The Dissertation: Everything You Need to Know

This is a very detailed form of research, focusing on a precise inquiry process as a requirement for doctoral studies and graduation from the program.

Most students consider this to be their most difficult, longest, and most important assignment at university, which often requires months of hard work and preparation. Yet, it can be rewarding, particularly if the student is passionate about their choice of topic. Thus, it’s important to select a subject that a student is genuinely interested in as their dissertation topic.

Based on a student’s course of study, the type of dissertation they need to complete will vary. A key difference they need to be aware of is between non-empirical and empirical dissertations.

Non-empirical dissertations are based on present data and arguments in others’ work. Thus, such dissertations need students to study a lot of existing work by others. However, they need to ensure they don’t just describe what others are saying but critically scrutinize the work and search for its practical applications.

Empirical dissertations involve collecting data, such as what one does in a psychology degree. This calls for putting into practice ethical and professional guidelines when collecting data from members of the public. Empirical dissertations in life science and natural science subjects may be entirely centered on or involve laboratory work.

Irrespective of the type of dissertation a student chooses to write and what their topic is, they will need to demonstrate certain skills, such as the following:

·         Defining and summarizing a field of research with a clear question

·         Classifying the most important issues

·         Sourcing the appropriate information

·         Evaluating its authenticity and reliability

·         Assessing the evidence on all sides of a debate

·         Arriving at a well-argued conclusion

·         Arranging and presenting the results of research convincingly, critically, and articulately, while following all the guidelines on the right way of formatting the dissertation

Key segments of a dissertation are the title page, the abstract or short summary, the table of contents, and introduction, followed by literature review, methodology, findings and discussion, conclusion, references/bibliography, and appendices. Though a dissertation’s length can vary between study levels, it’s typically around 15,000-25,000 words at the master’s level. At the doctoral level, it can go up to 50,000 words or even more.

Dissertations give students an opportunity to let their skills shine through. They should prepare it carefully and seek guidance from their supervisors to ensure they sail through the process.

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