Doctoral dissertation writing distinguishes scholars both academically and career-wise. Becoming a doctoral candidate is an extension of earlier student life, and the best way to crown your education. There are aspects of graduate school that are not so different from the undergraduate course work. Example is the class tests and reading assignments. The doctoral dissertation writing brings about a distinction between the two academic levels. Dissertation writing transforms one from a student to a scholar.
Dissertation writing is distinct from what a learner has done previously mainly because it is a self-directed process. The student is no longer subjected to weekly deadlines, there is no one to instruct them on what to do, and this independence is the reason that this process becomes very intimidating to many graduate students. The process of doctoral dissertation writing can be a stressful experience for an individual that is ill-prepared psychologically about taking on this journey. They might find themselves questioning their commitment to academia.
What to do When You Start Doubting Your Commitment to Doctoral Dissertation Writing
Do some soul-searching
It is the time to determine if attaining a Ph.D. means anything you or not. You might consider developing a list of the reasons that pursuing it is in the best of your interests and also the reasons you should not go any further with it. At the end of your soul-searching, ask yourself whether completing the graduate school will make you happy.
Just like many other life decisions, getting counseling will help you to make an informed decision. Apart from searching for the resources that can help you decide on this crucial matter, also seek the help of your trusted colleagues or an academic advisor that you have a good relationship with, who can offer advice. A student who is about to finish will also be beneficial in helping you get a clear perspective on the matter. You may also find the university counseling services helpful.
The Five Stages of Doctoral Dissertation Writing
If you resolve to go ahead in pursuant of a Ph.D., then you must be ready for dissertation writing. In Capella University, dissertation writing is viewed as a five-stage process that describes the stage one passes through during their graduate program that helps you to make progress on dissertation writing. These steps include;
- Project ideation- throughout the coursework, it is a time when the practices and theories pertinent to your area study are learned. The broad exposure gained at this level will assist you in thinking about the various topics of study you can base your research. It is also at this point when you will learn about research methodologies and research topics in readiness for the development of a project proposal.
- Project development-It is the stage for narrowing down all the research topics to find the one you want to base your research. It is at this juncture where you will develop a research plan for the idea you have selected. The research plan will include the theoretical basis of the research topic, the questions that the research will be trying to answer, the methodology, and data analysis. The detailed research plan consists of the content used in dissertation writing. The plan will then be presented to the faculty and await the approval to begin research.
- Project implementation. It is the stage where you present the dissertation topic to the Institute Review Board (IRB) to ensure you meet the standards for ethical research. Once you receive approval from IRB, the process of gathering data can commence. It is also at this stage where you will write the content for the remaining chapters.
- Project conclusion-It marks the end of the process of data collection and analysis of results. Also, the last two chapters of the dissertation are completed at this stage. It will include a summary of the findings and connect it to the research questions and theories introduced in the earlier chapters.
- University approval– It is the final step of the dissertation writing process where you will submit the project to the faculty for approval.
Finding the right topic for your dissertation can be challenging. Or you might have different topics in mind, but unsure about the best topic to select. While you may be expecting the topic selection process to be straight forward, this might not be the case. Below are some of the tips that will help you in finding the research topic.
- Ensure to find and read dissertations done on some of the related subjects before settling on a given topic. By doing this, you will expose yourself to various ideas on the topic and the different research styles. Although you will find your style when you get down to dissertation writing, first, having a diverse outlook is crucial.
- Ensure to chose a research topic on an area of study you have passion. It should be a topic that is of interest to you. Although it is essential to follow the lecturer’s advice, your choice goes. After all, you are on a journey to becoming an independent researcher. Also, this is a topic that you will be working on for at least 3-4years. Therefore it should not be something that bores you.
- You can also come up with a good topic by investigating some of the ideas you had when you were doing your masters. It will involve checking out some of your previous researches during your master studies.
- Instead of looking for just one perfect topic, you must consider several ideas. You should not dismiss even the craziest notions. You can start with one and then develop different variations of the topic. You can also generate several ideas by thinking of as many topics as possible. Even though you will discard the majority of the topics, they will help you to see the idea that you want to focus on.
- After settling on the topic, take some time before you start working to find out if it is the right topic for you. You should also confirm that no other researcher has handled such a topic. Take time to develop arguments that are the base of your research topic. Consider if you have access the resources and the information that you need to complete the research.
- Ensure to develop a precise topic. Most graduates go wrong by developing over-ambitious projects. The key is ensuring to turn the big topic into one research question to make your project less complicated.
- Through testing of the research topic, you might find that the research questions might change its form.
- Get advice from an expert before you start writing your dissertation. Seeking help is another way of testing your ideas. The entire process of dissertation writing requires that you maintain regular contact with your advisor so that you may succeed.
You will realize that by following the instructions above, it will become easier to begin the dissertations writing process. However, you should take note that there will be moments when you will feel like you have grown tired of the topic, you should realize that it is a common feeling, and it is not that you have a wrong topic.
Writing Your Doctoral Dissertation Writing
Now since you have settled on the topic, developed the ideas and research questions on your research topic, and you have done your research, then it is time to get down to start writing your dissertation. The process of dissertation writing can vary depending on the field of study.
