HOW TO WRITE A DISSERTATION (or THESIS)
Art of Dissertation– Part 1
I wrote a dissertation to earn my Masters Degree in Technology (M.Tech.) from IIT Delhi (1981-1983)– and one more – for my Post Graduation in Management in 1985.
Of course – in my earlier days – I wrote a few seminar and project reports during my B. Tech. degree studies (1972-1977).
Since then – I have supervised and guided dissertations – more than 45 – maybe 50 – chiefly for Masters Degrees in Engineering and Technology (ME / M. Tech.) – and also in Management Studies.
Some students of mine thought it apt than I pen down a few tips on the art of dissertation – so here are I am – writing a few lines – on The Art of Dissertation.
In a nutshell – the Art of Dissertation comprises the following simple steps:
1. Select a dissertation topic in a subject that you are knowledgeable about.
2. Compose a thesis statement that only asks a single question.
3. Employ a research methodology process that is compatible with your dissertation study.
4. Present your data evaluation, analysis and interpretation in an accurate, succinct, logical, well-reasoned and lucid manner and write your dissertation report in a simple, coherent manner conforming to the prescribed style.
5. Conclude your dissertation by answering the thesis statement and, if pertinent, mention corollaries and consequences and possibilities and scope for future research work on the subject.
6. Impart the finishing touches to your dissertation report – definitions, references, bibliography, abstract, summary, acknowledgement, certificate, contents and title pages.
WHAT IS A DISSERTATION…?
A Thesis is a hypothesis or conjecture.
The word “thesis” is coined from the Greek derivative of the word meaning “position”, and refers to an intellectual proposition.
A thesis may be an unproved statement, a hypothetical proposition, put forward as a premise.
A Dissertation is a lengthy, formal document that argues in defence of a particular Thesis.
The term “Dissertation” is derived from the Latin word dissertātiō– meaning “discourse” – and is a document that presents the author’s research and findings and, in most cases, is submitted in support of candidature for a degree or professional qualification.
The research performed to support a thesis must be original and substantial.
The dissertation must illustrate this aspect and highlight original contributions.
Your dissertation is your research which demonstrates your understanding of the subject in a clear manner.
Therefore, it is imperative you find a topic that gives a clear picture of what you should write.
Always ignore ambiguous and vague ideas.
And, most importantly, choose an apt title – in fact, the title of your dissertation must fascinate you and entice your audience.
CHOOSE THE TYPE OF YOUR DISSERTATION
Dissertations are of two types – Empirical and Analytical.
Empirical Dissertations make propositions resulting from experiments, involving laboratory or field research.
Analytical Dissertations reflect propositions resulting from meticulous, pioneering and innovative analysis of previously published work.
WRITING YOUR DISSERTATION REPORT
A dissertation report may comprise the following main chapters:
1. Introduction- An overview of the problem; why it is important; a summary of extant work and, most important, the thesis statement.
2. Literature Review-the chapter that summarizes another work related to your topic.
3. Methodology-the part of the paper that introduces the procedures utilized for the research study and the conceptual model.
4. Data Presentation, Evaluation, Analysis and Interpretation -the chapter involves the presentation of computation values using statistical tools to support the claim.
5. Conclusion-the complete summary of the research findings.
Of course, you must include suitable pages for definitions, illustrations and graphs, footnotes and references, bibliography, abstract, summary, acknowledgement, certificates, contents and title pages.
Dissertation writing chiefly involves the introduction, literature review, methodology and analysis chapters, and the others mentioned above.
Having selected your dissertation topic, before you begin your dissertation you need to establish your thesis statement first.
A thesis statement is simply a single sentence that provides the main intention of the research.
The thesis statement will epitomize the scope of your study, give you an idea of what you want to prove and will pilot your research.
A good Thesis Statement must satisfy the following four criteria:
1. The thesis statement must state your position.
2. The thesis statement must be able to support a discussion.
3. The thesis statement must be specific about its position.
4. The thesis statement should only have one single idea of discussion.
You must ponder over the following points while writing the introduction to your dissertation:
Is there any need to this dissertation study…?
Why do it now…?
Why do it here…?
Is the dissertation topic in my “comfort zone”– and am I thirsty for knowledge and passionate about it…?
Is there a problem…?
What is it…?
Why does it need to be solved…?
Should I approach it empirically or analytically…?
What is my hypothesis…?
Is it original, novel, new, innovative…?
Who will benefit from my dissertation work…?
In what sense will they benefit…?
How will my contribution add to “commons”…?
What is going to be my methodology…?
[modalities of data collection, evaluation, analysis, interpretation]
Are there any constraints or limitations in conduct of my proposed dissertation studies and research…?
Art of Dissertation – Part 2
Whenever you use any words, ideas or information from any source in your dissertation, you must cite and reference those sources to acknowledge the contributions of others in your dissertation work.
Reference Citations may be included in the following forms:
1. Footnote Referencing in the text at the foot or bottom of the page.
2. Endnote Referencing or Citation-Sequence System collated and listed chronologically at the end of the text.
Citations serve inter alia the following purposes:
1. Establish credibility of the research.
2. Enable assessment of the quality and timeliness of the research.
3. Acknowledge the contributions of others and sources of information in your dissertation work.
4. Provide identification of material used in your research or quoted in your dissertation report.
5. Facilitate inclusion of material of supplemental value.
6. Intellectual Honesty.
REFERENCING [Footnotes and Endnotes]
In your dissertation you can do referencing using either Footnotes or Endnotes.
A Footnote is a bottom-of-the-page citation– whereas Endnotes are collected at the either at the end of the dissertation or at the end of each chapter.
