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Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

The sun is shining but many students won't see the daylight. Because it's that time of year again – dissertation time.

Luckily for me, my D-Day (dissertation hand-in day) has already been and gone. But I remember it well.

The 10,000-word spiral-bound paper squatted on my desk in various forms of completion was my Allied forces; the history department in-tray was my Normandy. And when Eisenhower talked about a "great crusade toward which we have striven these many months", he was bang on.

I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible (but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious) topics. Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…

1 ) If your dissertation supervisor isn't right, change. Mine was brilliant. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else – providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it. In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success.

2 ) If you mention working on your dissertation to family, friends or near-strangers, they will ask you what it's about, and they will be expecting a more impressive answer than you can give. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics – war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of 1970s disability legislation. But they're not the ones marking it.

3 ) If they ask follow-up questions, they're probably just being polite.

4 ) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid – or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it.

5 ) There will be one day during the process when you will freak out, doubt your entire thesis and decide to start again from scratch. You might even come up with a new question and start working on it, depending on how long the breakdown lasts. You will at some point run out of steam and collapse in an exhausted, tear-stained heap. But unless there are serious flaws in your work (unlikely) and your supervisor recommends starting again (highly unlikely), don't do it. It's just panic, it'll pass.

6 ) A lot of the work you do will not make it into your dissertation. The first few days in archives, I felt like everything I was unearthing was a gem, and when I sat down to write, it seemed as if it was all gold. But a brutal editing down to the word count has left much of that early material at the wayside.

7 ) You will print like you have never printed before. If you're using a university or library printer, it will start to affect your weekly budget in a big way. If you're printing from your room, "paper jam" will come to be the most dreaded two words in the English language.

8 ) Your dissertation will interfere with whatever else you have going on – a social life, sporting commitments, societies, other essay demands. Don't even try and give up biscuits for Lent, they'll basically become their own food group when you're too busy to cook and desperate for sugar.

9 ) Your time is not your own. Even if you're super-organised, plan your time down to the last hour and don't have a single moment of deadline panic, you'll still find that thoughts of your dissertation will creep up on you when you least expect it. You'll fall asleep thinking about it, dream about it and wake up thinking about. You'll feel guilty when you're not working on it, and mired in self-doubt when you are.

10 ) Finishing it will be one of the best things you've ever done. It's worth the hard work to know you've completed what's likely to be your biggest, most important, single piece of work. Be proud of it.

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How To Write The Conclusion Chapter

A Simple Explainer With Examples + Free Template

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021

So, you’ve wrapped up your results and discussion chapters, and you’re finally on the home stretch – the conclusion chapter . In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to craft a high-quality conclusion chapter for your dissertation or thesis project.

Overview: The Conclusion Chapter

  • What the thesis/dissertation conclusion chapter is
  • What to include in your conclusion
  • How to structure and write up your conclusion
  • A few tips  to help you ace the chapter
  • FREE conclusion template

What is the conclusion chapter?

The conclusion chapter is typically the final major chapter of a dissertation or thesis. As such, it serves as a concluding summary of your research findings and wraps up the document. While some publications such as journal articles and research reports combine the discussion and conclusion sections, these are typically separate chapters in a dissertation or thesis. As always, be sure to check what your university’s structural preference is before you start writing up these chapters.

So, what’s the difference between the discussion and the conclusion chapter?

Well, the two chapters are quite similar , as they both discuss the key findings of the study. However, the conclusion chapter is typically more general and high-level in nature. In your discussion chapter, you’ll typically discuss the intricate details of your study, but in your conclusion chapter, you’ll take a   broader perspective, reporting on the main research outcomes and how these addressed your research aim (or aims) .

A core function of the conclusion chapter is to synthesise all major points covered in your study and to tell the reader what they should take away from your work. Basically, you need to tell them what you found , why it’s valuable , how it can be applied , and what further research can be done.

Whatever you do, don’t just copy and paste what you’ve written in your discussion chapter! The conclusion chapter should not be a simple rehash of the discussion chapter. While the two chapters are similar, they have distinctly different functions.  

Dissertation Conclusion Template

What should I include in the conclusion chapter?

To understand what needs to go into your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to understand what the chapter needs to achieve. In general, a good dissertation conclusion chapter should achieve the following:

  • Summarise the key findings of the study
  • Explicitly answer the research question(s) and address the research aims
  • Inform the reader of the study’s main contributions
  • Discuss any limitations or weaknesses of the study
  • Present recommendations for future research

Therefore, your conclusion chapter needs to cover these core components. Importantly, you need to be careful not to include any new findings or data points. Your conclusion chapter should be based purely on data and analysis findings that you’ve already presented in the earlier chapters. If there’s a new point you want to introduce, you’ll need to go back to your results and discussion chapters to weave the foundation in there.

In many cases, readers will jump from the introduction chapter directly to the conclusions chapter to get a quick overview of the study’s purpose and key findings. Therefore, when you write up your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to assume that the reader hasn’t consumed the inner chapters of your dissertation or thesis. In other words, craft your conclusion chapter such that there’s a strong connection and smooth flow between the introduction and conclusion chapters, even though they’re on opposite ends of your document.

Need a helping hand?

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How to write the conclusion chapter

Now that you have a clearer view of what the conclusion chapter is about, let’s break down the structure of this chapter so that you can get writing. Keep in mind that this is merely a typical structure – it’s not set in stone or universal. Some universities will prefer that you cover some of these points in the discussion chapter , or that you cover the points at different levels in different chapters.

Step 1: Craft a brief introduction section

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the conclusions chapter needs to start with a brief introduction. In this introductory section, you’ll want to tell the reader what they can expect to find in the chapter, and in what order . Here’s an example of what this might look like:

This chapter will conclude the study by summarising the key research findings in relation to the research aims and questions and discussing the value and contribution thereof. It will also review the limitations of the study and propose opportunities for future research.

Importantly, the objective here is just to give the reader a taste of what’s to come (a roadmap of sorts), not a summary of the chapter. So, keep it short and sweet – a paragraph or two should be ample.

Step 2: Discuss the overall findings in relation to the research aims

The next step in writing your conclusions chapter is to discuss the overall findings of your study , as they relate to the research aims and research questions . You would have likely covered similar ground in the discussion chapter, so it’s important to zoom out a little bit here and focus on the broader findings – specifically, how these help address the research aims .

In practical terms, it’s useful to start this section by reminding your reader of your research aims and research questions, so that the findings are well contextualised. In this section, phrases such as, “This study aimed to…” and “the results indicate that…” will likely come in handy. For example, you could say something like the following:

This study aimed to investigate the feeding habits of the naked mole-rat. The results indicate that naked mole rats feed on underground roots and tubers. Further findings show that these creatures eat only a part of the plant, leaving essential parts to ensure long-term food stability.

