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What is a Dissertations Meaning and Definition?

What is a Dissertations Meaning and Definition Image

What is the Meaning and Definition of Dissertations? A dissertation (sometimes known as a “Thesis”) is a long piece of writing; usually prepared at the end of a course of study or as a text for a post-graduate degree; such as a Masters’s or Ph.D.

Here is the article to explain, What is a Dissertations Meaning and Definition?

A dissertation is either partly taught and partly researched or completely researched. In the case of the second of these, you will need to find a topic that is both interesting and original; and that is capable of sustaining an extended argument. Taught dissertations tend to follow the subsequent structure: An introduction, The main body, and A conclusion.

The second type is a dissertation that you have to research from scratch. This means you must focus on an aspect of a topic that you have studied; and which you have found particularly interesting and wish to deepen and widen your research in this area. Then you put together a proposal based on your research, emphasizing any original aspects you have uncovered; and once your idea stands accepted you proceed as with the taught dissertation.

How do I find a suitable dissertations topic?

When choosing what is a dissertations topic, the first thing to consider is whether or not you exist sufficiently interested in the topic to sustain the research and writing of it over an extended period. Your underlying motivation, however, in the selection of your topic, should be originality. This is the major factor that will make your topic attractive and acceptable to a research committee.

Originality in what is a dissertation? However, need not mean coming up with an idea that has never existed thought of before; though if you can do this, of course, it is definitely to your advantage! Most dissertations rely on originality of approach and/or perspective rather than a completely original topic, as in most cases, especially within the Arts, these are almost impossible to find. The best way to seek out a niche of originality is via research.

Where do I start?

So, the starting point to ANY dissertation is choosing a topic. You want to choose something you have an interest in since you must write thousands of words and read a lot of information about it! To start getting some ideas together, you could brainstorm a few topics you have an interest in. Think about a module you particularly enjoyed or an article you read that appealed to you. It could even be something you have never studied before but want to explore further.

Beware, though – not everything you think would be a good topic for a dissertation will be a good topic. You might want to look at “Victorian Literature” or “Russian History”, which sound like perfectly valid academic subjects. But they are too vast and will mean that your finished dissertation will either be massively over the word limit or else will only skim the surface.

Checklist for choosing a dissertation topic;

Choosing a dissertation topic sounds easy. You have existed given the chance to write about something you like, or at least something you feel is worth studying. It’s not like most of the essays you may have written before, which came with titles already attached.

  • Jot down your ideas of what you think is interesting, and what is worth studying
  • Remember to not make them too broad, or too narrow
  • Do some research to find out what has existed done before; and where your work will sit in the canon of work
  • Discuss your ideas with your tutor and potential supervisors
  • Choose something you will enjoy studying, even if it’s not quite what you first had in mind – some of the best dissertations were not the student’s first choice!

What is the importance of research in my dissertations?

The importance of research in your dissertation cannot exist overestimated; it is quite simply the backbone of your dissertation. Beginning to read widely and deeply on your chosen topic should be the first thing that; you do when you are thinking about your proposed dissertation. This means reading the basic texts first, and then moving on to the most recent work undertaken on the subject to ensure that no one else has pre-empted your idea – it can happen!

You must look at the foundation texts for your subject first. Every topic has these and you will be familiar with them from the previous work you have done on the subject. These texts are especially useful, not only; because they are basic to the subject; but also because you can use the bibliographies of these texts to expand your research. This is perfectly acceptable as if you look carefully; you will see that many of the texts are common to all of them; therefore a core of knowledge is informing them all. As the writer of an original dissertation; you will be adding to this core and therefore you should not feel that; it is wrong in any way to use these sources in your dissertation research.


As you are researching, keep a record of your reading in the prescribed format of your college or university. This will enable you to familiarise yourself with the method of citation you require to use in your dissertation. As these are often very different from one another; you should consult the style guide for the required method before you embark. If you do not have one there should be one in your academic library and/or online.

Another advantage of keeping a detailed and meticulous record of your research is that; it makes your bibliography much easier to compile later; in fact, you might say that your bibliography evolves as your research does. What you are chiefly looking for as you read is a niche for your research to fill. Try to read even more critically than usual, looking for spaces where questions exist left unanswered; because you may be dissertations proposal could answer them.

What is a dissertation proposal?

A dissertation proposal is a document you prepare to submit to the research committee of your academic institution to get your dissertation research accepted. See the links below for guidance on writing this and examples.

