If you are reading this now it means that you have been through the process of writing a dissertation at least once. Or maybe, as I hope for your sake, you’re about to embark on an academic journey and need some knowledge beforehand.
Most students find writing a dissertation much harder than taking exams – because if they think about it, there is no instructor or invigilator judging you during the entire process. It’s just you and a computer screen (with a word processor).
So what should we do? What five courses of action would be the most useful in the writing of a good dissertation?
1) Study examples from other students who have done well in their dissertations
2) Make time every day even when you don’t want to
3) Read your dissertation from the beginning, then start on chapter one
4) Get someone else to read through your dissertation and give feedback
5) Realize that you will never write a perfect dissertation and keep going anyway.
Let’s look at some more detail:
1) Study examples from other students who have done well in their dissertations – This doesn’t mean plagiarizing someone else’s work (which is bad), but it does mean reading up on what people are saying online about good dissertations. You can join forums or Facebook groups for example where professors post annual best dissertations lists every year with commentary, award winners etc. But also if you search for ‘best thesis’ or ‘most interesting thesis’ you’ll find a ton of examples from past PhD graduates, as well as advice on how to construct a good dissertation.
2) Make time every day even when you don’t want to – My personal philosophy is that if I have spent half an hour already working on my dissertation then I should keep going until I hit the word count goal for the day. Sometimes this means writing 1000 words after a stressful day at university, but over time it leads to having a fuller picture of what your argument looks like and why it matters. You can always make up the time during weekends or holidays if necessary.
3) Read your dissertation from the beginning, then start on chapter one – For me, this has been really helpful. It seems like common sense, but when you get to the chapter where you actually reference the research you did, it’s surprising how many students can’t remember what they wrote up in previous chapters and blithely ‘correct’ them without checking back.
4) Get someone else to read through your dissertation and give feedback – If this is not possible then self-test yourself before submitting for marking. I’ve found that my mentors or advisors aren’t necessarily best placed to provide input on a dissertation because of obvious conflicts of interest. For example, if I was writing about University teaching methods my supervisor would be an expert in the subject…but they might not tell me anything new or interesting! This is why second (or even third) opinions can really help.
5) Realize that you will never write a perfect dissertation and keep going anyway – No one knows everything about their topic, or can explain it to others with total clarity. You will not be able to explain your research in 100% complete detail from start to finish because all writing is somewhat subjective. But this is okay – as long as you make a sincere attempt at explaining yourself clearly, then the reader should be able to understand what your argument was and why it was important enough for a PhD thesis.
Sometimes, even if you follow all these steps, you might find yourself struggling with the creation of your dissertation. That is also happening and it is a normal part of the process! In these cases, you might want to consider getting some help. 123 Essay offers professional dissertation writing help for students who are running low on time or inspiration, and who needs that final push to finish their work.
Well, that’s about it from me. Good luck on your dissertation journey!