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How to Start Writing Your Dissertation

How to start writing your dissertation

The purpose of the dissertation is to present an original piece of research on a particular topic. A dissertation is typically the most significant piece of independent work in an undergraduate program, whereas a thesis is typically associated with master’s degrees; however, both terms are interchangeable and may vary between nations and universities.

What is A Dissertation?

A dissertation is a significant research project that contributes to your academic field. Doctoral candidates must complete a dissertation in order to receive their degree.

Depending on the academic discipline, the structure and content of a dissertation vary considerably. Typically, it takes 1-3 years for a doctoral student to complete and defend their dissertation in close collaboration with a faculty advisor.

A student’s dissertation is likely the most difficult and time-consuming piece of work they have ever completed. Nonetheless, it may be a highly satisfying piece of work because, unlike essays and other assignments, the student can select a topic of particular interest and work independently.

Writing a dissertation necessitates a variety of planning and research skills that will be highly applicable to your future career and within organizations.

The dissertation topic and question should be narrow enough to allow you to collect all of the necessary data in a very short amount of time, typically six weeks for undergraduate programs.

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Difference between the Dissertation and the Thesis

Dissertations and thesis display a range of academic proficiency levels. Typically, master’s students in the United States write theses, while doctoral students write dissertations. The words are reversed in the British system.

In the United States, a thesis is shorter, less comprehensive, and based on less research than a dissertation. The dissertation serves as the culminating research project for doctoral candidates. As part of their programs, undergraduates and graduate students may be required to submit theses that are shorter.

You should also choose a topic with which you are already familiar so that you have a frame of reference for your literature search and some comprehension and interest in the theory underlying your issue.

1.    Introduction

In general, the following components should be included in the introduction of your dissertation:

  • Provide basic context information to situate your study.


  • Emphasize the significance of your research by elucidating its topic
  • Specify your dissertation objectives and goals in detail.

While ‘background information’ is frequently presented first in a dissertation introduction, the order of the following three sections is entirely up to you.

You can combine these components with meeting your specific needs. There are additional opportunities to offer characteristics beyond these four criteria. Some students, for instance, like to include research questions in the introduction of their dissertation so that the reader is not only exposed to the aims and objectives but also has a concrete framework for where the study is headed. Other students may postpone the research techniques until the conclusion of the literature review and the beginning of the methodology.

There is no predetermined length for a dissertation introduction, as it varies based on the total length of the dissertation. In general, however, aiming for a length of 5-7% of the total should be sufficient.

Your introduction should include sub-sections with appropriate headings/subheadings and a summary of some of the primary sources you intend to use for the primary research. This is yet another reason is why starting the dissertation last is advantageous. Because you’ve already completed the literature review, the most influential authors will be readily apparent, and you’ll be able to present this study to the best of your ability.

2.    The Historical Context

The primary objective of the background section is to introduce the reader to the topic. Typically, it is considered improper to merely state the study’s context and subject, as well as what motivated you to pursue this area of research.

The reader must comprehend why your research is significant. You can do so by identifying the research gap and the issue that needs to be addressed. Students frequently commit the error of attempting to justify their research by asserting that the subject is fascinating to them. While this is an essential aspect of any research endeavor and the researcher’s sanity, the dissertation must go beyond interesting to explain why this study is necessary. This is possible by including a backdrop section.

Determine the most important aspects of your topic that the reader should be aware of immediately before you begin writing the background section. Make a list of the top five to seven readings/authors you found most influential as a starting point (and as demonstrated in your literature review). Once you’ve discovered them, jot down a few notes explaining why they were so significant and how they relate to your main theme.

You should also consider what key terminology is required for the reader to comprehend your dissertation. While your dissertation may contain a glossary or list of acronyms, the background section provides the opportunity to highlight two or three key terms.

When reading a background section, the two most common errors in student writing are either too little or too much! One to two pages of background material suffice. You must be able to quickly hone in on your research’s focal point and provide only the bare minimum of context-relevant information for the reader to comprehend your work.

3.    The Study’s Subject

The research focus serves two purposes: it provides information about the dissertation topic and also serves as the justification for your study.

It is essential that you specify the area(s) of research that you intend to conduct and provide an explanation for why you conducted this study in the first place. Keep in mind that your dissertation topic must relate to the background information you provided in the previous section. Although you may write the sections on different days or even months, they must all have a consistent flow. Utilize transitional phrases to ensure the reader understands how the sections relate to one another.

Consider the research focus the bridge between what has been accomplished and where your research is headed. Consider establishing the central topic, explaining why studying in your field is essential, and emphasizing the broader significance of the research field. This should put you in a position to communicate your goals and objectives effectively.

4.    The Value of Your Research

The value component of your dissertation’s introduction merits a separate subsection. This is because it is essential for those who will evaluate the quality of your work, and it demonstrates that you have considered the value it provides.

This omission is the most frequent error students make when organizing their dissertations. You must devote one to two paragraphs to elucidating the significance of your work in a clear and definitive manner.

