How to write a Good dissertation

Frequently, university students will need to complete a dissertation prior to graduation. Therefore, if you're working towards a degree, it's advisable to get ready for this inevitable task. Depending on your location, a dissertation may also be known as a thesis. Nevertheless, in certain countries, a thesis specifically refers to the final paper submitted by a Ph.D. candidate.

So, what exactly is a dissertation? How does it differ from an essay? What sets a dissertation apart from a thesis? Is dissertation writing challenging? These are common questions asked by students in higher education institutions.

In addition to addressing these queries, this article will offer a detailed step-by-step guide on crafting an outstanding dissertation. The aim is to support your success.

What Is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a lengthy and detailed piece of academic writing typically required for completion of a doctoral degree. It is a comprehensive research project that demonstrates a candidate's ability to conduct independent research, contribute positively to their field of study, and present  findings in a scholarly manner. Dissertations are common in fields such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, among others

Many degrees end with this paper. The primary goal of a dissertation is to test your research skills. This therefore means:

  • You'll have to come up with a researchable topic -Although your Professor or Supervisor can offer guidance, dissertation writing is pretty independent. You'll be mostly working on the assignment alone.

  • You'll also explore the topic in detail - identify the best research tools to use, and generally manage the project. In other words, it's a platform to not just write about your discipline but also to prove you can practice.

Submitting a well-researched and appropriately formatted dissertation is hard work. The truth is you can take months or years to complete a unique and impactful dissertation. You'll spend countless hours in the field and library researching so you must be mentally ready prior to starting

Note that alternatives to dissertations exist in some institutions. For example, you might have an extended essay writing assignment. Alternatively, you can be requested to carry out a learning project.

Dissertation vs. Thesis

Did you know that the words dissertation and thesis were coined from Latin words? 'Dissertaire', one of the Latin words, means to continue to discuss. The second word is 'disserere', which roughly translates to examine and discuss.

On the other hand, the original Latin word for thesis means to place a preposition. It comes from the Greek word 'tithenai', which means to place.

Differences Between a Dissertation and a Thesis (Fundamental)

While you'll write your thesis before graduating from a Master's program, thesis assignments are often assigned to students undertaking doctoral degrees.

Research is another huge difference between a dissertation and a thesis. A thesis paper is founded on existing research. In contrast, doctoral students have to find new researchable topics and start their projects from scratch.

Differences between a Dissertation and Thesis (Structural)

The structure used when writing a dissertation is often different from that of a thesis. Here are the main differences:

  • In most cases, a thesis will have at least 100 pages

  • A dissertation can be 2 to 3 times longer than a thesis

  • The student is the attributed author of a dissertation

  • The hypothesis or concept of the dissertation is founded on previous research work

Although often used interchangeably, there are clear-cut differences between a dissertation and a thesis. Often, usage depends on your location and the university as well.

For instance, in the UK, a thesis assignment means researching, compiling, and submitting your findings on a completely original idea.  A doctoral thesis is often the gateway to attaining a Ph.D.

On the other hand, a dissertation will be part of a broader postgraduate research assignment.  You've got to read extensively to demonstrate you understood what was taught in class. After submitting and approval of your dissertation, you can then get a Master's degree.

In the US, however, the opposite is true. Thesis papers are often shorter. They are preliminary research assignments performed before getting into the doctorate level. In other words, you'll have submitted a perfectly written dissertation before being handed your doctoral degree. Contrastingly, you'll write your thesis to earn a Master's degree.

As mentioned earlier, the difference between a dissertation and a thesis depends on pre-defined usage in a specific university. See the below examples:

  • Georgetown University in the US: Dissertation and thesis are used to mean adding to one's field of knowledge

  • The University College London: A thesis precedes all research degrees (EngD, MD(Res), MPhil, or Ph.D.).

  • The University of Edinburgh: The difference between dissertation and thesis varies with the department. The university provides guidelines to help learners differentiate the two assignments. Therefore, students often refer to course handbooks in order to know what's expected of them.


