What Is a Dissertation

A dissertation is a special, strictly defined form of scientific work that has a scientifically qualified character, and is prepared for public defense and for getting a degree. Officially, the following requirements are made for a dissertation:

  1. Scientific research is conducted personally by the author.
  2. The dissertation contains a set of new scientific results and regulations.
  3. The dissertation has internal unity.
  4. The dissertation demonstrates the personal contribution of the applicant to the development of a scientific problem.
  5. The new solutions proposed by the author are clearly outlined, reasoned, and critically correlated with previously known scientific developments.
  6. Information sources are indicated in the new author’s decisions, showing information gathered from them.
  7. The results of the dissertation research are submitted by the applicant for public defense.

A dissertation is a special scientific work that has nothing to do with a lecture, a propaganda report, a report of an official or public figure, an informational message, or a popular science book. A dissertation should be a truly scientific work, developing and enriching science in a particular branch of knowledge, and is a personal contribution of a scientist to science. Therefore, the author of a dissertation must control himself or herself in order not to get lost in the “non-dissertation” genre. Each type of work is vital, but in a certain area.

A dissertation is one of the most common types of scientific work. At the same time, this is a scientific work of a strictly defined genre, which, like any scientific or literary genre, has its own characteristics, rules, and requirements. As a scientific work, a dissertation should be logical, integral. The author must control himself or herself in order not to stray into another genre.

A dissertation is the work of one person, and is his or her personal contribution to science. A dissertation should be a scientific and qualified work, giving the scientific industry and science in general a certain increment of knowledge.

This increment of knowledge may have a different form – the discovery of new things, the creation of a theoretical model, a significant improvement in existing knowledge, a refutation of existing conclusions, etc. In any case, a dissertation contains a set of new scientific results that are submitted to the defense in front of highly qualified specialists. These new scientific decisions should be deeply reasoned and critically evaluated based on a comparison with well-known scientific decisions. At the same time, the author should take into account the fact that new scientific results and previously accumulated scientific knowledge are in dialectical interaction, and that scientific research should provide scientific prediction.

While writing a dissertation, you should keep in mind that in science there can not only be new results, as science cannot reject and fail to take into account what has been created earlier. Only the totality of previous works and wholly new works opens the possibility of scientific progression. The most outstanding discoveries are based on the existing scientific foundation.

For example, in the studies of a difficult period of US history – the 1920s-1930s – all results can not be new. Of course, when writing a regular dissertation on this period, one cannot ignore the results of the research of predecessors. Therefore, it should be frankly said that in the new dissertation, particular results are not new. If the dissertation council assesses the dissertation as worthy of awarding the author with a scientific degree, then they are convinced that the applicant, starting from earlier conclusions, offered his or her own new conclusions which deserve high marks and an award.

How to Write a Dissertation

The first impulse of any student is to write such a dissertation where many things would be said. If a student is interested in literature, his or her first impulse is to write a paper called “Literature of a New Time.” If a student can not narrow down a topic, at least he or she agrees to the topic of “literature of Italy of the post-war period.”

Such an approach is destructive. These broad topics frighten even scientists. For a twenty-year-old student such a feat is unreal. The young student will either create a banal list of names and add a selection of everyday quotes, or give something innovative and will be branded for gaps in research.

Graduates are always offended by a commission which did not understand anything, but the trouble is that the commission could not understand anything. This is why it is highly desirable for students to take something much more precise and narrow than the broad topic of “literature of Italy of the post-war period.” Such are the following themes: “literary avant-garde in Italy in the first half of the sixties,” or “similarities and differences in fiction by Alberto Savinio, Dino Buzzati, and Tommaso Landolfi.”

This is how the review topic can be limited and acquire a normal and quite acceptable size. Remember the basic rule: the more specific the topic, the better it works and the more success it will achieve. Should the topic be historical or theoretical? This choice is not relevant to every discipline. For example, a dissertation in the history of mathematics, in the history of Romance languages, or in the history of German literature can only be historical. And in such specialties as composition in architecture, nuclear reactor physics, or comparative anatomy, theoretical or experimental papers are usually defended. But there are specialties, like theoretical philosophy, sociology, cultural anthropology, aesthetics, philosophy of law, pedagogy, and international law, where papers of both theoretical and historical content are possible.

Should you choose a topic based on classic or modern material? For many disciplines, this question does not arise at all. Remember that a modern subject is always more difficult than a classic one. Of course, an old author’s work is read more slowly, and the bibliography on it will be longer. But it has already been selected by someone, so you can use ready-made lists of works.

Of course, we should not generalize too much, and it is possible that a talented novice scientist will be able to conduct a historical or stylistic analysis of modern literature with the same depth and philological accuracy as if he or she worked on a classic analysis. You will work on your dissertation at least half a year, and you should choose a topic that will be most interesting so that you will not give up in the middle of work.

