dissertation writing

What is a Dissertation

Dissertation sometimes used interchangeably with thesis (a smaller research project offered during master’s degree) is an extensive research project taken during a graduate degree programme for attaining a Ph.D. Dissertation involves proposition of original research hypothesis. Thereafter, performance of experiments and analysis of results to either prove or disprove the originally proposed hypothesis. There is always some guidance from the major and minor supervisors to help the doctoral student to carry out the research project.

Dissertation consumes tremendous amount of time, involves huge amount of hard work and it is one of the longest project completed during the university level. Apart from so many difficulties, carrying out a dissertation project is satisfying and rewarding for the student if the student gets a chance to opt for his/her topic on his own. Therefore, it is always advisable for the students to choose the subject area in which they are genuinely interested.

How many words should be included in a dissertation

The number of words i.e. the length of a dissertation usually depends on the area of research or the discipline of the study. The number and length of the dissertation is usually decided by the institutional guidelines. Generally, qualitative researches have lengthy dissertations when compared with research using more of quantitative analysis. However, word count does not matter as long as the supervisor is convinced with the presentation of the data and the idea of your dissertation is clearly understood by the reader. The reader should be able to understand enough from your document so that he/she will be able to duplicate your research in near future if necessary.

How many references for a dissertation

There is no strict requirement of how many references should be used in a dissertation. References should be used wherever necessary and appropriate. There should be as many as references you need to support the claims that are used in the dissertation which are not from your own work.

How to layout a dissertation

The structure of dissertation can vary from institution to institution and with field of study also. It generally includes five to six chapters including introduction as well as summary or conclusion sections. The thesis is usually divided into the following sections viz., Introduction, Review of literature, Material and methods, Results and Discussions and Summary or conclusion sections. Although this is the standard way of structuring the thesis, the student can also organise their thesis into different chapters specific to their need and field of study.

In addition to the sections mentioned above there are other important elements as well which make a significant part of the thesis. This includes title page, abstract and references. Apart from following this general structure for thesis writing, students are always advisable to go through the thesis guidelines specific to their institution and they can also take help from their supervisor for structuring their thesis.

The different sections should be written in the following ways in a dissertation

  • Title page– This is the first page of your dissertation which includes title of the dissertation, name of the student and the department, institution, the programme to which the student belongs along with date of submission of the dissertation. In some cases the university logo and supervisor’s name is also present on the title page. While printing and binding of the dissertation, title page forms the cover page of the dissertation.
  • Acknowledgement-In this section the student is required to thank the people who helped him in getting the research done in various ways. However, this is an optional section. The student can thank his supervisor, friends, lab mates, and family who extended their support throughout the whole degree programme.
  • Abstract– It includes 150-300 words summarising your dissertation. It is always advisable to write it at the end of the dissertation. A good abstract must include aims and main topic of the research, methods used to perform the experiments, results in summarised form and finally the conclusion. An abstract is a significant part of your document as it puts the first impression of your research on the reader as there are many scientists and researchers who decide to read the full dissertation based on the abstract only.
  • Table of Contents-This includes the list of chapters along with page numbers. The main purpose of the table of contents is to facilitate the reader easy navigation of the research document.
  • List of Figures and Tables– In this section the whole list of table and figures is given along with their page number. It helps the reader to easily find the specific figure and table which he or she might be interested in.
  • List of Abbreviations– In this section, the list of abbreviation used in the thesis is provided for the reference of the reader. The list of abbreviations should preferably be in the alphabetical order.
  • Glossary– In glossary brief description of highly specialised terms used in the dissertation are provided to the reader.
  • Introduction- Introduction lays the foundation of the research topic for the reader, It establishes the purpose, relevance and the background information about the topic. The objectives of the study are also included in the introduction section. This section must include the knowledge gaps and what new this study can offer to the scientific community. The focus of the reader should be narrowed down with clear explanation of the scope of the present research.
  • Review of literature– This section includes the discussion of previous researches or literature that is linked with various aspects of the research undertaken by the student. The literature review gives an idea to the reader about much work has already been done in the field and how our study can contribute in enhancing the field with new information.
  • Material and methods– This section includes the detailed writing of experimental protocols or complete procedures for all the experiments performed during the entire research. Details of any kind of the surveys performed along with tools and statistical analysis used for analysing the results should be given in this section.
  • Results and discussion– In this section you have to discuss your results in the form of tables, figures and images. The detailed explanation of the results in the table and figures should be provided in the text following the tables and figures.
  • Summary/ Conclusion– This section includes the brief summary and inference you make out from the entire dissertation. This section can also include recommendations for carrying out the research in the respective field to further enhance the field of the study. It should be able to explain the reader the relevance and importance of your research to the scientific community and what knowledge it has added to the given area of research.
  • References– This includes the detailed mention of the sources in the form research papers, review papers, books, websites, news articles that have been referred and cited by the author in the text. There are different formats for writing references. The institution can have its own style of referencing as well.
  • Appendices-Appendices include documents that could not be included in the main dissertation. E.g.- transcripts of interviews, some tables and figures that the author does not want to include in the main text but may hold importance for the reader.

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