Be careful not to make overly bold claims here. Avoid claims such as “this study proves that” or “the findings disprove existing the existing theory”. It’s seldom the case that a single study can prove or disprove something. Typically, this is achieved by a broader body of research, not a single study – especially not a dissertation or thesis which will inherently have significant  limitations . We’ll discuss those limitations a little later.

Dont make overly bold claims in your dissertation conclusion

Step 3: Discuss how your study contributes to the field

Next, you’ll need to discuss how your research has contributed to the field – both in terms of theory and practice . This involves talking about what you achieved in your study, highlighting why this is important and valuable, and how it can be used or applied.

In this section you’ll want to:

  • Mention any research outputs created as a result of your study (e.g., articles, publications, etc.)
  • Inform the reader on just how your research solves your research problem , and why that matters
  • Reflect on gaps in the existing research and discuss how your study contributes towards addressing these gaps
  • Discuss your study in relation to relevant theories . For example, does it confirm these theories or constructively challenge them?
  • Discuss how your research findings can be applied in the real world . For example, what specific actions can practitioners take, based on your findings?

Be careful to strike a careful balance between being firm but humble in your arguments here. It’s unlikely that your one study will fundamentally change paradigms or shake up the discipline, so making claims to this effect will be frowned upon . At the same time though, you need to present your arguments with confidence, firmly asserting the contribution your research has made, however small that contribution may be. Simply put, you need to keep it balanced .

Step 4: Reflect on the limitations of your study

Now that you’ve pumped your research up, the next step is to critically reflect on the limitations and potential shortcomings of your study. You may have already covered this in the discussion chapter, depending on your university’s structural preferences, so be careful not to repeat yourself unnecessarily.

There are many potential limitations that can apply to any given study. Some common ones include:

  • Sampling issues that reduce the generalisability of the findings (e.g., non-probability sampling )
  • Insufficient sample size (e.g., not getting enough survey responses ) or limited data access
  • Low-resolution data collection or analysis techniques
  • Researcher bias or lack of experience
  • Lack of access to research equipment
  • Time constraints that limit the methodology (e.g. cross-sectional vs longitudinal time horizon)
  • Budget constraints that limit various aspects of the study

Discussing the limitations of your research may feel self-defeating (no one wants to highlight their weaknesses, right), but it’s a critical component of high-quality research. It’s important to appreciate that all studies have limitations (even well-funded studies by expert researchers) – therefore acknowledging these limitations adds credibility to your research by showing that you understand the limitations of your research design .

That being said, keep an eye on your wording and make sure that you don’t undermine your research . It’s important to strike a balance between recognising the limitations, but also highlighting the value of your research despite those limitations. Show the reader that you understand the limitations, that these were justified given your constraints, and that you know how they can be improved upon – this will get you marks.

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

Tips for a top-notch conclusion chapter

Now that we’ve covered the what , why and how of the conclusion chapter, here are some quick tips and suggestions to help you craft a rock-solid conclusion.

  • Don’t ramble . The conclusion chapter usually consumes 5-7% of the total word count (although this will vary between universities), so you need to be concise. Edit this chapter thoroughly with a focus on brevity and clarity.
  • Be very careful about the claims you make in terms of your study’s contribution. Nothing will make the marker’s eyes roll back faster than exaggerated or unfounded claims. Be humble but firm in your claim-making.
  • Use clear and simple language that can be easily understood by an intelligent layman. Remember that not every reader will be an expert in your field, so it’s important to make your writing accessible. Bear in mind that no one knows your research better than you do, so it’s important to spell things out clearly for readers.

Hopefully, this post has given you some direction and confidence to take on the conclusion chapter of your dissertation or thesis with confidence. If you’re still feeling a little shaky and need a helping hand, consider booking a free initial consultation with a friendly Grad Coach to discuss how we can help you with hands-on, private coaching.

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Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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How to write the discussion chapter

17 Comments

Abebayehu

Really you team are doing great!

Mohapi-Mothae

Your guide on writing the concluding chapter of a research is really informative especially to the beginners who really do not know where to start. Im now ready to start. Keep it up guys

Really your team are doing great!

Solomon Abeba

Very helpful guidelines, timely saved. Thanks so much for the tips.

Mazvita Chikutukutu

This post was very helpful and informative. Thank you team.

Moses Ndlovu

A very enjoyable, understandable and crisp presentation on how to write a conclusion chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Jenna.

Dee

This was a very helpful article which really gave me practical pointers for my concluding chapter. Keep doing what you are doing! It meant a lot to me to be able to have this guide. Thank you so much.

Suresh Tukaram Telvekar

Nice content dealing with the conclusion chapter, it’s a relief after the streneous task of completing discussion part.Thanks for valuable guidance

Musa Balonde

Thanks for your guidance

Asan

I get all my doubts clarified regarding the conclusion chapter. It’s really amazing. Many thanks.

vera

Very helpful tips. Thanks so much for the guidance

Sam Mwaniki

Thank you very much for this piece. It offers a very helpful starting point in writing the conclusion chapter of my thesis.

Abdullahi Maude

It’s awesome! Most useful and timely too. Thanks a million times

Abueng

Bundle of thanks for your guidance. It was greatly helpful.

Rebecca

Wonderful, clear, practical guidance. So grateful to read this as I conclude my research. Thank you.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dissertation Strategies

What this handout is about.

This handout suggests strategies for developing healthy writing habits during your dissertation journey. These habits can help you maintain your writing momentum, overcome anxiety and procrastination, and foster wellbeing during one of the most challenging times in graduate school.

Tackling a giant project

Because dissertations are, of course, big projects, it’s no surprise that planning, writing, and revising one can pose some challenges! It can help to think of your dissertation as an expanded version of a long essay: at the end of the day, it is simply another piece of writing. You’ve written your way this far into your degree, so you’ve got the skills! You’ll develop a great deal of expertise on your topic, but you may still be a novice with this genre and writing at this length. Remember to give yourself some grace throughout the project. As you begin, it’s helpful to consider two overarching strategies throughout the process.

First, take stock of how you learn and your own writing processes. What strategies have worked and have not worked for you? Why? What kind of learner and writer are you? Capitalize on what’s working and experiment with new strategies when something’s not working. Keep in mind that trying out new strategies can take some trial-and-error, and it’s okay if a new strategy that you try doesn’t work for you. Consider why it may not have been the best for you, and use that reflection to consider other strategies that might be helpful to you.

