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The Dissertation Process Explained in 6 Simple Steps

adult-student-going-through-the-dissertation-process

Completing your doctoral program is no easy feat, yet the payoff makes it all worthwhile. You’ll challenge yourself with academic rigor and defend your thesis as you showcase your knowledge to a panel of experts.

One of the hardest parts of the dissertation process is simply getting started. Here are six steps to guide you to successfully earning your doctoral degree by tackling your dissertation, from start to finish.

Step 1: Brainstorm Topics

Finding a research topic that’s right for you and your doctoral studies requires some serious thought. A doctoral program can take years to complete, so it’s important you choose a topic that you’re passionate about. Whether that’s in the field of education administration or entrepreneurship, find an area of study that suits your academic interests and career goals. 

As a doctoral candidate, you’ll take on the role of an independent researcher, which means you’ll be facilitating your own studies and academic milestones. Choose a topic that gets your wheels turning and stirs up an urgent sense of curiosity. However, take note that not every idea will suit a doctoral dissertation and the manuscript formatting. Many students make the mistake of choosing a topic that is too broad. Doctoral dissertations must be researchable and demonstrative based on qualitative or quantitative data. 

Do some preliminary research to determine if someone has already conducted similar research. Being flexible with your brainstorming will allow you to refine your topic with ease. Take constructive criticism from peers and mentors seriously so that you set yourself up for success from day one. If you find yourself feeling a bit lost, don’t be afraid to turn to experts in your field for their opinion. At this initial stage of the dissertation process, you should be the most open to exploring new ideas and refining your area of research.

Step 2: Find a Faculty Mentor and Committee Assignment

Once your topic is approved by the university, you’ll be tasked with selecting a faculty mentor. Finding a faculty chairperson is one of the most important steps you will take in your dissertation process , apart from crafting and delivering your manuscript. After all, your mentor will guide your academic work over the course of your doctoral studies for the next several years. You two will develop a working relationship, so it’s crucial that you choose a mentor you can collaborate and communicate with effectively.

At most universities, your faculty chair will be dedicated to the dissertation process full time. That means they will have the skills, expertise and time to support all of your needs. However, for the other members of your dissertation committee, you’ll want to consider logistics as well. You may have a dream faculty mentor you’d appreciate working with, but they must have the time and attention to dedicate to make the investment worthwhile for you both. Be upfront about your intended timeline, weekly and monthly time commitment, and expectations around communication. When you approach a faculty member about serving as part of your dissertation committee, leave the door open for them to say “no,” so you’re sure to find the right fit and someone who can commit in the long run. 

Some universities make the selection process easy by assigning a dissertation chair and committee to you. For example, doctoral students at SNU are assigned a committee comprised of four people: a dissertation chair within the program’s department, a second departmental faculty member, a member from outside the department who has scholarly expertise in the student’s research topic, and the Dissertation Director who coordinates all communication among the committee members.

Step 3: Develop and Submit a Proposal

Think of the proposal as an opportunity for you to both suss out your ideas and create a convincing argument to present to the faculty committee. Your proposal is the first look at your thesis statement, where you:

  • Introduce the topic
  • Pose a set of related topics
  • Outline the qualitative and quantitative data you hope to extract through careful research  

Again, be open to critical feedback. During this stage, you have the opportunity to reflect and refine the direction of your research. Faculty members will likely reciprocate your proposal with pointed questions that identify gaps in your proposal development or information-seeking process. 

You’ll go through a set of one or more revisions based on faculty feedback. You’ll then submit your proposal application for final approval. Once you have the entire committee’s approval, you’ll begin to collect data.

Step 4: Conduct Research and Data Analysis

In your proposal, you’ll outline your plan to conduct careful research, collect data and analyze that data. Throughout the research process, refer back to your outline to chart your own progress and to build a collection of measurable results to present to your faculty mentor. 

The next step is to add the data you collect to your proposal in two sections. The first section will summarize the data, and the second will offer an interpretation of that data. This step also lends itself to a series of revisions between you and the dissertation committee. Be prepared to implement those changes as you begin to draft your manuscript .

Step 5: Draft Your Manuscript

First, consult with your university’s policies and procedures regarding the doctoral manuscript academic requirements and scholarly style. Check with your department to inquire about additional departmental procedures. 

Consider Your Format 

Develop a consistent format in the early stages, so that submitting your thesis to the Advisory Committee and Examining Committee will run smoothly and you can receive swift feedback. You want to create both a professional and intuitive system for the academic committee and your general audience to be able to easily peruse your thesis. 

Pay close attention to proper sourcing of previously published content and provide a numbering system (page numbers and charts) that reflects the formatting of your thesis, not the numbering system of a previous publication. Devise chapter layout with the same level of scrutiny. Number chapters sequentially, and create a uniform system to label all charts, tables and equations. And last but not least, be sure to follow standard grammatical conventions, including spelling and punctuation. 

Cite Your Sources

As you gather research and develop your manuscript, you must cite your sources accurately and consistently. Check with your department ahead of time in case you should be formatting your resources according to specific departmental standards. In the absence of departmental standards, create a format of your own that you can adhere to with consistency. Most doctoral candidates will choose to include sources at the end of each chapter or in one single list at the end of their dissertation. 

Craft Your Content

You’ll spend the bulk of your time crafting the content of the manuscript itself . You’ll  begin by summarizing relevant sourcing and reviewing related literature. The purpose of this first section is to establish your expertise in the field, establish clear objectives for your research, identify the broader context within which the research resides, and provide more acute context for the data itself. You’ll then discuss the methods of analyzing the research before transitioning into data analysis in a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. Finally, in your conclusion, you’ll link your direct research to the larger picture and the implications of its impact in your field.

Step 6: Defend Your Thesis

The pinnacle of your research will be defending your thesis in front of a panel of experts — the dissertation committee. Sometimes this takes place in person, or, as has proved increasingly common during the past year, by video/voice conferencing. 

This is your opportunity to demonstrate all that you have learned over multiple years of careful research and analysis. The committee will pose questions to both clarify and challenge your level of knowledge in an impromptu fashion. In some cases, based on the committee’s perception, you may need to submit a secondary oral defense. Ultimately, the committee will determine a successful delivery of your dissertation and the chance to proudly assert your doctoral status after completing all degree requirements. 

No matter which path you choose to pursue en route to your doctoral, online and in-person education options can make your dream of completing your degree one step closer to reality. Take a look at SNU’s online and on-campus course offerings today.

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Dissertation Structure & Layout 101: How to structure your dissertation, thesis or research project.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | July 2019

So, you’ve got a decent understanding of what a dissertation is , you’ve chosen your topic and hopefully you’ve received approval for your research proposal . Awesome! Now its time to start the actual dissertation or thesis writing journey.

To craft a high-quality document, the very first thing you need to understand is dissertation structure . In this post, we’ll walk you through the generic dissertation structure and layout, step by step. We’ll start with the big picture, and then zoom into each chapter to briefly discuss the core contents. If you’re just starting out on your research journey, you should start with this post, which covers the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis .

Dissertation structure and layout - the basics

*The Caveat *

In this post, we’ll be discussing a traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout, which is generally used for social science research across universities, whether in the US, UK, Europe or Australia. However, some universities may have small variations on this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, slightly different ordering, etc).

So, always check with your university if they have a prescribed structure or layout that they expect you to work with. If not, it’s safe to assume the structure we’ll discuss here is suitable. And even if they do have a prescribed structure, you’ll still get value from this post as we’ll explain the core contents of each section.  

Overview: S tructuring a dissertation or thesis

  • Acknowledgements page
  • Abstract (or executive summary)
  • Table of contents , list of figures and tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure. For example, they want an additional “personal reflection chapter”, or they might prefer the results and discussion chapter to be merged into one. Regardless, the overarching flow will always be the same, as this flow reflects the research process , which we discussed here – i.e.:

  • The introduction chapter presents the core research question and aims .
  • The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question.
  • The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
  • The conclusion chapter (attempts to) answer the core research question .

In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question(s), investigating, and then answering the question – see below.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

To restate that – the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process . This is essential to understand, as each chapter will make a lot more sense if you “get” this concept. If you’re not familiar with the research process, read this post before going further.

Right. Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of each section and chapter. Oh and by the way, you can also grab our free dissertation/thesis template here to help speed things up.

The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. But what makes for a good title? A strong title needs to be 3 things:

  • Succinct (not overly lengthy or verbose)
  • Specific (not vague or ambiguous)
  • Representative of the research you’re undertaking (clearly linked to your research questions)

Typically, a good title includes mention of the following:

  • The broader area of the research (i.e. the overarching topic)
  • The specific focus of your research (i.e. your specific context)
  • Indication of research design (e.g. quantitative , qualitative , or  mixed methods ).

For example:

A quantitative investigation [research design] into the antecedents of organisational trust [broader area] in the UK retail forex trading market [specific context/area of focus].

Again, some universities may have specific requirements regarding the format and structure of the title, so it’s worth double-checking expectations with your institution (if there’s no mention in the brief or study material).

Dissertations stacked up

Acknowledgements

This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Generally, it’s optional (and won’t count towards your marks), but it is academic best practice to include this.

So, who do you say thanks to? Well, there’s no prescribed requirements, but it’s common to mention the following people:

  • Your dissertation supervisor or committee.
  • Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
  • Any tutors, mentors or advisors.
  • Your family and friends, especially spouse (for adult learners studying part-time).

There’s no need for lengthy rambling. Just state who you’re thankful to and for what (e.g. thank you to my supervisor, John Doe, for his endless patience and attentiveness) – be sincere. In terms of length, you should keep this to a page or less.

Abstract or executive summary

The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report – in other words, it should be able to stand alone .

For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points (at a minimum):

  • Your research questions and aims – what key question(s) did your research aim to answer?
  • Your methodology – how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question(s)?
  • Your findings – following your own research, what did do you discover?
  • Your conclusions – based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question(s)?

So, in much the same way the dissertation structure mimics the research process, your abstract or executive summary should reflect the research process, from the initial stage of asking the original question to the final stage of answering that question.

In practical terms, it’s a good idea to write this section up last , once all your core chapters are complete. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing and rewriting this section multiple times (just wasting time). For a step by step guide on how to write a strong executive summary, check out this post .

Need a helping hand?

how does the dissertation process work

Table of contents

This section is straightforward. You’ll typically present your table of contents (TOC) first, followed by the two lists – figures and tables. I recommend that you use Microsoft Word’s automatic table of contents generator to generate your TOC. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, the video below explains it simply:

If you find that your table of contents is overly lengthy, consider removing one level of depth. Oftentimes, this can be done without detracting from the usefulness of the TOC.

Right, now that the “admin” sections are out of the way, its time to move on to your core chapters. These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you’ll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

It’s important to understand that even though you’ve provided an overview of your research in your abstract, your introduction needs to be written as if the reader has not read that (remember, the abstract is essentially a standalone document). So, your introduction chapter needs to start from the very beginning, and should address the following questions:

  • What will you be investigating (in plain-language, big picture-level)?
  • Why is that worth investigating? How is it important to academia or business? How is it sufficiently original?
  • What are your research aims and research question(s)? Note that the research questions can sometimes be presented at the end of the literature review (next chapter).
  • What is the scope of your study? In other words, what will and won’t you cover ?
  • How will you approach your research? In other words, what methodology will you adopt?
  • How will you structure your dissertation? What are the core chapters and what will you do in each of them?

These are just the bare basic requirements for your intro chapter. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor.

If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation. Specifically, it will make it clear to the reader (and marker) exactly what you’ll be investigating, why that’s important, and how you’ll be going about the investigation. Conversely, if your introduction chapter leaves a first-time reader wondering what exactly you’ll be researching, you’ve still got some work to do.

Now that you’ve set a clear direction with your introduction chapter, the next step is the literature review . In this section, you will analyse the existing research (typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications), with a view to understanding the following questions:

  • What does the literature currently say about the topic you’re investigating?
  • Is the literature lacking or well established? Is it divided or in disagreement?
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • How does your research contribute something original?
  • How does the methodology of previous studies help you develop your own?

Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research.

Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on. Therefore, as always, its important to review your brief and/or discuss with your supervisor, so that you know exactly what’s expected of your literature review chapter.

Dissertation writing

Now that you’ve investigated the current state of knowledge in your literature review chapter and are familiar with the existing key theories, models and frameworks, its time to design your own research. Enter the methodology chapter – the most “science-ey” of the chapters…

In this chapter, you need to address two critical questions:

  • Exactly HOW will you carry out your research (i.e. what is your intended research design)?
  • Exactly WHY have you chosen to do things this way (i.e. how do you justify your design)?

Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills . Therefore, the markers want to see that you know which methods to use, can clearly articulate why you’ve chosen then, and know how to deploy them effectively.

Importantly, this chapter requires detail – don’t hold back on the specifics. State exactly what you’ll be doing, with who, when, for how long, etc. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it.

In practice, you will likely end up coming back to this chapter once you’ve undertaken all your data collection and analysis, and revise it based on changes you made during the analysis phase. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you. Of course, I’m talking about small changes here – not a fundamental switch from qualitative to quantitative, which will likely send your supervisor in a spin!

You’ve now collected your data and undertaken your analysis, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In this chapter, you’ll present the raw results of your analysis . For example, in the case of a quant study, you’ll present the demographic data, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics , etc.

Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. In other words, it’s descriptive, rather than analytical – the meaning is discussed in Chapter 5. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is.

Now that you’ve presented the data analysis results, its time to interpret and analyse them. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question(s).

What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. For example, if you’ve gone the quantitative route, you might discuss the relationships between variables . If you’ve gone the qualitative route, you might discuss key themes and the meanings thereof. It all depends on what your research design choices were.

Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds? If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English.

The final chapter – you’ve made it! Now that you’ve discussed your interpretation of the results, its time to bring it back to the beginning with the conclusion chapter . In other words, its time to (attempt to) answer your original research question s (from way back in chapter 1). Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer(s) to the research question(s).

Dissertation and thesis prep

Next, you’ll typically discuss the implications of your findings? In other words, you’ve answered your research questions – but what does this mean for the real world (or even for academia)? What should now be done differently, given the new insight you’ve generated?

Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. Don’t be afraid to critique your work – the markers want to see that you can identify the limitations of your work. This is a strength, not a weakness. Be brutal!

This marks the end of your core chapters – woohoo! From here on out, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e.g. APA , Harvard, etc.

It’s essential that you use reference management software for your dissertation. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually – its far too error prone. On a reference list of multiple pages, you’re going to make mistake. To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Both are free and provide a very straightforward interface to ensure that your referencing is 100% on point. I’ve included a simple how-to video for the Mendeley software (my personal favourite) below:

Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same . A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation. So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one.

The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. This is where you’ll include any supporting data and evidence. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here.

Your appendices should provide additional “nice to know”, depth-adding information, which is not critical to the core analysis. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count (see this post which covers how to reduce word count ). In other words, don’t place content that is critical to the core analysis here, just to save word count. You will not earn marks on any content in the appendices, so don’t try to play the system!

