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What is a Dissertation?

17 Aug 2018Writing Tips

The dissertation might be the most difficult obstacle in pursuit of a graduate degree. It requires significant time, patience, research, and analysis, all of which must represent an original contribution to your field of study. This document is usually called a dissertation when used for a doctoral degree, while master’s degree programs usually use the term “thesis.”

Basic Definition

At its core, a dissertation is a formal essay. You’ve probably written hundreds of those during your academic career, but don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet! While a dissertation is technically an essay, it’s different from any of the others you’ve written before.

For one thing, it’s longer. Some institutions impose minimum lengths on dissertations, such as 100 pages. Others offer no length guidelines but stress that the finished product must adequately answer the questions posed in the document’s thesis.

A dissertation also requires more research than the average essay. In some fields, students must conduct their own original research, while in others it is acceptable to use existing data.


Think of the dissertation as a student’s transition from amateur to professional. It demonstrates the writer’s grasp of his or her field as well as his or her ability to analyze and interpret information. Since the dissertation must contain original research and findings, it can also become a valuable contribution to the student’s field.


It takes several months (sometimes even several years) to write a dissertation. The specific components vary from one university to the next, but most dissertations include the following sections:

Abstract: This section usually contains 250-400 words, and summarizes the contents of the dissertation.
Introduction: As the first chapter of the dissertation, an introduction explains the problem confronted by the essay as well as the methods used to research or prove the thesis.
Review: In the second chapter, the student mentions previously completed research and explains its impact on this specific thesis.
Methodology: In this section, the student explains the methods used to conduct research or studies on the problem at hand.
Results: Next, the student outlines his or her findings based on the methodology described in the previous chapter.
References: The final chapter lists the works cited in the thesis itself.
Some dissertations include other components, such as appendices and discussions. It all depends on the field and the requirements of the university.

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