Second, break the project into manageable chunks. At every stage of the process, try to identify specific tasks, set small, feasible goals, and have clear, concrete strategies for achieving each goal. Small victories can help you establish and maintain the momentum you need to keep yourself going.

Below, we discuss some possible strategies to keep you moving forward in the dissertation process.

Pre-dissertation planning strategies

Get familiar with the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Resources .

Learn how to use a citation-manager and a synthesis matrix to keep track of all of your source information.

Skim other dissertations from your department, program, and advisor. Enlist the help of a librarian or ask your advisor for a list of recent graduates whose work you can look up. Seeing what other people have done to earn their PhD can make the project much less abstract and daunting. A concrete sense of expectations will help you envision and plan. When you know what you’ll be doing, try to find a dissertation from your department that is similar enough that you can use it as a reference model when you run into concerns about formatting, structure, level of detail, etc.

Think carefully about your committee . Ideally, you’ll be able to select a group of people who work well with you and with each other. Consult with your advisor about who might be good collaborators for your project and who might not be the best fit. Consider what classes you’ve taken and how you “vibe” with those professors or those you’ve met outside of class. Try to learn what you can about how they’ve worked with other students. Ask about feedback style, turnaround time, level of involvement, etc., and imagine how that would work for you.

Sketch out a sensible drafting order for your project. Be open to writing chapters in “the wrong order” if it makes sense to start somewhere other than the beginning. You could begin with the section that seems easiest for you to write to gain momentum.

Design a productivity alliance with your advisor . Talk with them about potential projects and a reasonable timeline. Discuss how you’ll work together to keep your work moving forward. You might discuss having a standing meeting to discuss ideas or drafts or issues (bi-weekly? monthly?), your advisor’s preferences for drafts (rough? polished?), your preferences for what you’d like feedback on (early or late drafts?), reasonable turnaround time for feedback (a week? two?), and anything else you can think of to enter the collaboration mindfully.

Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues . Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

Productivity strategies

Write when you’re most productive. When do you have the most energy? Focus? Creativity? When are you most able to concentrate, either because of your body rhythms or because there are fewer demands on your time? Once you determine the hours that are most productive for you (you may need to experiment at first), try to schedule those hours for dissertation work. See the collection of time management tools and planning calendars on the Learning Center’s Tips & Tools page to help you think through the possibilities. If at all possible, plan your work schedule, errands and chores so that you reserve your productive hours for the dissertation.

Put your writing time firmly on your calendar . Guard your writing time diligently. You’ll probably be invited to do other things during your productive writing times, but do your absolute best to say no and to offer alternatives. No one would hold it against you if you said no because you’re teaching a class at that time—and you wouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. Cultivating the same hard, guilt-free boundaries around your writing time will allow you preserve the time you need to get this thing done!

Develop habits that foster balance . You’ll have to work very hard to get this dissertation finished, but you can do that without sacrificing your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Think about how you can structure your work hours most efficiently so that you have time for a healthy non-work life. It can be something as small as limiting the time you spend chatting with fellow students to a few minutes instead of treating the office or lab as a space for extensive socializing. Also see above for protecting your time.

Write in spaces where you can be productive. Figure out where you work well and plan to be there during your dissertation work hours. Do you get more done on campus or at home? Do you prefer quiet and solitude, like in a library carrel? Do you prefer the buzz of background noise, like in a coffee shop? Are you aware of the UNC Libraries’ list of places to study ? If you get “stuck,” don’t be afraid to try a change of scenery. The variety may be just enough to get your brain going again.

Work where you feel comfortable . Wherever you work, make sure you have whatever lighting, furniture, and accessories you need to keep your posture and health in good order. The University Health and Safety office offers guidelines for healthy computer work . You’re more likely to spend time working in a space that doesn’t physically hurt you. Also consider how you could make your work space as inviting as possible. Some people find that it helps to have pictures of family and friends on their desk—sort of a silent “cheering section.” Some people work well with neutral colors around them, and others prefer bright colors that perk up the space. Some people like to put inspirational quotations in their workspace or encouraging notes from friends and family. You might try reconfiguring your work space to find a décor that helps you be productive.

Elicit helpful feedback from various people at various stages . You might be tempted to keep your writing to yourself until you think it’s brilliant, but you can lower the stakes tremendously if you make eliciting feedback a regular part of your writing process. Your friends can feel like a safer audience for ideas or drafts in their early stages. Someone outside your department may provide interesting perspectives from their discipline that spark your own thinking. See this handout on getting feedback for productive moments for feedback, the value of different kinds of feedback providers, and strategies for eliciting what’s most helpful to you. Make this a recurring part of your writing process. Schedule it to help you hit deadlines.

Change the writing task . When you don’t feel like writing, you can do something different or you can do something differently. Make a list of all the little things you need to do for a given section of the dissertation, no matter how small. Choose a task based on your energy level. Work on Grad School requirements: reformat margins, work on bibliography, and all that. Work on your acknowledgements. Remember all the people who have helped you and the great ideas they’ve helped you develop. You may feel more like working afterward. Write a part of your dissertation as a letter or email to a good friend who would care. Sometimes setting aside the academic prose and just writing it to a buddy can be liberating and help you get the ideas out there. You can make it sound smart later. Free-write about why you’re stuck, and perhaps even about how sick and tired you are of your dissertation/advisor/committee/etc. Venting can sometimes get you past the emotions of writer’s block and move you toward creative solutions. Open a separate document and write your thoughts on various things you’ve read. These may or may note be coherent, connected ideas, and they may or may not make it into your dissertation. They’re just notes that allow you to think things through and/or note what you want to revisit later, so it’s perfectly fine to have mistakes, weird organization, etc. Just let your mind wander on paper.

Develop habits that foster productivity and may help you develop a productive writing model for post-dissertation writing . Since dissertations are very long projects, cultivating habits that will help support your work is important. You might check out Helen Sword’s work on behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional habits to help you get a sense of where you are in your current habits. You might try developing “rituals” of work that could help you get more done. Lighting incense, brewing a pot of a particular kind of tea, pulling out a favorite pen, and other ritualistic behaviors can signal your brain that “it is time to get down to business.” You can critically think about your work methods—not only about what you like to do, but also what actually helps you be productive. You may LOVE to listen to your favorite band while you write, for example, but if you wind up playing air guitar half the time instead of writing, it isn’t a habit worth keeping.

The point is, figure out what works for you and try to do it consistently. Your productive habits will reinforce themselves over time. If you find yourself in a situation, however, that doesn’t match your preferences, don’t let it stop you from working on your dissertation. Try to be flexible and open to experimenting. You might find some new favorites!

