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Dissertation Template


  1. Class: Unspecified
  2. This template is published for use.
  1. Step 1: Choosing a topic
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%


    • A dissertation is a serious work, requiring solid knowledge and outstanding research; you should choose the area of your interest carefully and responsibly.

    • When writing a dissertation, most likely you will not have a predefined topic, or a topic list, which means that you will need to choose it yourself.

      • Within the discipline for which you are writing a dissertation, in which subject are you interested the most of all? Answering this question will narrow your scope down, and will provide you with a clue to where to search further.
      • Research your field of interest a little; most likely, you will find several problems existing within the subject of your choice, or different aspects of the same phenomenon, and so on.
      • Your topic should be as specific as possible, so you must chose one of the aforementioned aspects/problems. For example, if the discipline is “Arts and Design” one of its subjects might be, “African Crafts.” One of the aspects of this subject might be, “Decorative pottery of Central African nations.”
    • After you have figured out what you are going to write about, you need to formulate the essence of your dissertation--the hypothesis.

      • Any issue can be viewed, analyzed, and described from different perspectives, especially when the subject is debated and/or controversial. Study all of them (or at least as much as you can) before formulating a hypothesis.
      • A hypothesis is the roadmap for your argumentative base, and at the same time, the main criteria for picking the arguments, data, and factual information that you are going to use in your dissertation.
      • For the example with the African pottery topic, in your hypothesis you might state something like, “Rope patterns on the pots and plates found across the Republic of the Congo possess a religious meaning, reflecting the beliefs of the nations inhabiting this part of the continent.”
      • * Note, however, that this hypothesis is just an example, and can be false. Do not use this particular statement for a real dissertation.
  2. Step 2: Preparing a dissertation proposal
    Percent time spent on this step: 15%


    • A dissertation proposal includes information about such sections of your dissertation as the introduction, research questions, statement of the problem, research background, and so on.

      • Create a title page. It is not different from the title pages of many other academic papers you have written before. Make sure to write “Dissertation proposal,” not “Dissertation.” The first five words of the title of your work should contain a substantive description of your study. Also, you might need to include a subtitle.
      • Next comes the abstract. Usually, it is a brief (up to 350 words) summary of your dissertation’s introduction, statement of the problem, background of the study, research questions, methods, and procedures.
      • In the introductory section provide a general overview of the circumstances, issues, and background leading up to the problem that you have researched in your dissertation.
      • Formulate the problem statement; in other words, explain the purpose of your study in terms of how it contributes to the area to which your topic belongs.
      • You also need to provide a background for your study. It means that you need to make a review of the relevant theoretical and empirical works already existing in the field, and explain the link between your study and the knowledge in which the study is grounded.
      • Clearly state your hypothesis.
      • In the “Methods and procedures” section of your dissertation proposal, you must specify what type of study you are going to conduct; how you will do it; what data you are going to use and how you are going to obtain them; how you are going to ensure the integrity of your study, and what sampling techniques will be used.
      • You must also specify the possible shortcomings and weaknesses of your research, which may impact its outcomes.
      • Finally, specify the sources used for research. Use the standard citation methods.
    • A dissertation is not a regular academic paper; it is a serious scientific study, which first needs to be approved by an academic committee.

      • Make sure you have observed all the formalities and procedures; before submitting your proposal, check whether it corresponds with your educational institution’s requirements.
      • Wait for the committee’s approval to start working on your dissertation.
  3. Step 3: Conducting the research
    Percent time spent on this step: 35%


    • Dissertation research can be primary and secondary. In case of primary research, you need to conduct your own experiments, surveys, and so on, in order to get new knowledge.

      • Think about which data collection methods suit the goals (and the subject) of your dissertation the most. Plan what auxiliary tools you will need to collect information.
      • A good idea is to check with your supervisor and ask his/her advice on the methods you have chosen, in order to make sure they fit your methodology, area of research, and so on. Rather often, the methods you choose directly affect the results of your research.
      • Keep records on the data you collect during research, and do not forget to back it up. The best option would be to create both a digital storage for your records (using cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox), and print them out--doing this in addition to storing the data on your computer.
    • Secondary research is collecting knowledge on a chosen subject from the works written by other people, and synthesizing new knowledge on their basis. This is rather similar to the research you conducted for writing other types of academic papers.

      • Figure out which libraries in your city contain books, journals, and other sources that you need. It is easy to do this via the Internet, as many libraries run digital archives of sources they have. If a needed source is in a different city, either try buying its digital copy, or go to that city if you have time.
      • Once again, keep accurate records of all the valuable data, facts, quotations, and other evidence that you find during your research.
      • Create a mind map. If you notice how certain ideas work together, or they have inspired you to come up with your own bright idea, draw a scheme displaying relationships between different ideas. Self-made charts, infographics, and other visual information that helps you systemize information and make it more comprehensible are your friends; besides, you can include them in your dissertation.
      • Backup all the data you collect. One of the worst things that can happen to your dissertation is losing all the data you have collected so thoroughly.
    • No research can be conducted without being based on the works and accomplishments of other people; however, to avoid accusations of plagiarism, you must cite the sources you use properly, thoroughly mentioning every author and every work that you have used for your dissertation.

      • Figure out which formatting style your dissertation should adhere to.
      • Make sure all of your citations are formatted according to the style required.
  4. Step 4: Write your dissertation
    Percent time spent on this step: 40%


    • Preliminaries consist of the title page, table of contents, acknowledgements, and technicalities.

