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How to Write a Dissertation

Is it already time for the most important paper in your university career? Congratulations! You’re already one of the world’s elite students just by making it so far, and you’re just one step from becoming a true professional in your field. We’ve prepared some tips to help you take that last step. It’s rare that anyone writes more than one dissertation, so preparation and guidance is in order. Knowing what you’re getting into beforehand is never a waste of time.

Dissertation Life-Cycle

Dissertation writing goes through stages, from assignment to final submission (public presentation not included). We can call it a life-cycle:

  1. Research proposal.
  2. Methodology and theoretical framework.
  3. Primary and secondary research.
  4. Argument development.
  5. Writing.
  6. First submission.
  7. Corrections and final submission.

Dissertation Writing Tips

Writing a dissertation requires a deep level of dedication. It will probably frustrate you, and your brain will short-circuit a couple of times. But you’ve put so much effort into your PhD education, that if anyone can do it, it’s you. So, we’ve collected some advice you can use to organize your work, research and text.

  • Schedule. It’s not like other bigger papers, that you can write alone and hand in when finished. You’ll need to meet your supervisor several times to discuss your paper, and you can’t go in empty handed:
    • Schedule your meetings beforehand, giving yourself enough time to research the topic, draft sections and edit.
    • Every time you sit down to work on the paper, take notes with questions that concern your work. Some questions will resolve themselves during the process. Others will be helpful during your meetings.
    • Know yourself. Depending on your abilities, skills and responsibilities, you can work, for example, one hour every day or 3 hours every other day, or 5 hours 2-3 times a week. Just don’t let yourself slack off.
  • Annotated bibliography. If you don’t get it as a separate assignment, definitely do it yourself. It will help you in every step of the process: brainstorming, outlining, citing, and even making a references list.
    • All sources you use should be up to date, unless you need to showcase the changes in comparison to earlier research that’s relevant to your topic.
    • Keep track of the page numbers where you found the needed information, so you can always go back to it.
    • Use the required citation style.
    • List the citations you want to add after the relevant entry.
  • Writing. Don’t overload paragraphs with ideas. All sections of your dissertation should be structured within themselves. Keep the sentences as short as possible. No matter how educated your audience is, don’t lose focus on the points you’re arguing.
  • Argument. It’s easier to prove your points if you give the audience facts that are easy to decipher. Sometimes you see graphics or tables overloaded with information, and you have to analyze them first to understand what they’re about. If you absolutely have to use them in your work, use them as an example of your analysis; give feedback. Don’t leave them hanging like an accessory. If you just say “this number is from this table,” it’s a waste of space.
  • First submission. At this point, nothing is over yet. Your supervisor will give you feedback and highlight what needs to be changed. It’s normal! It’s part of the process and nothing to be upset about. In fact, there should be time in your schedule dedicated solely to corrections.
  • Help. Get help from your peers. You’re all working on different topics, so there’s no harm in sharing your work or helping each other to improve. If you know any graduates, even better! Ask them to look through your work, and tell you what they think.

Dissertation Do’s and Don’ts

DO’S DON’TS
Keep up with a writing schedule. Don’t overload you writing with citations.
Read a couple of dissertations; get the gist of the appropriate language and structure. Don’t undermine yourself.
Love your topic. Don’t start writing before you finished research.
Be specific. Don’t plagiarize or make up facts.
Find ways to motivate yourself. Don’t procrastinate.

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