How to Write a Dissertation: Guide With 10 Crucial Steps

posted by Laura Callisen 06 Aug 2021
Table of contents:

Almost every student wonders how to write a dissertation because all of them face the need to do it at some point in their studies. The task is large and complicated, which can be unnerving, especially for those who are busy with work or other assignments. But our guide will dispel all your worries! After reading it, you’ll realize how simple dissertation writing could be as long as you understand what steps it involves, how to start and what is a dissertation abstract

What Our Dissertation Guide Is About

One day, we performed research into how many young people understand what writing dissertations consists of. We were astonished to learn that most of them have no idea about the dissertation structure! Sure, consulting with supervisors and reading uni guidelines could be helpful, but there is no guarantee it’ll be enough. Below, we’re going to outline 10 steps showing you how to do your writing task successfully. Just read about each and keep them in mind — you’ll see how many things finally start making sense to you.

Step 1: What Is a Dissertation Paper?

First, you should understand what dissertation is and what purpose it has. It is a long research project written at the end of university studies. It has around 5 large sections and requires months of diligent work. Students need to invest a lot of energy and effort into writing, going through heavy volumes of literature, exploring facts, performing their personal primary research, etc. All the while, they are fighting the feeling of stress — their degree depends on how well their project does once the committee evaluates it. They might start asking themselves, “Could someone write a dissertation for me?” It’s an important decision: some will choose to go with it, but others will try working on their own. We created our guide for this specific audience, although we encourage everyone to read it. The more you know, the easier it’ll be to understand what a quality dissertation looks like.

Step 2: Choose Unique Topic You Personally Find Fascinating

When you consult dissertation writers, they can come up with a topic in your stead — since they are writing it, your interest in the subject isn’t that relevant. But if you’re writing your dissertation by yourself, then thinking about the topic is vital. Remember that you’ll be working on this project for a very long time. It could be months or even a year, and if you choose something stale and boring, the whole process will turn into a nightmare.

Think about your interests. For example, if you’re majoring in Nursing, you’ll be writing a dissertation about it, too. What about this subject drew you in? What dissertation topics do you consider most interesting? Check inspirational titles online; discuss them with friends, relatives, or other students. Visit related forums and list options you consider intriguing for your writing; then develop questions and see if looking for answers sounds like something you’d like to do. Your success heavily depends on the level of interest you have in your topic

Step 3: Write a Dissertation Proposal

Now that you’ve chosen the best topic, it is time to get permission from your professors. Proposal is a relatively short document where students explain the goal of their work and make it sound as appealing as possible. They need to intrigue their university’s representatives, convincing them that this topic is worthy of being researched. Be sure you do the following things:

Underline the Uniqueness of the Topic

Professors would love to be monitoring and reading truly interesting, original research. Prove that you have some special perspectives on the topic. Explain what differentiates it from other works. No one expects you to come up with something completely new and unheard of — obviously, it’s not possible. Still, try to choose a unique position.

Explain Dissertation Plan

What exactly are you going to do? Give professors an idea. Be thorough yet concise at the same time. There is no need to overload everyone with details because trust us, no one is going to appreciate it. Just point out how you want to organize your writing and what you’ll be doing stepwise. Mention introduction, lit review, methodology, findings, discussion, and conclusion.

Indicate That You Have Support

What other kinds of research were done on your topics or its aspects? Choose several sources that’ll be most helpful and briefly describe them. Explain the reasoning for picking them, but again, don’t get into details. You’ll do it later, during literature review, if your topic is approved.

Maintain a Polite Yet Confident Tone

How to write dissertations on interesting topics? Show that you have complete confidence in yourself. Avoid all hesitant words and vague phrasings: be precise and self-assured. But don’t be cocky either! No one likes overconfidence. Keep your tone formal and respectful.

Step 4: Writing Introduction Chapter

It happened! Your request has been approved, now you are free to explore the topic you like. So, how to start a dissertation? Introduction is the first section. Its size shouldn’t exceed 10% of the content, so think everything through. Some students prefer crafting their introductions only after every other section is done. Armed with knowledge and findings, they shape starting paragraphs together with acknowledgement. It’s an honorary mention of people (or pets) who helped you through a long and troublesome writing period. No matter when you do your intro, though, include these things into it:


Explain what the topic is about in general terms. What sphere does it fall into? How did it come to be? Are there any relevant facts or discoveries readers should be aware of? It’s important to sound engaging in your writing and include interesting facts. The committee is going to read it either way, but the goal of each student should center on stimulating as much genuine interest as they can.

Scope and Limitations in the Existing Research

Start narrowing down the general scope to a specific theme. Explain what you want to focus on and mention the state of current research on this topic. Why did you think this is something worth exploring? What is missing to motivate you to study it?

