What Is a Dissertation? Is a Dissertation the Same as a Thesis?
A dissertation and a thesis are often considered as one and the same, and indeed in many parts of the world they are. For example, it is not uncommon for other countries to require students to submit an undergraduate dissertation. Here in the United States, however, these two projects are regarded as distinct from one another. So what is a dissertation? How does it differ from a thesis? Most importantly, how is a dissertation written?
One of the main differences between a thesis and a dissertation is the type of degree they are written for. A dissertation is a research document that students are required to accomplish as part of their PhD degrees, also known as a doctorate degree. On the other hand, a thesis is the culmination of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program. The two are often confused because they are both written at the end of a program.
>>>Apart from the application, a thesis and a dissertation have other stark differences.
A thesis seeks to demonstrate the spectrum of knowledge you have acquired during your early academic years, whereas a dissertation aims to contribute new knowledge to the field of study for you to earn a doctorate degree. The point of a dissertation is to identify a unique concept in the field, develop it, defend its validity, and stack that piece of knowledge for the academic and professional community.
Both a dissertation and a thesis require rigorous research. But what distinguishes a post-graduate dissertation from an undergraduate thesis is its depth and complexity. It requires extensive planning, and the PhD student is expected to offer something original that will greatly contribute to the current literature of their respective field for the benefit of future researchers. Basically, as a PhD student, you are no longer just a learner; you are already a contributor to the professional field you are part of.
Where to Start Your Dissertation
Dissertation writing is comprised mainly of research and data gathering. Writing, which produces the final document of your dissertation, usually takes a backseat until the latter stages of the dissertation process. Yet it is not something that should be neglected. The easiest way to start your dissertation is by mapping out the contents of each chapter. Once you have mapped out your ideas, proceed with writing the Literature Review. Go down the contents page and write the Introduction and the Abstract last.
PhD students usually get exhausted from data gathering and other steps of the research process that they eventually lose the energy to write a dissertation that sounds formal and professional. It does not help that PhD students are often required to juggle dissertation writing with other commitments. It is therefore not surprising that many students opt to buy a dissertation online. If you are without any other option, enlisting the help of professionals is a good way to accomplish this project.
How Do I Choose My Doctoral Dissertation Topic?
The first and most grueling step in dissertation writing is the topic selection and topic proposal. You may be asking: How long it takes to write a PhD dissertation? — The answer varies. Depending on your post-graduate program, it can take one to two years to work on your dissertation, or even longer in some cases. The scope of your dissertation usually determines and eventually reflects the span of time you spend writing.
Choosing your topic is a crucial step, especially since your topic could be the field of study you will focus on for the rest of your professional life. Your dissertation topic should ideally be something you find interesting and worthy of your time. For example, it makes sense for a person working in marketing to consider marketing dissertation topics. It would also help if you consider various angles when deciding a dissertation topic. You can consider topics that are:
- Entirely new. Research is all about innovation and answering existing questions. A new topic, one that is yet to be fully explored, is an excellent choice for a dissertation. The main challenge is that a new topic may require you to navigate your way as a pioneering researcher.
- Relatively new, but needs further proof. Like a new topic, a relatively new topic that has been explored before yet still requires further proof offers an excellent opportunity for research. The drawback? Again, it requires you to navigate mostly unchartered territory.
- Fill in research gaps. Research is a never-ending process. The findings of one research will almost always result in new questions that require answers. Contradictions requiring reconciliation may also surface. Filling in gaps in knowledge, therefore, is another avenue that you can consider.
- Recommendation continuation. Researchers often end their research with recommendations for future research. A lot of pilot studies, for instance, are too small and require replication on a bigger scale. Choosing a topic that picks up where previous researchers left off offers more structure and organization than a new topic. The drawback is the risk of redundancy.
>>> The importance of choosing an appropriate topic cannot be understated, especially since you only have limited resources. It will do you well to choose a topic that interests you.
Other things you can do include reading up on your topic to learn more about it, consulting with your mentors and advisers, and estimating the number of resources writing your dissertation will require.
Your Dissertation’s Methods
Apart from the topic, another important aspect you need to decide on is the method your dissertation will employ. There are two main types of research methods: quantitative research and qualitative research. For many researchers, it is just a question of quantitative versus qualitative. But in some cases, you may need to conduct mixed research, which combines quantitative and qualitative methods.
- Quantitative method. The quantitative method refers to the collection and analysis of data expressed in quantifiable or measurable terms, i.e. numbers. A dissertation that uses this method will conduct statistical, mathematical, or computational analysis. For instance, if your dissertation seeks to find out the effectiveness of an ointment in healing wounds, you will likely quantify and measure the rate of wound healing.
- Qualitative method. As opposed to the quantitative method, the qualitative method involves the collection and analysis of non-numerical data, particularly words or texts. This method is usually motivated by the desire to understand the perspectives of social reality. For example, if your dissertation seeks to uncover nurses’ experiences when confronted by pandemics, you will likely hold in-depth interview sessions with nurses who have worked through pandemics.
There is no set answer to the question of what is the best research method. Rather, the answer to this question relies on the topic your dissertation will investigate. If you want to find out which method you should use, refer to your topic again. Determining what you want to find out will lead you to the method that will help you answer that question. If your question is looking for numbers, use quantitative; if your question is searching for meaning, use qualitative.
Data-Gathering for Your Dissertation
Regardless if you are conducting quantitative or qualitative research, you need to decide the type of data collection method you need. Data collection is an essential part of dissertation writing since the data you gather will serve as material for your analysis. There are two main types of data-gathering methods. What are the two data collection methods?