Motivational strategies

Schedule a regular activity with other people that involves your dissertation. Set up a coworking date with your accountability buddies so you can sit and write together. Organize a chapter swap. Make regular appointments with your advisor. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you’ll feel good about showing up for–and will make you feel good about showing up for others.

Try writing in sprints . Many writers have discovered that the “Pomodoro technique” (writing for 25 minutes and taking a 5 minute break) boosts their productivity by helping them set small writing goals, focus intently for short periods, and give their brains frequent rests. See how one dissertation writer describes it in this blog post on the Pomodoro technique .

Quit while you’re ahead . Sometimes it helps to stop for the day when you’re on a roll. If you’ve got a great idea that you’re developing and you know where you want to go next, write “Next, I want to introduce x, y, and z and explain how they’re related—they all have the same characteristics of 1 and 2, and that clinches my theory of Q.” Then save the file and turn off the computer, or put down the notepad. When you come back tomorrow, you will already know what to say next–and all that will be left is to say it. Hopefully, the momentum will carry you forward.

Write your dissertation in single-space . When you need a boost, double space it and be impressed with how many pages you’ve written.

Set feasible goals–and celebrate the achievements! Setting and achieving smaller, more reasonable goals ( SMART goals ) gives you success, and that success can motivate you to focus on the next small step…and the next one.

Give yourself rewards along the way . When you meet a writing goal, reward yourself with something you normally wouldn’t have or do–this can be anything that will make you feel good about your accomplishment.

Make the act of writing be its own reward . For example, if you love a particular coffee drink from your favorite shop, save it as a special drink to enjoy during your writing time.

Try giving yourself “pre-wards” —positive experiences that help you feel refreshed and recharged for the next time you write. You don’t have to “earn” these with prior work, but you do have to commit to doing the work afterward.

Commit to doing something you don’t want to do if you don’t achieve your goal. Some people find themselves motivated to work harder when there’s a negative incentive. What would you most like to avoid? Watching a movie you hate? Donating to a cause you don’t support? Whatever it is, how can you ensure enforcement? Who can help you stay accountable?

Affective strategies

Build your confidence . It is not uncommon to feel “imposter phenomenon” during the course of writing your dissertation. If you start to feel this way, it can help to take a few minutes to remember every success you’ve had along the way. You’ve earned your place, and people have confidence in you for good reasons. It’s also helpful to remember that every one of the brilliant people around you is experiencing the same lack of confidence because you’re all in a new context with new tasks and new expectations. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out. You’re supposed to have uncertainties and questions and things to learn. Remember that they wouldn’t have accepted you to the program if they weren’t confident that you’d succeed. See our self-scripting handout for strategies to turn these affirmations into a self-script that you repeat whenever you’re experiencing doubts or other negative thoughts. You can do it!

Appreciate your successes . Not meeting a goal isn’t a failure–and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. It’s an opportunity to figure out why you didn’t meet the goal. It might simply be that the goal wasn’t achievable in the first place. See the SMART goal handout and think through what you can adjust. Even if you meant to write 1500 words, focus on the success of writing 250 or 500 words that you didn’t have before.

Remember your “why.” There are a whole host of reasons why someone might decide to pursue a PhD, both personally and professionally. Reflecting on what is motivating to you can rekindle your sense of purpose and direction.

Get outside support . Sometimes it can be really helpful to get an outside perspective on your work and anxieties as a way of grounding yourself. Participating in groups like the Dissertation Support group through CAPS and the Dissertation Boot Camp can help you see that you’re not alone in the challenges. You might also choose to form your own writing support group with colleagues inside or outside your department.

Understand and manage your procrastination . When you’re writing a long dissertation, it can be easy to procrastinate! For instance, you might put off writing because the house “isn’t clean enough” or because you’re not in the right “space” (mentally or physically) to write, so you put off writing until the house is cleaned and everything is in its right place. You may have other ways of procrastinating. It can be helpful to be self-aware of when you’re procrastinating and to consider why you are procrastinating. It may be that you’re anxious about writing the perfect draft, for example, in which case you might consider: how can I focus on writing something that just makes progress as opposed to being “perfect”? There are lots of different ways of managing procrastination; one way is to make a schedule of all the things you already have to do (when you absolutely can’t write) to help you visualize those chunks of time when you can. See this handout on procrastination for more strategies and tools for managing procrastination.

Your topic, your advisor, and your committee: Making them work for you

By the time you’ve reached this stage, you have probably already defended a dissertation proposal, chosen an advisor, and begun working with a committee. Sometimes, however, those three elements can prove to be major external sources of frustration. So how can you manage them to help yourself be as productive as possible?

Managing your topic

Remember that your topic is not carved in stone . The research and writing plan suggested in your dissertation proposal was your best vision of the project at that time, but topics evolve as the research and writing progress. You might need to tweak your research question a bit to reduce or adjust the scope, you might pare down certain parts of the project or add others. You can discuss your thoughts on these adjustments with your advisor at your check ins.

Think about variables that could be cut down and how changes would affect the length, depth, breadth, and scholarly value of your study. Could you cut one or two experiments, case studies, regions, years, theorists, or chapters and still make a valuable contribution or, even more simply, just finish?

Talk to your advisor about any changes you might make . They may be quite sympathetic to your desire to shorten an unwieldy project and may offer suggestions.

Look at other dissertations from your department to get a sense of what the chapters should look like. Reverse-outline a few chapters so you can see if there’s a pattern of typical components and how information is sequenced. These can serve as models for your own dissertation. See this video on reverse outlining to see the technique.

Managing your advisor

Embrace your evolving status . At this stage in your graduate career, you should expect to assume some independence. By the time you finish your project, you will know more about your subject than your committee does. The student/teacher relationship you have with your advisor will necessarily change as you take this big step toward becoming their colleague.

Revisit the alliance . If the interaction with your advisor isn’t matching the original agreement or the original plan isn’t working as well as it could, schedule a conversation to revisit and redesign your working relationship in a way that could work for both of you.

Be specific in your feedback requests . Tell your advisor what kind of feedback would be most helpful to you. Sometimes an advisor can be giving unhelpful or discouraging feedback without realizing it. They might make extensive sentence-level edits when you really need conceptual feedback, or vice-versa, if you only ask generally for feedback. Letting your advisor know, very specifically, what kinds of responses will be helpful to you at different stages of the writing process can help your advisor know how to help you.

