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Writing a Dissertation:
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Writing a Dissertation

Writing a dissertation represents the final accomplishment required for an advanced degree, and accounts for a major portion of the grade in a student's degree program. Writing a dissertation involves choosing an original, significant topic, reviewing the relevant literature in the field, conducting original research, and describing the research in an extended research paper. More information about these steps in writing a dissertation follows.

Choose a topic. The key to writing a dissertation is in choosing and refining a specific dissertation topic. The successful dissertation topic will be narrow enough that a comprehensive research project can be designed around it. A dissertation topic must also be original. It must be one that has not been covered in someone else's dissertation. Writing a dissertation is a student's opportunity to make a mark in the field by completing original work on an important topic.

Review the literature. The literature review is a section the student will complete when writing a dissertation, but the literature review process will begin much earlier. Once the student has defined a topic, he or she will gather published research papers and dissertations with findings on related topics within the field. The student will need to become deeply knowledgeable about related research in order to conduct research that complements but does not duplicate it. Writing a dissertation is impossible without becoming an authority in the chosen topic.

Conduct the research. The student will next design and conduct a research project. The nature of the project will vary widely from subject to subject. The student's review of the literature will provide numerous examples of the kinds of research being conducted in the student's field. The student will design the research project to answer the question raised by the dissertation topic.

Writing a dissertation. Once the research is complete, writing a dissertation is simply a matter of introducing the topic, discussing the relevant literature, describing the research methodology, then reporting and interpreting the results. Writing a dissertation successfully includes formulating a thesis statement that the student believes to be true based on the research. The dissertation will be organized around arguing and supporting this thesis. After writing a dissertation, the student will also be asked to orally defend it in front of a faculty board. After successfully defending the dissertation, the student will receive the degree.