Doctoral Dissertation Writing & Thesis Help

(Updated on May 21, 2018 by Michelle Williams)


A doctoral dissertation (or PhD dissertation) represents the culmination of a student's entire educational journey.  It's also the final component in completing a doctoral program.  Therefore, you'll need to spend a great deal of time in properly developing your dissertation's thesis and gathering supporting information for your report composition.
When completing a doctoral dissertation, the college or university will provide you with specifics regarding how the document should be formatted and finalized.  For example, many universities and educational institutions require that the final document is left unbound, and some also require that it be translated to microfilm or to other forms of media.  In addition, you might be required to provide the college or university with multiple copies of your final dissertation.

Doctoral Dissertation Writing

Each institution will have its own guidelines for writing dissertations; it's essential that you follow those guidelines precisely.  Failure to do so can result in a delay in graduating from the program.  Although all institutions aren't the same, most require the following to be included:

  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Graphics
  • Page headers
  • Page numbers

The appendices are where you'll place any supplementary materials that are meant to support your dissertation, such as copies of photographs or questionnaires that you utilized.

The bibliography will list the sources that you used for gathering information.  Since there are multiple ways to complete a bibliography, it's important that you find out the preferred method for your college or university.  Regardless of the format, you'll need to include the same basic information from your sources, which includes the title, copyright date, and the name of the author.  Footnotes and endnotes will assist in referencing the sources that you use.

Graphics can lend credible, visual aids to dissertations and may be required, although some universities and educational institutions specifically request that graphics not be added.  Therefore, be sure to check with the institution before adding graphics.  In addition, the institution may have some very specific requirements regarding how the graphics are utilized and completed.

In most cases, you'll not be expected to use borders or fancy page headers.  In fact, you might be strictly forbidden to do so.  At the same time, the university or college will have very strict guidelines regarding how the page numbers should be placed on the document.  In addition, you might have strict guidelines when it comes to which pages are numbered and which are not.

Beyond formatting issues, writing a doctoral dissertation requires completing a great deal of data collection.  You must become an expert on the subject about which you're writing.  You must be able to demonstrate your knowledge by developing and supporting theories that are based on your research.  Since you'll have to discuss your dissertation with a panel of experts in the field, you must be very comfortable and familiar with what you wrote.  In addition, you must be able to defend your document and answer questions that may expand further upon the concepts that you explored in your document.

Doctoral Thesis

In the United States, the culminating project of a Ph.D. degree is typically called a "doctoral thesis."  In some countries, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, this project is sometimes referred to as a "doctoral dissertation."  A doctoral thesis is the equivalent of a doctoral dissertation in that it represents a writer's expertise in his/her field, presenting an original study that advances the field.  Doctoral theses aren't the same as research papers.  A research paper draws conclusions about a specific topic by presenting and synthesizing the work of other scholars.  A doctoral thesis also requires extensive research, but uses that information to create a research study of its own.  

A doctoral thesis should follow the specific guidelines outlined by the student's department, university, and/or field.  However, like most dissertations, a doctoral thesis will typically be organized in the following manner:

  1. a few pages of front matter, including a title page, abstract, table of contents, and any other pages deemed necessary by a student's department;
  2. introduction chapter;
  3. literature review chapter;
  4. methodology chapter;
  5. results chapter;
  6. conclusion chapter;
  7. list of references;
  8. appendix, if necessary.

The most important element of the front matter is the abstract, which is a short summary.  It should succinctly present the purpose of the study, the method of the study, the results, and the study's implications.  

The introduction of a doctoral thesis presents the subject, an explanation of that subject, the reasons why the subject is worth examining, and the research problems or questions the thesis will investigate.

The second chapter of most doctoral theses is the literature review, which serves to suggest the validity of the research subject by pointing to its importance to other scholars.  This requires the researcher to present a survey of research relevant to his/her study's problems or questions.  

The third chapter of a doctoral thesis is a detailed explanation of the methodology of the researcher's study—the procedure.  This should include information about the participants of the study (if there are participants), the instruments used for measurement, and the researcher's methods of data collection and analysis.

The fourth chapter is a presentation of the study's results.  This chapter reports on the outcomes of the study and presents the results of the analyzed data.  In some doctoral theses, this section is also the place for a discussion of the implications of those results and how they may be applied in the field.  In other doctoral theses, this discussion is presented in the final chapter.

As noted, sometimes a discussion of the implications of the study's results is presented in chapter four.  If not, that information belongs in the final chapter of the study, which is often titled "Discussion" or "Conclusion."  If the implications are discussed in the fourth chapter, the final chapter of the document should suggest places for further areas of research regarding the subject at hand, and outline any additional conclusions the researcher may have drawn throughout the course of the study.