Don’t hide . Advisors can be most helpful if they know what you are working on, what problems you are experiencing, and what progress you have made. If you haven’t made the progress you were hoping for, it only makes it worse if you avoid talking to them. You rob yourself of their expertise and support, and you might start a spiral of guilt, shame, and avoidance. Even if it’s difficult, it may be better to be candid about your struggles.

Talk to other students who have the same advisor . You may find that they have developed strategies for working with your advisor that could help you communicate more effectively with them.

If you have recurring problems communicating with your advisor , you can make a change. You could change advisors completely, but a less dramatic option might be to find another committee member who might be willing to serve as a “secondary advisor” and give you the kinds of feedback and support that you may need.

Managing your committee

Design the alliance . Talk with your committee members about how much they’d like to be involved in your writing process, whether they’d like to see chapter drafts or the complete draft, how frequently they’d like to meet (or not), etc. Your advisor can guide you on how committees usually work, but think carefully about how you’d like the relationship to function too.

Keep in regular contact with your committee , even if they don’t want to see your work until it has been approved by your advisor. Let them know about fellowships you receive, fruitful research excursions, the directions your thinking is taking, and the plans you have for completion. In short, keep them aware that you are working hard and making progress. Also, look for other ways to get facetime with your committee even if it’s not a one-on-one meeting. Things like speaking with them at department events, going to colloquiums or other events they organize and/or attend regularly can help you develop a relationship that could lead to other introductions and collaborations as your career progresses.

Share your struggles . Too often, we only talk to our professors when we’re making progress and hide from them the rest of the time. If you share your frustrations or setbacks with a knowledgeable committee member, they might offer some very helpful suggestions for overcoming the obstacles you face—after all, your committee members have all written major research projects before, and they have probably solved similar problems in their own work.

Stay true to yourself . Sometimes, you just don’t entirely gel with your committee, but that’s okay. It’s important not to get too hung up on how your committee does (or doesn’t) relate to you. Keep your eye on the finish line and keep moving forward.

Helpful websites:

Graduate School Diversity Initiatives : Groups and events to support the success of students identifying with an affinity group.

Graduate School Career Well : Extensive professional development resources related to writing, research, networking, job search, etc.

CAPS Therapy Groups : CAPS offers a variety of support groups, including a dissertation support group.

Advice on Research and Writing : Lots of links on writing, public speaking, dissertation management, burnout, and more.

How to be a Good Graduate Student: Marie DesJardins’ essay talks about several phases of the graduate experience, including the dissertation. She discusses some helpful hints for staying motivated and doing consistent work.

Preparing Future Faculty : This page, a joint project of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, explains the Preparing Future Faculty Programs and includes links and suggestions that may help graduate students and their advisors think constructively about the process of graduate education as a step toward faculty responsibilities.

Dissertation Tips : Kjell Erik Rudestam, Ph.D. and Rae Newton, Ph.D., authors of Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process.

The ABD Survival Guide Newsletter : Information about the ABD Survival Guide newsletter (which is free) and other services from E-Coach (many of which are not free).

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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  • How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples

How to Write a Discussion Section | Tips & Examples

Published on 21 August 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 25 October 2022.

Discussion section flow chart

The discussion section is where you delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results .

It should focus on explaining and evaluating what you found, showing how it relates to your literature review , and making an argument in support of your overall conclusion . It should not be a second results section .

There are different ways to write this section, but you can focus your writing around these key elements:

  • Summary: A brief recap of your key results
  • Interpretations: What do your results mean?
  • Implications: Why do your results matter?
  • Limitations: What can’t your results tell us?
  • Recommendations: Avenues for further studies or analyses

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Table of contents

What not to include in your discussion section, step 1: summarise your key findings, step 2: give your interpretations, step 3: discuss the implications, step 4: acknowledge the limitations, step 5: share your recommendations, discussion section example.

There are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing the discussion section of your paper.

  • Don’t introduce new results: You should only discuss the data that you have already reported in your results section .
  • Don’t make inflated claims: Avoid overinterpretation and speculation that isn’t directly supported by your data.
  • Don’t undermine your research: The discussion of limitations should aim to strengthen your credibility, not emphasise weaknesses or failures.

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Start this section by reiterating your research problem  and concisely summarising your major findings. Don’t just repeat all the data you have already reported – aim for a clear statement of the overall result that directly answers your main  research question . This should be no more than one paragraph.

Many students struggle with the differences between a discussion section and a results section . The crux of the matter is that your results sections should present your results, and your discussion section should subjectively evaluate them. Try not to blend elements of these two sections, in order to keep your paper sharp.

  • The results indicate that …
  • The study demonstrates a correlation between …
  • This analysis supports the theory that …
  • The data suggest  that …

The meaning of your results may seem obvious to you, but it’s important to spell out their significance for your reader, showing exactly how they answer your research question.

The form of your interpretations will depend on the type of research, but some typical approaches to interpreting the data include:

  • Identifying correlations , patterns, and relationships among the data
  • Discussing whether the results met your expectations or supported your hypotheses
  • Contextualising your findings within previous research and theory
  • Explaining unexpected results and evaluating their significance
  • Considering possible alternative explanations and making an argument for your position

You can organise your discussion around key themes, hypotheses, or research questions, following the same structure as your results section. Alternatively, you can also begin by highlighting the most significant or unexpected results.

  • In line with the hypothesis …
  • Contrary to the hypothesised association …
  • The results contradict the claims of Smith (2007) that …
  • The results might suggest that x . However, based on the findings of similar studies, a more plausible explanation is x .

As well as giving your own interpretations, make sure to relate your results back to the scholarly work that you surveyed in the literature review . The discussion should show how your findings fit with existing knowledge, what new insights they contribute, and what consequences they have for theory or practice.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your results support or challenge existing theories? If they support existing theories, what new information do they contribute? If they challenge existing theories, why do you think that is?
  • Are there any practical implications?

Your overall aim is to show the reader exactly what your research has contributed, and why they should care.

  • These results build on existing evidence of …
  • The results do not fit with the theory that …
  • The experiment provides a new insight into the relationship between …
  • These results should be taken into account when considering how to …
  • The data contribute a clearer understanding of …
  • While previous research has focused on  x , these results demonstrate that y .

Even the best research has its limitations. Acknowledging these is important to demonstrate your credibility. Limitations aren’t about listing your errors, but about providing an accurate picture of what can and cannot be concluded from your study.

Limitations might be due to your overall research design, specific methodological choices , or unanticipated obstacles that emerged during your research process.

Here are a few common possibilities:

  • If your sample size was small or limited to a specific group of people, explain how generalisability is limited.
  • If you encountered problems when gathering or analysing data, explain how these influenced the results.
  • If there are potential confounding variables that you were unable to control, acknowledge the effect these may have had.

