If you are a college student, you will have to write a thesis or dissertation paper before you graduate. Writing a good dissertation paper can be daunting if you have never had the chance to write one. It takes a lot of time, understanding of the subject, and willpower to finish one. Even if it is not an easy task, it does not to be painful for students. With that in mind, we have dug deep to bring the best step-by-step guide to help you learn how to write a dissertation paper.
What is a Dissertation Paper?
The word dissertation is derived from the Latin word ” dissertare” which means to debate. It is a discussion that involves two different sets of ideas or points of view. Therefore, it does not only examine a subject but also has the writer’s reviews about that subject.
In addition to that, we can also say that a dissertation paper is a piece of writing, between fifteen to twenty thousand words, written on a specified topic assigned by the professor or student himself. The aim of the dissertation paper is to either answer a specific research question or report on a literature study or an empirical study.
Besides, it is divided into various chapters which contain headings and sub-headings thoroughly explaining the subject.
How to Write a Dissertation Paper
Step 1: Understand the Assignment
The first thing you should do is read the instructions and understand what you are being asked. This may sound so obvious. But most students underestimate how important this step is. They miss this step and wonder how they have received low grades on the paper that they have worked so hard for.
So, spend a good amount of time reading the instructions and understanding what you have to add and what you have to avoid in your paper. You can do so by going over the instruction and any reference paper that your professor has given you.
Other than just reading the instructions and provided materials, you can carefully highlight important details and take notes. Furthermore, you should also know how you will be graded for your paper. And if you do not understand anything, you can ask for help from your professor for clarification.
Step 2: Select the Subject
Once you thoroughly understand what you have to write in your paper and how you will be graded, it is time to select a topic. Picking the perfect topic or subject can be daunting. However, giving too much time to select the perfect topic will only waste your time.
We recommend you pick a topic that you are interested in or passionate about. Besides, picking a controversial topic can also be helpful. In your paper, you explain different opposing sides and gather enough information to defend your point if required.
Moreover, do not forget to use the instructions while selecting your topic. So, try not to select a topic that does not fit into the guidelines.
Step 3: Research
Once you have understood your assignment thoroughly and picked your topic, it is time to start one of the most flexible steps of writing your dissertation paper. Different people opt for different ways. Nevertheless, there are three key elements of this step.
- Find reliable resources
- Do not ignore key information
The first thing you should do is find reliable resources to gather information. You can use Google and Wikipedia to find and get familiar with key terms. Then, list down some related articles, books, and papers that you can use to find information. Besides, you can also get help from an expert. You can either ask them to help you find the best resources or identify whether the information you have found is valid or not.
Then, only go through the resources you have. You do not have to read everything that is written there. In fact, no one can. Just read through the highlights and identify key points without having to read every word. Besides, list down the most important papers and resources. These are the resources that contain the most related information for your dissertation paper.
Next, read through all the papers and resources you have selected. While reading, highlight key points and take notes.
Step 4: Narrow the Topic
Once you are done reading and doing your basic research, it is time to think about whether or not you need to narrow your topic. At this stage, you may have collected enough information about your topic. So, you can understand whether or not you have selected the perfect topic or not.
We recommend you select a narrow topic that is easy to understand and covers everything about. For instance:
- Sports are enjoyable. (What is enjoyable is too broad!)
- Football is enjoyable. (What sport is enjoyable is better but still broad enough.)
- Football is enjoyable because… (There is a certain thing about football that makes it enjoyable. It is a narrow topic and easy to cover.)
Narrowing your topic is crucial because it can help easily understand the subject, collect related ideas and information, and complete your task on time. Otherwise, you will be roaming around the library finding ideas and arguments even on the deadline. Besides, it can also help you in coming up with a unique subject to work on.
To help you with this here is some question that you should answer meanwhile.
- Who are some important people involved in the XYZ subject?
- What are the related crucial issues and events?
- How was the problem developed?
- Why this is an important subject?
- How was this problem tackled before?
- What are my opinions regarding the subject?
Step 5: State Your Objective
The objective or thesis statement of your paper is the most important part of your dissertation paper. Because it describes the viewpoint you are going to present in your paper. Besides that, your thesis will also help you in defining the structure of the rest of the paper.
Furthermore, a thesis statement is usually the central idea of your paper. An example of this is:
“The American culture is reflected in the lives of Americans.”
Here the phrase “reflected in” gives direction to both the writer and reader. The writer gets an idea about what material he should focus more on and what he should add to his dissertation paper. While the reader gets an idea about what he is going to read.
