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PhD Dissertation:
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PhD Dissertation

A student nearing the completion of a PhD program will be required to complete a PhD dissertation. A PhD dissertation is an extensive, in-depth document presenting and discussing original research the student has conducted in his or her field. While each university and department may have specific rules which students should check before beginning, following are some general guidelines for the format of PhD dissertations.

Hypothesis: A hypothesis is an educated guess answering a specific and important question within the student's field of study. The PhD dissertation will consist of an argument either for or against the hypothesis based on research the student will conduct during the PhD dissertation process. The wise student will be on the lookout for a good hypothesis to test while pursuing his or her graduate coursework.

Research: The cornerstone of an effective PhD dissertation is original research conducted to test the hypothesis. The nature of this research will vary widely in different disciplines. Quantitative experimentation will be the norm in the hard sciences, while qualitative comparisons of related works of literature would constitute research in a PhD dissertation in English. Designing a research project that is both original and substantial is essential in completing an effective PhD dissertation.

Format: In general, PhD dissertations consist of five major chapters: the introduction, the literature review, the methodology, the results/discussion, and the conclusion. In the introduction, the student introduces the topic and the hypothesis, and briefly summarizes the entire dissertation. In the literature review, the student cites relevant existing research papers on related topics and discusses their relationship to the student's own research topic and hypothesis. In the methodology, the student describes the research conducted.

In the results/discussion section, the student reports on his or her research findings, and shows how the results have either supported or discounted the hypothesis. This section is the most critical in the PhD dissertation document, as it contains the student's argument in favor of the conclusion he or she has drawn. This argument will be challenged by the student's faculty board, and his or her argument must be strong. Finally, in the conclusion, the student summarizes the PhD dissertation, and notes new questions that it may have raised about issues in the field.