After noting the limitations, you can reiterate why the results are nonetheless valid for the purpose of answering your research question.

  • The generalisability of the results is limited by …
  • The reliability of these data is impacted by …
  • Due to the lack of data on x , the results cannot confirm …
  • The methodological choices were constrained by …
  • It is beyond the scope of this study to …

Based on the discussion of your results, you can make recommendations for practical implementation or further research. Sometimes, the recommendations are saved for the conclusion .

Suggestions for further research can lead directly from the limitations. Don’t just state that more studies should be done – give concrete ideas for how future work can build on areas that your own research was unable to address.

  • Further research is needed to establish …
  • Future studies should take into account …
  • Avenues for future research include …

Discussion section example

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How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review – Steps & Tips

Published by Anastasia Lois at August 12th, 2021 , Revised On October 17, 2023

From an academic standpoint, a dissertation literature review can be defined as a survey of the thesis, journal articles, books, and other academic resources on any given research title . This article provides comprehensive guidelines on how to write a dissertation literature review.

A literature review in a dissertation is of critical importance primarily because it provides insight into the key concepts, advancements, theories, and results of your research questions  or  research problem .

However, it is essential to note that; a first-class dissertation literature review focuses on summarizing the academic sources used for research and analysing, interpreting, and assessing them to determine the gaps and differences in opinions, judgments, themes, and developments.

A good literature review will further elaborate on existing knowledge concerning the research hypothesis or questions.

View dissertation literature review examples here.  

When do you Write a Dissertation Literature Review?

Depending on your university’s guidelines, you might be required to include a literature review in the theoretical framework or the introduction.

Or you could also be asked to develop a standalone literature review chapter that appears before  the methodology  and  the findings  chapters of the dissertation.

In either case, your primary aim will be to review the available literature and develop a link between your research and the existing literature on your chosen topic.

Sometimes, you might be designated a literature review as a separate assignment . Regardless of whether you need to write a literature review for your dissertation or as a standalone project, some general guidelines for conducting literature will remain unchanged.

Here are the steps you need to take to write the literature review for a dissertation if you cannot write the literature review.

Steps of Writing a Literature Review

1. gather, assess, and choose relevant literature.

The first seed to take when writing your dissertation or thesis is to choose a fascinating and manageable research topic . Once a topic has been selected, you can begin searching for relevant academic sources.

If you are  writing a literature review for your dissertation, one way to do this is to find academic sources relevant to your  research problem or questions.

Without fully understanding current knowledge in the chosen study area, giving the correct direction to your research aim and objectives will be hard.

On the other hand, you will be expected to guide your research by developing a central question if you are writing a literature review as an individual assignment.

A notable difference here compared to the dissertation literature review is that you must answer this central question without conducting primary research (questionnaires, surveys, interviews). You  will be expected to address the question using only the existing literature.

Dissertation Literature Review Research Question

How can company “A” improve its brand value through social media marketing?

Literature Review Research Question

What is the connection between social media marketing and brand value?

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Use Keywords and References to Find Relevant Literature

Create a list of keywords that are relevant to the topic of research. Find journals, articles, and books using these keywords. Here are links to some recognised online academic libraries and databases;

  • Inspec, (Computer science, engineering, physics, chemistry)
  • EconLit, (Economics)
  • Google Scholar
  • Your university’s online research database

Finding relevant academic sources from “the reference list” of an article you have already found in a research database effectively discovers relevant studies.

Consider noting frequently appearing references as they are likely to be highly authentic and important publications even though they didn’t appear in the keyword search.

Journal articles or books that keep appearing with different keywords and phrases are the ones you should manually look out for.

The more times an article has been referenced, the more influential it is likely to be in any research field. Google Scholar lets users quickly determine how often a particular article has been referenced.

Also Read:  How to Best Use References in a Dissertation

2. Weighing and Selecting Academic Sources

It won’t be possible for you to read every publication related to your topic. An excellent way to select academic sources for your dissertation literature review is to read the abstract , which will help you decide whether the source is supportive and relevant to your research hypothesis or research questions.

To help you select sources relevant to your study, here are some questions for you to consider before making the decision.

  • What research questions has the author answered with their research work?
  • What fundamental concepts have been defined by the author?
  • Did the researcher use an innovative methodology or existing frameworks to define fundamental methods, models, and theories?
  • What are the findings, conclusion, and recommendations in the source book or paper?
  • What is the relevance between the existing literature and the academic sources you are evaluating?
  • Does the source article challenge, confirm, or add to existing knowledge on the topic?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Any breakthrough studies and key theories relevant to your research topic should be recorded as you search for highly credible and authentic academic sources.

The method of your review of literature depends on your academic subject. If your research topic is in the sciences, you must find and review up-to-date academic sources.

On the other hand, you might look into old and historical literature and recent literature if your research topic is in the humanities field.

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Recording Information and Referencing Sources

It is recommended that you start to write your literature review as you read articles, journals, and books. Take notes which can be later merged into the text of the literature review. Avoid plagiarism  and record all sources used along with references.

A good way of recording information is to analyse each source, summarise the key concepts or theories and compile a complete list of references in the form of an annotated bibliography.

This is a beneficial practice as it helps to remember the key points in each academic source and saves you valuable time as you start the literature review write-up.

3. Identify Key Themes and Patterns

The next step is to look for themes and patterns in the chosen sources that would enable you to establish similarities and differences between their  results and interpretations .

This exercise will help you to determine the  structure and argument for your literature review. Here are some questions that you can think of when reading and recording information;

  • Are any gaps in the existing literature?
  • What are the weaknesses of the current literature that should be addressed?
  • Were you able to identify any landmark research work and theories that resulted in the topic’s change of direction?
  • What are the similarities and disagreements between these sources? Were you able to identify any contradictions and conflicts?
  • What trends and themes were you able to identify? Are there any results, methods, or theories that lost credibility over time?

Also Read: How to Write a Dissertation – Step-by-Step Guide

4. Structure of Literature Review

There is no acclaimed  literature review structure , which means that you can choose from a range of approaches (thematic, chronological, methodological, and theoretical) when deciding on the structure of the literature review .

However, before you begin to  write the literature review , it is important to figure out the strategy that would work best for you. For long literature reviews, you might decide to use a combination of these strategies. For example, you could discuss each of the themes chronologically.

1: Theoretical

You can discuss various significant concepts, models, and theories in your literature review to form the basis of a theoretical framework . You could also combine a range of theoretical approaches to develop your theoretical framework or debate the significance of a particular theoretical framework.

