Completing a Dissertation requires
a well-planned Dissertation Proposal
& Review of Literature!

guide for completing a dissertation

Help for completing a dissertation

Help Completing a Dissertation

    The word "dissertation" strikes fear into even the best-prepared student. Many Ph.D. candidates find themselves in an entirely new and unfamiliar arena after completing their courses and comps - the arena where completing a dissertation is the goal.  They also very quickly find that new arena to be one where their previous writing experiences for a master's thesis is not adequate.  The dissertation help, writing tips, advice for working with an advisor, and completion strategy discussed below are designed to provide help for completing a dissertation in any field.    

Dissertation Definition

Overall Components

Organize for Success!

Dissertation Help

Planning & Starting a Dissertation

Help Writing a Dissertation

Working with Your Advisor

Good luck in your dissertation completion efforts!

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Dissertation Definition

dissertation definition    

Many students look in the Cambridge Dictionary trying to define dissertation, and find it defined as a "long pieces of writing on a particular subject".  That dissertation definition is deceptively simple, as most people writing a dissertation soon learn.  Ultimately, the "long" comes to refer to the process rather than the document itself.  In far too many cases, completing a dissertation, i.e., the "long piece of writing", never gets done.

    At its simplest level, the definition of a dissertation is that it is a scholarly document.  They are generally lengthy (although we have all heard the stories of doctoral candidates in math and science who present one, perfect equation and are awarded their degree).  The trend is currently toward somewhat shorter documents, and it is unusual these days for a dissertation to exceed 300 pages.  It is (or should be) focused on a very narrow topic. 
    Perhaps the best dissertation definition is what it is not.  It is all too easily forgotten that the definition of a dissertation is that of a scholarly document.  It is not a paper, and not a journal article, and it is not a book, although it shares some characteristics with each of these documents.  It is not a collection of abstracts; it is not an annotated bibliography; it is not an overview of a topic; it is not a discussion of the writer's personal viewpoint.  It is important that you keep this dissertation definition in mind at all times.


Component Structure

dissertation help research    

Since it is a scholarly document, a dissertation should contain extensive references to the works of experts in the field, in the form of citations to journal articles, monographs and books. This makes a thorough review of literature extremely important to the success of a dissertation in many fields and disciplines.  Very frequently, a dissertation will contain an empirical component, reflecting some independent study or data gathering (use of a questionnaire, interviews, standardized instrument) on the part of the author, although in certain fields (literature and philosophy, for example), no study is required. 

    In any case, each dissertation has some research design involved.  An empirical study may be qualitative, quantitative or descriptive, and there are many variations of each of these designs.  A dissertation may be strictly historical and be based primarily on an extensive review of the literature.  There are as many variations of how dissertations are structured as advisors and dissertation writers can invent.

Dissertation Writing Tips:  Bear in mind the definition of a dissertation.  A scholarly document must be thoroughly researched and written at the doctoral level.  It must contribute substantially to your field.  It must utilize the correct and appropriate source materials, with each properly cited.

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Dissertation Organization for Success

Successful dissertation organization Typically, a dissertation follows the classic five chapter format:
  • Introduction (with all of the traditional subheadings);
  • Review of Literature;
  • Methodology;
  • Findings;
  • Summery/Conclusions/Implications. 
There are frequently Appendices (copies of instruments and permission letters, for example).  There is always a References list. 

    Although a dissertation may be written in any one of a number of formats the APA format is most popular.  The MLA format is still favored in some fields, such as literature.

Dissertation Writing Tips:  Some universities provide style sheets which augment the APA format with features specific to their requirements.  It is always a good idea to ask about such a style sheet and follow it carefully when writing a dissertation.  Failure to follow the stylesheet could result in significant amounts of lost time and effort in the future.


Dissertation Help

dissertation help     The process of writing a dissertation becomes less daunting if the requirements of the dissertation advisor and university are known before  the start of the project.

Here are some basic tips for obtaining the dissertation help you deserve:

1.  Ask your advisor for copies of dissertations which s/he has approved recently.  Having a sample to follow will provide help in many ways, and make your job much easier!

2.  Check to see what format is favored (APA, MLA?).  Buy a copy of the style manual.

3.  Determine if your university or program has written dissertation guidelines which supplement the basic format.  Your dissertation writing strategy should include reading and understanding how those guideline will affect your efforts.

4.  Ask your advisor about his/her expectations of dissertation length.  Don't be put off by "whatever it takes" as an answer.  Get the dissertation help you need.  You may think a 100 page document is sufficient; your advisor may think that 250 is closer to the mark.