Time to recap…

And there you have it – the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows:

  • Acknowledgments page

Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process (asking, investigating and answering your research question). Moreover, the research question(s) should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. Everything should revolve around the research questions, and as you’ve seen, they should form both the start point (i.e. introduction chapter) and the endpoint (i.e. conclusion chapter).

I hope this post has provided you with clarity about the traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the  Grad Coach Blog .

how does the dissertation process work

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101

36 Comments

ARUN kumar SHARMA

many thanks i found it very useful

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Arun. Good luck writing your dissertation.

Sue

Such clear practical logical advice. I very much needed to read this to keep me focused in stead of fretting.. Perfect now ready to start my research!

hayder

what about scientific fields like computer or engineering thesis what is the difference in the structure? thank you very much

Tim

Thanks so much this helped me a lot!

Ade Adeniyi

Very helpful and accessible. What I like most is how practical the advice is along with helpful tools/ links.

Thanks Ade!

Aswathi

Thank you so much sir.. It was really helpful..

You’re welcome!

Jp Raimundo

Hi! How many words maximum should contain the abstract?

Karmelia Renatee

Thank you so much 😊 Find this at the right moment

You’re most welcome. Good luck with your dissertation.

moha

best ever benefit i got on right time thank you

Krishnan iyer

Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions .

I guess Great researcher = great ideas + knowledge + great and fast data collection and modeling + great writing + high clarity on all these

You have given immense clarity from start to end.

Alwyn Malan

Morning. Where will I write the definitions of what I’m referring to in my report?

Rose

Thank you so much Derek, I was almost lost! Thanks a tonnnn! Have a great day!

yemi Amos

Thanks ! so concise and valuable

Kgomotso Siwelane

This was very helpful. Clear and concise. I know exactly what to do now.

dauda sesay

Thank you for allowing me to go through briefly. I hope to find time to continue.

Patrick Mwathi

Really useful to me. Thanks a thousand times

Adao Bundi

Very interesting! It will definitely set me and many more for success. highly recommended.

SAIKUMAR NALUMASU

Thank you soo much sir, for the opportunity to express my skills

mwepu Ilunga

Usefull, thanks a lot. Really clear

Rami

Very nice and easy to understand. Thank you .

Chrisogonas Odhiambo

That was incredibly useful. Thanks Grad Coach Crew!

Luke

My stress level just dropped at least 15 points after watching this. Just starting my thesis for my grad program and I feel a lot more capable now! Thanks for such a clear and helpful video, Emma and the GradCoach team!

Judy

Do we need to mention the number of words the dissertation contains in the main document?

It depends on your university’s requirements, so it would be best to check with them 🙂

Christine

Such a helpful post to help me get started with structuring my masters dissertation, thank you!

Simon Le

Great video; I appreciate that helpful information

Brhane Kidane

It is so necessary or avital course

johnson

This blog is very informative for my research. Thank you

avc

Doctoral students are required to fill out the National Research Council’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Emmanuel Manjolo

wow this is an amazing gain in my life

Paul I Thoronka

This is so good

Tesfay haftu

How can i arrange my specific objectives in my dissertation?

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dissertation Strategies

What this handout is about.

This handout suggests strategies for developing healthy writing habits during your dissertation journey. These habits can help you maintain your writing momentum, overcome anxiety and procrastination, and foster wellbeing during one of the most challenging times in graduate school.

Tackling a giant project

Because dissertations are, of course, big projects, it’s no surprise that planning, writing, and revising one can pose some challenges! It can help to think of your dissertation as an expanded version of a long essay: at the end of the day, it is simply another piece of writing. You’ve written your way this far into your degree, so you’ve got the skills! You’ll develop a great deal of expertise on your topic, but you may still be a novice with this genre and writing at this length. Remember to give yourself some grace throughout the project. As you begin, it’s helpful to consider two overarching strategies throughout the process.

First, take stock of how you learn and your own writing processes. What strategies have worked and have not worked for you? Why? What kind of learner and writer are you? Capitalize on what’s working and experiment with new strategies when something’s not working. Keep in mind that trying out new strategies can take some trial-and-error, and it’s okay if a new strategy that you try doesn’t work for you. Consider why it may not have been the best for you, and use that reflection to consider other strategies that might be helpful to you.

Second, break the project into manageable chunks. At every stage of the process, try to identify specific tasks, set small, feasible goals, and have clear, concrete strategies for achieving each goal. Small victories can help you establish and maintain the momentum you need to keep yourself going.

Below, we discuss some possible strategies to keep you moving forward in the dissertation process.

Pre-dissertation planning strategies

Get familiar with the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Resources .

Learn how to use a citation-manager and a synthesis matrix to keep track of all of your source information.

Skim other dissertations from your department, program, and advisor. Enlist the help of a librarian or ask your advisor for a list of recent graduates whose work you can look up. Seeing what other people have done to earn their PhD can make the project much less abstract and daunting. A concrete sense of expectations will help you envision and plan. When you know what you’ll be doing, try to find a dissertation from your department that is similar enough that you can use it as a reference model when you run into concerns about formatting, structure, level of detail, etc.

Think carefully about your committee . Ideally, you’ll be able to select a group of people who work well with you and with each other. Consult with your advisor about who might be good collaborators for your project and who might not be the best fit. Consider what classes you’ve taken and how you “vibe” with those professors or those you’ve met outside of class. Try to learn what you can about how they’ve worked with other students. Ask about feedback style, turnaround time, level of involvement, etc., and imagine how that would work for you.

Sketch out a sensible drafting order for your project. Be open to writing chapters in “the wrong order” if it makes sense to start somewhere other than the beginning. You could begin with the section that seems easiest for you to write to gain momentum.

Design a productivity alliance with your advisor . Talk with them about potential projects and a reasonable timeline. Discuss how you’ll work together to keep your work moving forward. You might discuss having a standing meeting to discuss ideas or drafts or issues (bi-weekly? monthly?), your advisor’s preferences for drafts (rough? polished?), your preferences for what you’d like feedback on (early or late drafts?), reasonable turnaround time for feedback (a week? two?), and anything else you can think of to enter the collaboration mindfully.

Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues . Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

Productivity strategies

Write when you’re most productive. When do you have the most energy? Focus? Creativity? When are you most able to concentrate, either because of your body rhythms or because there are fewer demands on your time? Once you determine the hours that are most productive for you (you may need to experiment at first), try to schedule those hours for dissertation work. See the collection of time management tools and planning calendars on the Learning Center’s Tips & Tools page to help you think through the possibilities. If at all possible, plan your work schedule, errands and chores so that you reserve your productive hours for the dissertation.

Put your writing time firmly on your calendar . Guard your writing time diligently. You’ll probably be invited to do other things during your productive writing times, but do your absolute best to say no and to offer alternatives. No one would hold it against you if you said no because you’re teaching a class at that time—and you wouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. Cultivating the same hard, guilt-free boundaries around your writing time will allow you preserve the time you need to get this thing done!

Develop habits that foster balance . You’ll have to work very hard to get this dissertation finished, but you can do that without sacrificing your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Think about how you can structure your work hours most efficiently so that you have time for a healthy non-work life. It can be something as small as limiting the time you spend chatting with fellow students to a few minutes instead of treating the office or lab as a space for extensive socializing. Also see above for protecting your time.

Write in spaces where you can be productive. Figure out where you work well and plan to be there during your dissertation work hours. Do you get more done on campus or at home? Do you prefer quiet and solitude, like in a library carrel? Do you prefer the buzz of background noise, like in a coffee shop? Are you aware of the UNC Libraries’ list of places to study ? If you get “stuck,” don’t be afraid to try a change of scenery. The variety may be just enough to get your brain going again.

Work where you feel comfortable . Wherever you work, make sure you have whatever lighting, furniture, and accessories you need to keep your posture and health in good order. The University Health and Safety office offers guidelines for healthy computer work . You’re more likely to spend time working in a space that doesn’t physically hurt you. Also consider how you could make your work space as inviting as possible. Some people find that it helps to have pictures of family and friends on their desk—sort of a silent “cheering section.” Some people work well with neutral colors around them, and others prefer bright colors that perk up the space. Some people like to put inspirational quotations in their workspace or encouraging notes from friends and family. You might try reconfiguring your work space to find a décor that helps you be productive.

Elicit helpful feedback from various people at various stages . You might be tempted to keep your writing to yourself until you think it’s brilliant, but you can lower the stakes tremendously if you make eliciting feedback a regular part of your writing process. Your friends can feel like a safer audience for ideas or drafts in their early stages. Someone outside your department may provide interesting perspectives from their discipline that spark your own thinking. See this handout on getting feedback for productive moments for feedback, the value of different kinds of feedback providers, and strategies for eliciting what’s most helpful to you. Make this a recurring part of your writing process. Schedule it to help you hit deadlines.

Change the writing task . When you don’t feel like writing, you can do something different or you can do something differently. Make a list of all the little things you need to do for a given section of the dissertation, no matter how small. Choose a task based on your energy level. Work on Grad School requirements: reformat margins, work on bibliography, and all that. Work on your acknowledgements. Remember all the people who have helped you and the great ideas they’ve helped you develop. You may feel more like working afterward. Write a part of your dissertation as a letter or email to a good friend who would care. Sometimes setting aside the academic prose and just writing it to a buddy can be liberating and help you get the ideas out there. You can make it sound smart later. Free-write about why you’re stuck, and perhaps even about how sick and tired you are of your dissertation/advisor/committee/etc. Venting can sometimes get you past the emotions of writer’s block and move you toward creative solutions. Open a separate document and write your thoughts on various things you’ve read. These may or may note be coherent, connected ideas, and they may or may not make it into your dissertation. They’re just notes that allow you to think things through and/or note what you want to revisit later, so it’s perfectly fine to have mistakes, weird organization, etc. Just let your mind wander on paper.

Develop habits that foster productivity and may help you develop a productive writing model for post-dissertation writing . Since dissertations are very long projects, cultivating habits that will help support your work is important. You might check out Helen Sword’s work on behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional habits to help you get a sense of where you are in your current habits. You might try developing “rituals” of work that could help you get more done. Lighting incense, brewing a pot of a particular kind of tea, pulling out a favorite pen, and other ritualistic behaviors can signal your brain that “it is time to get down to business.” You can critically think about your work methods—not only about what you like to do, but also what actually helps you be productive. You may LOVE to listen to your favorite band while you write, for example, but if you wind up playing air guitar half the time instead of writing, it isn’t a habit worth keeping.

The point is, figure out what works for you and try to do it consistently. Your productive habits will reinforce themselves over time. If you find yourself in a situation, however, that doesn’t match your preferences, don’t let it stop you from working on your dissertation. Try to be flexible and open to experimenting. You might find some new favorites!

Motivational strategies

Schedule a regular activity with other people that involves your dissertation. Set up a coworking date with your accountability buddies so you can sit and write together. Organize a chapter swap. Make regular appointments with your advisor. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you’ll feel good about showing up for–and will make you feel good about showing up for others.

Try writing in sprints . Many writers have discovered that the “Pomodoro technique” (writing for 25 minutes and taking a 5 minute break) boosts their productivity by helping them set small writing goals, focus intently for short periods, and give their brains frequent rests. See how one dissertation writer describes it in this blog post on the Pomodoro technique .

Quit while you’re ahead . Sometimes it helps to stop for the day when you’re on a roll. If you’ve got a great idea that you’re developing and you know where you want to go next, write “Next, I want to introduce x, y, and z and explain how they’re related—they all have the same characteristics of 1 and 2, and that clinches my theory of Q.” Then save the file and turn off the computer, or put down the notepad. When you come back tomorrow, you will already know what to say next–and all that will be left is to say it. Hopefully, the momentum will carry you forward.

Write your dissertation in single-space . When you need a boost, double space it and be impressed with how many pages you’ve written.

Set feasible goals–and celebrate the achievements! Setting and achieving smaller, more reasonable goals ( SMART goals ) gives you success, and that success can motivate you to focus on the next small step…and the next one.

Give yourself rewards along the way . When you meet a writing goal, reward yourself with something you normally wouldn’t have or do–this can be anything that will make you feel good about your accomplishment.

Make the act of writing be its own reward . For example, if you love a particular coffee drink from your favorite shop, save it as a special drink to enjoy during your writing time.

Try giving yourself “pre-wards” —positive experiences that help you feel refreshed and recharged for the next time you write. You don’t have to “earn” these with prior work, but you do have to commit to doing the work afterward.

Commit to doing something you don’t want to do if you don’t achieve your goal. Some people find themselves motivated to work harder when there’s a negative incentive. What would you most like to avoid? Watching a movie you hate? Donating to a cause you don’t support? Whatever it is, how can you ensure enforcement? Who can help you stay accountable?

Affective strategies

Build your confidence . It is not uncommon to feel “imposter phenomenon” during the course of writing your dissertation. If you start to feel this way, it can help to take a few minutes to remember every success you’ve had along the way. You’ve earned your place, and people have confidence in you for good reasons. It’s also helpful to remember that every one of the brilliant people around you is experiencing the same lack of confidence because you’re all in a new context with new tasks and new expectations. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out. You’re supposed to have uncertainties and questions and things to learn. Remember that they wouldn’t have accepted you to the program if they weren’t confident that you’d succeed. See our self-scripting handout for strategies to turn these affirmations into a self-script that you repeat whenever you’re experiencing doubts or other negative thoughts. You can do it!

Appreciate your successes . Not meeting a goal isn’t a failure–and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. It’s an opportunity to figure out why you didn’t meet the goal. It might simply be that the goal wasn’t achievable in the first place. See the SMART goal handout and think through what you can adjust. Even if you meant to write 1500 words, focus on the success of writing 250 or 500 words that you didn’t have before.

Remember your “why.” There are a whole host of reasons why someone might decide to pursue a PhD, both personally and professionally. Reflecting on what is motivating to you can rekindle your sense of purpose and direction.

Get outside support . Sometimes it can be really helpful to get an outside perspective on your work and anxieties as a way of grounding yourself. Participating in groups like the Dissertation Support group through CAPS and the Dissertation Boot Camp can help you see that you’re not alone in the challenges. You might also choose to form your own writing support group with colleagues inside or outside your department.

Understand and manage your procrastination . When you’re writing a long dissertation, it can be easy to procrastinate! For instance, you might put off writing because the house “isn’t clean enough” or because you’re not in the right “space” (mentally or physically) to write, so you put off writing until the house is cleaned and everything is in its right place. You may have other ways of procrastinating. It can be helpful to be self-aware of when you’re procrastinating and to consider why you are procrastinating. It may be that you’re anxious about writing the perfect draft, for example, in which case you might consider: how can I focus on writing something that just makes progress as opposed to being “perfect”? There are lots of different ways of managing procrastination; one way is to make a schedule of all the things you already have to do (when you absolutely can’t write) to help you visualize those chunks of time when you can. See this handout on procrastination for more strategies and tools for managing procrastination.

