What Is A Dissertation? A Detailed Guide For Students

Students generally start wondering about the Ph.D. dissertation a couple of years before they are eligible to earn their degrees and to graduate. It’s something they may have heard being discussed by others, including their advisors, professors, and peers, but most students are usually in the dark about the exact dissertation definition. We aim to shed some light on the subject in this article.

What is a Dissertation and Do I Need to Write One?

When students ask us this question we provide the simplest answer possible: it is a long project a student usually has to do when he or she is working towards earning a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in their respective academic fields. Most dissertations take about a year or more to write and require lots of hard work conducting research and writing drafts. A doctoral dissertation can be several hundreds of pages long and will consist of several chapters determined by precise requirements set by a student’s academic department (e.g., History Department, Biology Department, etc.). Most disciplines require some type of “capstone project” and writing the doctoral dissertation is the traditional and widely accepted way of achieving this.

Define Dissertation for Earning a Degree

The common dissertation definition states that it is a long work of research that demonstrates your knowledge and ability to make new contributions to your field. The work is entirely original and must push the envelope of what is known in your discipline. You may take an existing topic or area of study and present new perspectives or offer new arguments for or against what is already known. Unlike a thesis, the dissertation will likely be referenced by other academics and researchers. And it is assumed that you have been thorough in your work and that you are presenting an expert point of view.

When Should I Start Writing a Doctoral Dissertation?

Our best advice is that you start writing your dissertation as early as possible. But before that, you need to plan on setting aside months to fully conduct your research. No matter what discipline you specialize in you need to assume that you will need to spend several hours per week, several weeks per month, and several months per year researching sources, conducting surveys, testing theories, and revising material. Writing will also take several months as you write, revise, edit, and proofread numerous drafts until you have a final document that you are 100% sure about.

So, what does all of this mean? Plan to start at least a year and a half before you hope to submit the document for approval. Sit down with your advisor and develop a schedule. And make sure that you account for unforeseen bumps in the road that could affect your schedule. Even the most organized students fall behind at several points in the process. If you plan, you won’t get yourself into trouble.

For more information on the Ph.D. dissertation or any other topic related to graduate assignments, check out our other articles. You can also send us a message and one of our academic experts will respond quickly and provide you with the answers you need to achieve academic success.

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