Writing a Ph.D. thesis or dissertation takes time and energy. The process of conceptualizing, designing, developing, and the final presentation of the work requires students to devote their undivided attention to be able to complete the study on time, not to mention having to gain the approval of the examiners.
If you’re nearing the finish line of your doctorate and you’re currently at the initial stages of your dissertation, here are some helpful suggestions for writing your doctoral thesis.
Choosing A Topic
Choose a topic of interest that coincide with your program’s area of expertise or interest. In most cases, graduate students develop their studies around a specific question that their programs have emphasized and proceed to work with supervisors in the faculty who possess the technical knowledge and expertise in those areas. If you are given a free hand to determine your focus, you will be expected to explore diverse themes related to your discipline before zeroing in on a final direction.
Here are a few tips to consider during topic ideation:
- Identify “hot issues.” Bounce off ideas with your research supervisor and determine the key topics or pressing issues in your field. Widen your knowledge by reading up on the latest studies, published journals, academic case studies, annual reports, news articles, or data summaries around your topic.
- Journal your ideas. Write down your thoughts and discoveries so you can revisit, modify, or change them when needed. This will help you to focus your thoughts and keep track of ideas to develop and that may be important in improving your theme.
- Don’t seek a “perfect” topic. Some students might fall in the trap of overthinking their research topic. If you ever stall out, get in contact with your supervisor and get expert advice.
- Consult a faculty member. The Graduate School of the University of British Columbia suggests that researchers familiarize the specializations of individual faculty members in their graduate program. This helps you know if these members are the right fit for your research supervisory committee.
Developing Your Topic
As you develop your research topic, consider your career goals after earning your doctorate. A graduate student that’s worth their salt uses their dissertation to define the trajectory of their career path after university. Choose a topic that not only resonates with your interests and that of your program but also propels your career forward.
Consider the following questions when developing your topic: Can the question sustain your interest and enthusiasm? Are there solutions to the problem? Could these lead to other problems worth researching? Can it make an original contribution to the field? Can you deliver the promise of the research?
Drafting Your Research Proposal
Once you’re sure of your topic, the next step is to draft your research proposal. A proposal must detail the first few chapters and the core sections of the dissertation. It must include the following parts (in order):
- Statement of the Problem (also called Background Information)
- Review of Related Literature (RRL)
- Planned Research Method
Here are some additional helpful suggestions for focusing and writing your research proposal:
- Read proposals from other researchers. This will help you get a general idea of how a finished proposal should be. Ask for one exemplary paper from your field of study. Take note of:
- How the proposal was organized
- The types of headings used
- The level of clarity and specificity
- The author’s breadth of knowledge on the subject
- Write a quality Review of Literature. Don’t wait until the dissertation proper to prepare for this essential chapter. Your RRL should cover two arguments:
- Why your research is needed
- The essence of your methodology in answering the question raised
Allocate sufficient time to develop your arguments. The longer you work on your RRL, the more time you have to locate resources, and the better a literature review you can produce.
- Archive all relevant resource materials. Make sure to organize them according to sections, arrange them in sequential order, and copy all bibliographic citations. This will come in handy when you need to reference a specific piece for your bibliography.
- Zero in on one area. Put a laser focus on your topic. Devote enough time to create specific and definite arguments for your research.
- Decide on a proposal title. A carefully considered title helps your readers immediately understand your research at a glance. Steer clear of confusing or vague language, and put the essential words at the beginning of your title. It can be useful to include keywords that will aid other researchers to find your work.
The success of your proposal lies in the quality of your project and how well your presentation is on paper. If you need assistance writing your proposal, there are many proposal writers in Toronto who can guide you through the process.
Defining The Scope Of Your Research
To gain clarity and create a defined structure, narrow the scope of your research. Defining what you will and will not tackle should be discussed in your proposal. As you refine your scope, consider these points:
- Choose your methodology judiciously. Your methodology is one of the vital elements that will set the structure of your research. Consider methods used in your field and single out processes that your program and supervisory committee support. Your research supervisor will discuss some methodological questions with you as you develop your proposal.
- Choose a qualified and supportive supervisory committee. The committee you will work with will play a significant role in the success of your research. Select committee members that are not only experts in the field, but are willing to work with you towards your goal. They should be a source of guidance and encouragement for your labours. Be as open and objective as possible when receiving criticism from your committee.
- Meet with your committee as often as needed. It is during these meetings that you can thoroughly discuss your proposal and set goals and procedures.
Writing Your Dissertation
Writing is a vital skill that you need to hone early in the process. Use your proposal as your guide. Write in a way that reflects what you said you would accomplish in your methodology. Do the same for the Statement of the Problem and your RRL.
Write clearly; avoid ambiguity. Have a list of keywords that are important to your research and use them throughout your dissertation. Don’t alternate between words or phrases when you’re referring to only one thing. This will help keep your meaning clear to your readers.
You don’t have to write your paper in sequence (i.e. from the first chapter to the end); in fact, it is usually best to not write the introduction until the paper is completed. Start with the parts you’re most comfortable with, and work from there. During revisions, you can rearrange sections to best support your arguments and present your evidence.
Here are a few more tips for writing your dissertation:
- Plan a dissertation structure carefully with your supervisor.
- Create rough drafts as you go, and refine them as your topic becomes more focused.
- Create a filing system to easily track relevant results as you write each chapter.
- Use a reference manager to keep track of your references and notes.
- Back up your work. Make a digital backup of all the key parts of manual records, logbooks, or diaries you’ve used.
Writing a dissertation can be challenging as you work toward completion. However, with the right guidance and effort, you can complete this undertaking and earn that doctorate you’ve worked hard for.
If you need help in writing your dissertation, you can also get a professional writing service to make the process easier. Masters Essay is here to be your partners in this endeavour. We offer comprehensive dissertation/thesis services for advanced level students in the GTA. Contact us to get started with your project.