A Thorough Guide to Writing a Good Dissertation
Writing a good dissertation takes careful planning and commitment. For many, this is the most important paper they will ever write, so it’s not something that can be completed at the last minute.
The first thing you may be wondering, is what makes a dissertation exceptional rather than average? A high-quality one will ultimately be so innovative that it will kick open the door for many other dissertations to branch off of in the future. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Will I be remembered in my field because of the content?
- Have I solved a problem that others have been plagued by or unable to find the answer to?
- Will my dissertation be cited by others in the future and continue to be an influence in the field?
- Have I introduced something new to the field that I will own the bragging rights too?
Writing a good dissertation means being able to give a positive answer to at least one of the above questions.
Start with a Title
The title of your thesis is a key component. How exactly are you supposed to condense several years of your life down into one catchy sentence? The ideal title is eight words or less. Sometimes it helps to use a colon. This way, you can start with a witty phrase to draw attention, insert a colon, and then follow with superlative verbiage and prepositioned to say who might be interested in the topic.
Creating an Outline
The online alone can make writing a good dissertation a lot easier. Well, maybe not easier, but obtainable!
- Chapters – How many chapters will your dissertation be? If you are shooting for five, don’t plan on winning any awards and you certainly won’t be remembered. Six or seven is considered acceptable but if you want to really make your mark, you will shoot for eight or more chapters.
- Fill in the Easy Stuff – Once you decide how many chapters your dissertation will be, fill in the easy ones that don’t require much thought. Introduction, literature review and methodology will take up the first three chapters while conclusions are placed at the end. There, you’re halfway done the outline and you are still alive!
- Fill in the Meat – At least start with a title or idea for your first content chapter. You can always fill in the others as you go. If you have a lot of ideas now, go ahead and write them down, but don’t feel as though you have to be committed to them. You could change your mind.
Writing a good dissertation introduction will likely cause you a few sleepless nights. You need to motivate the problem and also state your hypothesis. Keep in mind that whether people like to admit it or not, most make up their mind about whether this will be a good dissertation or not within the first couple pages
Tell a story, provide concrete, strong examples and figures and quote your data sources. Now is also the time to introduce any terminology you intend on using throughout the dissertation to provide a smoother flow from one chapter to the next.
Whatever you do, don’t oversell or provide an abundance of promises and claims. Readers should be permitted to form their own opinions. Also, stick with simple English, there is no need to fill the introduction with big words; this just looks like you are trying too hard.
Do provide readers with a list of contributions and provide a concrete definition of the problem. While you don’t want to use a lot of unnecessary long words, you also don’t want this definition you’re offering to come across like you are dumbing the content down. There has to be a balance.
Creating Strong Content
Writing a good dissertation is never about belittling another paper simply to show off. You can disapprove or disagree without being disrespectful. The content chapters need to offer plenty of concrete figures. This makes a dissertation appear more interesting, holds the interest of a reader and can convey a lot of information that text simply can’t.
While you are creating content, keep in mind that although each chapter is separate, you are still ultimately telling a story so they have to progress.
Don’t try to cram every bit of work completed in the past into these chapters and make sure you don’t fall into the trap of continually stating advantages of your approach. It is vital that you remain factual through the entire dissertation.
Do be clear and appropriately candid regarding your assumptions, limitations, requirements, constraints, scope and offer a concrete validation plan including experiments, theorems, simulation and proof. Present your methodology well. Explain why you picked the approach and if you considered others. If there were other approaches, why did you discard them?
Most importantly, you must answer three important questions:
- When is the problem considered to be solved?
- How do you know you are done?
- Would you do it differently if you had to do it again?
Be honest and reflective in your conclusions regarding overall insights and lessons learned. Were you able to completely solve the problem and how has your work affected the field?
Every chapter should contain an introduction, the meat and conclusions. The introduction will offer an overview of the chapter and tell what problem it’s addressing. You will also explain how and why this chapter fits with the rest of the dissertation and why it is important.
The meat needs to offer a detailed explanation of the issue, assumptions, underlying a sub-problem and validation. Writing a good dissertation means that every chapter will have its own summary. Repeat the highlights and then offer transition sentences so the following chapter fits nicely.