A dissertation is a long essay that most universities require students to write at the end of their study. The essay is based on research that the student has done, and it is mostly a mandatory requirement before a student is allowed to graduate.
In some cases of post-graduate studies, students are required to choose a topic at the beginning of their study, and their degree becomes centered on collecting materials around their dissertation topic, making presentations on their findings, and eventually, after the stipulated time, do a major presentation of their findings to the faculty, who evaluate whether the student deserves to graduate or not.
If you are about to do your dissertation research, it would help if you understand what is required of you, and how to achieve the requirements of your study. There are two types of dissertations that you can choose from:
· Empirical Dissertation: This dissertation requires that you structure your dissertation around scientific research. Empirical research requires that you collect and analyze primary data. This type of dissertation requires a relatively high budget and a longer time to achieve.
· Non-empirical Dissertation: This type of dissertation is concerned with reading the available materials on your chosen topic, finding information, and filling any information gaps through library research. When you choose non-empirical research, you will spend most of your time evaluating theories and assertions from various scholars, and critiquing their assertions, or comparing them to other scholars.
Before you learn about the structure of a good dissertation paper, you need to come up with the topic that you are going to research and write a paper about. But how do I choose a dissertation topic, you ask?
How to Choose Your Dissertation Topic
Over the many years that I have worked as a dissertation tutor, students have come to me with difficulty in choosing a dissertation topic. The topic of your dissertation is the most important part of your thesis, as it guides every aspect of your essay. It would help, therefore, if you put enough consideration when deciding which topic you will research and write about.
A good dissertation topic should:
· Be relevant to your area of study
· Should define the scope of your study
· Should be unique
· Should endeavor to address an information gap in your area of study
· Should capture the attention of the reader
· Should be objective
Choosing a good dissertation topic that meets the requirements of your university’s guidelines on dissertation topics can be challenging. Here are a few tips that will help you when choosing a dissertation topic:
1. Read Widely on Your Field of Study
Most universities require that you write your dissertation as the final test of your entire course of study. The assumption, therefore, is that you are well-grounded in your field of study and that you are an expert in your field. As such, your lecturers expect you to go beyond reproducing information that they have taught you, to the ability to challenge the available information, and give your opinion on theories and assertions made by other scholars.
If you do not read what has already been written in your area or are depending on only one source of information, how will you know which information gaps exist, or which topics are eliciting debate in your field, and which new scholars have risen to become new authorities in your area of interest?
Besides, how will you know that you are not choosing a topic that is overly researched, and will not be accepted by your department? Reading widely not only inspires questions that you can research on but will also be very useful when you are called to defend your research proposal.
2. Choose a Topic in Line with Your Interests
Now, you’ve studied many course units to get to the level you are in your academic journey. It is only human that there are course units that you enjoyed attending classes on, and there are those that you wish to never encounter again. When you choose a dissertation topic in an area that excites you, you will most likely enjoy doing your research; vice versa is also true.
Also, you should look at the bigger picture when selecting your dissertation topic. Suppose you are a postgraduate student studying a Masters's degree in Psychology. If your ultimate career goal is to be a children’s psychologist, then it would make more sense to choose a topic related to children’s psychology.
It would help if you always remember that your dissertation topic will affect your future academic choices, your ability to be admitted to study for an advanced degree, and your likelihood to get funding to do further research.
3. Get Inspiration from Your Earlier Research
If you have carried out research in the past, choosing a dissertation topic that builds on your earlier research will go a long way. Let us go back to the example about wanting to specialize in children’s psychology. If in your undergraduate degree you researched on the effects of domestic violence on child development, you can now decide to narrow down your research topic to a more specific type of domestic violence, or even the age bracket of the children you are looking to study.
Building on earlier research not only makes it easy for you to get a dissertation topic, but also builds your authority in a specific area of study, and also gives you the opportunity to tap from previous knowledge that you have extensive knowledge about.
4. Be Ambitious, but Realistic Too
I know, you want to write a dissertation that will blow the whole faculty’s minds. I mean, this is your contribution to academia, and, of course, an opportunity to show the world what an exceptional scholar you are. While it is okay to want to write an ambitious dissertation paper, it would also help if you are realistic.
You should evaluate your level of study, the amount of time you are given to complete your dissertation research, the available resources among other limitations of carrying out research. Otherwise, you risk coming up with a brilliant idea, only for the faculty to turn it down on the grounds of being unrealistic, or too broad for your level of study.
5. Have a Back-up Plan
When you are researching the topic to write your dissertation on, it will give you a great advantage if you have more than one dissertation topic to choose from. Imagine how frustrated you would feel if you had only one topic and the faculty decide that it is not good enough. However, if you have backup dissertation topics to choose from, then you won’t take it so badly if your topic is rejected.