Your topic, your advisor, and your committee: Making them work for you

By the time you’ve reached this stage, you have probably already defended a dissertation proposal, chosen an advisor, and begun working with a committee. Sometimes, however, those three elements can prove to be major external sources of frustration. So how can you manage them to help yourself be as productive as possible?

Managing your topic

Remember that your topic is not carved in stone . The research and writing plan suggested in your dissertation proposal was your best vision of the project at that time, but topics evolve as the research and writing progress. You might need to tweak your research question a bit to reduce or adjust the scope, you might pare down certain parts of the project or add others. You can discuss your thoughts on these adjustments with your advisor at your check ins.

Think about variables that could be cut down and how changes would affect the length, depth, breadth, and scholarly value of your study. Could you cut one or two experiments, case studies, regions, years, theorists, or chapters and still make a valuable contribution or, even more simply, just finish?

Talk to your advisor about any changes you might make . They may be quite sympathetic to your desire to shorten an unwieldy project and may offer suggestions.

Look at other dissertations from your department to get a sense of what the chapters should look like. Reverse-outline a few chapters so you can see if there’s a pattern of typical components and how information is sequenced. These can serve as models for your own dissertation. See this video on reverse outlining to see the technique.

Managing your advisor

Embrace your evolving status . At this stage in your graduate career, you should expect to assume some independence. By the time you finish your project, you will know more about your subject than your committee does. The student/teacher relationship you have with your advisor will necessarily change as you take this big step toward becoming their colleague.

Revisit the alliance . If the interaction with your advisor isn’t matching the original agreement or the original plan isn’t working as well as it could, schedule a conversation to revisit and redesign your working relationship in a way that could work for both of you.

Be specific in your feedback requests . Tell your advisor what kind of feedback would be most helpful to you. Sometimes an advisor can be giving unhelpful or discouraging feedback without realizing it. They might make extensive sentence-level edits when you really need conceptual feedback, or vice-versa, if you only ask generally for feedback. Letting your advisor know, very specifically, what kinds of responses will be helpful to you at different stages of the writing process can help your advisor know how to help you.

Don’t hide . Advisors can be most helpful if they know what you are working on, what problems you are experiencing, and what progress you have made. If you haven’t made the progress you were hoping for, it only makes it worse if you avoid talking to them. You rob yourself of their expertise and support, and you might start a spiral of guilt, shame, and avoidance. Even if it’s difficult, it may be better to be candid about your struggles.

Talk to other students who have the same advisor . You may find that they have developed strategies for working with your advisor that could help you communicate more effectively with them.

If you have recurring problems communicating with your advisor , you can make a change. You could change advisors completely, but a less dramatic option might be to find another committee member who might be willing to serve as a “secondary advisor” and give you the kinds of feedback and support that you may need.

Managing your committee

Design the alliance . Talk with your committee members about how much they’d like to be involved in your writing process, whether they’d like to see chapter drafts or the complete draft, how frequently they’d like to meet (or not), etc. Your advisor can guide you on how committees usually work, but think carefully about how you’d like the relationship to function too.

Keep in regular contact with your committee , even if they don’t want to see your work until it has been approved by your advisor. Let them know about fellowships you receive, fruitful research excursions, the directions your thinking is taking, and the plans you have for completion. In short, keep them aware that you are working hard and making progress. Also, look for other ways to get facetime with your committee even if it’s not a one-on-one meeting. Things like speaking with them at department events, going to colloquiums or other events they organize and/or attend regularly can help you develop a relationship that could lead to other introductions and collaborations as your career progresses.

Share your struggles . Too often, we only talk to our professors when we’re making progress and hide from them the rest of the time. If you share your frustrations or setbacks with a knowledgeable committee member, they might offer some very helpful suggestions for overcoming the obstacles you face—after all, your committee members have all written major research projects before, and they have probably solved similar problems in their own work.

Stay true to yourself . Sometimes, you just don’t entirely gel with your committee, but that’s okay. It’s important not to get too hung up on how your committee does (or doesn’t) relate to you. Keep your eye on the finish line and keep moving forward.

Helpful websites:

Graduate School Diversity Initiatives : Groups and events to support the success of students identifying with an affinity group.

Graduate School Career Well : Extensive professional development resources related to writing, research, networking, job search, etc.

CAPS Therapy Groups : CAPS offers a variety of support groups, including a dissertation support group.

Advice on Research and Writing : Lots of links on writing, public speaking, dissertation management, burnout, and more.

How to be a Good Graduate Student: Marie DesJardins’ essay talks about several phases of the graduate experience, including the dissertation. She discusses some helpful hints for staying motivated and doing consistent work.

Preparing Future Faculty : This page, a joint project of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, explains the Preparing Future Faculty Programs and includes links and suggestions that may help graduate students and their advisors think constructively about the process of graduate education as a step toward faculty responsibilities.

Dissertation Tips : Kjell Erik Rudestam, Ph.D. and Rae Newton, Ph.D., authors of Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process.

The ABD Survival Guide Newsletter : Information about the ABD Survival Guide newsletter (which is free) and other services from E-Coach (many of which are not free).

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write a Dissertation | A Guide to Structure & Content

A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter).

The most common dissertation structure in the sciences and social sciences includes:

  • An introduction to your topic
  • A literature review that surveys relevant sources
  • An explanation of your methodology
  • An overview of the results of your research
  • A discussion of the results and their implications
  • A conclusion that shows what your research has contributed

Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an argument by analysing primary and secondary sources . Instead of the standard structure outlined here, you might organise your chapters around different themes or case studies.

Other important elements of the dissertation include the title page , abstract , and reference list . If in doubt about how your dissertation should be structured, always check your department’s guidelines and consult with your supervisor.

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Table of contents

Acknowledgements, table of contents, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review / theoretical framework, methodology, reference list.

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation’s title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo. Many programs have strict requirements for formatting the dissertation title page .

The title page is often used as cover when printing and binding your dissertation .

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The acknowledgements section is usually optional, and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you.

The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150-300 words long. You should write it at the very end, when you’ve completed the rest of the dissertation. In the abstract, make sure to:

  • State the main topic and aims of your research
  • Describe the methods you used
  • Summarise the main results
  • State your conclusions

Although the abstract is very short, it’s the first part (and sometimes the only part) of your dissertation that people will read, so it’s important that you get it right. If you’re struggling to write a strong abstract, read our guide on how to write an abstract .

In the table of contents, list all of your chapters and subheadings and their page numbers. The dissertation contents page gives the reader an overview of your structure and helps easily navigate the document.

All parts of your dissertation should be included in the table of contents, including the appendices. You can generate a table of contents automatically in Word.

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If you have used a lot of tables and figures in your dissertation, you should itemise them in a numbered list . You can automatically generate this list using the Insert Caption feature in Word.

If you have used a lot of abbreviations in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

If you have used a lot of highly specialised terms that will not be familiar to your reader, it might be a good idea to include a glossary . List the terms alphabetically and explain each term with a brief description or definition.

In the introduction, you set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance, and tell the reader what to expect in the rest of the dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving necessary background information to contextualise your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of the research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your objectives and research questions , and indicate how you will answer them
  • Give an overview of your dissertation’s structure

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant to your research. By the end, the reader should understand the what , why and how of your research. Not sure how? Read our guide on how to write a dissertation introduction .

Before you start on your research, you should have conducted a literature review to gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic. This means:

  • Collecting sources (e.g. books and journal articles) and selecting the most relevant ones
  • Critically evaluating and analysing each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g. themes, patterns, conflicts, gaps) to make an overall point

In the dissertation literature review chapter or section, you shouldn’t just summarise existing studies, but develop a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear basis or justification for your own research. For example, it might aim to show how your research:

  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Takes a new theoretical or methodological approach to the topic
  • Proposes a solution to an unresolved problem
  • Advances a theoretical debate
  • Builds on and strengthens existing knowledge with new data

The literature review often becomes the basis for a theoretical framework , in which you define and analyse the key theories, concepts and models that frame your research. In this section you can answer descriptive research questions about the relationship between concepts or variables.

The methodology chapter or section describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to assess its validity. You should generally include:

  • The overall approach and type of research (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, ethnographic)
  • Your methods of collecting data (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Your methods of analysing data (e.g. statistical analysis, discourse analysis)
  • Tools and materials you used (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)
  • A discussion of any obstacles you faced in conducting the research and how you overcame them
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Your aim in the methodology is to accurately report what you did, as well as convincing the reader that this was the best approach to answering your research questions or objectives.

Next, you report the results of your research . You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses, or topics. Only report results that are relevant to your objectives and research questions. In some disciplines, the results section is strictly separated from the discussion, while in others the two are combined.

For example, for qualitative methods like in-depth interviews, the presentation of the data will often be woven together with discussion and analysis, while in quantitative and experimental research, the results should be presented separately before you discuss their meaning. If you’re unsure, consult with your supervisor and look at sample dissertations to find out the best structure for your research.

In the results section it can often be helpful to include tables, graphs and charts. Think carefully about how best to present your data, and don’t include tables or figures that just repeat what you have written  –  they should provide extra information or usefully visualise the results in a way that adds value to your text.

Full versions of your data (such as interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix .

The discussion  is where you explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research questions. Here you should interpret the results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data and discuss any limitations that might have influenced the results.

The discussion should reference other scholarly work to show how your results fit with existing knowledge. You can also make recommendations for future research or practical action.

The dissertation conclusion should concisely answer the main research question, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of your central argument. Wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you did and how you did it. The conclusion often also includes recommendations for research or practice.

In this section, it’s important to show how your findings contribute to knowledge in the field and why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known?

You must include full details of all sources that you have cited in a reference list (sometimes also called a works cited list or bibliography). It’s important to follow a consistent reference style . Each style has strict and specific requirements for how to format your sources in the reference list.

The most common styles used in UK universities are Harvard referencing and Vancouver referencing . Your department will often specify which referencing style you should use – for example, psychology students tend to use APA style , humanities students often use MHRA , and law students always use OSCOLA . M ake sure to check the requirements, and ask your supervisor if you’re unsure.

To save time creating the reference list and make sure your citations are correctly and consistently formatted, you can use our free APA Citation Generator .

Your dissertation itself should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents you have used that do not fit into the main body of your dissertation (such as interview transcripts, survey questions or tables with full figures) can be added as appendices .

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Dissertation Explained: A Grad Student’s Guide

Dissertation-Explained-A-Grad-Student's-Guide

Higher education is filled with milestones. When completing your PhD , you will be required to complete a dissertation. Even if you’ve heard this word thrown around before, you still may be questioning “What is a dissertation?” It’s a common question, especially for those considering to join or are already in a graduate program. As such, here’s everything you need to know about dissertations.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a written document that details research. A dissertation also signifies the completion of your PhD program. It is required to earn a PhD degree, which stands for Doctor of Philosophy.

A PhD is created from knowledge acquired from:

1. Coursework:

A PhD program consists of academic courses that are usually small in size and challenging in content. Most PhD courses consist of a high amount and level of reading and writing per week. These courses will help prepare you for your dissertation as they will teach research methodology.

2. Research:

For your dissertation, it is likely that you will have the choice between performing your own research on a subject , or expanding on existing research. Likely, you will complete a mixture of the two. For those in the hard sciences, you will perform research in a lab. For those in humanities and social sciences, research may mean gathering data from surveys or existing research.

3. Analysis:

Once you have collected the data you need to prove your point, you will have to analyze and interpret the information. PhD programs will prepare you for how to conduct analysis, as well as for how to position your research into the existing body of work on the subject matter.

4. Support:

The process of writing and completing a dissertation is bigger than the work itself. It can lead to research positions within the university or outside companies. It may mean that you will teach and share your findings with current undergraduates, or even be published in academic journals. How far you plan to take your dissertation is your choice to make and will require the relevant effort to accomplish your goals.

Moving from Student to Scholar

In essence, a dissertation is what moves a doctoral student into becoming a scholar. Their research may be published, shared, and used as educational material moving forwards.

Thesis vs. Dissertation

Basic differences.

Grad students may conflate the differences between a thesis and a dissertation.

Simply put, a thesis is what you write to complete a master’s degree. It summarizes existing research and signifies that you understand the subject matter deeply.

On the other hand, a dissertation is the culmination of a doctoral program. It will likely require your own research and it can contribute an entirely new idea into your field.

Structural Differences

When it comes to the structure, a thesis and dissertation are also different. A thesis is like the research papers you complete during undergraduate studies. A thesis displays your ability to think critically and analyze information. It’s less based on research that you’ve completed yourself and more about interpreting and analyzing existing material. They are generally around 100 pages in length.

A dissertation is generally two to three times longer compared to a thesis. This is because the bulk of the information is garnered from research you’ve performed yourself. Also, if you are providing something new in your field, it means that existing information is lacking. That’s why you’ll have to provide a lot of data and research to back up your claims.

Your Guide: Structuring a Dissertation

Dissertation length.

The length of a dissertation varies between study level and country. At an undergraduate level, this is more likely referred to as a research paper, which is 10,000 to 12,000 words on average. At a master’s level, the word count may be 15,000 to 25,000, and it will likely be in the form of a thesis. For those completing their PhD, then the dissertation could be 50,000 words or more.

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Format of the dissertation.

Here are the items you must include in a dissertation. While the format may slightly vary, here’s a look at one way to format your dissertation:

1. Title page:

This is the first page which includes: title, your name, department, degree program, institution, and submission date. Your program may specify exactly how and what they want you to include on the title page.

2. Acknowledgements:

This is optional, but it is where you can express your gratitude to those who have helped you complete your dissertation (professors, research partners, etc.).

3. Abstract:

The abstract is about 150-300 words and summarizes what your research is about. You state the main topic, the methods used, the main results, and your conclusion.

4. Table of Contents

Here, you list the chapter titles and pages to serve as a wayfinding tool for your readers.

5. List of Figures and Tables:

This is like the table of contents, but for graphs and figures.

6. List of Abbreviations:

If you’ve constantly abbreviated words in your content, define them in a list at the beginning.

7. Glossary:

In highly specialized work, it’s likely that you’ve used words that most people may not understand, so a glossary is where you define these terms.

8. Introduction:

Your introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance. It’s where readers will understand what they expect to gain from your dissertation.

9. Literature Review / Theoretical Framework:

Based on the research you performed to create your own dissertation, you’ll want to summarize and address the gaps in what you researched.

10. Methodology

This is where you define how you conducted your research. It offers credibility for you as a source of information. You should give all the details as to how you’ve conducted your research, including: where and when research took place, how it was conducted, any obstacles you faced, and how you justified your findings.

11. Results:

This is where you share the results that have helped contribute to your findings.

12. Discussion:

In the discussion section, you explain what these findings mean to your research question. Were they in line with your expectations or did something jump out as surprising? You may also want to recommend ways to move forward in researching and addressing the subject matter.

13. Conclusion:

A conclusion ties it all together and summarizes the answer to the research question and leaves your reader clearly understanding your main argument.

14. Reference List:

This is the equivalent to a works cited or bibliography page, which documents all the sources you used to create your dissertation.

15. Appendices:

If you have any information that was ancillary to creating the dissertation, but doesn’t directly fit into its chapters, then you can add it in the appendix.