Hypothesis and Research Questions

Now you should formulate the key question you’ll be researching. Be as specific and narrow as possible here. Your entire dissertation writing process depends on how well you do it. Treat hypotheses as to the goal of your project put into a single line. Ask central questions that you will be exploring: they should lead readers to the hypothesis gradually. This part is the foundation of the entire writing.

Significance of Your Project

Why is this topic important, and why should anyone care? Explain and justify your choices. Which population would benefit? What would these findings mean in a bigger context, and what’s so great about it? It’s similar to a proposal all over again, only this time, you’re convincing all the readers, not just a supervisor.

Step 5: How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review?

This is the section that everyone hates with passion. Many students frequently contact online writing services and ask, “Could you write my annotated bibliography?” They can pick good sources, but reading them fully and then describing them is a challenge. Literature review is even worse. But don’t be concerned, we’re about to explain what it should comprise and how to write it.

  • Read various sources related to your topic. Whether you’re writing a doctoral dissertation or working on a simpler level, you’re going to need top-quality sources. Start doing research. Access reliable platforms such as Google Scholar or your uni’s online library. Check journal articles with DOI, academic books, and other peer reviewed publications. Point out key words for selecting relevant material. Of course, you won’t be able to read all the stuff you find, but there are abstracts and summaries. Rely on them for drawing conclusions.  
  • Pick relevant ones. Which sources seem to be most fitting for your writing? Pick them and read them properly. When you’re sure you’ve made the right choice, move on to another source. Keep repeating this process until you have a sufficient variety of great resources that will help you make your dissertation strong and well-supported.
  • Make a synthesis. This is the part of dissertation process people hate most. They should break sources into groups based on their theme. For example, sources in support of some idea go into one group; sources that argue against it fall into another category. Highlight common and opposite points; combine sources logically and use them in your analysis. You’re exploring a topic solely from the point of other researchers at this stage, so build links but don’t provide your opinions beyond that.
  • Underline current research gap. After writing paragraph after paragraph exploring sources, mention what they all failed to address. You already had to address this in the introduction, but now you should supply details. Note that it could also be done during review itself — this is up to you. Make it evident why you decided to start your research by pointing out the missing knowledge about your chosen area.

Step 6: Build Methodology and Conduct Research

This step has two parts at once. How to write your dissertation in a strong way? Design a great methodology! How will you perform your research? There are three major methods: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed. Let’s briefly address them.

  • Qualitative research means showing initiative and generating your own data. This could be done through organizing interviews, analyzing raw video or audio recordings, reading someone’s diaries, etc. Let’s use PhD dissertation example: a student majoring in forensics is investigating one of the cold cases. They contact people and ask them for an interview (online or physical), read investigative files, make their own conclusions about them, review evidence, etc. This kind of work would be qualitative.
  • Quantitative research is based on the already existing files. In it, students explore their topics by building their analysis on findings and research of other people/organizations. Statistics could be useful here — take graphs or numerical data collections and present your analysis in the writing.
  • Mixed method means a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. How to write a doctorate dissertation like this? Produce original research in addition to statistical analysis. Organize some interviews + rely on the already produced data. This will diversify your approach for sure.

First, describe what methodology you’ve selected and explain why. Why did you feel like it fits your project best? What exactly are you planning to do, which entities would you contact, and in what way? Be detailed and thorough. If you found a sample of 20 people in some hospital, and they agreed to reply to your questions, point it out. Remember that dissertations require a precise and direct approach. After that, you can step up to researching & analyzing. Make careful notes: you will mention them in the next section.

Step 7: Findings and Discussion: Answering Your Research Questions

This is one of the most important steps to writing a dissertation. In most cases, there are two separate chapters: one is titled “analysis,” another is titled “discussion.” But at times they are combined into one, so clarify this with your supervisor or do what you prefer. We’ll address both sections.

  • Findings section. The main rule is, don’t discuss anything here. Your job is to describe the process of your analysis. Relying upon facts from the previous section, summarize your actions and results — report, don’t theorize. If we use dissertation examples with forensics student, they could write about what suspects they uncovered, underlying how it happened. They could also write the evidence point by point. Again, this should be a report, not discussion.
  • Discussion section. Here, students discuss what they found. They explain what numbers mean, which points are connected, etc. Going back to our case, a student would explain how evidence is linked together, why it points at this specific suspect, what it means for potential prosecution, why it wasn’t found before, and so on. Be sure to reply to research questions from introduction in this section: you must make it clear whether hypothesis was confirmed or refuted. If there were 4 main questions, there should be 4 answers — definitely not less.

Read also: How much do thesis writing services cost?

