For anyone pursuing a doctorate, the Mount Everest that lies ahead is your dissertation. It sounds intimidating, but what really is a dissertation anyway? According to Webster’s Dictionary, a dissertation is “an extended and typically written treatment of a subject. More specifically, a treatment written and submitted to achieve a doctorate degree.”
Your dissertation requires you to complete the research, pose a theory, implement experimentation, and write clearly to prove your original thesis. Dissertations should be complete and written for technical audiences, but do not have to be meticulously comprehensive. Writing your dissertation will require you to use the scientific method, which means you start with a hypothesis, and then collect evidence that either supports or denies that hypothesis. The bulk of your doctoral dissertation writing is in collecting and organizing evidence in a well-organized form. But the heart of a dissertation is in reflecting critical thought, not just presenting piles of experimental data. Smart thinking over mere quantity is the key.
First of all, acknowledge that it won’t come easy. But then, life’s most noble accomplishments rarely do. And that’s why every person you bump into doesn’t have a doctorate. Start with your Big Idea, describing your thesis as a hypothesis or conjecture. This is the first and possibly most important step you’ll take in beginning your journey towards a doctorate. Setting the proper stage will provide a pathway for your dissertation. Remember, a PhD dissertation is a formal document that argues in defense of a particular thesis.
Strive for clarity of your big idea and make sure your research has the substance to support it.
Show original contributions rather than an exercise in cut & paste. Analyses exposing uncovered truths are the very core of your document because a proper dissertation focuses on lessons learned, and not just a collection of facts. A well-written dissertation doesn’t just post analyses gathered from published sources; it states the results as facts, directing the reader back to the source for additional details.
Remember, every sentence in your dissertation must be complete and grammatically correct. It is a serious document, perhaps with the most gravitas of anything you have written to date, therefore leave the puns and folksiness out. Clear and concise is the order of the day. After all, you do want to attain the title of PhD, don’t you?
Every statement in a dissertation must adhere to the rules of logic as applied to science and mathematics. The PhD dissertation must reflect clarity of thought and convince communication fellow scientists that your insight and clear presentation of the facts convince the reader of your arguments and the following discussion they inspire.
Design your dissertation with order in mind. Write in the present tense and begin with an introduction and clear statement of your hypothesis. Follow with a description of the concept behind your work which answers that statement in a clear and concise manner. Next you must provide evidence of the results of experiments that support your thesis. Then summarize what information was gleaned and how it can be put to tangible use.
Last but not least is the Abstract, which in reality is anything but the traditional meaning of the word. It is a short summary of your dissertation which restates the thesis and how you approached your research.
If it all sounds daunting, no worries. Help is available through Northcentral University’s discipline-specific dissertation process developed specifically for our students. Many universities have a comprehensive examination before starting the dissertation process. At NCU, you will instead develop a prospectus. This is directly linked to your dissertation and serves to connect your coursework, your dissertation, and your career aspirations more clearly.
For more information on how to write a dissertation, visit our dissertation writing guide.