Drafting and Rewriting

As with any paper, especially one of this size and importance, the writing requires a process. It may begin with outlines and drafts, and even a few rewrites. It’s important to proofread your dissertation for both grammatical mistakes, but also to ensure it can be clearly understood.

It’s always useful to read your writing out loud to catch mistakes. Also, if you have people who you trust to read it over — like a peer, family member, mentor, or professor — it’s very helpful to get a second eye on your work.

How is it Different from an Essay?

There are a few main differences between a dissertation and an essay. For starters, an essay is relatively short in comparison to a dissertation, which includes your own body of research and work. Not only is an essay shorter, but you are also likely given the topic matter of an essay. When it comes to a dissertation, you have the freedom to construct your own argument, conduct your own research, and then prove your findings.

Types of Dissertations

You can choose what type of dissertation you complete. Often, this depends on the subject and doctoral degree, but the two main types are:

This relies on conducting your own research.

Non-empirical:

This relies on studying existing research to support your argument.

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More things you should know.

A dissertation is certainly no easy feat. Here’s a few more things to remember before you get started writing your own:

1. Independent by Nature:

The process of completing a dissertation is self-directed, and therefore can feel overwhelming. However, if you approach it like the new experience that it is with an open-mind and willingness to learn, you will make it through!

2. Seek Support:

There are countless people around to offer support. From professors to peers, you can always ask for help throughout the process.

3. Writing Skills:

The process of writing a dissertation will further hone your writing skills which will follow you throughout your life. These skills are highly transferable on the job, from having the ability to communicate to also developing analytical and critical thinking skills.

4. Time Management:

You can work backwards from the culmination of your program to break down this gargantuan task into smaller pieces. That way, you can manage your time to chip away at the task throughout the length of the program.

5. Topic Flexibility:

It’s okay to change subject matters and rethink the point of your dissertation. Just try as much as possible to do this early in the process so you don’t waste too much time and energy.

The Wrap Up

A dissertation marks the completion of your doctoral program and moves you from being a student to being a scholar. While the process is long and requires a lot of effort and energy, you have the power to lend an entirely new research and findings into your field of expertise.

As always, when in the thick of things, remember why you started. Completing both your dissertation and PhD is a commendable accomplishment.

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A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

Research process steps

When you have to write a thesis or dissertation , it can be hard to know where to begin, but there are some clear steps you can follow.

The research process often begins with a very broad idea for a topic you’d like to know more about. You do some preliminary research to identify a  problem . After refining your research questions , you can lay out the foundations of your research design , leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.

This article takes you through the first steps of the research process, helping you narrow down your ideas and build up a strong foundation for your research project.

Table of contents

Step 1: choose your topic, step 2: identify a problem, step 3: formulate research questions, step 4: create a research design, step 5: write a research proposal, other interesting articles.

First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you’re interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose .

Even if you already have a good sense of your topic, you’ll need to read widely to build background knowledge and begin narrowing down your ideas. Conduct an initial literature review to begin gathering relevant sources. As you read, take notes and try to identify problems, questions, debates, contradictions and gaps. Your aim is to narrow down from a broad area of interest to a specific niche.

Make sure to consider the practicalities: the requirements of your programme, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to access sources and data on the topic. Before moving onto the next stage, it’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor.

>>Read more about narrowing down a research topic

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how does the dissertation process work

So you’ve settled on a topic and found a niche—but what exactly will your research investigate, and why does it matter? To give your project focus and purpose, you have to define a research problem .

The problem might be a practical issue—for example, a process or practice that isn’t working well, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a difficulty faced by a specific group of people in society.

Alternatively, you might choose to investigate a theoretical problem—for example, an underexplored phenomenon or relationship, a contradiction between different models or theories, or an unresolved debate among scholars.

To put the problem in context and set your objectives, you can write a problem statement . This describes who the problem affects, why research is needed, and how your research project will contribute to solving it.

>>Read more about defining a research problem

Next, based on the problem statement, you need to write one or more research questions . These target exactly what you want to find out. They might focus on describing, comparing, evaluating, or explaining the research problem.

A strong research question should be specific enough that you can answer it thoroughly using appropriate qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complex enough to require in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. Questions that can be answered with “yes/no” or with easily available facts are not complex enough for a thesis or dissertation.

In some types of research, at this stage you might also have to develop a conceptual framework and testable hypotheses .

>>See research question examples

The research design is a practical framework for answering your research questions. It involves making decisions about the type of data you need, the methods you’ll use to collect and analyze it, and the location and timescale of your research.

There are often many possible paths you can take to answering your questions. The decisions you make will partly be based on your priorities. For example, do you want to determine causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or understand the details of a specific context?

You need to decide whether you will use primary or secondary data and qualitative or quantitative methods . You also need to determine the specific tools, procedures, and materials you’ll use to collect and analyze your data, as well as your criteria for selecting participants or sources.

>>Read more about creating a research design

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Finally, after completing these steps, you are ready to complete a research proposal . The proposal outlines the context, relevance, purpose, and plan of your research.

As well as outlining the background, problem statement, and research questions, the proposal should also include a literature review that shows how your project will fit into existing work on the topic. The research design section describes your approach and explains exactly what you will do.

You might have to get the proposal approved by your supervisor before you get started, and it will guide the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.

>>Read more about writing a research proposal

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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What are the steps in writing a dissertation?

December 11, 2019

The doctoral dissertation is the crowning achievement of your PhD program and an accomplishment of which you can be very proud. It’s also a significant undertaking. For any large project like this, understanding the steps and sequence can help reduce some of the anxiety you may be feeling about writing a dissertation.

Curtis Brant, PhD, Dean of Research & Scholarship at Capella University, provides details of the primary steps required to complete a dissertation. 

Generally, a dissertation will have five chapters:

  • An outline of the full background of your study
  • A comprehensive literature review supporting your research
  • A discussion of your choice of research design, data collection and analysis, and details of the research steps
  • The actual data analyses and results, and
  • The final evaluation and interpretation of your results.

As you progress through your program, each of the steps described below is designed to help you make concrete progress on your dissertation in smaller, manageable chunks. 

Step 1: Project Ideation.

 In your coursework, you will learn a great deal about the theories and practices central to your field of study. You will gain broad exposure to the field to help you to start thinking about a topic of inquiry for your project. You will also learn more about research ethics and methodologies so that in the next phase you will be ready to formally develop your project proposal. 

Step 2: Project Development.

Next, you will narrow down your choice of topics and begin to build the detailed format of your project. In this step, you will develop a detailed research plan that outlines the theoretical basis for your research, the questions you hope to answer, a research methodology, and proposed data analyses. In creating such a detailed research plan, you will also be developing much of the content for the first three chapters of your dissertation. You will submit your plan for approval to faculty to help prepare you for the next phase of completing your actual research. 

Step 3: Project Implementation.

 This step begins with submitting your study for approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB will review your project to ensure it meets the standards for ethical research. Once you get IRB approval, you can start to gather the data that you will analyze in the next step. During this step, you will also write and synthesize much of the content for the remaining chapters of your dissertation.

Step 4: Project Conclusion.

In this step you will complete your data collection and analyze the results. You will also finish writing the final two chapters of your dissertation in which you summarize your findings and connect your findings back to the questions and theories you discussed in earlier chapters. Prior to submitting your final dissertation for approval by your faculty review and edit it to ensure synthesis of all the content.

Step 5: University Approvals.

In the final step of completing your dissertation, you will submit your project for final format editing and approval from your faculty. 

Whatever step you’re on, one of the key factors to success is time management. Every step requires considerable work. Breaking down each step (as Capella does) is a good approach, as is diligently scheduling time every week to continue working. It may feel overwhelming to contemplate the entire process at once, but bundling it into smaller goals helps it become less daunting.

What’s more, as you progress through the steps of your project, your hard work will begin to pay off as you see the prospect of earning your PhD become a reality. Knowing that you’re contributing knowledge to your chosen field can be rewarding. It’s hard work but it’s followed by an immense feeling of satisfaction when you reach the end.

Capella University offers PhD and professional doctoral degree programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about our online PhD programs .

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7 steps to writing a dissertation

While you may be experienced in revising and writing essays, your dissertation requires careful planning, extensive research, and time management to succeed

Your dissertation is a key part of your degree course and a testament to your ability to conduct research, analyse data, and write a clear argument. Dissertations can be challenging, but they are also rewarding experiences that allow you to explore a topic in-depth and make a significant contribution to your field of study.

To achieve your academic goals, it is important to act on feedback, use your supervision time to your advantage, and demonstrate a strong knowledge of your subject. Whether you're writing an undergraduate, Masters , or PhD dissertation, these seven steps can help you stay on track.

1. Choose your topic wisely

Selecting the right topic is the foundation of a successful dissertation. It is important to choose a topic that is:

  • Relevant to your academic discipline and interests. This will ensure that you are passionate about your topic and have the necessary background knowledge to conduct meaningful research.
  • Intriguing and thought-provoking . A well-chosen topic will inspire you to ask interesting questions and develop original insights.
  • Specific enough to allow for in-depth analysis, yet broad enough to provide enough research material. A topic that is too narrow may be difficult to research or produce meaningful findings, while a topic that is too broad may be difficult to cover in the allowed time and word count.

Consider your career goals and what topics are relevant to the field you hope to work in after graduation. It's also important to be open to change, as it's common for students to modify their dissertation topic as they explore the subject more.

Once you have identified a potential topic, seek guidance from your supervisor. They can help you to refine your choice, identify relevant sources, and develop a research plan.

2. Check what's required of you

Read your marking criteria carefully. It is also important to consult the module guidelines and follow the instructions on any additional parts to your main assignment, such as a project plan, literature review or a critical reflection.

Neal Bamford, associate lecturer at London Metropolitan University, reports that his marking process always begins by 'distilling criteria to what students need to provide and how many marks this is worth.'

'Several dissertations I mark don't include a project plan in their submission. This is worth 20% of the overall mark, so students lose out on a significant portion of their grade'.

Before you begin to plan, make sure you understand what's expected of you. Find out:

  • what academic writing looks like in your discipline
  • the word count
  • when and where you must submit your dissertation.

3. Conduct in-depth research

Research at this stage in the process is often referred to as a literature review. This is where you are expected to gather relevant sources, articles, and studies from libraries, and online academic resources to identify the existing research on your topic and to develop your own research questions.

'Form your own opinion and argue for it using research. A history of the topic is always helpful, as it shows that you understand how things got to this point in time,' says Neal.

Be sure to take careful notes on each source and organise them for easy reference. You need to critically evaluate and analyse the sources to ensure their credibility and relevance to your research. This will be helpful when citing your sources in the writing stage.

Don't forget to seek guidance from your advisor throughout the research process. They can provide you with valuable feedback, relevant sources, and support.

4. Develop a strong thesis statement

A well-defined thesis statement is a roadmap for your dissertation. It should concisely state your main argument or research question and provide a clear direction for your paper. Your thesis statement will guide your entire writing process, so take the time to fully understand it before you begin to write.

When writing a thesis statement:

  • Be specific and focused - avoid broad or vague statements.
  • Remember that your thesis needs to be arguable - it should be a statement that can be supported or proved false with evidence.
  • Make sure your thesis is realistic - you need to be able to research and write about it in the allotted time and space.

Once you have a draft of your thesis statement, share it with your supervisor and other trusted peers. They can provide you with feedback and help you to refine your statement.

If your research disproves your original statement, it can be a disappointing experience. However, it is important to remember that this is a normal part of the research process.

'Many of my students believe that if they don't find the answer they're expecting, then their work is worthless,' says Neal.

'This is not the case. You don't have to find the answer to produce valuable research. Documenting your process and conclusions, even if they are inconclusive, can help others to avoid repeating your work and may lead to new approaches.'

5. Proofread and edit

After working on your dissertation for such a long time, it can be tempting to end the process once you have finished writing, but proofreading is an essential step in ensuring that it is polished and error-free.

To help with the proofreading process:

  • Read your dissertation aloud . This can help you to catch errors that you might miss when reading silently.
  • Change your environment to see your work with fresh eyes.
  • Focus on one thing at a time such as grammar, spelling, or punctuation to avoid getting overwhelmed.

To edit your dissertation, begin by reviewing its overall structure and flow. Make sure that your arguments are well-organised and that your ideas are presented in a logical order.

Next, check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation carefully. You can use a grammar checker, but it is important to proofread your work yourself to identify stylistic or subject-specific errors.

'Make sure you understand the reference style your university prefers. Formatting and labelling of images, tables etc. is vitally important and will be marked,' says Neal.

You should also ensure that your dissertation is formatted using the correct font, font size, margins, and line spacing.

6. Seek feedback and finalise

Once you have made your final revisions, seek feedback from your advisor or board members.

To get the most out of your feedback, be specific about what you are looking for. For example, you might ask for feedback on the overall structure and flow of your dissertation, the strength of your arguments, or the clarity of your writing.

Be open to feedback, even if it's negative. Remember that your advisor is there to help you improve your work, so it's important to take the time to understand and implement the feedback you receive.

Once you have addressed all the feedback, you can prepare your final submission. It's important to follow the guidelines carefully before submitting. Be sure to hand in your dissertation on time, as late submissions may be penalised or even rejected.

Online hand in is the most common method of dissertation submission, and you will typically need to upload a PDF file to an online portal. Follow the instructions carefully - you may need to provide additional information, such as your student ID number or the title of your dissertation.

Some institutions still require dissertations to be submitted in hard copy. If this is the case, you will need to submit a bound copy of your dissertation to your department office. You may also need to pay the binding fee.

Be sure to check with your advisor or department office for specific instructions on how to submit your dissertation in hard copy. You may have to submit multiple copies of your dissertation, and you be required to to include a title page, abstract, and table of contents.

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What is an Ed.D. Dissertation? Complete Guide & Support Resources

Wondering how to tackle the biggest doctoral challenge of all? Use our guide to the Ed.D. dissertation to get started! Learn about the purpose of a Doctor of Education dissertation and typical topics for education students. Read through step-by-step descriptions of the dissertation process and the 5-chapter format. Get answers to Ed.D. dissertation FAQs . Or skip to the chase and find real-world examples of Doctor of Education dissertations and websites & resources for Ed.D. dissertation research.

What is an Ed.D. Dissertation?

Definition of an ed.d. dissertation.

An Ed.D. dissertation is a 5-chapter scholarly document that brings together years of original research to address a problem of practice in education. To complete a dissertation, you will need to go through a number of scholarly steps , including a final defense to justify your findings.

Purpose of an Ed.D. Dissertation

In a Doctor of Education dissertation, you will be challenged to apply high-level research & creative problem-solving to real-world educational challenges. You may be asked to:

  • Take a critical look at current educational & administrative practices
  • Address urgent issues in the modern education system
  • Propose original & practical solutions for improvements
  • Expand the knowledge base for educational practitioners

Topics of Ed.D. Dissertations

An Ed.D. dissertation is “customizable.” You’re allowed to chose a topic that relates to your choice of specialty (e.g. elementary education), field of interest (e.g. curriculum development), and environment (e.g. urban schools).