A dissertation is a document that presents original research and findings as part of a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree program. A thesis is a document that presents the author's research and findings as part of a master's degree program.
Dissertations are usually longer and more comprehensive. They can range from 100 to 300 or more pages, again depending on the field and program requirements. Theses are typically shorter than dissertations. They can range from about 50 to 100 pages, depending on the field and the specific requirements of the program.
A dissertation is a more extensive and in-depth research project that contributes new knowledge to the field. It often involves original data collection, analysis, and interpretation. A thesis is aimed at demonstrating the student's ability to conduct independent research, analyze information, and present coherent arguments. It may also involve a review of existing literature relevant to the topic.
Dissertations often encompass a broader area of investigation and may include multiple research questions or subtopics Theses are typically evaluated by a committee of faculty members within the student's department or program.
Dissertations typically take three to five years or more to complete as part of a doctoral degree program. Theses are usually completed within one to two years as part of a master's degree program.

Bottom line:

Either assignment happens at different points in the life of a graduate student. Although the two are often used interchangeably, theres a very big difference between the two So, it's intelligent to know when to use which word.

How to Write a Perfect Dissertation

There are guidelines to follow to hand in a perfectly written dissertation. Remember, writing a dissertation is taxing. Also, it's time-consuming and can take longer to complete.

However, it's possible to write a dissertation in 1 month without compromising on the quality. An easy way is by hiring a writing service.  Alternatively, you can follow the below step-by-step guide.

Step 1:

Craft a Killer Dissertation Title/Topic

A solid dissertation topic is like a cornerstone. It forms the foundation upon which you lay your arguments. So, it's essential to choose your title carefully.

Aside from choosing a title that resonates with your specialty, make sure it's clear, unique, and impactful. So, what's the meaning of those three attributes?


Having a clear title means the reader will quickly understand what the research is about. In other words, you choose the wording carefully to avoid ambiguity.

An easy way to craft a clear title is to ensure your topic reveals what you'll be researching, who is involved, and what (context/place) of the study.


Aside from exploring your options around something you love, a good dissertation topic must be original. After all, a dissertation paper presents something new in academia.

So, make sure your topic isn't answering a question that has been answered elsewhere. Consequently, the context of your dissertation automatically becomes new.


A well-crafted topic often results in research that will be of Academic benefit to the area of study. A well written dissertation has subsequent rripple effect across different spheres. For example a well researched and written dissertation can influence policy in  agriculture, medicine, business, and so forth. This therefore means you'll have to ask yourself how your topic will benefit the society or the academic space.

Where to Fetch Dissertation Topics

  1. The Library: The University library database is a reliable source of information. Performing an online search of a few keywords will reveal the extent to which the topic has been explored. It also helps you to find existing gaps in your topic of interest.

  2. Existing Theories: Search for existing theories in your field. Then, scrutinize for gaps and start from there. You can also check on new theories and get ideas as well.

  3. Professional Interests: Work around your career goals. Which aspect of your profession excites you? Are there changes you'd be happy to see in your job?

  4. Other Dissertation Pieces: Already submitted dissertations can be excellent sources of inspiration. A great place to start with is ProQuest Dissertations . They've got an inexhaustible database. Depending on your course, you can order previous dissertation pieces then rush to chapter five of the document. You'll find recommendations for future research which you can use to craft an exciting research topic.

  5. Attend Oral Defense Sessions: It's possible to fetch ideas from discussions that happen during defense sessions. So, ensure you attend as many as possible.

  6. Fellow Students, Professionals, and Faculty Members: Consult with them for suggestions about viable topic ideas.

  7. Professional Journals: Narrow down your search to journals in your field. You'll not only find exciting topics for today but also for the near future.

  8. Conferences and Seminars: Here, you can find authors and presenters to get researchable topic ideas.

  9. Outside Research Agencies or Professional Research Organizations: Excellent resources include the 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA). They often conduct research continuously. So, you can easily find a researchable topic idea from their enormous databases.

