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ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

How to Write Your Best Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

❶The Abstract is an important element of the thesis, and will become a document in its own right if the thesis is registered within any database. It can be best to write the Abstract last, once you are sure what exactly you are summarising.

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Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal
Getting on with the writing

You have to take notes; otherwise you'll end up seriously confused and you won't know where you located a certain important argument that you plan to use. Use Evernote , Penzu , or another online tool to write down notes about your impressions, as well as the sources you plan to reference. Now, you're left with the most important stage of the dissertation writing process: It's surprising to see that many students have some level of confidence during the previous two stages of the process, but they crack when they realize they don't really know how to write a dissertation.

Everything is easier when you have a plan. You already have the dissertation proposal, which is a preliminary outline for the actual dissertation. However, you still need a more detailed outline for the large project. Did the research stage lead you in an unexpected direction? Make sure to include the new points in your outline. The first chapter should include a background of the problem, and a statement of the issue. Then, you'll clarify the purpose of the study, as well as the research question.

Next, you'll need to provide clear definitions of the terms related to the project. You will also expose your assumptions and expectations of the final results. In this chapter of the dissertation, you will review the research process and the most important acknowledgements you've come down to.

This part of the dissertation is focused on the way you located the resources and the methods of implementation of the results. If you're writing a qualitative dissertation, you will expose the research questions, setting, participants, data collection, and data analysis processes.

If, on the other hand, you're writing a quantitative dissertation, you will focus this chapter on the research questions and hypotheses, information about the population and sample, instrumentation, collection of data, and analysis of data. This is the most important stage in the whole process of dissertation writing, since it showcases your intellectual capacity.

At this point, you'll restate the research questions and you will discuss the results you found, explaining the direction they led you to. In other words, you'll answer those questions. In the final chapter of the dissertation, you will summarize the study and you'll briefly report the results.

Don't forget that you have to explain how your findings make a difference in the academic community and how they are implied in practice. Explain why you suggest this research and what form it should take. Use the recommended citation style for your field of study, and make sure to include all sources you used during the research and writing stages.

You'll need another timeline, but this one will be focused on the writing process. Plan how to complete your dissertation chapter by chapter. When you have attainable goals, it will be easier for you to write the project without getting overwhelmed by its length and complexity. There is no life-changing advice to give at this point.

You just need to stay away from distractions, stick to your timeline, follow the outline, and complete the first draft. You already have what it takes; now you're ready to do the real work.

Now that you've completed the first draft of the paper, you can relax. Don't even think about dissertation editing as soon as you finish writing the last sentence. You need to take some time away from the project, so make sure to leave space of at least few days between the writing and editing stage.

When you come back to it, you'll be able to notice most of its flaws. There is a substantial difference between editing and proofreading: You need to deal with the essence first, since it would be silly to proofread the dissertation to perfection and then start getting rid of unnecessary parts and adding more details.

Pay attention to the logical connection between each argument. Are there any gaps in information? Fill them in with more details you collected through the research stage. Maybe you got carried away with the explanations at some point? Make sure to reduce the volume of those parts and clarify them as much as possible. The point is not in quantity; it's in quality and clarity. Finally, it's time to do the final few readings and catch all spelling, grammar, and style errors you made.

Read word by word, sentence by sentence, and consult a dictionary or thesaurus if you have any doubts. If you notice that you're struggling through the stages of editing and proofreading, you should know you're not the only one with such problem. You are too attached to this project and it's difficult for you to see the flaws in it. That's why it's recommended for students to use an editing service that will bring their projects to perfection. This is a smart investment that will save you from embarrassment after all that effort and stress you went through.

Start with a friend or colleague who has knowledge in this discipline. You need to trust this person, since the dissertation is your unique intellectual property. Ask about their opinions and suggestions for improvement. It is worth taking time to develop a logical structure as this will help to convince examiners of the relevance of your research, and that you understand its relevance.

It will also provide you with a framework to refer back to in your discussion chapter, when you reflect on the extent to which your research has achieved what it set out to do. In these chapters a straightforward description is required of how you conducted the research.

If you used particular equipment, processes, or materials, you will need to be clear and precise in how you describe them. You must give enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study. You will need to check which style of reporting is preferred in your field. For example a scientific dissertation would probably have very clear separation between the results and the discussion of those results; whereas a social science dissertation might have an overall chapter called Findings, bringing the results and their discussion together.