Think about current problems of practice that need to be addressed in your field. You’ll notice that Ed.D. dissertation topics often address one of the following:

  • Academic performance
  • Teaching methods
  • Access to resources
  • Social challenges
  • Legislative impacts
  • System effectiveness

Wondering how others have done it? Browse through Examples of Ed.D. Dissertations and read the titles & abstracts. You’ll see how current educators are addressing their own problems of practice.

Ed.D. Dissertation Process

1. propose a dissertation topic.

Near the beginning of a Doctor of Education program, you’ll be expected to identify a dissertation topic that will require substantial research. This topic should revolve around a unique issue in education.

Universities will often ask you to provide an idea for your topic when you’re applying to the doctoral program. You don’t necessarily need to stick to this idea, but you should be prepared to explain why it interests you. If you need inspiration, see our section on Examples of Ed.D. Dissertations .

You’ll be expected to solidify your dissertation topic in the first few semesters. Talking to faculty and fellow Ed.D. students can help in this process. Better yet, your educational peers will often be able to provide unique perspectives on the topic (e.g. cultural differences in teaching methods).

2. Meet Your Dissertation Chair & Committee

You won’t be going through the Ed.D. dissertation process alone! Universities will help you to select a number of experienced mentors. These include:

  • Dissertation Chair/Faculty Advisor: The Chair of the Dissertation Committee acts as your primary advisor. You’ll often see them referred to as the Supervising Professor, Faculty Advisor, or the like. You’ll rely on this “Obi Wan” for their knowledge of the field, research advice & guidance, editorial input on drafts, and more. They can also assist with shaping & refining your dissertation topic.
  • Dissertation Committee:  The Dissertation Committee is made up of ~3 faculty members, instructors and/or adjuncts with advanced expertise in your field of study. The Committee will offer advice, provide feedback on your research progress, and review your work & progress reports. When you defend your proposal and give your final defense , you’ll be addressing the Dissertation Committee.

3. Study for Ed.D. Courses

Doctor of Education coursework is designed to help you: a) learn how to conduct original research; and b) give you a broader perspective on your field of interest. If you take a look at the curriculum in any Ed.D. program, you’ll see that students have to complete credits in:

  • Practical Research Methods (e.g. Quantitative Design & Analysis for Educational Leaders)
  • Real-World Educational Issues (e.g. Educational Policy, Law & Practice)

When you’re evaluating possible Ed.D. programs, pay attention to the coursework in real-world educational issues. You’ll want to pick an education doctorate with courses that complement your dissertation topic.

4. Complete a Literature Review

A literature review is an evaluation of existing materials & research work that relate to your dissertation topic. It’s a written synthesis that:

  • Grounds your project within the field
  • Explains how your work relates to previous research & theoretical frameworks
  • Helps to identify gaps in the existing research

Have a look at Literature Review Guides if you’d like to know more about the process. Our section on Resources for Ed.D. Dissertation Research also has useful links to journals & databases.

5. Craft a Dissertation Proposal

During the first two years of your Doctor of Education, you’ll use the knowledge you’ve learned from your coursework & discussions to write the opening chapters of your dissertation, including an:

  • Introduction  that defines your chosen topic
  • Literature Review of existing research in the field
  • Proposed Research Methodology for finding the answer to your problem

When you’re putting together these elements, think about the practicals. Is the topic too big to address in one dissertation? How much time will your research take and how will you conduct it? Will your dissertation be relevant to your current job? If in doubt, ask your faculty advisor.

6. Defend Your Dissertation Proposal

About midway through the Ed.D. program, you will need to present your proposal to your Dissertation Committee. They will review your work and offer feedback. For example, the Committee will want to see that:

  • Your research topic is significant.
  • Your research methodology & timeline make sense.
  • Relevant works are included in the literature review.

After the Committee approves your proposal, you can get stuck into conducting original research and writing up your findings. These two important tasks will take up the final years of your doctorate.

7. Conduct Original Research into Your Topic

As a Doctor of Education student, you will be expected to conduct your own research. Ed.D. students often use a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods (quantitative/qualitative) approach in this process.

  • Quantitative Research: Collection & analysis of numerical data to identify characteristics, discover correlations, and/or test hypotheses.
  • Qualitative Research: Collection & analysis of non-numerical data to understand & explain phenomena (e.g. questionnaires, in-depth interviews, focus groups, video artifacts, etc.).

Your Ed.D. coursework will ground you in research methods & tools, so you’ll be prepared to design your own project and seek IRB approval for any work involving human subjects.

Note: Occasionally, universities can get creative. For example, the Ed.D. program at San Jose State University asks students to produce a documentary film instead of conducting traditional research.

8. Write the Rest of Your Dissertation

Once you have written up the first few chapters of your dissertation (Intro, Literature Review & Proposed Methodology) and completed your research work, you’ll be able to complete the final chapters of your dissertation.

  • Chapter 4 will detail your research findings.
  • Chapter 5 is a conclusion that summarizes solutions to your problem of practice/topic.

This is where you and your faculty advisor will often have a lot of interaction! For example, you may need to rework the first few chapters of your dissertation after you’ve drafted the final chapters. Faculty advisors are extremely busy people, so be sure to budget in ample time for revisions and final edits.

9. Defend Your Dissertation

The final defense/candidacy exam is a formal presentation of your work to the Dissertation Committee. In many cases, the defense is an oral presentation with visual aides. You’ll be able to explain your research findings, go through your conclusions, and highlight new ideas & solutions.

At any time, the Committee can challenge you with questions, so you should be prepared to defend your conclusions. But this process is not as frightening as it sounds!

  • If you’ve been in close contact with the Committee throughout the dissertation, they will be aware of your work.
  • Your faculty advisor will help you decide when you’re ready for the final defense.
  • You can also attend the defenses of other Ed.D. students to learn what questions may be asked.

Be aware that the Committee has the option to ask for changes before they approve your dissertation. After you have incorporated any notes from the Committee and addressed their concerns, you will finalize the draft, submit your dissertation for a formal review, and graduate.

Ed.D. Dissertation Format: 5 Chapters

Chapter 1: introduction.

Your Doctor of Education dissertation will begin with an introduction. In it, you’ll be expected to:

  • Provide an overview of your educational landscape
  • Explain important definitions & key concepts
  • Define a real-world topic/problem of practice
  • Outline the need for new studies on this topic

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The literature review is a summary of existing research in the field. However, it is not an annotated bibliography. Instead, it’s a critical analysis of current research (e.g. trends, themes, debates & current practices). While you’re evaluating the literature, you’re also looking for the gaps where you can conduct original research.

Sources for a literature review can include books, articles, reports, websites, dissertations, and more. Our section on Resources for Ed.D. Dissertation Research has plenty of places to start.

Chapter 3: Research Methodology

In the research methodology, you’ll be expected to explain:

  • The purpose of your research
  • What tools & methods you plan to use to research your topic/problem of practice
  • The design of the study
  • Your timeline for gathering quantitative & qualitative data
  • How you plan to analyze that data
  • Any limitations you foresee

Chapter 4: Results & Analysis

Chapter 4 is the place where you can share the results of your original research and present key findings from the data. In your analysis, you may also be highlighting new patterns, relationships, and themes that other scholars have failed to discover. Have a look at real-life Examples of Ed.D. Dissertations to see how this section is structured.

Chapter 5: Discussions & Conclusions

The final chapter of your Ed.D. dissertation brings all of your work together in a detailed summary. You’ll be expected to:

  • Reiterate the objectives of your dissertation
  • Explain the significance of your research findings
  • Outline the implications of your ideas on existing practices
  • Propose solutions for a problem of practice
  • Make suggestions & recommendations for future improvements

Ed.D. Dissertation FAQs

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis.

  • Dissertation: A dissertation is a 5-chapter written work that must be completed in order to earn a doctoral degree (e.g. Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.). It’s often focused on original research.
  • Thesis: A thesis is a written work that must be completed in order to earn a master’s degree. It’s typically shorter than a dissertation and based on existing research.

How Long is a Ed.D. Dissertation?

It depends. Most Ed.D. dissertations end up being between 80-200 pages. The length will depend on a number of factors, including the depth of your literature review, the way you collect & present your research data, and any appendices you might need to include.

How Long Does it Take to Finish an Ed.D. Dissertation?

It depends. If you’re in an accelerated program , you may be able to finish your dissertation in 2-3 years. If you’re in a part-time program and need to conduct a lot of complex research work, your timeline will be much longer.

What’s a Strong Ed.D. Dissertation Topic?

Experts always say that Doctor of Education students should be passionate about their dissertation topic and eager to explore uncharted territory. When you’re crafting your Ed.D. dissertation topic , find one that will be:

  • Significant

See the section on Examples of Ed.D. Dissertations for inspiration.

Do I Have to Complete a Traditional Dissertation for an Ed.D.?

No. If you’re struggling with the idea of a traditional dissertation, check out this guide to Online Ed.D. Programs with No Dissertation . Some Schools of Education give Ed.D. students the opportunity to complete a Capstone Project or Dissertation in Practice (DiP) instead of a 5-chapter written work.

These alternatives aren’t easy! You’ll still be challenged at the same level as you would be for a dissertation. However, Capstone Projects & DiPs often involve more group work and an emphasis on applied theory & research.

What’s the Difference Between a Ph.D. Dissertation and Ed.D. Dissertation?

Have a look at our Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. Guide to get a sense of the differences between the two degrees. In a nutshell:

  • Ed.D. dissertations tend to focus on addressing current & real-world topics/problems of practice in the workplace.
  • Ph.D. dissertations usually put more emphasis on creating new theories & concepts and even completely rethinking educational practices.

How Can I Learn More About Ed.D. Dissertations?

Start with the section on Examples of Ed.D. Dissertations . You can browse through titles, abstracts, and even complete dissertations from a large number of universities.

If you have a few Doctor of Education programs on your shortlist, we also recommend that you skim through the program’s Dissertation Handbook . It can usually be found on the School of Education’s website. You’ll be able to see how the School likes to structure the dissertation process from start to finish.

Ed.D. Dissertation Support

University & campus resources, dissertation chair & committee.

The first port of call for any questions about the Ed.D. dissertation is your Dissertation Chair. If you get stuck with a terrible faculty advisor, talk to members of the Dissertation Committee. They are there to support your journey.

University Library

An Ed.D. dissertation is a massive research project. So before you choose a Doctor of Education program, ask the School of Education about its libraries & library resources (e.g. free online access to subscription-based journals).

Writing Center

Many universities have a Writing Center. If you’re struggling with any elements of your dissertation (e.g. editing), you can ask the staff about:

  • Individual tutoring
  • Editorial assistance
  • Outside resources

Mental Health Support

It’s well-known that doctoral students often face a lot of stress & isolation during their studies. Ask your faculty advisor about mental health services at the university. Staff in the School of Education and the Graduate School will also have information about on-campus counselors, free or discounted therapy sessions, and more.

Independent Dissertation Services

Dissertation editing services: potentially helpful.

There are scores of independent providers who offer dissertation editing services. But they can be expensive. And many of these editors have zero expertise in educational fields.

If you need help with editing & proofreading, proceed with caution:

  • Start by asking your Dissertation Chair about what’s permitted for third party involvement (e.g. you may need to note any editor’s contribution in your dissertation acknowledgments) and whether they have any suggestions.
  • The Graduate School is another useful resource. For example, Cornell’s Graduate School maintains a list of Editing, Typing, and Proofreading Services for graduate students.

Dissertation Coaches: Not Worth It

Dissertation coaches are defined as people who offer academic & mental support, guidance, and editorial input.

  • That means the person who should be your coach is your Dissertation Chair/Faculty Advisor. Remember that faculty members on the Dissertation Committee can also provide assistance.
  • If you’re looking for extra support, you might consider consulting a mentor in your line of work and collaborating with fellow Ed.D. students.

But hiring an independent Ed.D. dissertation coach is going to be an absolute waste of money.

Dissertation Writing Services: Just Don’t!

Universities take the dissertation process  very seriously . An Ed.D. dissertation is supposed to be the culmination of years of original thought and research. You’re going to be responsible for the final product. You’re going to be defending your written work in front of a phalanx of experienced faculty members. You’re going to be putting this credential on your résumé for everyone to see.

If you cheat the process by having someone else write up your work, you will get caught.

Ed.D. Dissertation Resources

Examples of ed.d. dissertations, dissertation databases.

  • Open Access Theses and Dissertations
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  • EBSCO Open Dissertations

Ed.D. Dissertations

  • USF Scholarship Repository: Ed.D. Dissertations
  • George Fox University: Doctor of Education
  • UW Tacoma: Ed.D. Dissertations in Practice
  • Liberty University: School of Education Doctoral Dissertations
  • University of Mary Hardin-Baylor: Dissertation Collection

Ed.D. Dissertation Abstracts

  • Michigan State University: Ed.D. Dissertation Abstracts

Ed.D. Dissertation Guides & Tools

General ed.d. guides.

  • SNHU: Educational Leadership Ed.D./Ph.D. Guide

Dissertation Style Manuals

  • Chicago Manual of Style

Style manuals are designed to ensure that every Ed.D. student follows the same set of writing guidelines for their dissertation (e.g. grammatical rules, footnote & quotation formats, abbreviation conventions, etc.). Check with the School of Education to learn which style manual they use.

Examples of Ed.D. Dissertation Templates

  • Purdue University: Dissertation Template
  • Walden University: Ed.D. Dissertation Template

Each School of Education has a standard dissertation template. We’ve highlighted a couple of examples so you can see how they’re formatted, but you will need to acquire the template from your own university.

Literature Review Guides

  • UNC Chapel Hill: Writing Guide for Literature Reviews
  • University of Alabama: How to Conduct a Literature Review

Resources for Ed.D. Dissertation Research

Journal articles.

  • EBSCO Education Research Databases
  • Education Resources Information Center (ERIC)
  • Emerald Education eJournal Collection
  • Gale OneFile: Educator’s Reference Complete
  • Google Scholar
  • NCES Bibliography Search Tool
  • ProQuest Education Database
  • SAGE Journals: Education

Useful Websites

  • Harvard Gutman Library: Websites for Educators
  • EduRef: Lesson Plans

Educational Data & Statistics

  • Digest of Education Statistics
  • Education Policy Data Center (EPDC)
  • ICPSR Data Archive
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress
  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • UNESCO Institute for Statistics
  • How it works

How to Structure a Dissertation – A Step by Step Guide

Published by Owen Ingram at August 11th, 2021 , Revised On September 20, 2023

A dissertation – sometimes called a thesis –  is a long piece of information backed up by extensive research. This one, huge piece of research is what matters the most when students – undergraduates and postgraduates – are in their final year of study.

On the other hand, some institutions, especially in the case of undergraduate students, may or may not require students to write a dissertation. Courses are offered instead. This generally depends on the requirements of that particular institution.