There are numerous ways to respond to the question of your study’s value. You may argue that the area/subject you’ve chosen for investigation requires in-depth analysis. You may be approaching the area/subject from a unique angle, which may be viewed as valuable. In certain situations, your study may be quite urgent (e.g., medical emergencies), and value may be provided in this manner.

Regardless of the rationale you use to answer the value-added question, you must explain the significance or added value of the study in this section.

5.    Objectives of Your Dissertation

Goals and objectives are distinct concepts that should be addressed separately. These are frequently developed during the proposal stage or for ethical approval of the research topic; therefore, including them in the introduction of your dissertation is merely a matter of organization and clarity.

Frequently, a research project has a broad objective. Again, this must be stated in a straightforward manner. Typically, the objectives are derived from the overarching objective and serve as a roadmap for achieving it. Typically, they are arranged numerically or in bullet point format and are concise, unambiguous, and easily identifiable statements.

Consider the four points below when developing research objectives. The following are:

  • Appropriateness
  • Individuality
  • Clarity
  • Attainability

When developing research objectives that adhere to the aforementioned, consider beginning each objective with a key term.

  • Establishing a proper numerical balance – two is typically insufficient, and six is excessive. Aim for roughly three to five goals.
  • You should be able to provide a clear and logical perspective that exudes authority if you can achieve this balance.

Remember that you must address these study objectives in your research. You must include them in your dissertation’s introduction and then disregard them. This section, like any other section of the dissertation, must be referenced in the results and discussion sections, as well as the conclusion.

This section has outlined the essential elements of a dissertation introduction chapter. You may choose to add additional pieces. The research topics have already been mentioned as a possible inclusion; you may also wish to explain the dissertation’s overall structure.

If the introduction to your dissertation is organized and comprehensible, you are well on your way to writing success with this section.


The dissertation’s conclusion should provide a succinct resolution to the primary research problem, allowing the reader to comprehend your main point with clarity. Complete your dissertation by reflecting on what you achieved and how you achieved it. Frequently, the conclusion includes suggestions for additional research or practice.

In this section, it is essential to demonstrate how your findings contribute to field knowledge and why your research is important. What new knowledge have you added to what was previously known?

6.    Reference Listing

In a reference list, you must provide complete information for all sources that you have cited. It is essential to utilize a standard citation format. Each style has rigorous and specific requirements for how your reference list should be formatted.


7.    Appendices

Your dissertation should only include information that directly relates to the solution of your research topic. Appendices may be used for documents that do not belong in the main body of your dissertation.

Dissertation Writing Guidelines

Your dissertation is the culmination of years of research and the capstone of your doctorate. Your supervisor, committee, and fellow graduate students will be your best dissertation advisors, but here are some guidelines to get you started:

·        Make a Timetable

Set goals for when you want to complete each chapter or section, and determine how many pages you’ll need to write per day to meet those goals. Then, attempt to develop a writing routine for yourself. Choose work hours that correspond with the times during which you feel most productive. If you are a morning person, write first thing in the morning. Adjust your schedule so that the majority of your writing is completed during the evening shift if that is when you are most productive.

·        Start Writing Immediately

Now that your writing has been planned, it is time to begin writing. The longer you delay, the harder it will become! The only way to determine if this is true is to begin writing. The most effective method for enhancing an argument is to work on it in writing.

·        Make a Draft

When beginning a project of this magnitude, remember that the first draught is not the final draught. The phrases don’t have to be perfect, and the argument doesn’t have to be brilliant on the first attempt. Rewriting and revising are important steps in the writing process. Start writing immediately and improve your work in subsequent draughts.

·        Be Adaptive

You may miss a deadline if you experience writer’s block, which affects all of us. If you miss a deadline, simply change your timetable and keep writing. Another tip: set all of your deadlines early than needed to give yourself some wriggle space in case you need to put any of them back.

·        Get Moving

Similarly, if you feel stuck on a particular portion of a chapter, skip ahead and come back to it later. You may skip a problematic part and use your time more efficiently to create a basic section if you have outlined your thesis and technique for the chapter. You will be more confident when returning to the harder portions after making progress on an easier part.

·        Look after Yourself

You should not overlook your health because you are dissertating. When you’re in good physical and mental health, it’s simpler to write. Remember to eat well, sleep well, and remain active. A simple walk around the area will boost your heart rate and help you clear your mind.

·        Take Breaks

While you’re working on your dissertation, writing will be your full-time job, but you can still write some of the time. You will tire yourself if you labor past your typical hours on a regular basis. Take breaks whenever you need to. At the same time, feel free to refuse social invites if required. If you miss some social engagements, your friends will understand, especially if you are too stressed to enjoy them.


Writing a dissertation may be a lonesome process. You devote months or years to a single project, and you frequently work alone. However, remarks will help you better your dissertation. Your adviser and other committee members will give advice while you write your dissertation. Doctoral candidates in various disciplines also engage in peer review groups to make remarks.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does one write a good dissertation?

The best dissertations look closely at concepts, theories, and ideas and talk about them in detail. This is what sets good dissertations apart from average ones.

  • What is an essential component of a dissertation?

The culmination of a lengthy research project, such as a dissertation or thesis, may seem anticlimactic, but it is rather crucial.