  10. Leading Scholars in Your Field of Study: You can tap into their expertise through a call or physical meet-up. They are often open to discussion about what they are doing and can be reliable sources of topic inspiration.

  11. Your Workplace: Which challenges can you identify in your current job setting? Is the problem researchable, and would the topic be interesting if you were to pursue it?

  12. References: These include handbooks and bibliographies e.g.

  • A Handbook of Research on Teaching ideal for educational research

  • Harvard Educational Review is another excellent source for academic research

  • Review of Educational Research

  • Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE)


  1. The Internet: There's no end to the information you can get from the internet. You'll want to set apart enough time to perform searches, think through what's available, and get interesting topic ideas.

Step 2:

Write a Convincing Dissertation Proposal

After finding an excellent dissertation topic, the next step is to seek approval to write your dissertation. This means  you have to write a proposal to convince the committee that your research is worth undertaking. Before they give you the go-ahead, they'll want to:

  • Verify you've got an appropriate dissertation topic.

  • Scrutinize your literature review to confirm you've read extensively

  • Check on your methodology options (your data collection, analysis, and presentation plan).

Some instituitions exempt learners from proposal writing. However, it's prudent to develop an outstanding dissertation proposal and discuss  with your Supervisor. You'll be astonished at how easy the process will be since you'll get valuable feedback. Consequently, you'll  have a general idea of the right way to go.

Further, writing a convincing proposal will help you quickly write the first three sections of your dissertation, i.e., the introduction, literature review, and methodology.

The format of a dissertation proposal often depends on what's outlined in the university's guidelines. However, there are the minimum requirements (dissertation proposal outline) to help you write a clear and concise  proposal.

The Introduction The introduction is often the first chapter of your dissertation proposal. Here, you state your research problem, provide some background information, and explain the study's significance.
The Literature Review

Before the introduction, you'll have done some preliminary reading. Often, you'll come across  various sources, especially when hunting for an ideal dissertation topic. You'll establish existing gaps before settling for any title which subsequently makes writing the literature review straightforward.

In this second chapter, you simply summarize research findings from other sourceswhereby you identify and cite the gaps in those studies. Sometimes, the amount of helpful text can be enormous therefore, consider paraphrasing in order to write concisely.

The Methodology The methodology provides a window for you to convince the committee or research supervisor that you've already thought through and prepared your dissertation's structure. It's in this section that you also state your preferred data collection and analysis methods.
The Conclusion You'll have the conclusion as the last chapter of your dissertation proposal. Since the study is still in its formative stages, you can't deduce your findings,iInstead, you state the expected implications of your research.
The Bibliography/Reference List Lastly, you'll create a bibliography or reference list in order to cite your sources. In addition, ensure you format as per guidelines provided. If you'll have a bibliography, make sure to indicate all your sources, including those not mentioned in the proposal. Conversely, you'll only include sources cited in your text when writing your reference list.

summary of the dissertation writing process


Note that the proposal is a summary of your dissertation. So, you may not necessarily get into the details of the research. Nonetheless, you have  to convince the committee that you're conversant with the topic you intend to undertake. Once approved, you'll be free to move to the next step.

Step 3:

Writing the Introduction of Your Dissertation/Thesis

The introduction will either invite the reader to dig deeper into your paper or kill their morale. Therefore be sure to craft a compelling introduction chapter. To achieve that, simply focus on answering the what (you'll be researching) question and the why (importance of the research) question.

That said, make sure to exclude any information that answers the how question. That way, you'll be sure to have a high-quality introduction chapter and a winning dissertation as well.

Step 4:

Writing Your Dissertation Literature Review ( the Theoretical Framework)

As mentioned earlier, you have  to conduct an initial literature review when writing your dissertation proposal.  At this point, however, it's often a shallow examination of the existing literature.

In-depth exploration happens when you get to the literature review section. Extensive reading is essential not just to provide a summary of existing literature but also:

  • Identify existing gaps and limitations in previous dissertations

  • Discuss the relationship between existing sources and deducing own view from identified patterns, themes, and conflicts.