If you are unsure about how to structure your dissertation or thesis, this article will offer you some guidelines to work out what the most important segments of a dissertation paper are and how you should organise them. Why is structure so important in research, anyway?

One way to answer that, as Abbie Hoffman aptly put it, is because: “Structure is more important than content in the transmission of information.”

Also Read:   How to write a dissertation – step by step guide .

How to Structure a Dissertation or Thesis

It should be noted that the exact structure of your dissertation will depend on several factors, such as:

  • Your research approach (qualitative/quantitative)
  • The nature of your research design (exploratory/descriptive etc.)
  • The requirements set for forth by your academic institution.
  • The discipline or field your study belongs to. For instance, if you are a humanities student, you will need to develop your dissertation on the same pattern as any long essay .

This will include developing an overall argument to support the thesis statement and organizing chapters around theories or questions. The dissertation will be structured such that it starts with an introduction , develops on the main idea in its main body paragraphs and is then summarised in conclusion .

However, if you are basing your dissertation on primary or empirical research, you will be required to include each of the below components. In most cases of dissertation writing, each of these elements will have to be written as a separate chapter.

But depending on the word count you are provided with and academic subject, you may choose to combine some of these elements.

For example, sciences and engineering students often present results and discussions together in one chapter rather than two different chapters.

If you have any doubts about structuring your dissertation or thesis, it would be a good idea to consult with your academic supervisor and check your department’s requirements.

Parts of  a Dissertation or Thesis

Your dissertation will  start with a t itle page that will contain details of the author/researcher, research topic, degree program (the paper is to be submitted for), and research supervisor. In other words, a title page is the opening page containing all the names and title related to your research.

The name of your university, logo, student ID and submission date can also be presented on the title page. Many academic programs have stringent rules for formatting the dissertation title page.

Acknowledgements

The acknowledgments section allows you to thank those who helped you with your dissertation project. You might want to mention the names of your academic supervisor, family members, friends, God, and participants of your study whose contribution and support enabled you to complete your work.

However, the acknowledgments section is usually optional.

Tip: Many students wrongly assume that they need to thank everyone…even those who had little to no contributions towards the dissertation. This is not the case. You only need to thank those who were directly involved in the research process, such as your participants/volunteers, supervisor(s) etc.

Perhaps the smallest yet important part of a thesis, an abstract contains 5 parts:

  • A brief introduction of your research topic.
  • The significance of your research.
  •  A line or two about the methodology that was used.
  • The results and what they mean (briefly); their interpretation(s).
  • And lastly, a conclusive comment regarding the results’ interpretation(s) as conclusion .

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Tip: Make sure to highlight key points to help readers figure out the scope and findings of your research study without having to read the entire dissertation. The abstract is your first chance to impress your readers. So, make sure to get it right. Here are detailed guidelines on how to write abstract for dissertation .

Table of Contents

Table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper’s contents. Depending on the level of detail in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader the page number on which said information may be found at.

Table of contents can be inserted automatically as well as manually using the Microsoft Word Table of Contents feature.

List of Figures and Tables

If your dissertation paper uses several illustrations, tables and figures, you might want to present them in a numbered list in a separate section . Again, this list of tables and figures can be auto-created and auto inserted using the Microsoft Word built-in feature.

List of Abbreviations

Dissertations that include several abbreviations can also have an independent and separate alphabetised  list of abbreviations so readers can easily figure out their meanings.

If you think you have used terms and phrases in your dissertation that readers might not be familiar with, you can create a  glossary  that lists important phrases and terms with their meanings explained.

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Introduction

Introduction chapter  briefly introduces the purpose and relevance of your research topic.

Here, you will be expected to list the aim and key objectives of your research so your readers can easily understand what the following chapters of the dissertation will cover. A good dissertation introduction section incorporates the following information:

  • It provides background information to give context to your research.
  • It clearly specifies the research problem you wish to address with your research. When creating research questions , it is important to make sure your research’s focus and scope are neither too broad nor too narrow.
  • it demonstrates how your research is relevant and how it would contribute to the existing knowledge.
  • It provides an overview of the structure of your dissertation. The last section of an introduction contains an outline of the following chapters. It could start off with something like: “In the following chapter, past literature has been reviewed and critiqued. The proceeding section lays down major research findings…”
  • Theoretical framework – under a separate sub-heading – is also provided within the introductory chapter. Theoretical framework deals with the basic, underlying theory or theories that the research revolves around.

All the information presented under this section should be relevant, clear, and engaging. The readers should be able to figure out the what, why, when, and how of your study once they have read the introduction. Here are comprehensive guidelines on how to structure the introduction to the dissertation .

“Overwhelmed by tight deadlines and tons of assignments to write? There is no need to panic! Our expert academics can help you with every aspect of your dissertation – from topic creation and research problem identification to choosing the methodological approach and data analysis.”

Literature Review 

The  literature review chapter  presents previous research performed on the topic and improves your understanding of the existing literature on your chosen topic. This is usually organised to complement your  primary research  work completed at a later stage.

Make sure that your chosen academic sources are authentic and up-to-date. The literature review chapter must be comprehensive and address the aims and objectives as defined in the introduction chapter. Here is what your literature research chapter should aim to achieve:

  • Data collection from authentic and relevant academic sources such as books, journal articles and research papers.
  • Analytical assessment of the information collected from those sources; this would involve a critiquing the reviewed researches that is, what their strengths/weaknesses are, why the research method they employed is better than others, importance of their findings, etc.
  • Identifying key research gaps, conflicts, patterns, and theories to get your point across to the reader effectively.

While your literature review should summarise previous literature, it is equally important to make sure that you develop a comprehensible argument or structure to justify your research topic. It would help if you considered keeping the following questions in mind when writing the literature review:

  • How does your research work fill a certain gap in exiting literature?
  • Did you adopt/adapt a new research approach to investigate the topic?
  • Does your research solve an unresolved problem?
  • Is your research dealing with some groundbreaking topic or theory that others might have overlooked?
  • Is your research taking forward an existing theoretical discussion?
  • Does your research strengthen and build on current knowledge within your area of study? This is otherwise known as ‘adding to the existing body of knowledge’ in academic circles.

Tip: You might want to establish relationships between variables/concepts to provide descriptive answers to some or all of your research questions. For instance, in case of quantitative research, you might hypothesise that variable A is positively co-related to variable B that is, one increases and so does the other one.

Research Methodology

The methods and techniques ( secondary and/or primar y) employed to collect research data are discussed in detail in the  Methodology chapter. The most commonly used primary data collection methods are:

  • questionnaires
  • focus groups
  • observations

Essentially, the methodology chapter allows the researcher to explain how he/she achieved the findings, why they are reliable and how they helped him/her test the research hypotheses or address the research problem.

You might want to consider the following when writing methodology for the dissertation:

  • Type of research and approach your work is based on. Some of the most widely used types of research include experimental, quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
  • Data collection techniques that were employed such as questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, observations etc.
  • Details of how, when, where, and what of the research that was conducted.
  • Data analysis strategies employed (for instance, regression analysis).
  • Software and tools used for data analysis (Excel, STATA, SPSS, lab equipment, etc.).
  • Research limitations to highlight any hurdles you had to overcome when carrying our research. Limitations might or might not be mentioned within research methodology. Some institutions’ guidelines dictate they be mentioned under a separate section alongside recommendations.
  • Justification of your selection of research approach and research methodology.

Here is a comprehensive article on  how to structure a dissertation methodology .

Research Findings

In this section, you present your research findings. The dissertation findings chapter  is built around the research questions, as outlined in the introduction chapter. Report findings that are directly relevant to your research questions.

Any information that is not directly relevant to research questions or hypotheses but could be useful for the readers can be placed under the  Appendices .

As indicated above, you can either develop a  standalone chapter  to present your findings or combine them with the discussion chapter. This choice depends on  the type of research involved and the academic subject, as well as what your institution’s academic guidelines dictate.

For example, it is common to have both findings and discussion grouped under the same section, particularly if the dissertation is based on qualitative research data.

On the other hand, dissertations that use quantitative or experimental data should present findings and analysis/discussion in two separate chapters. Here are some sample dissertations to help you figure out the best structure for your own project.

Sample Dissertation

Tip: Try to present as many charts, graphs, illustrations and tables in the findings chapter to improve your data presentation. Provide their qualitative interpretations alongside, too. Refrain from explaining the information that is already evident from figures and tables.

The findings are followed by the  Discussion chapter , which is considered the heart of any dissertation paper. The discussion section is an opportunity for you to tie the knots together to address the research questions and present arguments, models and key themes.

This chapter can make or break your research.

The discussion chapter does not require any new data or information because it is more about the interpretation(s) of the data you have already collected and presented. Here are some questions for you to think over when writing the discussion chapter:

  • Did your work answer all the research questions or tested the hypothesis?
  • Did you come up with some unexpected results for which you have to provide an additional explanation or justification?
  • Are there any limitations that could have influenced your research findings?

Here is an article on how to  structure a dissertation discussion .

Conclusions corresponding to each research objective are provided in the  Conclusion section . This is usually done by revisiting the research questions to finally close the dissertation. Some institutions may specifically ask for recommendations to evaluate your critical thinking.

By the end, the readers should have a clear apprehension of your fundamental case with a focus on  what methods of research were employed  and what you achieved from this research.

Quick Question: Does the conclusion chapter reflect on the contributions your research work will make to existing knowledge?

Answer: Yes, the conclusion chapter of the research paper typically includes a reflection on the research’s contributions to existing knowledge.  In the “conclusion chapter”, you have to summarise the key findings and discuss how they add value to the existing literature on the current topic.

Reference list

All academic sources that you collected information from should be cited in-text and also presented in a  reference list (or a bibliography in case you include references that you read for the research but didn’t end up citing in the text), so the readers can easily locate the source of information when/if needed.

At most UK universities, Harvard referencing is the recommended style of referencing. It has strict and specific requirements on how to format a reference resource. Other common styles of referencing include MLA, APA, Footnotes, etc.

Each chapter of the dissertation should have relevant information. Any information that is not directly relevant to your research topic but your readers might be interested in (interview transcripts etc.) should be moved under the Appendices section .

Things like questionnaires, survey items or readings that were used in the study’s experiment are mostly included under appendices.

An Outline of Dissertation/Thesis Structure

An Outline of Dissertation

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FAQs About Structure a Dissertation

What does the title page of a dissertation contain.

The title page will contain details of the author/researcher, research topic , degree program (the paper is to be submitted for) and research supervisor’s name(s). The name of your university, logo, student number and submission date can also be presented on the title page.

What is the purpose of adding acknowledgement?

The acknowledgements section allows you to thank those who helped you with your dissertation project. You might want to mention the names of your academic supervisor, family members, friends, God and participants of your study whose contribution and support enabled you to complete your work.

Can I omit the glossary from the dissertation?

Yes, but only if you think that your paper does not contain any terms or phrases that the reader might not understand. If you think you have used them in the paper,  you must create a glossary that lists important phrases and terms with their meanings explained.

What is the purpose of appendices in a dissertation?

Any information that is not directly relevant to research questions or hypotheses but could be useful for the readers can be placed under the Appendices, such as questionnaire that was used in the study.

Which referencing style should I use in my dissertation?

You can use any of the referencing styles such as APA, MLA, and Harvard, according to the recommendation of your university; however, almost all UK institutions prefer Harvard referencing style .

What is the difference between references and bibliography?

References contain all the works that you read up and used and therefore, cited within the text of your thesis. However, in case you read on some works and resources that you didn’t end up citing in-text, they will be referenced in what is called a bibliography.

Additional readings might also be present alongside each bibliography entry for readers.

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Appendices or Appendixes are used to provide additional date related to your dissertation research project. Here we explain what is appendix in dissertation

Make sure to develop a conceptual framework before conducting research. Here is all you need to know about what is a conceptual framework is in a dissertation?

Do dissertations scare you? Struggling with writing a flawless dissertation? Well, congratulations, you have landed in the perfect place. In this blog, we will take you through the detailed process of writing a dissertation. Sounds fun? We thought so!

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How Does the Dissertation Process Work?

Often when graduate students think of their dissertation, they imagine a finished product: a thick, leather-bound manuscript signifying the culmination of their education. While a great (and motivating!) visual, it doesn’t tell the whole story about what it means to write a dissertation. Before embarking on this journey, it is helpful to conceptualize it as a dissertation process , rather than a final document. 

One misconception that many graduate students have about the dissertation process is that it’s something they’ve done before, like an amplified seminar paper or journal article. In reality, a dissertation is a whole different animal from anything that you’ve yet attempted, even a master’s thesis. Before you get started, it’s a good idea to peruse recently-defended dissertations written by doctoral students in your department to get an idea of the basic framework and what is expected by your university. Then, the real work can begin!

These are a few frequently asked questions about the dissertation process:

  • Where does the dissertation process begin?
  • What are the steps of the dissertation process?
  • How long does the dissertation process take?
  • What is the hardest part of the dissertation process? 

Where Do I Start? 

college student taking notes in a library

There is no doubt that the dissertation process is an intimidating journey, but you’ve got to start somewhere. The good news is, in some ways you’ve been preparing to write your dissertation for a very long time. A doctoral dissertation truly is the apex of your graduate education, and by the time you reach the starting line, you’re well-trained to run the race. While it’s a marathon rather than a sprint, being cleared by your department to start your dissertation means that you’re ready. 

Start by getting all of the pieces–and people–that you’ll need in place. This means choosing a faculty member from your department to be your dissertation advisor , a decision that you’ll want to make carefully. Once that is formalized, schedule a kick-off meeting to talk about your idea for your dissertation, and make sure that it is feasible. Your advisor will be well-versed in the potential challenges you could face and will help steer you in the right direction. 

There are also practical considerations. For the sciences, lab times and spaces may need to be scheduled well in advance. IRB approval may be needed before research can commence, and that means paperwork–sometimes lots of it. For the arts and humanities, grant funding may need to be sought, as well as stipends for research trips. At this point, it’s also a good idea to get friendly with a research librarian at your university–they are an incredible resource. 

What Are the Steps of the Dissertation Process? 

man standing at a desk and drawing with a pencil

Once you’ve met with your dissertation advisor and agreed on a plan, you have a green light to get started. While dissertations do vary by discipline, the process itself tends to follow conventions. The basic framework is distilled in the structure of the dissertation, which is broken down into dissertation chapters . The first three dissertation chapters make up the dissertation proposal , which is the first major milestone in the dissertation process. 

The chapters of your dissertation proposal, which you’ll have to defend during a dissertation proposal defense with your dissertation committee, usually represents about half of your dissertation. In these chapters, you’ll write the introduction to your study, the literature review, and the research methods section, which outlines how you propose to complete your research. Once the dissertation proposal is approved, you’ll continue your dissertation project by completing your results and conclusions sections for the dissertation defense. 

How Long Does the Dissertation Process Take? 

This is a great question, and the answer varies wildly. Most programs allot at least three semesters (fall, spring, and summer) for researching and writing a dissertation. A year to eighteen months is a good amount of time to plan for, more if there are extenuating circumstances (working, caregiving, time off, etc.). Many programs also have a hard time-out date for students to complete and defend their dissertations (usually six years). 