- Primary Data Collection Method. In primary data collection, the researcher is responsible for collecting data that will eventually answer the research question. You will need to design the method for data-gathering, and it needs to be suitable for your research question. Some examples of methods for collecting primary data are surveys, questionnaires, and interviews as well as instruments that have numerical scales.
- Secondary Data Collection Method. Secondary data is data that has been collected and processed by another researcher or organization. This type of data is accessible in journals, government resources, and reports among other materials. Secondary data collection methods often involve going through various documents. There are lots of resources nowadays, so as a researcher you need to be thorough and methodical in selecting relevant research for your dissertation.
In summary, primary data is data you gather on your own by way of using data-collecting instruments. Secondary data is data gathered by other researchers which you access in various publications. Bear in mind that in some cases, you may need to gather both primary data and secondary data. It all depends on your dissertation’s research model.
Writing the Dissertation
Writing the actual dissertation constitutes only a small portion of the entire dissertation writing process. This is why post-graduate students tend to underestimate the weight of writing in relation to the overall process. The majority of a PhD student’s time will likely be devoted to reading, data gathering, and even consultation with dissertation advisers. Writing also takes time, and it will produce the final document that will determine if you get to graduate or not.
>>> Bear in mind that your dissertation will be read not only by your adviser and the dissertation committee but also potentially by your future employers and future researchers.
How you write directly affects other researchers’ and professionals’ impression and understanding of your research. Your dissertation’s writing and formatting need to be perfect. In particular, make sure your dissertation is correctly formatted according to the chosen style. Some of the more common styles are:
- APA Citation Style. Published by the American Psychological Association, this style is most often used in the social sciences, business, and health sciences. This style primarily uses the author-date system.
- MLA Citation Style. This style is published by the Modern Language Association, an organization composed of language and literary scholars. This style uses the author-page system and is most often used in fields under the humanities such as linguistics, literature, history, and the arts among others.
- Chicago Citation Style. Published by the University of Chicago Press, the Chicago style is one of the most widely used styles in the world. It provides formatting for two systems: the author-date system and the notes-bibliography system.
- Harvard Citation Style. First developed by a lecturer at Harvard University, this style prescribes the use of the author-date system. This style is more flexible than the others since there is no single source that sets the standard for Harvard citation.
The instructions you will receive for your dissertation often already include the citation style you should use. In some cases, however, you may be allowed to choose your own style. If that happens, make sure that you choose a style based on its appropriateness to your dissertation rather than convenience. It will also be to your advantage to familiarize yourself with at least the basics of all major citation styles.
How Do You Structure A Dissertation?
Dissertations have specific structures that need to be followed. After all, it will be published for your field to see. If you want to know how to get published in an academic journal, the first thing you need to do is know the structure of your dissertation. While structure varies according to standards and the specifics of your study, there are common elements that you need to know about. These are the following:
- Title page. The title page serves as the front page of your dissertation. As the term suggests, this part features the title of your dissertation. This page also usually features personal and school information such as your name, your school’s name, and your department among others.
- Abstract. The abstract is a short summary that details the research question, purpose, methods, results, and findings of the dissertation. This part should be precise and clear so that anyone who reads it will be able to gather a good idea of what the dissertation is all about.
- Acknowledgements. This part details the people and organizations that you consider as instrumental in writing the dissertation. This is also the part where you can express your gratitude for their contributions.
- Contents Page. The contents page lists all the main sections and major subsections of your dissertation followed by their respective page numbers.
- Introduction. As the term itself suggests, the introduction is the section where you introduce your dissertation. This section should present both the research question you are investigating and your justifications for conducting the research in the first place. Some points you need to cover here include the purpose of your research and its significance for your topic or field.
- Literature Review. The literature review is where you present the most salient information about your topic. In other words, you present what is already known about your topic. This section should not just repeat what your sources say; rather, this should synthesize the information by finding common themes, contrasting differing viewpoints, and identifying gaps in the body of knowledge.
- Methodology or Methods. This section presents the methods you will use to answer your research question. As stated earlier, the methods largely rely on the questions you are trying to answer. For example, if you are conducting primary research, then your methodology will involve participants. Secondary research, on the other hand, will involve deriving data from existing sources. This section should also present the details of how you will analyze the data.
- Results. This section presents the results yielded by your analysis. Note that this section should present only the raw results; it should not yet include your interpretations of the results or the implications they present unless the results section is combined with the discussion section.
- Discussion, or Findings. While the results section presents only the raw results from the analysis, the discussion section is where you present your interpretation of the results or their implications. In other words, you need to uncover what the results tell and explain how they answer the research question. For example, this is the section where you will discuss what measurements for your quantitative study mean.
- Conclusions. The conclusion is where you wrap your dissertation. You should not present new data or interpretations here. This part should focus on recalling the problem you are trying to answer, the purpose and significance of the project, and the findings. This section may also include recommendations for future research.
- References. This is the complete list of all sources you cited and consulted. All entries should be formatted and arranged according to the standards of the prescribed or chosen citation style.
- Appendices. Appendices refer to important documents you used in your dissertation that are not presented in the main paper. For example, you do not need to present the actual questionnaire you used in the methodology section since it may be too long and will only distract the reader. But to ensure that your reader can see your questionnaire if necessary, you should attach it as an appendix.
These are the main chapters of your dissertation. However, each chapter will require headings and sub-headings that make the content organized and easy to understand. There is no one way to write a dissertation. Often, writing a dissertation depends on the writer’s instinct as each dissertation is organized based on its own specific needs and aims. For dilemmas like this, having an expert writer within reach makes a lot of difference.
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