101 Guide to Writing a Dissertation on Any Topic

Formatting the Dissertation

The dissertation format is fairly standardized across all academic subjects and disciplines. The student beginning the dissertation process should always consult with his or her faculty advisor to make sure there are no “house style” rules governing the dissertation format for dissertations submitted at the student’s university. If there are any house rules, however, they will likely be minor changes and the following components of standard dissertation format will most likely all be present.

Dissertation format encompasses two aspects of the dissertation: the formatting of the paper itself, with respect to title pages, supporting chapters, appendices, etc., and the content of the dissertation. The mechanical aspects of dissertation format, including the arrangement of the elements on the title page, the structure of the table of contents, the page numbers and running heads, and other elements, are mostly governed by the style manual that is preferred in the academic field in which the student is working. Most social sciences will require APA dissertation format, while humanities subjects will often require the use of MLA style. In historical research, dissertation format often follows Chicago style. The student will most likely already be aware of the preferred style in his or her field, but he or she should always check with the advisor to be certain.

With respect to the content aspects of dissertation format, most dissertations have the following chapters (in chronological order):

Introduction ->Literature Review-> Methodology-> Results-> Discussion-> Conclusion

In the introduction, the student can state the research topic and briefly summarize the body of the dissertation and the findings obtained through the research. In the literature review, the student conducts an extensive discussion of prior research in the field, both to provide a context for his or her research project and to show that a need still exists for the student’s own research.

In the methodology, the student discusses the research study in detail. The student must take care to provide a rationale for each decision he or she has made regarding the methods of conducting the research. In the results chapter, the student reports on the research results. In the case of statistical analyses, the student would note which results are statistically significant and which are not. In the discussion, the student interprets the findings and draws conclusions he or she has been led to draw through this research. In conclusion, the student summarizes the entire dissertation once more, notes any limitations to the current study, and suggests possible future research on the topic.

Writing a Precise Research Question

A dissertation research question is a question that the student poses within the text of the dissertation, and which shows the direction the student’s research will take. Whatever a student is trying to learn from a dissertation research project, it is useful to define it through the use of one or more research questions.

A student may include as many dissertation research questions as he or she likes in the dissertation, as long as he or she intends to address all of them. Each research question should be related to the topic at hand. Often, the research project will be designed to answer all of the dissertation research questions at once.

The place where the student usually poses the dissertation research questions is toward the end of the literature review. Once the student has discussed the work that has (and has not) been done on the topic by discussing the literature, he or she can pose the questions which will be answered by his or her own research. If there is more than one dissertation research question, it is customary to number them so they can be referred to later, in the results and discussion sections. It is also customary to abbreviate the term “research question” to RQ. Thus, a student’s dissertation research questions should adhere to the following format:

RQ#1: What will the effects of…?

RQ#2: How will the …?

RQ#3: For subjects in the second group, what will…?

Constructing the Hypothesis

Often, dissertation research questions will be followed shortly afterward by proposed answers, stated as hypotheses. A Hypothesis is a guess regarding the outcome of the research based on the student’s prior knowledge of the subject matter and the outcomes of previous research studies. Hypotheses are also numbered to correspond with their related dissertation research questions, as follows:

H#1: The effects will be…

H#2: The sample will be found to…

H#3: For subjects in the second group, the outcome will…

Dissertation research questions are an excellent way for students to organize the discussion within their dissertations. Students should study existing dissertations for further examples of how they are used.

Conducting Literature Review in APA Format

To complete a literature review APA style, a student must be familiar with the proper source citation format in APA style. In any literature review, a wide variety of sources are cited, and each on must be consistent with the literature review APA style.

To format the literature review APA style, the student should use the following format for each in-text citation: The author or authors’ name(s), and the year of publication. Depending on the wording of the citation, one or both of these elements may be in parenthesis. If the author’s name is mentioned in the text of the citation, then only the year of publication needs to be placed in parenthesis, as follows:

“Jorgenson (2005) noted that proper source citation was always followed…”

If the author’s name is not mentioned in the text, then both the name or names and the publication year are included in parenthesis, as follows:

“Proper citation was always followed when students were trained in advance (Jorgenson, 2005).”

If two authors are mentioned in the text, the word “and” is used between them, but if the authors’ names are in parenthesis, the two names are connected with an ampersand (&), as shown below:

“Jorgenson and Craft (2005) noted that…”

“Proper citation format was always followed when students were trained in advance (Jorgenson & Craft, 2005).”

To follow literature review APA style when there are multiple authors cited, it is frequent practice to mention all of the authors in the initial citation, but only the first author’s name, followed by “et al.” in subsequent citations, as shown below:

“Jorgenson, Craft, Wellbaum, and Smith (2005)” noted that…

Jorgenson et al. (2005) also showed that…

Literature review APA style only calls for author’s name and publication year within the text, but a more complete list of references must be attached to the dissertation, usually after the conclusion. The reference list includes the authors’ names, publication year, title of work, journal or book title, volume and number (for journals) and publisher/year (for books).

Combining proper in-text citations with a complete reference list will assure the student that he or she is adhering to literature review APA style, and the dissertation will not be criticized on its formatting.

Some Effective Dissertation Writing Tips…

For most students, a dissertation is the most in-depth, most comprehensive, and largest assignment they have ever had by far. Naturally, the dissertation writing process can seem intimidating, perhaps even overwhelming. Like any large task, however, writing a dissertation successfully is simply a matter of having a set of useful strategies to see the student through the process. Here are a few dissertation tips designed to help students proceed.

Break the Project into Steps: One of the best dissertation tips is to divide the dissertation project into a series of steps, to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task. It may seem impossible to “write a dissertation,” but not so impossible to tackle the first step of studying the literature in order to define a topic. Students should speak to others they know who have finished dissertations or seek essay proofreading help online to stay on the safe side.

Develop a Schedule: Often, completing the dissertation won’t have a specific due date, and it will be up to the student to complete the work on his or her own schedule. One of the best dissertation tips to avoid the process dragging on forever is for the student to develop a goal of when to finish the dissertation, and a schedule giving estimated completion dates for each stage of the process.

View Examples: Another intimidating aspect of writing a dissertation is not knowing what to do or where to start. Another of the useful dissertation tips is to view example dissertations to get an idea of how they are constructed and formatted, and the types of research and writing involved in them. Students can access dissertations online or speak with advisors about example dissertations.

Take the First Step: It can be very easy to procrastinate, and never begin work on the dissertation. Since the dissertation is so important to the student’s career, the student may feel pressure to make it perfect, and the fear of producing less than perfect work may keep the student from the beginning. Another crucial dissertation tip is to remember that the dissertation will not be successful if it is not written, and it is easier to rewrite an imperfect draft than it is to hand in blank pieces of paper and expect to graduate. Students must attempt to subdue their perfectionism, and concentrate on simply doing their best.

This exclusive guide has been prepared with the help of dissertation writing experts fromBuy Dissertations UK.

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