Another factor that determines how long the dissertation process takes is the amount of time you spend getting started. A lot depends on determining the exact locus of your topic and research question and how long it takes for it to take shape. Initially, the research question is often a nebulous glimmer of an idea that evolves and becomes more refined during a deep dive into the existing body of relevant literature. 

custom drawn calendar in a notebook with color notes

This period of research can be extensive. While you may spend days or weeks researching a seminar paper, this stage of the dissertation process should be thought about in terms of months or semesters. Yes, it’s a lengthy process, but it is during this phase that you really start to become an expert on your topic. Take your time–you have a lot to learn, and developing this expertise now will serve you well not only while writing your dissertation, but also in your career. 

What is the Hardest Part of the Dissertation Process?

Writing a dissertation is hard work. There’s no way around it. It is probably the most demanding, rigorous intellectual exercise any of us will ever do, and most of it is done alone. It’s an intense learning process that not only molds you into an expert on your topic, but also into an academic whose perspective is shaped by theory and philosophy. There’s a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and also a bit of self-doubt. It’s a wholly transformative process, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. 

Make no mistake: the dissertation process is difficult and fraught with challenges, but it can also be one of the most satisfying, enriching experiences that you’ll ever have. I vividly remember the struggles that I had when writing my dissertation: lack of sleep, a huge learning curve, fearing that I was getting it all wrong. But engaging in the dissertation process and getting the opportunity to do unlimited research on a topic that I truly loved was such a gift. After spending years learning theory and reading the work of other scholars, getting a chance to plant my own flag in the body of knowledge and declare a tiny piece of intellectual real estate my own was extraordinary. 

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Courtney Watson, Ph.D.

Courtney Watson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at Radford University Carilion, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her areas of expertise include undergraduate and graduate curriculum development for writing courses in the health sciences and American literature with a focus on literary travel, tourism, and heritage economies. Her writing and academic scholarship has been widely published in places that include  Studies in American Culture ,  Dialogue , and  The Virginia Quarterly Review . Her research on the integration of humanities into STEM education will be published by Routledge in an upcoming collection. Dr. Watson has also been nominated by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Rising Star Award, and she is a past winner of the National Society of Arts & Letters Regional Short Story Prize, as well as institutional awards for scholarly research and excellence in teaching. Throughout her career in higher education, Dr. Watson has served in faculty governance and administration as a frequent committee chair and program chair. As a higher education consultant, she has served as a subject matter expert, an evaluator, and a contributor to white papers exploring program development, enrollment research, and educational mergers and acquisitions.

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“How to Finish Your Dissertation in Half the Time”

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  • 2. The dissertation process

Finding and Managing Information for Your Dissertation: 2. The dissertation process

  • 1. Introduction
  • 3. Information sources
  • 4. Searching techniques
  • 5. Where to search
  • 6. Systematic Reviews
  • 7. Methods and data analysis
  • 8. Evaluate and fact check information
  • 9. Managing information
  • 10. Referencing This link opens in a new window
  • 11. How the library can help

Getting started

You've reached the dissertation stage! You may now be starting to think about the following: 

  • the format of the dissertation
  • picking a topic of special interest to you
  • creating your plan
  • searching effectively for material
  • primary research / secondary research / literature review

Take a look through the different tabs below to familiarise yourself with the steps involved in planning and developing your dissertation or research project. 

The process

  • What will my dissertation look like
  • Choosing your topic
  • Tips on focussing your topic
  • Literature Review
  • Search Strategy
  • Research Methods
  • Free writing and communication training
  • Title page, declarations and statements, acknowledgements (see your departmental handbook for details)
  • T his is a brief summary of your dissertation which describes and gives an overview of the content. 
  • This includes the   aims and objectives; an overview of literature; Why are you researching this topic?
  • key points, background and context to the work
  •  what methods you have used to collect the data? Why did you choose to use a particular method instead of another? 
  • This section will involve   analysis and critical appraisal of the data collected
  • H ere you should interpret your findings. What is your evidence? Discuss the strengths and weaknesses
  • What did you learn from your research? Did you find out something new? Discuss future recommendations.
  • ​​​​​​​ This is your reference list, and will include all of the books, articles and other sources that you have cited and read for your dissertation.
  • ​​​​​​​ This section will include the supporting evidence used for your research. For example, questionnaires, graphs, surveys, interview transcripts. 

Before moving forward, you need to decide  what  you want to find out. This is known as your research topic , and should be something that you can answer through the research you've performed and then presented in your dissertation.

If you're unsure what you want to concentrate on, do some exploratory and background reading and find out what has already been written on your area of interest.

When deciding on a topic, choosing what  not  to include is just as important! Consider how you will limit your research.

Once you have a topic in mind, you are now ready to move forward to formulate and develop potential  research questions . This concentrates on exactly  what  you want to find out and should be something that you can answer through your dissertation.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself at this point to formulate the exact question. Remember  nothing, and not even your question is set in stone at this stage  – it can be amended and modified over the course of your research to suit what you end up investigating.

You can use techniques such as:

  • writing key points on post-it notes/whiteboard
  • brain-storming
  • mind-mapping

to think of different ways to describe the most important words involved in your research, also known as key concepts or keywords. 

  • The Effective Study Collection in the Hugh Owen Library contains lots of material to help you begin preparing your dissertation (  Where can I find it?  )
  • Find out more about subject specific resources (  Where can I find them?  )

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Using a framework can help to refine your exact research question with tools such as PICO, SPIDER and SPICE. The style of your study will help to determine which is the most relevant. 

You might find that your topic does not always fall into one of the models listed below. You can always modify a model to make it work for your topic, and either remove or adjust additional elements.

PICO is a popular model or framework which is used most commonly for quantitative clinical and healthcare related questions. 

  • P - Population - who  is my question focused on? This could be the general population, or a specific group defined (e.g. infants, elderly)
  • I  -  Intervention - what intervention is being considered? This refers to the test to be investigated
  • C - Comparison (optional element) -what intervention is being considered? This is a measure you will use to compare results against. 
  • O - Outcome - what are you trying to achieve/accomplish/improve?

PICO has been adapted to include additional variations:

  • PICOT where T = Timeframe - how long after the intervention will the outcomes be assessed? You can use this framework if your outcomes need to be measured in a certain amount of time.
  • PICOS where S = Study Design - which specific design, e.g. randomised controlled trial, is included?
  • Population - who is affected?
  • Interest or Environment - which circumstances or settings apply?
  • Outcome - what are you trying to achieve?

This framework is an alternative tool compatible with both qualitative subjective and quantitative objective style studies.

  • S - Sample - a sample or people involved / the group you are focusing on
  • PI - Phenomenon of Interest  -  the behaviour or experience your research is examining
  • D - Design - how the research will be carried out/ the form of research used
  • E - Evaluation -  What are the outcomes you are measuring
  • R - Research - What is the research style undertaken / used

This is a tool for qualitative questions and is often preferred for social science research. This is another variant of PICO but this time including the setting   - the where  the context of the study

  • S - Setting - this is the where/location or context of the study
  • P - Population or Perspective  - which population or perspective will the research be conducted for (the users, potential users or stakeholders) 
  • I - Intervention  - or the action taken 
  • C - Comparison - is there a comparison/alternative
  • E - Evaluation -  did the intervention work and if so, how well? What were the results?

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A literature review is a piece of writing that collates, links and evaluates key sources related to a chosen topic or research question. These key sources could be scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings and other resources which are relevant to a particular issue, theme, theory or area of research.

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The guiding ethical principles governing all research within Aberystwyth University are the following:

• Respect for the rights, safety and well-being of all human participants and animals

• Respect for other cultures, values, traditions and the environment around us

• Honesty, integrity and professionalism at all times

We encourage all researchers to refer to the Research Ethics Framework as a starting point. The framework contains operational guidance in relation to research ethics and its associated processes. Please familiarise yourself with the relevant sections of this guidance in the first instance. If you require any advice or support, please contact us.

Research Ethics Framework

However, if you still have unanswered questions, please contact the Research Ethics team ( [email protected]) who will be pleased to help. We can also able to provide advice on the correct approvals process for you to follow, advice on the drafting of applications and to discuss any potential research topics or ideas that you may have.

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A sequence of steps which you can follow for selecting terms/phrases and building them into your search strategy is given below:

  • Break down your dissertation topic into a small number of related concepts.
  • Identify terms and phrases related to each individual concept which you think may be useful search terms.
  • Start with broad terms and then move towards more specific terms for each of the concept groups.
  • Run an initial search in a general database, combining the terms and phrases you have chosen for each concept. It is usually best to enter each group of terms in a separate search box if possible.
  • Add more key terms to each of your groups, such as alternative terminology, synonyms, varied spellings, as you come across them in your initial search results.
  • Introduce truncation symbols (often *) to cover different endings for your terms in your search (e.g. to cover singular and plural forms)
  • Enclose any phrases in your search term groups in quotes (e.g. “climate change”).
  • Use filters offered by your database to cut down the number of results by date, language, method, geography etc.
  • Filtering out the review papers can be very useful for getting a broad view of recent developments in your topic and also for finding more search terms.
  • Output the references which you wish to save from this initial search either as an e-mail to yourself, as a saved file or download to a reference management package such as EndNote.

Repeat this procedure from steps 3-10 in a more specialist database, again adding any further useful terms which you find to the relevant group of concepts, until you are contented with the search. Use the same output method as used with the general database to output your results.

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The research process for a dissertation or project is substantial and takes time. Research methods are the tools used to help you find, collect, analyse and interpret information in order to answer your research question. 

You will need to think about what you have to find out in order to answer your research question, and where and when you can find this information. As you gather your research, keep returning to your research question to ensure you are keeping in line with what you aim to find out and what you are doing is relevant.

When starting your search procedure, it is often useful to pick out a few review articles on your topic to read in detail as these will cite a large number of primary papers which may also be relevant to your specific study. Many databases have a specific filter to pick out the review papers from the references which your search has initially retrieved.

The choice of method used depends on your research question. 

  • Experiments 
  • Observations
  • Questionnaries and surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • Case studies

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You’ve done your research, you've analysed the data – now you have to present it!

Make sure you  read your module handbook  - this will give you the rules to follow and how to structure the work correctly. Your lecturer can also give you guidance on what is expected. 

Before you submit your work: 

  • plan your time before submission date arrives - set out your 'to-do's' 
  • make sure you proof read it and  remove any typos. You may find it helpful to print it out and highlight any necessary amendments/corrections
  • make use of the Read & Write software that will enable the computer to read anything on your computer screen aloud. You may find this useful in proof-reading your own dissertation. It is available via the Software Centre and on Library computers.
  • check your references  - ensure they match and contain all the information 
  • follow your department's advice on how to format your citations and bibliography
  • check the referencing style and that it is done correctly and consistently throughout your dissertation
  • ask a friend to read through your work - a fresh pair of eyes may notice things you may have missed

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This service is available to Aberystwyth University Staff and Students in support of the academic aims of the University.

Further information on binding options is available at  https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/is/library-services/binding/ 

If you're an undergraduate, you can attend optional free writing, communication and information skills classes. More information available at:  Free Undergraduate Courses : Student Learning Support, Aberystwyth University

If you're a postgraduate, you can attend optional free classes in writing and advanced information skills. More informationavailable at:  Free Postgraduate Courses : Student Learning Support, Aberystwyth University

Examples of dissertations

how does the dissertation process work

It's a good idea to take a look at example of dissertations to familiarise yourself with the layout and format.

Currently AU libraries, the National Library of Wales and the Aberystwyth Research Portal, receive from AU academic departments:

  • All successful research theses

and also stock pre 2013 Taught Master’s:

  • theses on a Welsh subject
  • theses achieving a distinction

Further information is available by visiting: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/is/library-services/collections/theses/

The  Aberystwyth Research Portal  makes the very best of Aberystwyth University's staff and postgraduate research openly available online, free of charge.

Content in the portal includes published outputs, postgraduate theses, project details, as well as records for other esteem activities. 

You can search the  Aberystwyth Research Portal  for theses either in the general search box or by browsing the postgraduate publications community. 

Other theses from Welsh universities are deposited at the National Library of Wales,  National Library of Wales

Other Electronic Theses

Online availability of theses via the British Library.

how does the dissertation process work

Search over 500,000 doctoral theses using EThOS , the online theses service via the British Library. Download instantly for your research, or order a scanned copy quickly and easily.

Books to help

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How the PhD Program Works

Program Overview

Completing your doctorate at Wharton requires 5 years of full-time study. The first 2 years in the program prepare you for admission to candidacy by taking courses, qualifying exams, and starting research projects. In the last few years, you are primarily conducting research full-time including writing and defending your doctoral dissertation.

Admission to candidacy.

You begin by taking courses required for your program of study. All programs requires a preliminary exam, which may be either oral or written.

Some programs may have further requirements, such as an additional exam or research paper. If you enter with a master’s degree or other transfer credit, you may satisfy the formal course requirements more quickly.

Beginning the Wharton PhD Curriculum How the first two years of the Wharton program helped students discover their interests, learn the tools of the profession, and fuel their passion for teaching.

The Doctoral Dissertation

Upon successful completion of coursework and passing a preliminary examination, you are admitted to candidacy for the dissertation phase of your studies.

Your doctoral dissertation should contain original research that meets standards for published scholarship in your field. You are expected to be an expert in the topic you choose to research.

You are admitted to candidacy for the dissertation phase of your studies upon successful completion of coursework and passing a preliminary examination, but you can start thinking about and working on research of relevance at any time.

The dissertation process culminates with a “defense,” in which you defend the proposal orally before your dissertation committee.

While working on your dissertation, you interact extensively with Wharton faculty. Together with interested faculty, you create your own research community that includes your dissertation advisor and dissertation committee.

Policies and Procedures

Get more detailed explanation of course requirements, academic standards, the Teacher Development Program, time limits, and dissertation procedures and requirements.

Sample Program Sequence

Years 1 & 2.

Coursework Examination Research Papers Research Activities Field-Specific Requirements

Directed Reading & Research Admission to Candidacy Formulation of Research Topic

Years 4 & 5

Continued Research Oral Examination Dissertation

Hear From Our Doctoral Community

What brought this cdc researcher to wharton's phd program, why this phd student chose to study business ethics at wharton, from phd student to colleague.

Carnegie Mellon University

DIA: Supporting Teacher Professional Development in Low Infrastructure Settings

 Governments in developing countries aim to improve education through novel teaching approaches as taught in pedagogical programs. These pedagogical programs rely on government teacher training infrastructure and face challenges in rural parts of Africa where there is a lack of experts and teachers are isolated. Thus, pedagogical programs consider using technology to overcome some of these challenges. 

Prior work has used a conversational agent to address the challenges of limited expert knowledge and providing personalized interactions. Recent work used virtual communities on social media for teachers to support each other through online interactions. Still, it is unclear how these two promising research areas can translate to rural African contexts with low technology infrastructure. Additionally, teachers in these contexts are newly adopting technology and thus require additional support to accommodate technology adoption. Therefore, there is a need to discover appropriate conversational agent designs that support teacher communities in low-infrastructure settings. 