2: Methodological

The methodological approach will require you to relate the findings of studies conducted in different research areas and use different research methods .

  • You might discover that results from the quantitative research approach are not the same as qualitative research.
  • You might split the selected academic sources based on their discipline – engineering, and sciences.

3: Thematic

You may also deploy a thematic approach, especially if you identified repeating key themes and patterns. If that is the case, you will be expected to put each aspect of the topic into different subsections within your literature review.

For example, if your research topic is “employment issues in the UK for international students,” you can divide the key themes into subsections; legal status, poor language skills, immigration policy, and economic turmoil.

4: Chronological

The most straightforward approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points, and critical debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

5. Writing your Literature Review 

Whether it’s a dissertation literature review or a standalone literature review assignment you have been assigned, you will be expected to divide your literature review into three larger sections – introduction, main body, and a conclusion.

What you write under these three segments will depend on the aim of your study.

Section 1 – Introduction

Here you will be required to state the objectives of the literature review clearly;

Introduction to Dissertation Literature Review Recapitulate your research problem or questions with a summary of the sources you reviewed when the literature review is for your thesis or dissertation. Consider highlighting gaps in existing knowledge and stress the suitability of your topic.

For example:

Research problem A has been debated in many recent studies.

While the topic has been explored concerning A, the B aspect has not yet been explored.

Individual Literature Review Project When reviewing literature for an individual literature review assignment, make sure that you clearly state the purpose of the research and debate the scope of the literature (how recent or old are the academic sources you are reviewing).

Section 2 – Main Body

As previously mentioned, you can divide this section into further subsections depending on your literature review’s length. You can also have a separate heading for each research method, theme, or theory to help your readers better understand your research.

Here are some tips for you to write a flawless main body of literature review;

  • Summarize and Combine ; Highlight the main findings from each academic source and organise them into one whole piece without losing coherence.
  • Evaluate and interpret; Make sure you are giving opinions and arguments of your own where possible. Simply rephrasing what others have said will undermine your work. You will be expected to debate and discuss other studies’ results about your research questions or aim.
  • Analytical Evaluation; It is essential to unmistakably present the literature you have reviewed and the merits and weaknesses of the literature.
  • Make Use of  Topic Sentences and Transitions; in organized subsections within the literature review to establish conflicts, differences, similarities, and relationships.

Example of How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review

The below example belongs to the body of a literature review on the effectiveness of e-recruitment in small and medium-sized enterprises in the United Kingdom’s IT sector.

E-recruitment means explicitly using digital technologies to recruit, select, and orient employees. The benefits of e-recruitment in the literature have been studied: increased access to a pool of candidates, time and cost savings, and greater flexibility for the organisation.

In contrast, the literature states that e-recruitment might not properly achieve the goal of retaining the workforce with the required skills to participate in the work environment (Lad & Das, 2016). Also, e-recruitment might be based on a flawed website design or poor application process, which might deter potential employees (Anand & Devi, 2016) .

This section of the study will focus on the existing studies linked to the effectiveness of e-recruitment. Human resource management is an essential function of business organisations because it manages the workforce.

The goal of HR should be to develop a strategic approach in which the organisation’s strategic goals can be attained efficiently and effectively. The advent of digital technologies has helped transform human resource management’s nature concerning recruiting and selecting employees for organisations.

The Internet’s benefits have reduced search time for candidates and significant cost savings for organisations. Finally, it offers a transparent method for obtaining information about specific candidates. E-recruitment helps organisations hire people from any part of the world as it promotes opportunities and benefits the organisation efficiently.

Sharma (2014) argues that 75% of human resource professionals in developed countries are now using e-recruitment to hire employees for their organisations. Additionally, some 2 out of 4 job seekers will use the Internet to source job opportunities.

Another evidence to support the rise of e-recruitment is a study by Holm (2014), which found that all Fortune 100 companies will be using some form of e-recruitment to advertise vacant positions.

The implications are that e-recruitment is a popular strategy for various positions, from blue-collar roles to white-collar and professional positions. The benefits of e-recruitment have been identified in the literature. Girard & Fallery (2009) argues that e-recruitment helps to save time for organisations and employees.

Employers can use several methods to post jobs in as little as 20 minutes. There are no limits to ad size, and they can receive resumes immediately. In contrast, the traditional methods require some time to appear, for example, in a newspaper, and might be there for a limited period.

Section 3 – Conclusion

When writing the dissertation literature review conclusion, you should always include a summary of the key findings which emerged from the literature and their relevance and significance to your research objectives.

Literature Review for Dissertation

If you are writing a dissertation literature review, you will be required to demonstrate how your research helped to fill an evident gap in research and contributed to the current knowledge in the field. Similarly, you can explain how you used the existing patterns, themes, and theories to develop your research framework.

Literature Review as an Individual Assignment

You can summarize your review of your literature’s significance and implications and provide recommendations for future work based on the gaps in existing knowledge you acknowledged.

6. Proofread

Finally, thoroughly proofread your literature review for grammatical, structural, spelling, and factual errors before submitting it to your university.

If you are unable to proofread and edit your paper, then you could take advantage of our  editing and proofreading service , which is designed to ensure that your completed literature review satisfies each of your module or project’s requirements. We have Masters and PhD qualified writers in all academic subjects, so you can be confident that they will edit and improve the quality of your to 2:1 or First Class standard, as required.

Valuable Tips for Writing Dissertation Literature Review

Your literature review must systematically comply with your research area. Underneath, we are stating some essential guidelines for a compact literature review.

Contribute to the Literature

After carefully reviewing the literature, search for the gaps in knowledge and state how you have analysed the literature with a different perspective and contributed to your research area.

Keep your Argument Systematic & Consistent

Your arguments must be consistent and systematic while discussing theories and controversial and debatable content. Be logical in your review and avoid vague statements, not to make it complex for the readers.

Provide Adequate References

Don’t forget to provide references, as they are the soul of the dissertation. While discussing different aspects of the research, provide a reasonable number of references, as your discussion and interpretations must be backed up by relevant evidence. You can see an example provided in the sample paragraph above.

Be Precise While Writing a Review

You aren’t required to write every inch of information you have studied while reviewing the literature. You will be able to find tons of information that will correlate with your research area.

Be precise while writing the review, as writing unnecessary, irrelevant information won’t give a good impression. State the most reliable sources in your review without jumping into every possible source.

Don’t go Excessively for Direct Quotes

Direct quoting is required to make a point more impactful, but you should opt for it to a specific limit. Making excessive use of it won’t be a good idea.