All doctoral theses should include a detailed references section that lists all studies cited in the text.  In addition, some theses may benefit from the inclusion of an appendix presenting supplementary information regarding the study.

Ph.D. Dissertation

A Ph.D. dissertation is a long, in-depth, original document that a doctoral student must write in order to earn his/her Ph.D. degree.  Ph.D. dissertations are also commonly known as "doctoral dissertations."

Ph.D. dissertations are typically written after a doctoral student has completed his/her coursework and successfully passed a series of exams in his/her field.  The point of the Ph.D. dissertation is to take the knowledge learned throughout the student's graduate study and apply it in an original way to an original topic such that he/she produces relevant and innovative scholarly material that will contribute to his/her field.  To this end, the Ph.D. dissertation process is quite involved and intensive.  It is common for Ph.D. dissertations to take a year or more to complete.

Students are encouraged to select a dissertation topic in an area in which they're particularly interested and in which they wish to specialize.  The topic of a student's dissertation will often determine the type of professorial assignment that individual may have once he/she has earned his/her degree.  In addition, it's common for all or a portion of a Ph.D. dissertation to eventually be adapted into a scholarly publication.  Therefore, the student should select a topic for which he/she has passion and in which he/she anticipates having enduring interest.

All Ph.D. dissertations are difficult and time-consuming, and most Ph.D. students completing a dissertation will suffer from a lack of motivation at some point in the process.  Therefore, a student should design a schedule for himself/herself that outlines specific goals and completion dates to keep his/her on track, and should share this schedule with his/her advisor.  The dissertation advisor is an advanced professor with particular knowledge of or interest in the area of study on which the student is writing, and should be considered the student's mentor and ally throughout the composition process.

The report itself should be completed in phases.  Typically, dissertation advisors encourage students to submit each chapter or section to the advisor as it's completed.  This helps the student to stay on the schedule he/she developed, and also ensures that he/she has detailed feedback on every aspect of the report at various phases in its process.

There are often specific guidelines for how universities and departments wish the chapters and general formatting of Ph.D. dissertation to be; therefore, learners should determine these guidelines before beginning, and strictly adhere to them.

PhD Thesis

A PhD thesis is a standard, academic document that a learner will have to complete as part of a doctoral program in order to earn a Ph.D. degree.  PhD theses require months (or even years) of research to complete, often becoming a major catalyst in developing the writer's professional career.  Additionally, many PhD theses provide new, breakthrough information that contributes to the overall development of the pertinent field of study.

A PhD thesis is also well known as a "doctoral dissertation."  The two terms are commonly used interchangeably to refer to the same kind of document.  

When a student needs to complete a PhD thesis, he/she should expect to spend a significant amount of time on the research.  Many students also apply for grants for their PhD theses if they think that their research will require money, such as a flight to a research facility in order to interview an expert, or materials that a student may need in order to perform his/her own experiments.  

In order to complete an effective PhD thesis, students need to first ask questions about their topic of study.  These questions will lead the student to perform the research that's necessary in order to answer the questions.  From there, learners will be able to refine the purpose of their PhD theses.  The PhD thesis will require a thesis statement, which is a one-sentence assertion that defines the purpose of the document.  

There are also many specific sections that a student has to include in a PhD thesis when the student writes the work.  These sections include an introduction, abstract, methodology, acknowledgements, references, appendices, and body.  Many students spend a great deal of time working with professional writers to refine their PhD thesis structure and writing.  

Students will also have to defend their PhD theses in front of a panel of judges and professionals.  These experts may ask the student any inquiry they like regarding the work that he/she put into the PhD thesis, including questions about the research that may not be included.  

A PhD thesis isn't the same thing as a thesis statement.  A thesis is a long body of work that a student writes after performing research into a particular topic of significance.  A thesis statement is a one-sentence statement about the purpose of the written work.  Many people use the term "thesis" when they're referring to a thesis statement.  However, it's more exact to use the term "thesis statement" when referring to the statement and "thesis paper" when referring to the PhD thesis paper.

Writing a Doctoral Dissertation Correctly

A doctoral dissertation is an extensive, academic document that a student writes in order to obtain a doctorate degree.  Doctoral dissertations generally take months to research and write and often jumpstart a student's career in a particular field.  Therefore, doctoral dissertations are not only research papers, but they're vital to attaining of both a Ph.D. and a career.

When learners write doctoral dissertations, the reports are based on the specific field of study that a student has been pursuing as part of his/her Ph.D. program.  These doctoral dissertations must include an extensive amount of data collection.  In many cases, the research that students do for their doctoral dissertations is ground-breaking in their industries.

Many doctoral dissertations are copyrighted and published, making the work public and accessible to anyone at anytime.  Doctoral dissertations may also help to create a name for a particular student in a particular field.  Therefore, learners should dedicate a significant amount of time to their doctoral dissertations in order to ensure that they have the best outcomes and advantages.