Step 8: Crafting Conclusion and Mentioning Implications and Limitations

Conclusion is a very controversial section. For most students, it’s clear how to do a dissertation now, and they don’t plan on bothering to get to know how to type some final words. The biggest part of the project is done, freedom is near, so they finish everything up quickly and don’t stop to think about the consequences. In reality, conclusion is vital. This is your chance to impress your audience even more by reminding them of key points and reinforcing why your work is valuable. If there were some weak aspects that you’re worried about throughout work, conclusion is a place where writers should pour every effort into because this way, they leave readers with a strongly positive impression. Let’s list what bits a good closing part should include.

Restate Key Findings

In a way, this is your idea of a dissertation writing guide because you will be taking your readers through the entire work by giving them a succinct, concise reminder. Guide them through what you wrote: mention key points 1, 2, 3, etc., and briefly explain their meaning.

Admit Your Limitations

Even if a student thinks they did the best research in the world, it still won’t be ideal. There is no way you could get enough financing and time to research something full-scale, so some issues will be present.  Discuss them. Mention that your sample was too small, bias could be present, lack of research could affect your work, or anything else. Don’t over-focus on it, but provide some short discussion. This helps readers see that the writer isn’t arrogant and that their attitude is objective, which makes them more receptive to what they hear.

Explain Why More Research Is Needed

Finally, follow basic dissertation guidelines of courtesy and objectivity: explain what other specialists could look into. What are weak spots in this research area? What can be done to stimulate more findings? Give your recommendations. As a thoughtful researcher, you deserved it.

Step 9: Editing and Proofreading

If you wonder how to write a PhD dissertation on an appropriate level, this stage is critical. Same as conclusion, it is dismissed by numerous students, which is a huge mistake. On the one hand, it is understandable: those who just spent ages crafting their work want to be done with it already. They feel no desire to re-read everything. But dissertation editing services are vital because for now, all you have is a draft. You need to refine it for getting good results.

Re-read Everything Slowly

We suggest doing it aloud — this way, mistakes would stand out more. Catch typos, bad grammar choices, awkward sentences, etc. Imagine yourself a proofreader looking for flaws. As another piece of advice, better do all that after at least several days have passed. Put dissertation out of your mind for this time before editing it. This could help get a fresher look at your content.   

Re-write Bits That Don’t Look Good

This often happens: upon re-reading their project, students realize that some points are underexplored, others are too irrelevant, or logical links are missing. What is dissertation writing but hard work? You’re almost there: all you need to do is apply some more effort, so do it. Make your project look as perfect as physically possible.

Check Formatting and Sources

Are all citations present? If there are any unsupported claims, correct this problem ASAP. Check APA guidelines (or whatever format you’re working with) and trim any minor flaws you come across.

Test for Plagiarism

Those who contacted firms and told them, “Help me write my essay” and choose a reliable tool, make certain it works correctly, and check how original your work is. If there are some issues, look at them. Maybe you forgot to cite dissertation in APA or format it as a direct quote. Check back with your university to inquire how much plagiarism is acceptable and if specific facts like statistics or narrow definitions count.

Step 10: Get Feedback From Others

After students think their work looks perfect in every way, they shouldn’t immediately submit it. Ask a dedicated friend or a patient family member to look at what you wrote. Maybe they’ll have useful comments or even advice. There is no need to take their words into account, but they could still provide good insight. After this is done, go to your supervisor. It is their turn to propose corrections or amendments now. But remember that essay correcting is necessary. That’s it! You’ll still have to prepare an oral report for your dissertation, but the written part is complete, and you can finally allow yourself to relax. The worst is over now.

Learn the Steps by Heart and Take On Your Dissertation

You know how to write a dissertation step by step now. What seems like a difficult task can be easy as long as you follow recommendations and understand what your major goal is. Don’t worry: just be meticulous and ask for help if needed. For example, some students may decide to order a chapter or two rather than the entire dissertation. You could do the same if needed. Stay focused and pick up a topic that interests you — and you’ll see how exciting research process becomes!

Laura Callisen

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay


Hello there! I am Laura Callisen, and I fancy myself to be a modern “Renaissance person.” I suppose my 30-something self began my incredible journey after having been born in Stavanger, Norway and then immigrating to the U.S. (Utah, actually) at the age of 5. I am certain that this change was more of a cultural “shock” for my parents than for me, because I quickly mastered the language and was clever enough to “play the game” of public education in America. After graduating from Skyline High School, where I spent two years as the school newspaper editor, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Utah was a natural culmination of my love for writing.

My inclination to be socially conscious led me to lots of community outreach and volunteering during my college years, especially in the areas of educational and housing improvement for the poor and a number of environmental crusades. My passion for philosophy and travel have now taken over, and I am enthralled with the widely varied value systems of all cultures in which I can immerse myself, if only temporarily. My life as a freelance writer allows a freedom I never want to sacrifice for a stuffy office!

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