Doctoral Dissertation: Essential Guide

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Essential Guide for a Doctoral Dissertation

There are two main types of doctoral level degrees. Some are PhD degree programs. Others are professional doctorate degree programs. Both could offer opportunities and benefits. They are also both the highest level of education in the graduate degree path. Both may encourage students to focus on critical and creative thinking. And, in many cases, both programs may require intensive and independent research as a component to obtaining the degree.

A PhD candidate typically presents their findings from that research in a dissertation. Those who are working as a professional doctorate candidate, by contrast, often present their research findings in a doctoral study. Those who complete this educational path and obtain the skills taught are likely to become experts in their field.

By definition, a dissertation is a written document. It provides a summary of the research completed. It is the culmination of the student’s studies at the doctoral level.


What Is the Difference Between a Thesis and Dissertation?

Another important comparison is a thesis and a dissertation. When completing a graduate degree program, it is likely that a student completes a major research project. This may be turned into a paper as the dissertation model. A thesis is a common type of paper written in a master’s program. It is somewhat common to confuse these two documents.

A dissertation is often a component of a doctoral or PhD program. This document is usually a culmination of what you learn. It is often a lengthy document. It typically includes original research or, in some cases, may include expanded research on an existing topic.

A thesis is a scholarly written document. It is typically for those working on completing their master’s degree. It also may allow students to showcase their knowledge and insights into the field.

What is the difference between the two beyond when they are used? Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Often, a thesis is about 100 pages. A dissertation is usually as much as three times that amount.
  • A thesis typically expands on or analyzes research that is already done. A dissertation is typically content that is attributed to the student – research you’ve conducted.
  • Both the dissertation and thesis may be presented as a component of the course, but not always. A dissertation oral presentation may take several hours to provide. Often, a thesis takes just an hour or less.

Understanding these factors is important for those completing a dissertation and thesis. Often, students complete both, one as a component of their master’s degree and another as a component of their PhD.

What Is the Main Point of a Dissertation?

A dissertation’s main objective is often to present the findings from the research conducted by the student as a component of their graduate education. It may be a response to a question asked or a position the student takes themselves and then works to prove through their research. The project helps to test the independent research skills of the student. It may also help to gauge what they learned as a component of the work they did at the university.

What Is the Structure of a Dissertation?

Often, a dissertation is broken into chapters. This is usually around 4 to 6 chapters overall. Here is a commonly used structure for a dissertation. Keep in mind this may change from one program to the next, though.

  • Introduction: This section typically includes basic terminology used in the document. It may provide citations to the appropriate background work used and then discusses the related work that is present in the field that may relate to the covered aspects of the problem that the dissertation focuses on.
  • Abstract model: This second component typically discusses what the research is trying to accomplish or prove through their research. This chapter does not break down the specifics, though. That comes later. It often provides an overview of the topic itself and may touch on its importance.
  • Validation of Model/Proof of Theorems: In this chapter, the proof of the model is presented. This could include a set of proofs or it may discuss the construction and the validation of a model. In some situations, it may include a simulation of what was done to gather the necessary supporting data.
  • Measurements and Data: The next chapter of the dissertation focuses on the presentation of data that’s been collected and the forms of them. This data is typically collected from real use as well as from simulations and other sources. The presentation of this data may include an analysis that provides support for the student’s thesis or goal of the research.
  • Additional Results: In this section, students may break down any additional or secondary confirmation studies provided. In some situations, additional important and valuable results are often collected along the way that help to prove the thesis. This information is often presented in this chapter.
  • Conclusions and Future Work: This final chapter usually outlines the results in a tied together, organized manner. It aims to help provide the presentation of the information. This chapter also typically includes restrictions, limitations, and special cases as they relate to the thesis. This may include anything else about the stated results that may be important. It may also include some extensions to future work on the thesis.

Citation Methods of a Dissertation

Each college or university may specify the type of citation methods they expect students to complete. Proper citation is often critical to dissertations as it helps to provide authority to the content provided. Yet, not all schools require the same methods to be used.

Common citation methods include MLA, APA, Chicago, ACS, and Turabian. Once you know what method is being used, follow that manual or guidebook for properly siting all citations in the content of the dissertation as it applies.

What Type of References Are Needed in a Doctorate Dissertation?

This is another area in which the school’s rules and requirements may need to be applied to the dissertation as it can differ from one to the other. Proper documentation, which is what citations should focus on, should reference all original literature that is related to the research the student completes and is presenting through their document. Often, this is submitted as a final document at the end of the paper, but it may be referenced in the above sections as well.

Which Graduate Programs Require a Doctoral Dissertation?

Many doctoral programs require a dissertation. Some do not. That is true for nearly all industries. Each program within each university determines if a dissertation is applicable and then sets the rules for it. That means that when applying to a college or university’s PhD program, it may be critical for you to consider the needs for completing a dissertation based on the objectives of the program.

Graduate programs differ widely in this requirement for many reasons. For example, many PhD programs may require students to work on ongoing research projects or studies to help prove something is true or inaccurate. The student may need to complete the research and then complete a dissertation in order to obtain that graduate degree. This may take years to complete.

It may also be important to know that not all programs require a doctorate dissertation. For a student who may not want to complete a dissertation, seeking out an educational track that does not require one may be important. That is an option though some, but not all, educational programs.

A Dissertation Is a Component of Education at the Highest Level

For students who are working on completing a doctoral degree, a dissertation may be one of the important components of that final educational path. It is a long-term project, one that may take years to complete after completing a wide range of research and course work. Yet, each program is very different from the next, making it essential to do some research on available programs and requirements before moving forward.

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