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How to Write a Doctoral Dissertation

How to Write a Doctoral Dissertation

What is the Doctoral Dissertation?

The dissertation writing phase of the doctoral program is the culminating period when doctoral students are expected to demonstrate their ability to conduct independent research on an issue in their field of study. Duke and Beck (1999) asserted that “the first doctorate awarded on American soil required a dissertation, and to our knowledge, so has every ‘earned’ doctorate awarded here since” (p. 31). The CGS (1991) described the dissertation as “a unified work with a single theme, including an introduction and literature review, a description of methods and procedures used, a presentation of results, and a concluding discussion of the meanings of the results” (p. 12). Get help from PhD dissertation writing services to ensure success in your final degree

For many doctoral students, the dissertation looms over them like a menacing dark cloud and remains their greatest hurdle to degree completion. During the dissertation-writing phase of doctoral programs, doctoral students are often off campus and are expected to function independently. Candidates who are conducting independent research for the first time, who are lacking in skill and research confidence and find themselves without the comradeship of their professors and fellow doctoral peers are those who often experience feelings of despair, powerlessness, and depression. Doctoral students who fit those descriptions are those who are most likely to drop out.


Format of the Doctoral Dissertation

The format of the doctoral dissertation varies from discipline to discipline, and is tailored according to the audience for which it is written. The doctoral candidate’s dissertation committee is the principal approving body of the dissertation and is the primary audience for which the research is written. Secondary readers of the dissertation usually include friends, close associates, and relatives of the candidate. Irrespective of discipline, the dissertation generally fulfills two primary requirements: It has to satisfy the expectations of its readers, and it has to conform to the model of an acceptable dissertation. Furthermore, it is considered the most important means whereby the educational development of the doctoral candidate can be measured.

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Dissertation Writing Process

The literature reveals that there is little disparity between the dissertation writing process in traditional and nontraditional doctoral programs. Regardless of program type, dissertation writing has always been an independent exercise and a period when doctoral candidates work in isolation from their dissertation chair or committee and peers. Throughout the period, the dissertation chair functions primarily as a consultant and cheerleader who guides and supports the doctoral student through the transition from the coursework phase to research writing.

Doctoral candidates transition from the familiar terrain of coursework and the communities that are naturally affiliated with them, to the often unchartered course of independent learning, which is often beset by challenges and difficulties. They are expected to employ the skills and experiences acquired during course work to conduct independent research and assume ownership of this part of the learning process. Notable exceptions exist in the natural sciences where the nature of the dissertation research affords students more frequent direct contact with their supervisor, and in situations where students live within close proximity to their college campus. Barclay (2001), Joerg (2004), and Tanner (2007) noted that dissertation distance students who are geographically remote from their college campuses have fewer opportunities for physical contact with their peers and committee members. Joerg noted that in distance doctoral programs, the feeling of isolation becomes intensely apparent.

Several studies addressing factors relevant to success in graduate distance education program have been completed. Although a majority of these studies have centered on online undergraduate education, the results from them identify variables that can form the basis for research related to distance doctoral educational programs. Best dissertation writing services are the best source of securing the final degree.

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Dissertation Writing Challenges

The literature documents that graduate distance education in the 21st century is being delivered using one of four distance delivery models: correspondence, blended, hybrid, and online. The simplest and oldest approach, the correspondence model, falls within the asynchronous category, whereas the others may be asynchronous or synchronous, or a combination of both. The asynchronous approach does not involve any face-to-face communication. Communication between the learner and the instructor who utilize this approach occurs primarily in writing, and the information that is exchanged is delivered via ground mail. This traditional mail delivery approach is gradually being replaced with e-correspondence or Internet-based instruction, improving the response time between instructor and learner.

Since the emergence of doctoral programs in the American educational system, the dissertation has been the focus of many debates. There are those who argue that the dissertation, which represents the research component of the doctoral degree, is the criterion that best reflect the educational development of a doctoral candidate. Others contend that the traditional Germanic model of doctoral programs is no longer suitable in today’s technology driven society and recommend other alternatives.

In the literature, the most commonly cited challenges or hindrances to the completion of the doctoral dissertation in distance education programs are faculty availability and support. With the paradigm shift to distance doctoral education and the accompanying challenges, questions of how university administrators are addressing dissertation writing and discussions about delivery models that facilitate distance dissertation writing are pertinent. The body of literature on distance education related to doctoral education is relatively small. Studies that address doctoral distance education mainly reference the online educational delivery format. As technology continues to expand and universities continue to increase their offerings of nontraditional graduate programs, many writers affirm that distance education is the delivery approach of the future.

Some of the challenges identified with dissertation writing are not unique to distance doctoral programs. However, dissertation writing challenges are exacerbated when the distance factor is added, demanding newer approaches that will help alleviate some of the current problems. Some universities have already responded by adopting nontraditional delivery approaches, hybrid, blended, or online, to bring doctoral education within the reach of remote students and to lessen the occurrence of some of the common challenges associated with dissertation writing.

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