How To Write A Good Dissertation: Effective Step-By-Step Instructions

Once you’ve got your proposal, it’s been approved, and you’ve selected your chair committee, it’s time to actually sit down and begin working on your dissertation. This might be the moment when panic truly sets in, as you begin to realize all that preliminary work was nothing compared to the work ahead! But have no fear; you can do it, and you will do it, and you’ll be prouder than you ever thought possible once it’s finished. Take a bit of the edge off by following these instructions for writing a good dissertation:

  • Gather your materials. As you work through your dissertation, you will surely find yourself going back to discover more research. However, in the beginning, you should gather everything you already know you will use into an organized file. Use color-coordination or any other tool you have to keep things organized. You’ll surely have a lot of notes, articles, books, and studies to keep track of, so the easier it is for you to find something at a moment’s notice, the easier it will be to keep working without having to stop and search for an important document.
  • Create an outline. Draft an outline of your thesis, including all the sections. You don’t have to go into detail just yet, but do be thorough. Your outline might take months to complete, but in the long run you will be better off for creating a structured skeleton for your paper to grow on. Here are the sections that you should have in your thesis, in the order that they should appear.
    • Introduction: here is where you will discuss the purpose of the dissertation, and its significant. What’s it about, and why is it important?
    • Literature: review the existing literature on the topic. Discuss the theoretical framework of your paper, and what the existing research says about your topic. Don’t just summarize, analyze! Go in-depth when discussing your research.
    • Methodology: explain your methods. Justify and describe your process, or how you came to the conclusion you are supporting in your dissertation.
    • Findings: this section should be a straightforward description of what you discovered in you research. Unlike the Literature section, you should not discuss the existing literature, only the things you learned in the process.
    • Discussion: here is where you analyze and discuss the significance of your findings. Draw from the existing literature and explain why your findings matter to the canon.
    • Conclusion: summarize your thesis in a few pages, including more insight into the validity of your argument. It’s a good idea to make suggestions for future research in your conclusion.
  • Write first, edit later. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just start writing. Don’t worry about grammar or minute details; just worry about getting words on the page. You can always go back and edit, and writing your first few pages will give you the ego-boost you need to keep going! One thing you should stop for it citations; you don’t necessarily need to put the citations in now, but make an asterisk or other symbol next to any quotes or information you need to cite, and possibly put the source in parenthesis next to it to help you figure out where all of the information came from, instead of wasting time going back through the text to find out exactly where that quote was.
  • When you do edit, edit thoroughly. Keep your mind tuned to phrasing, sentence structure, and the overall flow of your paper. Don’t let your eyes skip over errors! Reading aloud to yourself can help prevent lazy eye. Structure is especially important; you want each part of your paper to logically lead to the next part. It is paramount that you keep your eyes peeled for times where you need to add more information (or less) in order to ensure an easy transition from one paragraph to the next.