You need to:

– Choose an extremely narrow topic.
– Choose a topic close to the present time, so as not to recite an old bibliography, or should it be so rare a topic that almost nothing is written on it.
– Make sure that the material on the topic is available in the place where you live, and without much effort.

First of all, you should start from collecting material. Never forget to distinguish sources and critical literature. Keep in mind: quite often in the studies there are excerpts from sources, but for you these are already secondary sources. The fact is that with the hasty and random selection of material, you can be close to mixing sources and critical literature.

It is essential to immediately identify the true subject of the study, because it is only on this basis the conclusion is made: the primary sources are available or unavailable to you. Having clarified the picture of the sources, determine also how to deal with critical literature. You will have to read everything on a given subject, that is, everything essential that exists.

When working with books, the primary source is considered to be the original publication or academic publication of the text. An anthology is not the original source. This is a mix of sources, suitable as a first approximation. However, to write a dissertation about anything means trying to find something new that others did not see, and an anthology is only what others saw.

Retellings made by other authors, even with long quotes, are not sources. At best, they can be used as secondary sources. There are many types of secondary sources. However, within the boundaries determined by the subject of the study, sources should be only primary. What is forbidden in the most absolute way is to quote the main author using the text cited by others. In general, in a serious work, nothing is quoted from citations.

When quoting from second hand, it is best to check the quotation also from another source and look carefully if the quotation, or fact, or retelling of someone’s judgment coincides with the second text in which it is also quoted. If it does not coincide, then you should doubt it and decide for yourself whether this quotation should be avoided or whether you will still have to go directly into the original document.

The main part of your dissertation is definitely the introduction. Often readers do not read further. This is bad, but it is the truth. Even if a person reads a dissertation to the end, his idea of work is formed in the introduction. An introduction can range from a fifth to a quarter of your work. In any case, it should occupy at least 15%. What should it contain?

1. First of all, this is the justification of the topic: why write about it at all? What is interesting here, and why does the topic deserve attention? This is where the research question is formulated. Your task is to explain why this issue is important to deal with.

2. Then the question arises: what is already known about this? What answers were given to it? Which parts of this question have other people tried to answer? You must present a basic position: this question is illuminated by such and such authors. It is not necessary to state their positions fully. You retell only that which relates specifically to your research question – do not retell the whole study.

Some topics are very well studied. In this case, you will select multiple sources. If the topic is poorly studied, then it is advisable to cover everything. And then, having seen what has already been done, you understand what you have to do.

3. And the third mandatory part of your introduction is an explanation of the structure of your work: how you break your main research question into smaller ones.

The rest is up to you.

The main text of a dissertation usually consists of three parts: analytical, theoretical, and practical ones, which can be formed in 2-4 chapters. In the analytical part, a review of literary sources and research papers on the topic of the dissertation and their critical analysis is carried out, the range of insufficiently elaborated issues is determined, and research methods and their applicability to the solution of the set tasks are analyzed. The analytical part ends with conclusions about the need for further study of a particular issue.

In the theoretical section, the applicant presents a description of his or her development and methods of their implementation, and presents the course of the study. In the practical part, the results of the calculations are presented, the experiments are performed in accordance with the author’s developments, and the analysis is presented.

In the conclusion, the results are usually listed. It is not necessary to waste time on trifles. If thirty small results are obtained, do not write about all thirty; write about three, but write deeply, about what you actually could achieve. You will demonstrate a good style if you write about unsolved problems in the conclusion. This shows the author’s culture.

Structure of a Dissertation

A classical dissertation usually has the following structure:

  1. Title page
  2. Table of contents (content)
  3. Introduction
  4. Main chapters
  5. Conclusion
  6. List of references
  7. Applications

In the introduction (10-15 pages) the author should formulate the urgency of the problem, reflect the degree of scientific elaboration of the problem being studied, review scientific sources on the research topic, and consider the current state of the chosen scientific direction which has already been done by other authors. The author should indicate that the question is still unclear and therefore requires further investigation in the context of the dissertation.

The logical conclusion of the review should be the definition of the goal, the object and subject of research, and the formulation of a working hypothesis (which was supposed to be obtained as a result of the study). Further, the research methodology is formulated and the source base is determined, with the help of which the main statements to be defended will be justified. In a number of dissertation councils, scientific novelty, as a result of research, as well as approbation of research results, the practical and theoretical significance of a dissertation are reflected in the author’s abstract.

The main takeaway: the title of the dissertation chapters should reflect the content of the object of study and reveal the essence of the object of study! Ideally, one task should be presented in one subsection of the chapter. The number of chapters is determined on the basis of the logic of a dissertation.

Dissertation Chapters

Dissertation Topics

The choice of the topic of the dissertation research is important. The correct approach to the definition of the topic affects largely the effectiveness of the entire work of the author. When choosing a topic, its relevance, the novelty of the formulation of a scientific problem, and the needs of practice are taken into account. For example, let’s say you study law. In this case, you can choose one of the following dissertation topics:

If you study other disciplines, check out the following dissertation ideas:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *