What is a Dissertation and How to Write it Fast

A dissertation is a lengthy written treatise that doctoral candidates must complete to earn their Ph.D. or other terminal degrees. Dissertations are complex research projects requiring extensive study in a student’s field of expertise. They are a critical demonstration of a student’s knowledge and ability to conduct independent research.  

Dissertations are demanding undertakings, often taking 1-2 years to complete. However, with careful planning and efficient writing strategies, it’s possible to produce quality dissertations on aggressive timelines. This article outlines key techniques for fast and effective dissertation writing.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is the culmination of a student’s doctoral program. It is an original, substantial research project conducted independently by the student under the guidance of faculty supervisors. Dissertations contribute new insights, theories, or data to existing academic knowledge in the field.  

Most dissertations are book-length manuscripts ranging from 100-500 pages. They consist of several key parts, including an introduction, comprehensive literature review, description of the research methodology used, presentation of findings from primary research, and conclusions that emphasize the significance of the research.

Choosing a Dissertation Topic

Choosing an engaging, focused, and appropriately scoped dissertation topic is vital for completing research swiftly. Narrow down interests into a defined research question that can be thoroughly investigated within the program’s timeframe. Having a topic that truly motivates focused study also helps sustain momentum.

Run potential topics by advisors to get input on feasibility, accessibility of research sources, and positioning within the existing literature. Advisors can highlight potential challenges with certain topics given program deadlines.

Conducting a Literature Review

An exhaustive literature review surveying existing academic contributions frames the original research. Effective literature reviews analyze current scholarly consensus, gaps calling for further investigation, open research questions, and theories that will underpin dissertation research.  

Use reference management software like EndNote to efficiently organize sources. Systematically assess materials rather than trying to absorb everything simultaneously. Take notes on key themes, debates, and avenues for future exploration. Discuss findings with advisors to determine if adequate academic context has been established before proceeding with primary research.

Research Methodology

The dissertation methodology explains the systematic procedures used to gather, process, and analyze data that addresses the core research aims. Common dissertation methods include surveys, interviews, observational field studies, and lab experiments.

Determine an approach most appropriate for investigating the research question. Ensure adequate resources are available to fully implement the methodology. Trying to take on too ambitious empirical work generally leads to delays, so scale efforts appropriately to enable timely completion.

Writing the Dissertation

It’s never too early to begin writing, even while research is underway. Take detailed notes on all sources during the literature review, clearly documenting critical insights and relevant quotes for inclusion. 

Set a realistic but aggressive chapter completion schedule. Rather than trying to perfect each chapter before advancing, initially focus on getting ideas on paper to make forward progress. Editing and refinement comes later. 

Learn and use reference management software to quickly insert citations while writing, saving painstaking manual footnote/bibliography formatting for afterward.

Managing Your Time

Adhering to a consistent, organized work schedule enables sticking to deadlines. Establish explicit daily/weekly writing goals tailored to the completion timeline. Factor in extra buffer time for the inevitable research delays.  

Avoid overcommitting schedules with other projects that distract focus. Disconnect from email and social media to avoid time-wasting rabbit holes. Stay energized with sufficient rest, healthy foods, and occasional breaks for fresh air/exercise.

Getting Help from Your Advisor

Regularly meet with your dissertation advisor(s) for guidance at each stage. Review completed sections to spot any gaps in analysis or logic. Ask targeted questions if struggling with research obstacles or how to best structure complex ideas. 

Listen carefully to advisor suggestions around strengthening arguments, providing additional evidence where needed, or refining writing clarity. Be ready to diligently act on feedback knowing their expert input will elevate the dissertation.

Editing and Revising

Meticulous editing and proofreading is imperative after completing dissertation drafts. Thoroughly review full drafts rather than only scrutinizing sections in isolation. Ensure writing flows logically, with transitions connecting central arguments. 

Double check that citations and formatting conform to style guidelines, correcting any inconsistencies. Refine text to eliminate unnecessary verbiage, strengthen word choice, and vary sentence structure to enhance engagement.

Preparing for the Dissertation Defense

Oral dissertation defenses review and critique the entirety of the research before a faculty panel. Expect rigorous questioning about conceptual framing, scientific assumptions, methodologies, results interpretation, and conclusions. 

Carefully rehearse defense presentations focusing on key points rather than minute details. Prepare to address common concerns preemptively. Request mock defenses with advisors playing devil’s advocate to hone arguments and highlight potential vulnerabilities for improvement pre-defense.  

With dedication and efficient execution of the stages outlined above, it is possible to progress rapidly from topic selection through final dissertation submission. Take advantage of all available resources and feedback along the way. Maintain focus and don’t allow minor stumbles to inhibit momentum. Investing maximum effort and completing a quality dissertation faster than imagined can become a reality.