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How to Start a Dissertation Research Project
August 15, 2016 - Posted toWriting Tips
As a doctorate student, there is no doubt that you often dream of the time to come where you have already published your first academic article. You know your degree is important for a brighter future and you know you are almost there. You are done with coursework and are left only with a dissertation to write. While it sounds pretty easy to some, you know all too well that it is not.
A dissertation is a lengthy and formal document where a doctorate student or a graduate student defends a particular thesis as a final requirement to finish the degree. Because this can either make or break your future, it may be wise to read through some tips and blogs to help you with dissertation writing.
- To start, make sure to plan ahead to succeed and actually finish the dissertation. This means that you should not cram it only during your last year. Think about what you should write in the earlier years of the course, so when the time finally comes when you actually have to write it down, you already have the right state of mind to face the challenges ahead. Before proceeding, make a timeline of all the things you need to do to craft your paper and follow this judiciously, so you are sure to finish it before the deadline. Do not aim to just beat the deadline because that defeats the purpose of planning ahead.
- Now that you are mentally and emotionally ready for your dissertation writing, start to think of a topic to write. Of course, it would have to be related to the course you are studying. You can discuss this with your professor or your assigned instructor to give you ideas on what would be the best topic to elect. While you are limited to the topics you can choose from, you can always make it your own and of interest so writing your dissertation will not end up being too laborious for you. It can be fun, if you put your heart and mind to it.
- You can also talk to other students so you can solicit ideas from them as well. These are people who have practically gone through the same learning experience with you for years, so they should be quite helpful.
- Review your syllabi and modules from your classes and see if you can also draw some ideas from it. It should provide you with some theories and context, and ultimately make it easier and faster for you to jumpstart the dissertation.
- Formulate a hypothesis – a proposition explaining a phenomenon. A good topic for discussion should be able to be addressed in an academic manner within the time constraints imposed by your professor or the school. It should not be too broad, and should be feasible considering the time and resources available. Think of the method you are going to use to work on your dissertation, and the theories you are going to apply in it.
- Follow it by collecting pieces of evidence to support or deny this hypothesis. The collection and organization of these pieces of evidence into one coherent form can be really challenging, so set your mind up for it. Gathering of evidence should not be as hard as it was before anymore what with the existence of the Web. Although, a good old visit to the library might give you valuable material and insight, too.
- Keep reading. You will find new references and information along the way when you do lots of reading. Of course, these have to be related to your topic, recent studies published as books or journal articles, and other primary literature sources.
- You are probably comfortable using your laptop as your main working tool but it can be useful to keep a notebook with you to write down notes. Ideas can pop up anytime and anywhere. Mobiles phones can function as a notebook, too. So whatever is more convenient and comfortable for you should be okay.
- Keep records of all your readings and references as you progress as you would need all these in your bibliography and citations. File it in an organized manner by labeling everything completely so you do not forget by the time you actually write it down on your dissertation.
- Using critical thinking, start analyzing these facts or pieces of evidence that you have gathered to enable you to either support or deny your hypothesis. Do not forget to cite all references and sources that you are going to include in your draft. You would not want to plagiarize any material, so make it original. If it is necessary to copy it word by word, make sure to quote and cite it accordingly. Ensure that you know which referencing system is required by the course and get into the habit of using it.
- Remember that dissertation writing is not as simple as confirming or denying the results or analyses of these references and sources. You must use these results or analyses as yet another fact or evidence that you would have to further analyze. As said, it is a lengthy and arduous process.
- Because professors expect nothing less than the highest standards possible for their doctorate students or graduate students, you will have to ensure that your dissertation is well-researched and well-written. That is, it must be complete and grammatically correct – substantively and procedurally.
- Do not just edit it once. You would have to edit your paper several times to be as accurate and consistent as possible. As you go along, you will probably realize that you made a few mistakes – either substantively or procedurally – so it is good to review and recap as many times as possible. Ask your friends to read it for you. An outsider’s point of view can be quite useful. In fact, it is easier for them to point out mistakes because they are detached from the paper and are generally unbiased.