Essentials for writing a good dissertation


At last is finally time to begin your doctoral dissertation, you’ve completed hundreds of assignments, joined a committee and passed all of your examinations now all you have to do is finish one last paper and you will be a fully fledged doctor. Chances are that by now you have completed a few lengthy writing assignments you may even have gotten something published. However, the dissertation is different because it will be presented in front of your peers. This can add another level of difficulty to the writing process and question: “Who can write my dissertation for me?” often crossed students’ mind. Indeed, there lots of work to be done. You are going to do both science research and a lot of science writing, because dissertation is an extended piece of writing which lengths vary but on average are usually 10,000 words long.

One common misconception about a doctoral dissertation is that it is final definitive work of your academic career. The reality is that a PH.D dissertation, although a very important part of your school career, is not the last paper you will ever write. In fact, it may very well be the first of many important written contributions that you make to your field of study. Before you start writing it is important that you take this into account.

Find the right supervisor

The role of the supervisor could be hardly underestimated. The dissertation supervisor is there to guide you through the process of your research project. Your supervisor may or may not have taught you before, but what’s certain is that he or she has experience in doing a dissertation (or maybe two) before and will be able to help you with yours.

Most courses do their best to allocate a dissertation supervisor at an early stage. (If you don’t hear anything after the first few weeks back at university, contact the person leading the course to see if you’ve missed something or a problem has arisen.)

Having the right supervisor for your dissertation is high priority if you want to get the best out of you. If you’re having trouble with an unresponsive, unreliable and unapproachable supervisor, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for a change. However, you must keep in mind that this has to be done during the early stages of the process, and that you need to justify your requirement with a valid reason. You need a supervisor who will provide you with detailed feedback any time you need.

Collecting a data

For most research projects the data collection phase feels like the most important part. However, you should avoid jumping straight into this phase until you have adequately defined your research problem, and the extent and limitations of your research. If you are too hasty you risk collecting data that you will not be able to use.

Consider how you are going to store and retrieve your data. You should set up a system that allows you to:

  • record data accurately as you collect it;
  • retrieve data quickly and efficiently;
  • analyse and compare the data you collect; and
  • create appropriate outputs for your dissertation e.g. tables and graphs, if appropriate.

There are many systems that support effective data collection and retrieval. These range from card indexes and cross-referenced exercise books, through electronic tools like spreadsheets, databases and bibliographic software, to discipline-specific tools. You should talk about how you plan to store your data with your supervisor, an information librarian, or a study adviser in the Learning Development. As you undertake your research you are likely to come up with lots of ideas. It can be valuable to keep a record of these ideas on index cards, in a dedicated notebook, or in an electronic file. You can refer back to this ‘ideas store’ when you start to write. They may be useful as ideas in themselves, and may be useful as a record of how your thinking developed through the research process.


It comes as no surprise that many people become overwhelmed with the prospect of presenting their dissertation. In fact an overwhelming amount of graduate students never complete their dissertation. The two main reasons for this are procrastination and stress. The good news is that it is easy to overcome these two things if you know how to focus and work on your writing discipline. By practicing good time management skills and improving on your organization you can be more successful. Though, you should not surrender there is a professional help that is always available ( ). The most important thing that you need to know before you begin the writing process is that dissertation writing is not easy but it is well worth the effort. Remember that even though it is a large project, it is only the first of many. If you finish it and are well evaluated then chances are you will have a fantastic career in your field of study. Getting to the point where you are ready to write your doctoral dissertation is a great accomplishment.