Before you present your proposed research topics to the departmental team that deals with dissertations, it would help if you shared your dissertation topic with one or two members of the faculty. Your lecturers are likely to have supervised many students in the past, and can tell a viable dissertation topic from a mile. Asking a lecturer to evaluate your topic not only reduces the likelihood that the department will send you back to choose another topic, but the lecturer may help you to tweak your research topic to a researchable scope.
Choosing a research topic can be a tad challenging for some students. If you are finding it hard to choose your research topic, you can ask an experienced dissertation tutor to help you develop an excellent dissertation topic.
The Structure of a Dissertation Paper
You have chosen your research topic, and have done your research. The question that remains now, is how to structure your dissertation paper. The following section takes you through the various parts of a dissertation paper, and what you should include in them:
1. Dissertation Paper Title Page
The dissertation title page contains your details, the institution that you are submitting your dissertation, and your research. In short, your dissertation paper title page should include the following details:
· Your name
· Name of your institution
· Name of your college
· Name of your department
· Your research topic
· The Degree you are submitting your research to attain
· The name of your supervisor
· The date of submission
The details and structure of your dissertation research page are dependent on the referencing style, and of course, your area of study.
The acknowledgment section is optional, and it seeks to appreciate the people who have been instrumental to the success of the dissertation research. You can also take this opportunity to thank your family and anyone who has helped you through your academic journey. Also, if you have received funding from a fellowship or scholarship grant, this is your opportunity to mention the organization that funded you.
Your dissertation’s abstract is very important, as it gives a quick summary of what is contained in your dissertation. Your abstract should be less than 300 words, and as such, you should be as concise as possible. Your abstract should answer the following questions:
· What is your research about?
· Why is your research important?
· What is your overall purpose of the study?
· How did you do your research?
· What did you find out?
Most people will not read past your abstract if you do not structure it in a way that will entice them into reading the entire project. You should, therefore take your time to choose the most appropriate words to use, and details that will grab your readers’ attention.
4. Table of Contents
A table of contents is a map of the location of all the information contained in your dissertation paper. The table of contents should be clear, comprehensive and accessible.
The introduction gives the reader detailed answers to what your research is all about, why it is important, and how far you are planning to delve into the research. You should give the relevant background information on your topic, and the context of your research.
Your introduction also gives you the opportunity to present your research questions, and why you feel that the answers to those questions will benefit humanity.
6. Literature Review
The literature review is a particularly important part of your dissertation. A well-researched literature review examines the available material on your topic of research. The literature review is a product of an extensive library study of your topic, what other scholars have said about your topic, and what you feel they left out.
You, however, should avoid reproducing what other scholars have said just for the sake of making your dissertation look big. Instead, you should always communicate how the literature is relevant to your research, and what your opinion is towards the assertion. You can also compare two or more scholars’ views on a given topic, and how their positions affect your research.
Pro tip: Always record any source of interesting material that you may use in your literature review to avoid having to let go of relevant arguments because you cannot trace your source.
7. Research Design and Methodology
In this section, you state how you carried out your research. You justify your research design, your choice of research methods, your sampling, and the limitations you experienced in your study, and how you overcame them. You should also include how you analyzed the data you collected
Your research methodology should be guided by your type of research and must be scientific. In essence, if someone else was to follow your research methodology to redo your research, they should come up with similar results as yours.
8. Research Findings /Results
Research findings talk about the results of your research. You should give details of what your research found in relation to your research questions. You should make use of data presentation tools like charts, graphs, tables, images, among others to make your results easy to understand.
Here, you should analyze your findings and answer your research questions. Does the data agree with your hypothesis, and if it does, what does it mean to your research? Also, should there be a deviation from the expected results, you can explain it in this section.
10. Conclusion and Recommendation
Your conclusion should clearly restate your research objectives, state what your research found out, and recommend what future researchers can research to fill any information gaps you encountered.
11. Your References Page
This is where you place the source of all the library materials you used in your research. Your referencing style is dependent on your field of study, and faculty preference on referencing.
As you have noticed, dissertation writing is an intense, time-consuming affair, and can prove quite a task. If you find the dissertation writing process overwhelming, you can seek the help of an experienced dissertation writer to guide you through the procedure.
The Trick is to Handle One Step at a Time
The process of writing a dissertation can intimidate even the most experienced writers. If you allow your mind to think of how far you need to go, the many setbacks you will experience, and how insufficient you are, then you might never even start. However, when you have someone to accompany you through your dissertation, the journey will be easier to handle, and you will exchange great ideas to improve your paper.
Are you writing your dissertation and would you like an experienced dissertation writer to accompany you through the journey? Homework village has experienced and well-trained research writers who will not only help you to choose your dissertation topic but also walk with you through the entire dissertation writing process.