This is where you review your own research in relation to the wider context in which it is located. You can refer back to the rationale that you gave for your research in the literature review, and discuss what your own research has added in this context. It is important to show that you appreciate the limitations of your research, and how these may affect the validity or usefulness of your findings.

Given the acknowledged limitations, you can report on the implications of your findings for theory, research, and practice. This chapter tends to be much shorter than the Discussion. This section needs to be highly structured, and needs to include all of your references in the required referencing style. As you edit and rewrite your dissertation you will probably gain and lose references that you had in earlier versions.

It is important therefore to check that all the references in your reference list are actually referenced within the text; and that all the references that appear in the text appear also in the reference list.

You need to check whether or not the appendices count within the word limit for your dissertation. Items that can usefully go in the appendices are those that a reader would want to see, but which would take up too much space and disrupt the flow if placed within the main text. Again, make sure you reference the Appendices within the main text where necessary.

If your dissertation is well-structured, easy to follow, logical, and coherent, your examiners will probably enjoy reading it, and will be able to listen to your argument without the distraction of trying to make all the links themselves. The only way to achieve a consistent argument throughout a piece of writing is by creating some kind of plan or map of what you want to say. It can be useful to think of the research question or topic going like a strong thread throughout the dissertation: Moving from doing the research to writing a comprehensive account of it is not necessarily easy.

It can be helpful to break the task down into smaller, more easily accomplished elements. The process of producing your writing plan could go as follows. It can be a good idea to put the word limit to the back of your mind at this point, and concentrate on getting everything recorded in a document. You can always edit upwards or downwards later as necessary. It is likely, and advisable, that you will not wait until the end of your research before starting to write it up.

You may be required to produce one or more chapters for assessment part way through your research. The process described above can be used for any individual chapter you are working on.

It is important to be prepared to critique and revise your own work several times. Even the early chapters submitted for assessment, and passing that assessment, may need to be revised later on.

This is not a failure, but a positive sign of increased experience and skill. You will refer to the work of others as you make your argument.

This may involve critiquing the work of established leaders in the field. It is important that you are assertive about what you are arguing, but it is unlikely that, in a dissertation project, you will be able to be definitive in closing an established academic debate. You should be open about where the gaps are in your research, and cautious about over-stating what you have found. Aim to be modest but realistic in relating your own research to the broader context. Once you have the dissertation in draft form it becomes easier to see where you can improve it.

To make it easier to read you can use clear signposting at the beginning of chapters, and write links between sections to show how they relate to each other.

Another technique to improve academic writing style is to ensure that each individual paragraph justifies its inclusion. More ideas will be presented in the Study Guide The art of editing. You may choose to review your draft from the standpoint of a dissertation examiner, which might involve preparing a list of questions that you want to see answered, then reading through your dissertation scribbling comments, suggestions, criticisms, and ideas in the margin.

If you have a marking guide then apply it to your dissertation and see if there are aspects that you can improve. While you do this, be aware of whether you need to increase the number of words, or decrease it to reach your target. As you read you can then cross through material that appears unnecessary, and mark points that could be expanded.

This will then form the basis for your next, improved, draft. Just as it can be difficult to begin writing, it can also be difficult to know when to stop. You may begin to feel that your dissertation will never be good enough, and that you need to revise it again and again. It may be helpful to divert your attention for a while to the finishing off activities you need to attend to:.

Coming back afresh to look critically at the main text may then enable you to complete it to your satisfaction. Remember the dissertation needs to demonstrate your ability to undertake and report research rather than to answer every question on a topic.

It is important to allow yourself enough time for the final checking and proof reading of the finished document.

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The title of the thesis or dissertation in all capital letters and centered 2″ below the top of the page. Your name, centered 1″ below the title.

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Identify the work as a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis in parentheses after the title. If the paper was retrieved through a library database, give the accession or order number at the end of the reference. This Study Guide addresses the task of writing a dissertation. It aims to help you to feel confident in the construction of this extended piece of writing, and to support you in its successful completion. It can be difficult to identify the best order for sections in this chapter because the rationale for your choice of specific research.

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