A dissertation is a document that presents an in-depth research study on a narrowly defined topic. Such documents are original studies that present the researcher's own, educated insight on a specific topic. This original insight is known as the report thesis. A thesis is found in every type of academic text. In short, a thesis can be understood to be a summation of what a text is about—its point or argument—and how that point or argument is going to be explained and defended. A dissertation thesis differs from a thesis found in other types of academic texts in the depth and originality of its argument. Whereas a thesis statement in an essay or research paper likely assumes a certain position on a topic and then seeks to argue it using existing scholarly research, a dissertation thesis will assert a position and seek to prove it through the researcher's own original studies and ideas.
Whereas theses presented in most texts are clearly identifiable in a group of sentences known as the critical assertion, dissertation theses are more often asserted in a paragraph or set of paragraphs in the introductory chapter of a college report. This paragraph of group of paragraphs will frequently be a combination of paragraphs found in the "purpose" and "procedure" subsections of the chapter. The purpose section explains what the thesis is undertaking and why that undertaking is important, and the procedure section explains how the researcher will go about investigating the topic of study. Because a thesis is a "what" plus a "how," dissertation theses will likely be a combination of points from both of these paragraphs.
Determining a dissertation thesis is often the culminating result of months of data collection. This is because a dissertation researcher must be aware of all the relevant research existing on his or her topic in order to present a study that adds a new dimension or element to that body of data collection. Therefore, a dissertation thesis is often decided upon after a researcher selects a specific topic of study and then investigates what other scholars have said on it. The thesis arises from the writer noting holes in that research or areas where that research could be expanded upon.
Before dissertation theses should be fully accepted or pursued, they should be submitted to a dissertation committee or department for review. This often happens in a formal piece of writing known as a dissertation proposal, in which the student outlines his or her thesis and planned method of study. Having the feedback of other scholars will assist the student in refining his or her assignment thesis and determining if it is a valid topic of pursuit.
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