There is a specific format that students should follow when creating their doctoral dissertations.  Many institutions have their own guidelines for the reports, as well.  In general, it should begin with an introduction in which the learner will outline information that he/she will include.  The student will provide background information into the subject of the report and define key terms and concepts in the introduction.

The introduction should be followed by methodology, in which students should state the steps that they will take as they approach research, including the theoretical steps to the research.  The student may also list any variables and other conditions that are related to the research.

The body of the doctoral report should include specific information about the research.  Students may wish to comment on this information either in the body of the research or in the footnotes of the research, depending on their preferences and writing style.  The body of the document often takes up several dozen pages, but can be longer.

Finally, it should have a conclusion and discussion, in which the student talks about the research, variables, surprises, and changes that he/she would have made.  The student may also make suggestions to future researchers on the subject.  The student should also include any tables, references, and other appendices at the end of the document Most students also have an acknowledgements page so they can thank those professors and individuals that helped them with the research.

A doctoral dissertation is similar to a graduate reference project.  Both papers are the culminating projects for a student's academic programs and require a significant amount of data collection.  However, a doctoral dissertation usually leads to a career and stays on an individual's professional record.  A graduate dissertation may stay on a record if it's truly ground-breaking, but it usually is a lesser work than a doctoral reference project.

"Doctorial" Thesis

Students in PhD programs (or doctoral programs) will have to complete a doctorial thesis in order to graduate from the program.  Doctorial theses are not only the final academic papers that students may need to write, but they also often jump-start a student's career and can provide new research for a particular industry.  

A doctorial (alternatively spelled "doctoral") thesis often takes many months or years to complete.  In order to perform research for a doctorial thesis, students not only need to complete their research, but they may also need to perform experiments, conduct interviews, write the thesis, and even defend the thesis.  Therefore, doctorial theses are huge undertakings.  

Because of the nature and size of a doctorial thesis, students need to be very organized and follow a plan for completing the thesis.  One of the best ways to begin is to sit down with the thesis advisor to discuss options for the topic and direction.  Once the student decides on the right topic for the thesis, he/she should consider his/her methodology and plan for research.  

The research for a doctorial thesis will often depend on the type of assignment that the student is writing.  For example, a student completing a doctorial thesis for a biology PhD may perform different types of research than a student completing a doctorial thesis for a psychology Ph.D.  Therefore, learners should investigate different methods whenever possible.  

As the student performs his/her research, he/she needs to set aside time to take notes and really think about the research.  This is where students often come across ground-breaking discoveries, so they should be dedicated to the research and discovery process.  Only after the student has completed his/her research and developed a conclusion should he/she move past the research stage.  

After the research, learners should first outline the doctorial thesis and then write the first draft.  Most students work on many revisions to their doctorial theses and often use other readers for feedback.  After the student completes the doctorial thesis, he/she will defend it in front of a panel of judged who will determine whether or not the learner will earn a Ph.D.  

Doctorial thesis papers are very different than any other type of reference project.  They are not only larger and require more time, but they're also often more significant to a student's professional career and reputation than any other type of reference project.

"Ph D" Thesis

Students who are in Ph D programs need to write Ph D theses in order to graduate from the program with a Ph D degree.  A Ph D thesis is also called a dissertation, which is a very long project that's usually published in national databases.  These documents also help to jumpstart the careers of many students.

In order to complete an effective and convincing Ph D thesis, students need to decide on a subject that interests them.  In most cases, the Ph D thesis subject will need to be directly related to the subject that the student has been studying.  The topic may also need to be approved by an advisor before students get approval to write the thesis.  

Once a student has a topic in mind for the thesis, he/she may begin his/her research.  Research for Ph D theses generally takes several months and can be very intense.  Some students are required to travel and conduct interviews or experiments in order to perform a suitable amount and scopre of research for their theses.  

As students perform research for their Ph D theses, they need to be sure to keep detailed notes about their findings.  These notes can then help to make writing the actual thesis easy and organized.  

Once students have completed their Ph D thesis research, they can begin with an outline.  This outline is generally quite long, as the thesis itself should be very long.  However, the outline can provide content and flow that will make the thesis effective and compelling.

Students may want to present their outlines and plans to their advisors before they begin writing their Ph D theses.  Advisors may have suggestions for improving the thesis or the content.  

After the student is satisfied with his/her Ph D thesis outline, he/she can begin to draft the thesis.  Theses usually take several drafts to complete.  Therefore, learners should allot enough time to complete them adequately well and have them proofed and edited.  

There is a difference between a Ph D thesis and a research paper.  A thesis is generally one of the most important papers in a student's career.  Most students will only complete only one Ph D thesis.  However, the same students will almost certainly write many different research papers.

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