Another example of how a thesis statement can help you in defining the structure of your paper is given below.
Much of Martin Luther King’s success resulted from the passive resistance techniques proposed by Mahatma Gandhi.
The above thesis statement can be divided into three-part each of which can further be explained in your paper.
- The success of Martin Luther King
- The passive resistance methods of Mahatma Gandhi
- And how Gandhi’s resistance played a role in Martin Luther’s success
In addition, there are some mistakes that students make while writing their thesis statements. Here are some tips that you should follow.
- A thesis should be a complete sentence, not a fragment. For example, “How life is in 3rd world countries.”
- It should not be a question. For example, “Should the eighteen years old be given the right to vote?’.
- Avoid using phrases such as “I think or I believe”. For instance, “In my opinion women can run the country better than men.”
- It should not have vague or figurative language.
Step 6: Prepare an Outline
Now that you have written your thesis statement, you are good to start making an outline for your dissertation paper. It may also be one of the easiest steps that we are adding in our guide on how to write a dissertation paper. However, we can not stress enough how important it is.
Also, if you need to submit the outline along with your paper, then be sure to follow the instructions and guidelines from your teacher. Otherwise, creating an outline can still be very helpful.
Just like essays, the outline for your dissertation paper helps you in structuring your paper. So, all you have to do in this step is to figure out what ideas and arguments you want to add to your paper. Then, write the main ideas and arguments in bullet points for each part of your paper including the introduction, body, and conclusion.
While creating an outline, be sure to check the guidelines first. So that whatever you have been asked, you should be able to answer it in the paper. If your thesis contains two main ideas, three sections might not be enough for your paper.
Or if you are asked to introduce a subject, first, explain different viewpoints about the topic. Then, explain what opinion you hold on the topic. In such a case, three sections are adequate.
All in all, you have to really think critically while creating an outline. You have to be sure about what you are going to communicate in your dissertation paper.
Step 7: Write a Rough Draft
After you have created the outline of your dissertation paper, you are good to start writing your first draft. This is also the lengthiest step in our guide on how to write a dissertation paper. So, be patient and write. Meanwhile, keep in mind that it is a rough draft. So, you will revise and may bring changes later. Hence, you do not need to worry about making grammar or spelling mistakes.
So, concentrate on the content of your paper and just write expanding the ideas on your outline. Moreover, your dissertation paper should include three main parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion.
The introduction should include your thesis statement, a summary of the main idea of your paper, and the hook to capture your reader’s attention. Then, the body of your paper should thoroughly expand and explain each section of your paper. The body of your paper is easiest to write when you have an outline.
Lastly, write the conclusion by concluding the main idea of your paper while restating the thesis statement. While writing your paper, you might feel you have started earlier at different instances. But stay relaxed because all the work you have done until now has provided the base for your paper.
Step 8: Edit for Content
Now you have written the first draft of your paper, take a moment to pat yourself. You have done a lot of effort to get to this point while you still have enough to do. With that in mind, start editing your paper. The first thing that you should check in your paper is the content of your paper.
This involves checking the structure, arguments, organization, and length of your paper. At this stage, you may have to move things around. But you do not need to worry. So, carefully see how you have worded each idea. Do they communicate well enough or not?
If no, then try to rearrange sentences. All in all, make sure that you have successfully completed the task your professor has asked for.
Step 9: Edit for Grammar
As important as it is to edit your paper for the content it contains, it is equally important to if everything is on point in terms of grammar. This may seem boring and time-consuming. But you do not need to worry. Because there are tons of grammar-checking tools that can help you in this process.
You may have had to check and recheck your paper for its content. Similarly, you may have to check twice if grammatically everything is correct. So be patient and take breaks if you need to.
Step 10: Write Your Final Draft
We assume that you are ready to write the final draft of your paper at this point. You have already created your outline, refined the first draft, and checked the grammar and content of your paper. So, you are good to start writing the final version of your paper that you will submit.
But before you start writing the final draft, we recommend you take a break and come back later.
Step 11: Reread Before You Submit
The last step to learn how to write a dissertation paper is obvious and easy. When your paper is all ready, you can ask a friend to read your paper and see if there are still things to improve and gaps to fill. If there is not anyone you can ask for help with, you do not need to worry. There are tons of services you can take help from.
Once you are sure that everything is perfect, you can finally hand in your paper to your professor.
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