What Is a Dissertation: All You Need to Know to Start

Are you worried about the idea of handling your dissertation? If so, this guide will help you gain clarity on the dissertation writing process and to overcome the common challenges for dissertation writing newbies. 

Here, we’ll discuss the purpose of a dissertation, its structure, its length, and tips to help you prepare a quality paper. Without further ado, let’s dive into the meaning of dissertation research. 

What is a dissertation?

The dissertation is a research project submitted as part of the master’s/ doctoral program. Although many people use these words interchangeably, some argue that the thesis is submitted as part of the master’s degree whereas the dissertation is a research project handled by a person who is pursuing a doctoral program.

Regardless of your stance on the terminologies, both these documents are long academic tasks addressed to an academic committee of scholars of a particular field. These papers are often intended to highlight new information in a field and test a student’s research, problem-solving, and data analysis skills. 

Owing to the amount of research required, a dissertation may take between one and two years to complete. 

Empirical vs non-empirical research dissertation 

Dissertations may be classified into either empirical or non-empirical depending on the approach taken to prepare your paper. Empirical dissertations are based on original data collected through research. These types of dissertations are common for sciences and require experiments to gauge multiple variables before making deductions on the thesis.

Conversely, non-empirical research dissertations analyze existing sources and use these to argue a unique perspective on a topic. Non-empirical dissertations are common in arts and humanities and are free of any experiments for new information. 

How long is a dissertation?

A dissertation ranges between 50,000 and 100,000 words. The word count for your dissertation depends on the complexity of the topic, the extent of the research, and your selected methodology.

Also, faculty guidelines and previously submitted dissertations can help you gauge the preferred length of the dissertation, avoiding confusion in the latter writing stages. 

How many pages is a dissertation?

The page count of your dissertation depends on your selected font, the font size, line spacing, and the selected margins. A standard 1-inch margin, A4 page formatted using the Times New Roman font size twelve carries roughly two hundred and fifty words per page. 

This implies that a paper styled per the above guidelines should range between two thousand and four thousand words. 

However, be keen to tackle essential information as opposed to filling your paper with clutter in a bid to meet a particular page count. 

Dissertation structure

An empirical dissertation is divided into chapters including:

  1. The introduction

This chapter aims to highlight your research objectives and clarify your thesis statement. The introduction also hooks the reader into reading your paper by highlighting the research gap that warrants your research. 

  1. Literature review

The literature review is dedicated to analyzing the extent to which a topic has been covered to highlight the research gaps that necessitate your investigation. 

  1. Methodology

This chapter should outline how you will approach research, and collect and analyze data. The chapter allows for the replicability of your research, allowing fellow scholars to gauge the correctness of your findings. 

  1. Results

What connections did you make from the variables you were investigating? The results chapter contains explanations and graphics highlighting the relationship between various variables from your research.  

However, note that the results section should not make any connections between your findings and the hypothesis as this should be tackled in the discussion section. It is also worth noting that your results chapter should tackle all information that’s relevant to the topic regardless of whether or not this information supports your thesis. 

  1. Discussion

The discussion chapter contains the interpretation and analysis of your research questions. Here, discuss the implications of your findings with relevant support from credible sources. Where possible, organize your discussion in the order in which the research objectives were introduced in your introduction.

  1. Conclusion

This chapter ties your paper down by answering your original research question. Here, restate your key conclusions and discuss the implications and limitations of your research.

Tips for writing a dissertation

  1. Start by preparing a dissertation plan to account for the available time for completing your dissertation. This will allow you to stay on track with your dissertation, ensuring that you don’t fall behind on your deadline.
  2. Edit your paper to ensure adherence to various guidelines and also to ensure a smooth flow of arguments and proper formatting and referencing.
  3. Tackle the introduction last to capture your key arguments and highlight the essential arguments within your paper.
  4. Consult your supervisor at various stages of developing your dissertation to tackle mistakes before you have advanced on your dissertation.
  5. Develop an outline for each chapter to have an easier time structuring a dissertation and to ensure a coherent flow of arguments in various chapters.