What is a Dissertation?
The dissertation is the final step in a PhD degree or doctoral program and it is designed to add to knowledge in the current field and to turn the student into a formal scholar. When complete, dissertations may run 400 pages or more, with many universities mandating five to six chapters and requiring them to include original research.
These chapters include:
- Review of Literature
It is not unusual for those in some fields to rewrite their dissertations and publish the research papers in book format after acceptance, either with an academic publisher or, in some instances, as a general publication.
Unlike a thesis, a dissertation requires firsthand research of a new or existing topic rather than just analysis of available material, such as existing literature. The process starts with the choosing of a topic and its approval by the school before you you dig into the background and research information of the research project. The next step involves the student choosing a faculty chair and dissertation committee. These parties serve not only as mentors, but are also the ones who decide whether or not to accept the research paper of the dissertation upon completion.
After writing the initial three chapters, also known as the proposal, the university’s Institutional Review Board must look at the students work and approve it before allowing research to start. Often, a considerable amount of changes are needed in various drafts of the proposal before approval is granted.
The student then conducts the research, discussing it regularly with the chair, writes about this research, and edits the written research paper themselves before submitting it to the dissertation committee. This is why it's important to have analytical skills and writing skills when you reach this stage of your educaiton. As noted, this process can take several years. After submitting your research information as a written report, you will need to give an oral presentation to a review board. The presentation by PhD candidates to a review board is the primary difference between a dissertation and a thesis. Once approved, the student officially earns their PhD.