What is a Dissertation?

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A dissertation is a scholarly paper of considerable length and breadth typically required of students pursuing a doctor of philosophy degree. Besides mastering doctoral coursework, Ph.D. students must write a dissertation to explore a topic of particular interest and gain expertise. The average dissertation is about 200 pages, according to “Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide.” Dissertations contribute to the body of knowledge in the student’s field by providing original research findings or insightful critique of previous studies. Students must defend their dissertation before a faculty examining committee.

Important Components of a Dissertation

  • The dissertation typically begins with identification of a question or problem examined in the Ph.D. student's research paper. Depending on the type of study, a dissertation might also include hypotheses to be tested. The dissertation then describes relevant theories and credible studies related to the topic. The methodology section explains statistical tests or other research techniques, such as focus groups or case studies, used by the Ph.D. student to gather and interpret data. The dissertation then presents research findings followed by conclusions and recommendations for further study.

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