- Sometimes, you already have the chapter drafts, and therefore, all you require to do is assemble what you have into a final dissertation. It is an approach that is common for students in the Arts and Humanities field, where research goes on in stages.
- In other cases, it is when one has spent much of the time collecting and analyzing data. In such instances, they will need to write their findings and conclusions. It is applicable in the science and technology fields where data collection and experiment designs are the key areas.
The length of your dissertation
Dissertations vary in length depending on the subject but are longer than the projects you wrote for your masters and undergraduate. Most universities set the upper limit of 70,000 words to 100,000 words. The majority write about 80,000 words.
The structure of your Doctoral Dissertation Writing
- Dissertation writing begins with an introduction. It includes the project’s objectives explaining the reason that the research topic is significant. The introduction might also contain a summary of the rest of the chapters.
- A literature review will come after the introduction. It is the section that consists of the literature available on the subject of study. It acknowledges how this existing literature shapes your research while at the same time emphasizing the uniqueness of your work.
- The chapters that follow will provide a summary of your research results and relate them to your thesis. These chapters might also include research methodology and data analysis. They might also include the development of your research argument in stages that draws on your research results or other sources.
- The final chapter is the conclusion. It brings together the elements of your thesis and outlines the evidence that confirms it. You will also include the description of the significance of the project and acknowledge the potential for your research applicability outside academia
After writing and reading through your work, you will present the dissertation to the supervisor for their feedback.
How to Increase your Chances of Getting an Approval from your Supervisor
Although your research topic is motivated by the desire to solve a particular problem, your primary goal after the dissertation writing process is getting a doctorate. The most important thing is getting your dissertation approved by the advisor for submission to the committee. Getting past the gatekeeper is the most challenging part because it calls for you to become an expert in the subject matter of your research. As you prepare to face your supervisor, there are questions that you may ask yourself that will enhance your readiness for that moment.
Questions to understand the supervisor’s expectations
- Is the supervisor expecting me to use a given writing style or approach in my research? A project might be highly empirical, theoretical, or devoted to the development of a particular method. It may also be in the first person, informal, or impersonal tone. Considering these variations, getting a supervisor’s early approval is imperative, rather than making assumptions on their preferred approach and writing style.
- Which section or chapter does the supervisor consider the most important? Some think the introduction is the most crucial section because it offers the first impression of the study. For others, it might be the literature review, methods section, or the discussion. Since the fate of your paper depends on the supervisor’s reaction, it is in your best interest to find out the part they consider the most important.
- How does the supervisor like the work cited? Some like many citations, others do not. Some get annoyed by too much citing of the work. It is crucial to get a feel of their preferences early before you get too far with dissertation writing.
- How long is my supervisor expecting my work to be? As mentioned earlier, the length varies with the subject. Usually, science dissertations are shorter than humanities. However, you should not assume. You can ask the supervisor directly or check from the database to review the work of the people that were your supervisor’s advisees to get an idea of the dissertation length they might prefer.
- How does my advisor want to be involved in the dissertation writing process? This question will answer whether they expect you to keep checking in regularly to seek their approval in almost every decision. Others prefer to check the work once you have a full draft. You are fortunate if the supervisor is highly involved because you will know their expectations every step of the way. If they are uninvolved, you should utilize the time you get to interact with them as strategically as possible by getting them to offer feedback on the essential elements of your research.
Question the supervisor might ask about your dissertation
- Does the order of the ideas make sense?
- Does the abstract of your dissertation provide a clear and accurate description of your research content?
- Does your style of writing align with the values of your discipline?
- Are your citations and references following the required style?
- Is the title of your dissertation a precise encapsulation of the central idea?
- Have you used the correct formatting for your document?
Reasons that Could Cause you Not To Finish Your Doctoratal Dissertation
- Having unrealistic expectations
When you underestimate how demanding the doctorate study is, you are likely to fail. While you may have smoothly gone through the undergraduate and masters, a doctorate is a different kind of program that will require lots of seriousness. It also requires lots of effort, and there will be lots of pressure like you have never experienced before.
- Undisciplined time management
It is no secret that a doctorate takes lots of time. Poor time management is the most common reason that graduate students fail to complete their Ph.D. Sometimes, it can prove challenging to achieve a balance between your busy life and school work. If you are not proactive, you might keep pushing your studies aside
- Lack of an effective support system
Sometimes studying for your doctorate can be frustrating. Success in this study is partly dependent on a person’s support system. They are the people you surround yourself with as you study. When you have the wrong support system, there will be other things competing for your attention other than schoolwork.
- Advisor issues
Incompatibility with the supervisor can cause you to fail. An advisor is a person you will be working with for an average of 5 years. Therefore you should pursue a working relationship that will result in your success. You must get an advisor who is working within the area you want to study, and also one with a good reputation for treating students fairly
- Lack of focus and organization
Graduate school can be overwhelming, and you can easily give up hope of catching up with the rest when you fall behind on the tasks. Being well organized can help you to get on track and finish your studies.
- Poor writing
Not all doctoral students are good in writing doctoral dissertation. You could be passionate about your area of study and articulate in conversations and debates, but it may not reflect in your writing. The problem can be a deal-breaker for you to continue with the doctorate because it calls for superior writing capabilities. However, it is possible to improve your writing through various methods.