The direct quote is mainly used when you think that the words being used by the actual author are so authentic in their meaning that you can’t replace or rephrase them. Try to avoid relying too much on a single author/s work.

Discussing their contributions and keeping the review going briefly would be better. While mentioning the points discussed by the prior researchers – link your arguments with their discussion. Don’t write the crux of their discussion, yet tell if your argument goes along with them.

Express your Analysis

The literature review is written to summarize your perspective, which should be backed up in light of the literature. Critically analyze literature with a rational approach and express your opinion on it.

Use the Correct Referencing Style

While referencing, one must use proper referencing styles, i.e., Harvard reference style, etc. Different referencing styles are used for in-text citations, while different for end-text citations.

Feeling overwhelmed by your literature review? Still unsure about how to write a dissertation literature review? There is no need to panic. Whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate, or PhD student, our literature review writing service  can help you have your literature review to the highest academic quality.

All papers completed by our writers are delivered along with a free anti-plagiarism report. We will amend your paper for free as many times as needed until you are delighted with the contents and the works’ quality as long as your original instructions and requirements remain unchanged.

FAQs About Dissertation Literature Review

How to find relevant literature for reference in a dissertation.

You must note down keywords related to the title of your dissertation and search journals, articles, and books using them. 

How to select academic sources?

If you have found plenty of academic resources, you can select a few of them by reading the abstract of all the papers and separating the most relevant ones. 

How to quote academic references?

It is recommended that you start to write your literature review as you read articles, journals and books. Take notes which can be later merged into the text of the literature review. 

How should a literature review dissertation be written?

You should divide your literature review into three sections: 

Introduction, main body, and conclusion. 

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Finding it difficult to maintain a good relationship with your supervisor? Here are some tips on ‘How to Deal with an Unhelpful Dissertation Supervisor’.

Table of contents is an essential part of dissertation paper. Here is all you need to know about how to create the best table of contents for dissertation.

Not sure how to write the findings of a dissertation. Here are some comprehensive guidelines for you to learn to write a flawless findings chapter.

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While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence) 

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim 

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim 

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis 

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • picture_as_pdf Thesis

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  1. How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

    Craft a convincing dissertation or thesis research proposal. Write a clear, compelling introduction chapter. Undertake a thorough review of the existing research and write up a literature review. Undertake your own research. Present and interpret your findings. Draw a conclusion and discuss the implications.

  2. Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

    4) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid - or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it. 5) There will be one day during the process when you will freak ...

  3. Tips for writing and completing your dissertation (opinion)

    The thinking will help you generate more writing. Take breaks. The stress of writing and sitting in front of a computer for long stretches of time can have adverse effects on your health. One of the breaks I like to take when writing involves exercise. As I wrote my dissertation, I took walks and rode my mountain bike.

  4. Advice for how to get (and stay) motivated to write your dissertation

    Writing a dissertation is a grueling process that does not just require academic prowess, an excellent writing style and mastery of a very specific area of knowledge. ... Subscribe for free to Inside Higher Ed's newsletters, featuring the latest news, opinion and great new careers in higher education — delivered to your inbox. View Newsletters.

  5. Developing A Thesis

    An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion.

  6. Tips for the final year of writing your thesis (opinion)

    The best way to deal with this challenge is simply to speak openly with your loved ones and explain the process. Let them know right at the beginning of the final academic year that, yes, you know you've been a "student" for seemingly "forever.". And, yes, you are happy to be almost done. But also let them know that the stress of the ...

  7. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  8. How To Write A Dissertation Conclusion (Examples

    Some universities will prefer that you cover some of these points in the discussion chapter, or that you cover the points at different levels in different chapters. Step 1: Craft a brief introduction section. As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the conclusions chapter needs to start with a brief introduction.

  9. Dissertation Strategies

    Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues. Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

  10. How to Write a Dissertation Conclusion

    Step 5: Wrap up your thesis or dissertation. The end is near! Once you've finished writing your conclusion, it's time to wrap up your thesis or dissertation with a few final steps: It's a good idea to write your abstract next, while the research is still fresh in your mind. Next, make sure your reference list is complete and correctly ...

  11. How to Write a Discussion Section

    Table of contents. What not to include in your discussion section. Step 1: Summarise your key findings. Step 2: Give your interpretations. Step 3: Discuss the implications. Step 4: Acknowledge the limitations. Step 5: Share your recommendations. Discussion section example.

  12. Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples

    Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples. Published on September 9, 2022 by Tegan George.Revised on July 18, 2023. It can be difficult to know where to start when writing your thesis or dissertation.One way to come up with some ideas or maybe even combat writer's block is to check out previous work done by other students on a similar thesis or dissertation topic to yours.

  13. How to Write the Dissertation Literature Review

    Steps of Writing a Literature Review. 1. Gather, Assess, and Choose Relevant Literature. The first seed to take when writing your dissertation or thesis is to choose a fascinating and manageable research topic. Once a topic has been selected, you can begin searching for relevant academic sources. If you are writing a literature review for your ...

  14. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion

    A humanities dissertation topic or systematic review, on the other hand, might require more space to conclude its analysis, tying all the previous sections together in an overall argument. Step 1: Answer your research question. Your conclusion should begin with the main question that your thesis or dissertation aimed to address. This is your ...

  15. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  16. Advice to faculty who are chairing their first dissertation (opinion)

    Decide, if in a co-chairing situation, who should be the first point of contact. Engaging in this conversation with your advisee shows that you are human and understand that, as two busy people, you can figure out how to work together. While it's important to have this discussion at the beginning of the dissertation process, you should ...

  17. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  18. The common pitfalls of failed dissertations and how to steer clear of

    The majority of failed Ph.D. dissertations are sloppily presented. They contain typos, grammatical mistakes, referencing errors and inconsistencies in presentation. Looking at some committee reports randomly, I note the following comments: "The thesis is poorly written.". "That previous section is long, badly written and lacks structure.".

  19. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  20. Ph.D. students shouldn't focus only on dissertation (opinion)

    In the humanities and social sciences, many people believe that completing a Ph.D. involves spending years conducting research to write a dissertation that "extends the boundary of human knowledge.". But the real story is quite different from that. Although key, fulfilling your research project is the least important aspect of your Ph.D.

  21. Tips for improving relations with your dissertation chair (opinion)

    Ramon B. Goings offers three fundamental strategies to help strengthen the relationship. Consider this scenario: Student: "Dr. X, here is my dissertation proposal; it is 80 pages for your review. It would be nice to get feedback by Monday.". Dr. X (looking at the clock on their computer): "Well, it is 5 p.m. on Friday, and this ...