Footnotes and Endnotes serve the same purpose.
However, they are two different systems, so be consistent and use one of the two methods throughout your dissertation.
The advantage of footnoting is that readers can simply cast their eyes down the page to discover the source of a reference which interests them– but now-a-days Endnotes [References] at the end of the dissertation seem to be preferred.
References are to be sequentially numbered throughout your dissertation starting with 1, indicating the relevant number [note identifier] at the end of the pertinent sentence in the text, superscripted, or in brackets, and amplified by the citation either at the bottom of the page [footnote] or at the end of the dissertation [endnote].
The citation should provide the following bibliographic information:
1. Author(s) surname(s), first name(s) or initials
2. Name of the article, book or journal
3. Editors (if applicable)
4. Publishers Name and Location
5. Volume and Issue Number or month of publication (in case of a journal)
6. Year published
7. ISBN (if applicable)
8. The exact page numbers if your reference is a direct quotation, a paraphrase, an idea, or is otherwise directly drawn from the source. [p – page, pp – pages]
Titles of publications should be italicised, article titles should be enclosed between single quotation marks, and commas must be used to separate each item of the citation and end with a full stop.
1. Wilson B, ‘Systems, Concepts, Methodologies and Applications’, John Wiley and Sons, USA, 1984, p 29
2. Steiner CJ, ‘Educating for Innovation and Management’, IEEE Transactions on Education, Vol 41, No. 1, Feb 1998, pp 1-7
Conference Proceedings [paper]
3. Sriram S and Karve VW, ‘Systems Cybernetic Re-engineering for Empowering Human Performance: A Soft Systems Dynamics Approach’, Proceedings of the International Conference on Cognitive Systems, Dec 1998, pp 723 – 739.
Internet Citations must include:
1. Name(s) of Author (s) / Editor (s)
2. “Title of Article, Web page or site” in quotation marks.
3. Name of sponsor of site or Title of Journal
4. Date of article, of Web page or site creation and latest update.
5. Access date (the date you accessed the Web page or site).
6. Complete Uniform Resource Locator (URL) in angle brackets.
Karve VW, ‘Ethics, Values and Technology’, in Cognitive Systems Review, July 2008, viewed on 21 August 2008 <>
Some Abbreviations in Referencing
ibid is used in consecutive references that refer to the same work, whether to the same or different pages.
Example: [the digits 1,2,3 are the footnote or reference numbers]
1. Karve V, ‘Appetite For A Stroll’, Cinnamon Teal, India, 2008, ISBN 9788190690096, p 15.
2. ibid [Please note that this refers only to page 15 of the above book and not to any other page of that book]
3. ibid, pp 29-34. [This still refers to Karve, but to pages 29-34]
op. cit. is used with non-consecutive references that refer to the same work but to different pages.
loc. cit is used with non-consecutive references that refer to the same work and to the same page or pages of that work.
Examples of Referencing
(the digits 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 are footnote or reference numbers)
4. Senge P, ‘The Fifth Discipline’, Currency Doubleday, USA, pp 75-76.
5. Twiss BC, ‘Managing Technological Innovation’, Longman, UK, 1974, p 33
6. Senge, op. cit., pp 101-110 [Note that the footnote reference numbers to Senge are not consecutive and that different pages in his work are being cited].
7. Karve V, op. cit., pp 117-120. [Different pages of Karve (reference at serial 1 above) are being cited]
8. ibid [This refers to Karve, pp 117-120]
9. Twiss, loc.cit. [The reference is to Twiss page 33. Citation of any other page or pages would have entailed the use of op. cit, followed by the page number(s)]
When references are made to two or more books or papers of the same author, the abbreviations op.cit. and loc. cit. are not used in subsequent citations, in order to obviate confusion.
In referring to material contained in other pages of your own dissertation you may use the following abbreviations followed by the appropriate page number:
cf (confer) – compare
cf, ante (confer ante) – compare above
cf, post (confer post) – compare below
supra (above) – cross-reference to preceding matter
infra (below) – cross-reference to succeeding matter
et passim (and here and there) – matter referred is scattered in the dissertation
A bibliography should generally contain all the sources cited in the dissertation and any other important references [books, journals and internet websites] that you have consulted during your research or used in preparing your dissertation.
Systematically list the various sources of information consulted or used in your dissertation [books, journals, internet websites, previous research work / dissertations] separately in alphabetical order of authors’ surnames in the same style as references.
The distinction between references and bibliography is that whereas references [footnotes and endnotes] cite authority for specific statements, the bibliography gives descriptions of entire works.
If a reader wants to consult a work referred to in a footnote, he/she turns to the bibliography for a full description of that work.
To end this article on a lighter note – let us have a quote:
The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but the transference of bones from one graveyard to another ~ Frank J. Dobie
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1. This is based on my personal experience. It may or may not work for you. So please do due diligence before trying out this technique.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Updated, Abridged and Revised version of my article written more than 27 years ago in the early 1990s and Posted Online by me in my blogs a number of times including at urls: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2009/03/dissertation-part-1-thesis-statement.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2009/03/dissertation-part-2-reference-citations.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2011/08/how-to-write-dissertation.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/05/tips-on-writing-thesis-dissertation-and.html and https://www.quora.com/profile/Vikram-Karve/Writing-by-VIKRAM-KARVE/How-to-Write-Dissertation-Thesis-Project-Report-Research-Paper-etc and http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2017/05/how-to-write-dissertation-thesis.html and https://karvediat.blogspot.com/2019/06/how-to-write-dissertation-or-thesis.html etc
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