A dissertation is the final component required for students at a doctoral level of study to receive their degree. Sometimes it is also possible for undergraduate or master’s courses to require a dissertation. Once all their coursework, as well as their examinations have been finished, the student will be given an extended period of time outside of classes and on their own to compose a long form analytical paper within their field of study.
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Before the actual dissertation begins an abstract is included. This is a section of the dissertation that is no more than 250 to 300 words long. It introduces the general area of study, makes the central argument of your work, and does so in the first two sentences. Abstracts – unlike introductions – do not include quotations from other sources. They are your own words as a summary of your entire paper. This abstract from Paul D’ambrosia on “Ralph Fassanella: The Making of a Working Class Artist” is one such great example.
Despite his fame and talent, American painter Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997) has never been the subject of serious scholarly attention, and his contribution to American culture has not been adequately assessed. The goal of this dissertation is to arrive at a cogent understanding of Fasanella’s life and art through a chronological, systematic study constructed from oral interviews and archival research.
Once you’ve established your abstract you will move on to start the actual dissertation. After the acknowledgements and table of contents you will want to include a clear introduction. It will reveal, in long form, the problem to be investigated. Take a look at this introduction from Johnelle Welsh’s dissertation on “Identifying factors that predict student success in a community college online distance learning course:”
The speed at which the Internet has been adopted surpasses that of all other technologies that preceded it. It took 38 years before 50 million people tuned in to the radio and 13 years for television to reach the same benchmark. Surprisingly, it took 16 years after the first personal computer kits were developed for 50 million people to use one. However, once the Internet was open to the general public it crossed that line in 4 years (Henry, Cooke, & Montes, 1997). The rate at which the Internet has penetrated society since the development of the Web browsers in the early to mid-1990s has been phenomenal. Once a computer science experiment primarily used by scientists, the Internet emerged from the 20th century with global implications for business, telecommunications, and educators (Lehnert, 1998).
As you can see, it lays out very clearly what to expect from this paper. For more information on how to do write a dissertation check out Udemy’s course on writing a great research paper, which can give you information that will help you along the way.
Purpose of Study and Research Questions
Before moving onto the meat of your dissertation, it is critical you identify the purpose of your study as well as the framework of your research questions. Take a look at the two sections below from Thomas Bradley’s Doctor of Philosophy dissertation: “Analysis of Leadership Perceptions Using Multirater Feedback” to get an idea of how to go about this.
Purpose of the Study
Each group of raters observes the leader from their own perspective, schema, and bias (Borman, 1974) . . . The relationship influences the follower’s perception and schema of leadership. The schema of cognitive categories used by followers to define leadership has important implications concerning the level of influence the leader has over the subordinates (Lord et al., 1999).
These four perspectives suggest four research questions:
1. Factor loading for self-ratings will be statistically different, and Results factor loading will be greater than the Relationship factor loading.
2. Factor loading for boss-ratings will be statistically different, and Results factor loading will be greater than the Relationship factor loading.
3. Factor loading for subordinate-ratings will be statistically different, and Relationship factor loading will be greater than the Results factor loading.
4. Factor loading for peer-ratings will be statistically different, and Results factor loading will be greater than the Relationship factor loading.
Definition of Terms
Often a dissertation will include a Definition of Terms if the paper is focusing on a specific area of expertise or on a particular area within a field of study. This will be important for any readers who may not be familiar with any specific terminology you may use, and in some cases may be necessary if you are creating new terminology. Steven Boyd’s dissertation “Reaction and Learning as Predictors of Job Performance in US Air Force Technical Training Program,” does this well.
Student Feedback – subjective information solicited from students of all Air Force technical training schools through a standardized questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale.
Course Score – the average of a student’s collective test scores across the entire course.
Initial Skills Course – an entry-level course that prepares new Air Force recruits to perform in a limited capacity on the job.
Advanced Course – technical training designed for members of an Air Force specialty who have reached a specified level of experience.
Field Evaluation Questionnaire (FEQ) – a questionnaire used to survey graduates of technical training and their supervisors to determine their ability to perform specific tasks for which they were trained in technical school.
Citing The Work
Whether the dissertation is qualitative or quantitative it will include references to any work done directly in the paper. For example, in this mathematical dissertation by Sebastian Schlenkrich about “The Sensitivity of Bermuda Swaptions,” notice how he included his mathematical analysis in the paper itself:
Whereas in this philosophical dissertation by Credence Baker on “Instructor Immediacy and Presence in the Online Learning Environment,” he cites his sources directly in the sentence structure it.
Motivation is another important area examined by researchers interested in effective instructional strategies. Knowledge of student motivation is fundamental to understanding why some learners thrive and some learners struggle in any education environment (Miltiadou & Savaenye, 2003). Understanding learner motivation is particularly vital in an online education because research has shown that online learners need to be more motivated than their traditional face-to-face counterparts (Beffa-Negrini, Cohen, & Miller 2002; Pallof & Pratt, 2003; Roblyer, 1999).
This kind of source analysis is also critical for literary dissertations. Notice how it is done in the dissertation by Goran Mijuk: “Orphan of Silence: The Poetry of Charles Simic.”
It is not surprising then, that especially in his early years as a poet, Simic was extremely attracted by the work of the surrealists and that his early work is full of irrational images. In the poem, “Finger Prints” (WGS 24), Simic gives a specimen of these wild imaginations.
Of an unknown alphabet
On the wall
Next to the door.
That I write
I return drunk
And grope in darkness
For the light. (1967)
If you plan to be conducting extensive work in the field of literature, you may consider checking out Udemy’s course on how to write a killer literature review. It can provide you with the guidance necessary for this type of dissertation.
Summary of Findings or Conclusion
Once all the findings have been stated, dissertations begin to move toward their conclusion. This is both a summary of findings as well as an opportunity to focus towards the future. Take a look at the beginning of the conclusion from this “Comparative Analysis of Management and Employee Job Satisfaction and Policy Perceptions” in the dissertation by Charles G. Andrews.
A goal of this study was to investigate potential relationships with job satisfaction. A review of the literature revealed a trend to investigate relationships attributed to an organization’s management team without including non-management employees (e.g sales representatives, assembly line workers, clerical). It also revealed a trend toward a diversified workforce that included not only make and female employees but employees from countries other than the United States (e.g. India, Middle East, Europe). This trend suggests that organizations may wish to revisit any studies they previously conducted to refresh their organizational knowledge base with the up-to-date job satisfaction information.
Writing a dissertation is a long and arduous process. It requires months of study, research, and writing. It also requires a strong sense of formatting for everything from the dissertation itself to the acknowledgements section for when the time comes to assemble your paper.
If you want to get a better idea of what kind of writing your dissertation might be going up against check out Udemy’s course on college writing. It can give you interesting examples of both good and bad writing that can help you as you begin the process of writing and editing your dissertation. Whether your working the sciences or the humanities or doing qualitative or quantitative research, you will need as much help as can get to really craft the best dissertation possible.