      • The title page of your dissertation should contain the actual name of your dissertation, the name of its author, the name of the university and the faculty to which it is submitted, and the date of submission. Check your educational institution’s requirements for formatting before making a title page.
      • Next goes the Table of Contents. In some universities, it is required that you place it after the Abstract, so once again, check the rules of your particular educational institution.
      • Write the Acknowledgements. In this part of the preliminaries, you must list the names and titles of your supervisor, people who gave you valuable expert opinions or whom you addressed for help, people who provided you with technical support (IT, computer graphics, and so on), librarians who spent hours searching for books you requested, friends who criticized and reviewed your work, and so on.
      • The Technicalities section usually includes information about abbreviations, contractions, and symbols that you have been using in your dissertation. Also, it may contain conventions used to refer to archival material, initials, and so on.
    • The abstract is a brief summary of your dissertation, which aims to tell potential readers what your work is about without making them read through the whole text.

      • Set yourself a word limit of no more than 300 words and express the essence of your dissertation within this limit.
      • Check with the actual regulations of your educational institution. Sometimes colleges and universities are known to not accept a dissertation just because the abstract in it is several words longer than the officially estimated word count.
    • The introduction allows readers to get into the course of your dissertation; in other words, in the introduction, you tell your readers what your work is all about, why it is important, and how it contributes to the knowledge in the field you have chosen, without making them figure all this out on their own.

      • At first, you should list your aims and objectives. Depending on the field of research, subject, and topic, they can differ greatly, so for each dissertation they are unique.
      • Provide the context. It can be academic, historical, or narrative, and the list of reasons that pushed the author towards writing the dissertation.
      • After the context, provide the detailed description and/or explanation of the title of your dissertation. Although it may seem strange, here you need to provide a detailed explanation of why you have used the specific words in your dissertation’s title, the exact meaning that you put into this title, and so on. This is needed to eliminate possible aspirations of the main title, and its possible ambiguous interpretation.
      • Next comes the hypothesis of your dissertation. Formulate it as precisely as possible. This section can also contain questions that need to be answered during the research process.
      • Mention what you excluded from the dissertation.
      • Describe the shape of your dissertation. It means that you should show and explain how the arguments in each of your dissertation’s chapters fit together. Also, you can mention the materials that you have included to the appendices section.
      • Finally, provide the conventions adopted.
    • Although these sections do not yet represent your actual findings and research process, they are necessary for understanding the discourse in which you were moving during writing the dissertation, and how you actually conducted your research.

      • One of the primary tasks of a literature review is to show the current state of research in the field that you are writing; also, you must show where there is a gap in knowledge in this field, and explain how you plan to fill this particular research gap.
      • Do not base your literature review on sources that come from different areas of expertise. In other words, make sure that the sources you refer to relate to the discipline in which you are majoring.
      • Make sure that the methodology section sufficiently explains how you got to your findings, organizational context, your research strategy, provides a list of data processing methods, and so on.
    • This is the heart of your dissertation. In this part, you introduce the findings (meaning what you have discovered during the process of research).

      • Check which style of reporting is appropriate in your field of study. For example, authors of hard science dissertations usually separate the results gained through research and the discussion of those results. At the same time, sociology dissertations often merge findings and their discussion together.
      • There are two main ways to introduce the results: you can either begin with an overview of the results accompanied by the detail, or you can immediately delve into the details. Decide on the order in which you will be introducing the results.
      • List your findings. Mind, however, that if you simply list them as is, it may be hard for a reader to understand them and follow your speculations. Therefore, you must not just present them, but also interpret, evaluate, and explain your findings to readers.
      • The discussion section is the main part of your dissertation. Here you must review your research in terms of how it fits and corresponds with the wider context of the chosen discipline, to which it is related. For example, you may discuss how your research has contributed to this context. It is important that you specify the limitations of your research (factors and obstacles that might have affected the validity and/or practical usefulness of the study you conducted).
    • The concluding section of a dissertation is basically the same as in other types of academic papers.

      • Review your entire dissertation, paying attention to its key points, and points which you would like to emphasize.
      • Summarize the contents of your dissertation without excessive details. Do not repeat the entire argument, and do not refer to particularities. You should briefly return to the research questions, and provide an afterword regarding your title.
    • Sometimes it can be also be a bibliography--you should check with the regulations of your educational institution.

      • Make sure that citation formatting within the body of the dissertation corresponds with the list of references. Check your whole dissertation for consistency in these terms, because even such minor mistakes can spoil the impression of your work.
  5. Step 5: Proofreading, Editing, and Feedback
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%


    • Re-read your dissertation in order to find places in the text which look crude, unprofessional, or inferior in some other way.

      • Without changing the factual information such as data, experiment results, and so on, find and rewrite sections which are too wordy, insufficiently detailed, unprofessional and amateur, meaningless, and so on. Mark them in the text, but do not make corrections yet.
      • After you finish marking all the flaws and drawbacks in the text of your dissertation, you can start making corrections.
      • If you have time, you can return to the text of your dissertation as many times as you feel it is necessary.
      • Proofread the final draft of your dissertation. Make sure it is 100% free from grammatical, stylistic, syntactical, and other mistakes.
    • Listen carefully to what your colleague and/or tutor says about your dissertation, and make notes about what needs to change. Use your best discretion and change your dissertation according to your supervisor’s criteria.

      • When receiving criticism, be open-minded. Do not fall into the trap of being defensive.
      • Do not be overly-receptive as well. Do not change your entire dissertation based on others’ comments if the changes do not work better than the original.
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