5.  Think long and hard about the definition of a dissertation.  A scholarly document must be researched and written at the doctoral level.  It must contain a significant contribution to your field.  It must use appropriate source materials, properly cited.

6.  If you are thinking about utilizing an outside dissertation help service or consultant to guide you through the hard parts of your dissertation one word of caution is BEWARE!  Some of the so-called "best" help services have as little as five (5) years experience, or use business procedures and policies designed to lure you into paying in advance for a shoddy dissertation.  Protect yourself by using this detailed dissertation service comparison checklist.

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Starting a Dissertation

starting a dissertation    

There really is no "best" way to plan or start a dissertation.  The best way to help someone just starting a dissertation is to point out the single greatest mistake made by doctoral candidates who are unable to complete a Proposal or draft of Chapter I.  Your advisor just says "do your proposal and then we can sit down and talk about the rest of the project".  You follow that advice and attempt to create a Statement of the Problem, and list your hypotheses.  Guess what?  You just made the single Biggest Mistake possible.

    Many people writing a dissertation have a topic or concept in mind, and they have at least a vague idea of the type of study they want to perform and how it should be done at the high level.  Turning those very early ideas into a scholarly concept, and then crafting a good proposal, however, requires much more than establishing a topic.

Read, read, read each dissertation which ha been done recently in your field.  Reading these can provide you with a lot of help for completing your dissertation.  Get the "feel" of the documents. Understand how they are structured.  Learn to recognize the flow from introduction through conclusion.  Once you are comfortable with the form, content, scope and limitations of other dissertations, you are ready to begin the process of writing your own.


Dissertation Writing Help

dissertation writing help     The most important, single biggest key to completing a dissertation is RESEARCH, then more research.  There is no shortcut, and no substitute for research. Identifying, retrieving, and organizing the scholarly sources on your topic must be the first step in the dissertation process. But that isn't enough. The next step is the time-consuming one......but if you skip it, I guarantee that you will never get any further.  This next step is explained below.
    You must read all of the sources you have retrieved, critically and analytically. You must organize them into two categories: theoretical literature and empirical literature. Within those two major categories you must create sub-categories which reflect the variables in your study and the questions/hypotheses you have formulated. You must then draft your Review of Literature, which will become the core of your dissertation as Chapter II.

Dissertation Writing Tips:      If there is one single help "tip" we can give you on completing your dissertation it is this basic strategy: Do your Review of Literature first!

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Working with a Dissertation Advisor

How to get the the most dissertation help & assistance from an advisor.     Eight out of ten doctoral candidates working on their dissertation say that they are stuck with "the advisor from hell". The other two think their advisor is "very nice, BUT . . ."
    Very few of the thousands of doctoral candidates I have talked with in more than 42 years have said they have a helpful, cooperative and effective advisor. Something is very wrong with that picture. Are all people working on their dissertations so stressed and overwhelmed that they cannot recognize good, helpful advisement when they encounter it?

    Do advisors not understand their pivotal role in dissertation success? Or is some other factor at work in the almost universal perception of advisors as denizens of the underworld?
    Advisor problems arise from three sources: First, doctoral programs do not adequately define the role of the dissertation advisor. Second, advisors are not motivated to help you. Third, doctoral candidates lack assertiveness in obtaining the services for which they pay. Let's look at each.

Doctoral programs lack standards for the advisor role and performance. Institutions have different criteria for choosing, training and evaluating a dissertation advisor. Most commonly there is no standard at all, no special training, and no mechanism in place for evaluating performance. This lack of professional role definition and oversight sets the stage for disaster.

Your advisor is not motivated to help you. Sadly, a dissertation advisor often perceives this phase of his/her professional responsibility as a time-consuming distraction from teaching or their own research and writing for publication. Having no specific training or guidelines for their role in nurturing fledgling dissertations into existence, many advisors find it easier to let their advisee struggle alone to complete their dissertation.

You have the right to effective advisement: Insist on it! As a doctoral candidate you are a consumer. You are paying your university for courses and for advisement, with the ultimate goal of receiving your Ph.D. Your university makes a profit. You have a right to effective dissertation advisement. Your university has a responsibility to provide you with an advisor who will guide you towards your dissertation completion goal. Your advisor is doing a job, and is being paid.

Consumer? Money? Profit?

Academia creates an atmosphere in which the above words are jolting.

Now is the time to create a new mindset about your pursuit of a doctorate, and about the responsibilities of the university and advisor to provide the dissertation help required to augment the process of writing & completing a dissertations as smooth as possible.

by Diane Kennedy      
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dissertation writing help