How to Write a Dissertation Proposal?

Depending on the type of dissertation you will go on to complete; there might be a few structural differences (which we will cover a little later on). However, every proposal must contain a few essential things:

  • An outline of the topic you are researching.
  • An explanation of how you are going to find the information you need.
  • A hypothesis or question will explored and answered in the dissertation.
  • A reference list or bibliography which pinpoints a handful of sources likely to be useful for your research.

The word count will vary depending on your subject, course, and individual university; but proposals are typically between 1,000 and 3,000 words long. The idea of a dissertation is to find a gap in the existing research and conduct your research to address this.

Research gaps;

Research gaps could include things like:

  • Date of studies (for example, much of the literature on a particular field could be 5-10 years old so an update may be due).
  • The subject of studies (for example, there is not as much academic research on the novels of Anne Bronte as there is about her more famous sisters, Charlotte and Emily, so there is a ‘gap’ here).
  • Particular theories and frameworks (for instance, there may be lots of studies on the issue of anxiety disorder; but not very many that address it from a psychoanalytic perspective).

The idea is to provide a snapshot of what your dissertation is going to do. This way, your tutor can give you feedback; they might suggest that a different focus or a different research method would be better for your dissertation, for example. The thing to remember is that your dissertation will almost certainly end up being different in some way from your proposal, and that’s okay!

You will need to be able to describe and evaluate; what your research is for and how it will achieve its goals. You will need to demonstrate that your approach is methodologically sound, ethical, feasible, and relevant.

How should I prepare, write and present my dissertations?

Once the research committee has accepted your proposal; a supervisor will appoint to oversee your work throughout its preparation until its completion. Your supervisor will be of invaluable help to you at every stage and you should meet with them regularly.

Both you and your supervisor will expect to submit regular reports to the faculty research committee to keep them fully up to date on your progress; (the research committee is simply a group of appointed senior lecturers within the department; appointed by the governing senate of the university; sometimes your supervisor will be a member of this committee). As has existed mentioned in some detail, research should be the main element of your work; and you should be collecting evidence to use in your dissertation.

Format of Presenting a Dissertation;

The basic format of presenting a dissertation is similar to that of the dissertation proposal. This might include:

  • A title page (this needs to be definitive, now, but it will not be at all unusual if you decide this at the end of your dissertation); include name and degree.
  • A contents page (self-explanatory, as has been said, using consecutive page numbers, with the introduction in Roman numerals in lower case – such as ‘iv’ instead of ‘4’).
  • An abstract (this is a one-page summary of what is contained within the dissertation as a whole, with chapter summaries).
  • The introduction (this should introduce the dissertation topic, with a clear thesis statement and an indication of the methodology to be used).
  • The main body of the dissertation (spread across several chapters – usually between three and five, depending on the length of the overall dissertation). The individual chapters of the main body should each address a different aspect of the dissertation topic whilst never veering too far from the central argument. You should ensure that you provide sufficient evidential support, correctly referenced in the stipulated format; and it should be analyzed in detail.
  • The conclusion (this should summarise your argument, provide a synthesis of your thinking and give an indication of future research to be undertaken).
  • The bibliography (this should include a comprehensive list, possibly subdivided into primary and secondary sources, of all your reading for your dissertation; whether you have quoted from it in your dissertation or not).
  • Appendices (these are not always needed but if you have used them and referred to them in your dissertation then ensure they are logically structured and presented).
  • Read more in our comprehensive “How to Write a Dissertation” guide.

What happens after I have completed my dissertation?

An internal and an external examiner, appointed by the academic board, will examine the dissertation. In some cases (such as for a Ph.D.), you will then have to attend an oral examination; known as a ‘viva’, which is short for “viva voce”, from the Latin ‘with the living voice’; where you will ask to defend your dissertation by your examiners and where; hopefully, you will be told you have been successful. The examiners can decide one of the following:

  • To award the degree outright to the candidate.
  • To award, the degree with revisions; which will need to approve before the degree existed finally awarded to the candidate.
  • To award a lesser degree; a master, if this is for a Doctorate.
  • To award a lesser degree to the candidate after approved revisions.
  • To fail the candidate (this is quite rare because usually; a supervisor will advise you to rewrite your dissertation until it is of the required standard).
What is a Dissertations Meaning and Definition Image
What is a Dissertations Meaning and Definition? Image by Paweł Englender from Pixabay.


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