  • Propose a solution to the research problem

  • Discuss your research methodology

  • Find data to strengthen existing information about the research topic

Apart from journal articles and textbook chapters, industry reports are other valuable sources of information. Also, performing quick keyword searches on Google Scholar can reveal existing literature about your topic. Alternatively, you can look up from Jstor and Wiley Online Library.

When surfing the internet, consider using tools like Mendeley to store your resources. These referencing tools also help you to export your citations in different formats like APA with minimal hustle. Consequently, this saves you time also goes a long way in helping you write your dissertation quickly.

Step 5:

Research Design and Execution

In the introduction, you were answering the what and why questions. In the research design and execution chapter, you'll now answer the how question. In the process, you'll also effortlessly answer the where, when, and with whom questions. As you tackle the mentioned questions, you'll  find yourself discussing your methodologies.

In other words, you'll get into details about:

  • The research approach which can be qualitative, quantitative, experimental, mixed approach or ethnographic

  • Your dissertation philosophy e.g. positivism or interpretivism

  • Data collection methods used e.g. surveys, interviews, archives

  • Data analysis strategies e.g. discourse, statistical

  • Tools used during research e.g. lab equipment and computer programs

  • Challenges faced plus techniques used to overcome them

  • Your research design

It's prudent to prepare for the data collection step adequately. Aside from setting a budget, allocate enough time since some data collection strategies like in-person interviews are time-consuming.

You shouldn't  expect everything to flow as per your initial plan. For instance, you might not get back all the questionnaires from the respondents. While audio data must be transcribed, quantitative survey data will need to be cleaned and presented in the correct format. So ensure you  prepare for such eventualities.

Step 4:

Presenting the Dissertation Results

The fourth step is presenting your dissertation results which often comprises two sections—the result and discussion chapters. The results chapter is just a representation of raw data. Therefore, you don't disclose why you included the data or the meaning of the presented information.

Aside from conciseness, aim at logically presenting your data. You can use tables and figures to explain your results which is easily understood.  Remember to write the chapter in the past tense.

The discussion chapter comes next. It gives an insight into the data you collected by explaining the relevance and importance of your dissertation findings. When writing the discussion chapter, make sure to link back to your literature review and research questions.

Sometimes, the results and discussion chapters are merged into one. Whether you write them separately or include them in a single chapter often depends on preference and the Supervisor's guidelines.

For instance, in empirical research, the results section comes first. On the other hand, the two areas are interwoven in most qualitative dissertation research papers. So, remember to verify with your advisor on  how  bestto  handle the chapter.

Step 5:

Write the Conclusion Chapter

Often, the conclusion is the last chapter when writing a dissertation. However, in some unique circumstances the conclusion paragraph may come before the discussion. In that case, the conclusion is usually a brief analysis of your findings.

If the conclusion is the last chapter of your dissertation, make sure to lay bare your research findings. Ensure the reader will easily relate with what your main argument was correct from the introduction chapter. Expound on the  kind of contribution your research will make in the academic world or society. Lastly, include recommendations for future research.

Step 6:

Include a Bibliography

The bibliography is the last section of a dissertation. This is where you cite all your references. Make sure to use the appropriate citation style when listing your sources.

Step 7: Editing and Proofreading

Lastly, you'll want to proofread your work for errors, structure, and coherence. You'll check whether you've applied the correct referencing format.  In case you're short on time, you can hire professional editing services to help with this. They'll not only proofread, but they can help fine-tune your dissertation to ensure you hand in a top-notch paper.

Final Words

Writing an award-winning dissertation is possible. Adequate preparation, focus and attention to detail will help you write a dissertation quickly. That being said, ensure nothing distracts you. You might have to neglect some aspects of your social life in order to complete the paper. The most important aspect however is to always be in contact with your supervisor to guide you along each step. Remember it does't have to be a solo effort and working with a team may help you curate a well researched and impactful Dissertation

Some useful tips to follow when writing your dissertation









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Published on: 10, Dec 2021
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