supporting information for your selected topic and its position in the study area.
  • The body of the research. Here, the student will demonstrate all ideas of the research issue.
  • Methodology. It highlights the reason for using the various tools in tackling the research question.
  • Results or findings. They include expectations of what the data ought to produce.
  • Discussion. Describing in detail and associating the results with literature review and methodology.
  • A timeframe. It is a work plan detailing on time management by the student during tackling of the sections the dissertation.
  • Conclusions and recommendations. Conclusions include a general summary of the research and recommendations without the introduction of any new information.
  • Bibliography or references is a list of all literature sources used in their alphabetical order.
  • Appendices. They include questionnaires, tables that are too detailed and interview scripts.

A dissertation research paper

Prior to starting the writing of a dissertation, it is essential to search other databases to look for literature related to the field of study. While doing so, be keen to understand the structure of a sample. One can request for dissertation sample online in the case they cannot trace a useful one by themselves. A student will therefore have an already made sample from which they can base their dissertation and a point of reference when needed. It is quite difficult to write a dissertation when lacking related research. In order to have this process run smooth, observe the following tips:

  1. Develop a timeline for each stage of the research. Fix time appropriately for each task such as resource assembling, data collection, proposal drafting, drafting of the dissertation and completion of the final paper. Time is critical and lateness must be avoided.
  2. Unearth the sources to search for information from. Students no longer have to tire looking for information in the traditional libraries but can rather save time by accessing it online. This has been made possible by technology. Through channels such as Google Scholar students can access reliable resources. For those that will use traditional sources can ask for the help from librarians.
  3. After resource collection, arrange them so as to avoid confusion and stagnating on your work. Evernote and Penzu are tools that will come in handy as they assist one to organise the chosen resources.

Length of a dissertation

As mentioned earlier, a dissertation can averagely have a length of between 100-200 pages though it is allowed to have at least 21 pages and at most 2000 pages in length.


An abstract refers to the summary of the whole dissertation providing a run through of the research tackled. The significance of an abstract is to provide the reader with an highlight of the content of the dissertation and the reason for studying the issue. When writing the abstract, try to incorporate all the items of the proposal including the hypothesis and research questions.

What to do after writing the dissertation

After writing the chapters of a dissertation paper, invest time in proofreading and editing your document. It is encouraged that after you are done with writing, you should take enough break so that you come back to proofread and edit in a fresh state of mind.

  1. Begin editing. There is a difference between proofreading and editing in that, proofreading concentrates on the general outlook of the paper while editing concentrates on the actuality. Fixing formatting, grammar and structural mistakes is the essence of editing. Proofreading require that the document is re-read over and over again to determine coherency. While doing this, be keen to observe logical relations between arguments determining gaps and bridging them through addition of content. Where you find unnecessary information, delete it as this will reduce the volume of the chapters. The content of the paper should be clearer and quality rather than quantity.
  2. Proofread the document. At this stage, identify all mistakes of style and logic nature while using the help of the dictionary to guarantee quality of your paper. It may be hard for the writer to spot flaws in his or her article thus, allowing others to proofread your work may be helpful. For better scores, don’t shy away from asking for help in writing and seek feedback from peer groups.

Defending your paper

Defending your work is an important conversion in the completion of any student’s study. It is the final yet critical milestone of a student’s career. Performing poorly at this stage cannot be excused, therefore, before, during and after the defence, it is important to observe the following:
  • Before: plan for everything prior. Readiness is required so as to address any prompted questions about your paper. To achieve this, observe rule and be strict about deadlines.
  • During: make your presentation ready, respond appropriately to all questions and employ patience during the process so that you are able to pin point weak point in your research
  • After: make sure to submit copies of the dissertation to your instructors and colleagues. Celebrate the completion of the process.
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