This design process must overcome several practical, technological, and theoretical challenges to find appropriate designs in this context. Beyond being usable, the design has to support an intervention aligned with the pedagogical program. Lastly, theoretical grounding for designing technology in low-resource contexts is still emerging. 

Therefore, I use an iterative design-based research (DBR) approach by working closely with teachers in rural Côte d’Ivoire to develop a technology that helps them to implement a pedagogical program. My work iteratively identifies design directions and validates these directions through prototypes shared among the teacher community. Through a progression of three studies (Study 1, Study 2 and Study 3), I studied the impact of these design directions at scale. 

My work led to a conversational agent called "DIA." that I designed by working with Ivorian teachers. Key findings in these studies were that teachers supported each other in the community and valued community-based features in a conversational agent. Therefore, this led to my thesis question: How does a conversational agent that supports a virtual community of practice (vCOP) impact teachers in low iii infrastructure settings?. To answer this question, I conducted a large-scale, year?long study to understand the impact of community-based features at scale (Study 4). 

Study 4 involved a longitudinal quasi-experiment with 400 teachers in two different regions of rural Côte d’Ivoire to investigate the impact of two variations of a conver?sational agent. In one region, a conversational agent with individual support was deployed, and in another region, a conversational agent with community support was deployed. The objective was to assess motivation, knowledge, and technology adoption changes over the school year. The findings indicated that community support positively affected motivation, enhancing agency within the community. Teacher knowledge showed some improvement, with a slight but statistically significant overall increase. Although the community condition increased technology usage, the results did not reach statistical significance. The results favor utilizing community support in conversational agents for teachers in low-infrastructure settings. 

This dissertation extends the literature on Human-Centered AI in low-infrastructure settings through iterative design-based research. On the theoretical front, my work expands literature on virtual communities of practice to an Ivorian context. My work has created opportunities to design for teachers "aspirations" or long-term desires. My work has also provided design recommendations for governments to utilize a conversational agent to support teachers implementing pedagogical programs. 

Degree Type

  • Dissertation
  • Human-Computer Interaction Institute

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Usage metrics

  • Applied Computer Science

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How does credit card debt forgiveness work?

By Joshua Rodriguez

Edited By Matt Richardson

February 14, 2024 / 11:38 AM EST / CBS News

gettyimages-1401121869.jpg

If you have credit card debt, you're not alone. About 49% of Americans say they owe balances to credit card companies; of which about 56 million people have been in debt for at least one year . Unfortunately for many, credit card debt can result in financial hardship . 

Interest rates have climbed to a 23-year high , leading to growing credit card minimum payments . This, combined with an inflationary economic environment has made it difficult for some consumers to cope with their debts . 

The good news is that if you've been struggling with credit card debt, you have options . One such option is known as credit card debt forgiveness , or credit card debt settlement. But how does credit card debt forgiveness work?

Find out how quickly credit card debt forgiveness experts can put you on the path to debt relief . 

Debt settlement "is more of a negotiation with the creditors with the intent of having debts eliminated," explains Jim Crider, CFP, CEO of Intentional Living FP. "This is generally initiated through the withholding of debt payments by the borrower." Here's how the typical credit card debt forgiveness program works: 

Step #1: Information gathering

The process usually starts with a conversation between you and a debt relief expert. The expert will ask questions about your debts, your income and your other expenses like food, fuel, rent and more. The credit card debt forgiveness company will use this information in three ways: 

  • To determine if you qualify : You typically need a set amount of debt (around $10,000 or more) and need to be facing a financial hardship to qualify for credit card debt forgiveness . 
  • To create a payment plan : Credit card debt forgiveness experts work to create an affordable payment plan based on your financial data. 
  • To settle debts : The credit card debt forgiveness company will need to explain to your lender why you can't pay what you owe in order to get them to accept settlements.

Start the credit card debt forgiveness process today . 

Step #2: Payment plan creation

Using the information you provide, the credit card debt forgiveness expert will work with you to create a payment plan that you can afford. The goal of the payment plan is generally to get you out of debt as quickly as possible without creating further financial strain on your household. In most cases, experts try to create a payment plan that results in debt freedom within 24 to 48 months . 

Step #3: The payment process

Next, your debt relief expert will usually instruct you to stop making payments to your creditors. Instead, you'll start making payments to your credit card debt forgiveness company. When you make your payments, the company typically stores the money you send in a special purpose savings account. 

During this time, the debt forgiveness company will reach out to your lenders and inform them of your financial situation and plans to settle your debts. However, since no payments are being made to your creditors, you'll likely notice a detrimental impact on your credit score . 

Step #4: Negotiations

Once you have enough money in your savings account, the debt settlement company starts negotiating with your lenders on your behalf. If all goes well, your lenders will accept a lesser amount of money than you owe - forgiving the remaining balance in the process. 

However, it's important to note that there are no laws requiring creditors to accept settlements. If one or more of your creditors rejects your settlement offers, you may still have to pay the full amount of debt owed on those accounts. Moreover, when successful settlements are achieved, you will likely have to pay income taxes on the portion of your debt that has been forgiven. 

Step #5: Debt freedom

The final step of a credit card debt forgiveness program is debt freedom. However, this step involves a bit of work as well. Here are some things to keep in mind following a successful credit card debt forgiveness program: 

  • It's time to rebuild : Although credit card debt settlement can have a negative impact on your credit score, you don't have to deal with bad credit forever. Once you get out of debt, consider taking steps to rebuild your credit worthiness . 
  • Focus on your spending habits : Think about your spending habits and how they likely played a role in your struggles with credit card debt. It's important to change those habits to make sure you maintain your debt freedom. 
  • Make credit card debt a last resort : Once you're debt free, it's OK to put a credit card or two in your wallet. However, before you make any purchases you can't afford to pay off immediately, consider all other options. You may be able to lean on friends or family members, get an advance at work, take out a home equity loan or even borrow from your 401(k) . Since these options involve taking out new loans from friends, financial institutions or even your retirement plan, chances are that you'll be less likely to tap into them unless you absolutely need to. 

The bottom line

If you're having a hard time making your minimum payments every month, credit card debt forgiveness may be the solution you're looking for. Although these programs have their pros and cons , they may be able to help you get out of debt faster and more affordably than you could on your own. Find out how quickly you may be able to get a portion of your debt forgiven today . 

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Joshua Rodriguez is a personal finance and investing writer with a passion for his craft. When he's not working, he enjoys time with his wife, two kids, three dogs and 10 ducks.

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How the 12-team CFP will work

NCAA.com | February 20, 2024

How the college football playoff works.

how does the dissertation process work

The College Football Playoff era began with the 2014 season. For the first decade, four teams were selected to the Playoff field, with two semifinal games and a national championship game. Starting in the 2024-25 season, here's the new, expanded format to know:

  • 12 teams will be selected to the Playoff field
  • The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded 1-4 and each will receive a first-round bye
  • Teams seeded 5-12 will play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team

The quarterfinals and semifinals rotate among six bowls: Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Peach, Rose and Sugar. Both semifinals will be played around the New Year's holiday with the national title game on a Monday night at least a week later. See the 2024-25 CFP schedule below.

2024-25 College Football Playoff round-by-round schedule

  • Friday, Dec. 20, 2024: One game (evening)
  • Saturday, Dec. 21, 2024: Three games (early afternoon, late afternoon and evening)
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2024: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
  • Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2025: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon) and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)
  • Thursday, Jan. 9, 2025: Capital One Orange Bowl (evening)
  • Friday, Jan. 10, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)
  • Monday, Jan. 20, 2025: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a newly 12-team College Football Playoff. In 2024, the College Football Playoff Board of Managers agreed to update the start of the 12-team CFP field beginning with the 2024-25 season to include a 5-7 format.

Here's what you need to know about the postseason format put together by the commissioners of the 11 major college football conferences and Notre Dame's athletic director.

Who votes on the College Football Playoff rankings?

There are 13 members on the CFP selection committee. It's a collection of people with experience as coaches, players, college administrators, athletic directors and journalists. Here are the members .

How often are the rankings announced?

The Selection Committee members will meet weekly to produce rankings. The committee’s rankings will be announced on ESPN.

What will the committee use to rank teams?

From the CFP website : "The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable."

How does the voting process work?

According to the CFP website, it begins like this: "Each committee member will create a list of the 30 teams he or she believes to be the best in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by three or more members will remain under consideration. At the conclusion of any round, other teams can be added to the group of teams under consideration by a vote of three or more members." You can read about each step here.

Where and when are the games played?

Per the CFP, "College Football Playoff Semifinal games rotate among the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl Game, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl."

Click here for a look at the past, current and future CFP schedules.

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  1. How to Write a Dissertation Methodology

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  2. How to Structure a Dissertation

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  3. Step-By-Step Guide: How To Complete A PhD Dissertation?

    how does the dissertation process work

  4. 💌 Writing methodology for dissertation. How To Write Chapter 3

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  5. How to Write a Dissertation: Tips & Step-by-Step Guide

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  6. Overview of the dissertation process. Tools, techniques by phase

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VIDEO

  1. Writing That PhD Thesis

  2. Mastering Research: Choosing a Winning Dissertation or Thesis Topic

  3. TRANSLITERATING MODEL

  4. HOW TO WRITE A WINNING DISSERTATION TOPIC!

  5. How to make Dissertation? Complete Details about Dissertation / Thesis for Bachelors/ Masters Degree

  6. THESIS VS. DISSERTATION VS. RESEARCH

COMMENTS

  1. What Are the Steps to the Dissertation Process?

    The first three chapters of a dissertation are known as the dissertation proposal. The proposal establishes the rationale for conducting the study, including a review and analysis of the relevant literature, and describes the design and methodology that will be used for the study.

  2. What Is a Dissertation?

    Knowledge Base Dissertation What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed.

  3. The Dissertation Process Explained in 6 Simple Steps

    Step 1: Brainstorm Topics Finding a research topic that's right for you and your doctoral studies requires some serious thought. A doctoral program can take years to complete, so it's important you choose a topic that you're passionate about.

  4. How to Write a Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

    Conduct Preliminary Research Before starting a dissertation, you'll need to conduct research. Depending on your field, that might mean visiting archives, reviewing scholarly literature, or running lab tests. Use your preliminary research to hone your question and topic. Take lots of notes, particularly on areas where you can expand your research.

  5. Dissertation Structure & Layout 101 (+ Examples)

    In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question (s), investigating, and then answering the question - see below. To restate that - the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process.

  6. Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

    The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

  7. Dissertation Strategies

    Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues. Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

  8. What Is a Dissertation?

    Revised on 5 May 2022. A dissertation is a large research project undertaken at the end of a degree. It involves in-depth consideration of a problem or question chosen by the student. It is usually the largest (and final) piece of written work produced during a degree. The length and structure of a dissertation vary widely depending on the ...

  9. How to Write a Dissertation

    Methodology Results Discussion Conclusion Reference list Appendices Title page The very first page of your document contains your dissertation's title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor's name, and the university's logo.

  10. Introduction for Overview of the Dissertation Process

    This unit explores those questions. This section focuses on increasing your understanding of your role in completing the dissertation vis-à-vis that of the faculty or fellow students. In particular, it identifies the processes and structures you can put in place to make it more likely that you will meet deadlines and be successful.

  11. Dissertation Explained: A Grad Student's Guide

    4. Support: The process of writing and completing a dissertation is bigger than the work itself. It can lead to research positions within the university or outside companies. It may mean that you will teach and share your findings with current undergraduates, or even be published in academic journals.

  12. A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

    Step 1: Choose your topic. First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you're interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you've taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose.

  13. PDF The Dissertation Process: Survivor Manual

    The Dissertation Process: Survivor Manual. The doctoral dissertation is a piece of original, independent research in an area of educational significance. It reflects the candidate's knowledge and understanding of the related literature and of the research methodology appropriate to the investigation. The dissertation in the form of an ...

  14. What are the steps in writing a dissertation?

    Step 1: Project Ideation. In your coursework, you will learn a great deal about the theories and practices central to your field of study. You will gain broad exposure to the field to help you to start thinking about a topic of inquiry for your project.

  15. PDF Overview of the Dissertation Process

    Criteria for an acceptable dissertation If the process is working as it should, then by the final dissertation defense, the trainee should understand a portion of the topic better than anyone else. This requires that the trainee take total "ownership" of at least a piece of the dissertation work. Examples of ways that this can be done include:

  16. 7 steps to writing a dissertation

    Develop a strong thesis statement. 5. Proofread and edit. 6. Seek feedback and finalise. 7. Submit. While you may be experienced in revising and writing essays, your dissertation requires careful planning, extensive research, and time management to succeed. Your dissertation is a key part of your degree course and a testament to your ability to ...

  17. What is a Dissertation? Full Guide & Resources for 2024

    Dissertation: A dissertation is a 5-chapter written work that must be completed in order to earn a doctoral degree (e.g. Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.). It's often focused on original research. Thesis: A thesis is a written work that must be completed in order to earn a master's degree.

  18. How to Structure a Dissertation

    The dissertation will be structured such that it starts with an introduction, develops on the main idea in its main body paragraphs and is then summarised in conclusion. However, if you are basing your dissertation on primary or empirical research, you will be required to include each of the below components.

  19. How Does the Dissertation Process Work?

    Book a Free Consultation These are a few frequently asked questions about the dissertation process: Where does the dissertation process begin? What are the steps of the dissertation process? How long does the dissertation process take? What is the hardest part of the dissertation process? Where Do I Start?

  20. 2. The dissertation process

    The research process for a dissertation or project is substantial and takes time. Research methods are the tools used to help you find, collect, analyse and interpret information in order to answer your research question. ... ask a friend to read through your work - a fresh pair of eyes may notice things you may have missed; Writing Your ...

  21. 7 Tips for How To Write a Dissertation

    1. Choose a Topic You Love. Writing a dissertation can be extremely rewarding, especially if you are passionate about the topic you have chosen to investigate. It is important to feel strongly about your dissertation because you will be putting in a lot of work to earn your doctoral degree.

  22. How the PhD Program Works

    The dissertation process culminates with a "defense," in which you defend the proposal orally before your dissertation committee. While working on your dissertation, you interact extensively with Wharton faculty.

  23. Stages of a Dissertation

    Chapters 1-3 Connections. While each journey is unique the dissertation consists of three phases. The Proposal Phase consisting of Chapters 1, 2 and 3. IRB/Data Collection and Analysis and then the Dissertation Defense which includes the drafting of Chapters 4 and 5. The focus for this presentation is the proposal phase the drafting of Chapters ...

  24. DIA: Supporting Teacher Professional Development in Low Infrastructure

    This dissertation extends the literature on Human-Centered AI in low-infrastructure settings through iterative design-based research. On the theoretical front, my work expands literature on virtual communities of practice to an Ivorian context. My work has created opportunities to design for teachers "aspirations" or long-term desires.

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