What You Should Know before Starting a Dissertation

Dipping your toes in the seas of dissertation writing? Then you need to learn some basic things before starting your final paper. So, you are welcome to read the information presented below.


The majority of postgraduate and some graduate courses end with writing a dissertation. Planning and conducting such a large research may be problematic. Many things come as obstacles such as procrastination and poor time management. So, prepare for the fact that dissertation will bite off a huge share of your time. As your first step, you will need to learn the basics of dissertation writing.


What is dissertation?

Let’s start from the very beginning. The word “dissertation” comes from Latin “dissertare”, which means “to debate”. In other words, you will need to involve different points of view on an idea or issue, compare, and analyze using the arguments. This may be tricky since you not only need to examine a subject, but also present it from various perspectives.

Defining the type of dissertation

There are two major types of dissertations. If you are assigned to complete the empirical type of dissertation, it means that you’ll spend much time collecting data. For example, you may be required to ask volunteers who work at the pet shelter what they think of their experience. To do this, you’ll need create questionnaires, conduct interviews or work with focus groups. At the same time, you should not forget that your paper still would require a theoretical part.

The non-empirical type of dissertation is somewhat different. The challenge of this type of dissertation lies in sustaining the same idea over the whole paper. It is just the right task for you in case you enjoy reading, analyzing and discussing theories. But if it sounds too much over your head, stick with the empirical dissertation. Otherwise, be prepared to be poring over books for months.

What skills you require

Be it empirical or non-empirical type of dissertation, a required skill set is the same. Writing a dissertation on any topic will include:

  • Determining a clear-cut central research idea;
  • Setting the frames of your research;
  • Collecting relevant sources;
  • Assessing the credibility of your research question;
  • Defining the possible sides and aspects of issue or idea;
  • Gathering necessary arguments and evidence;
  • Presenting the results of your research in an articulate manner.


Volume of dissertation

Is it going to be 50,000 words or 25,000? There are a lot of things that may have an impact on the length of the dissertation. Although the number of words in your dissertation is far less important than the quality of its content, many Ph.D. candidates are obsessed over its volume. Basically, the number of words in a typical dissertation depends on its complexity, the degree you are pursuing, and the academic regulations of your country. Generally, a Ph.D. dissertation takes over 50,000 words while for undergraduate level you’ll have to write only 10,000-20,000, which is much lower.

Viva voce examination

An oral examination is compulsory for the doctorate degrees and optional for the master’s degrees. While it may seem to be easy to talk about what you have been working on for a whole year, oral defense calls for serious preparations. As a rule, the defense starts with a brief presentation of your research. It follows by a question-answer part, which can last for a couple of hours. Be prepared that your examiners may have a different standing point on your research. At the oral examination, you get the chance to defend your dissertation in every aspect.