Home / Blog / What is a Dissertation: Your Ultimate Guide

It won't matter what is a dissertation until you enroll in a doctoral program. Dissertation writing will be the most significant and difficult academic paper one has ever written in their academic career. It is one of the requirements for obtaining a Phd. We'll cover a lot of ground in this blog, including how to write a dissertation, dissertation format, and how to structure one! If you find it difficult to write, you can get help from Nerdpapers' write my dissertation service. We have expert PhD writers available at very affordable rates. 

What is a dissertation?

It is a long piece of writing that consists of original research. A dissertation is not only the longest document but also the most difficult one. It is a 100 to 300-page document that is written as a part of your Ph.D. or master's program. Professors assign it to assess your ability to do the following:

  • Examine existing literature
  • Find out issues and knowledge gaps.
  • Make original research
  • Study raw information
  • Provide recommendations and organize solutions

Your instructor is your main guide while writing your dissertation. Consult them if you're facing any difficulty in writing it. 
The words "dissertation" and "thesis paper" are frequently used together. It becomes confusing because different countries use these terms in different ways. For instance, in the US, a thesis is used for a bachelor's or master's degree, whereas a dissertation is used to complete a doctorate. These are the opposite in the UK and Ireland, where dissertations are related to undergraduate degrees.

Dissertation vs Thesis

Now you have a clear idea of what a dissertation is, but do you know the difference between thesis and dissertation? The main difference is the degree program that requires them. The thesis is required in the master's degree program, but the dissertation is required at the doctoral level. Another difference is that the thesis is short, usually consisting of 40-80 pages, but the dissertation is not less than 100 pages. 

A dissertation does not require an oral defense, but it is required in the case of the thesis. The primary purpose of this viva is to check the student's research as well as investigative skills. The committee asks questions from the students related to their research and topic. 
Apart from the differences, they also share some similarities. Both assignments require a defense of the main stance of your topic. Moreover, both need students to employ analytical reasoning as well as critical thinking. Students have to show their expertise in both. Further, students should make the revisions based on their professor's feedback.

Dissertation Format

When it comes to the dissertation, the format is king. A dissertation is typically split into chapters, where each section focuses on different aspects of your research or argument. Depending on the citation style and specific university guidelines, a dissertation can be molded to fit a certain structure and look. The dissertation outline typically includes the following:

dissertation format

Title page

It is the focus of your dissertation. The title should clearly explain the topic you’re going to discuss. Anyone who reads the topic can easily understand what you’re talking about. 
Add your full name, university name, degree program, and submission date on the title page. If your adviser provides any guidelines, check them before formatting the title page. 

Table of contents

The table of contents contains the list of all chapters, headings, and subheadings, along with their page numbers. Moreover, the bibliography, appendices, and other optional sections, such as abbreviation lists, figures, and tables, are also included in the table of contents. 


It is the short summary of your dissertation that must be added at the start of your document. The abstract covers all the main points your paper discusses. Moreover, it also mentions the methodology briefly. The abstract must be one paragraph about 300-500 words.
Sometimes, the term ‘executive summary’ is used instead of abstract. Although they are technically distinct, popular usage implies they are the same: An abstract does not address the research's conclusions or findings; an executive summary does.


The introduction sets up your research question and also the background information related to your topic. You should add your thesis statement and a brief overview of how your paper discusses it.  

Usually, the introduction is organized so that each chapter has a brief synopsis. It should provide a brief overview of your methodology, approach, and current state of the field's research so the reader understands how your dissertation fits into the overall picture.

What is the ideal length for the introduction of a dissertation? Since the unofficial guideline states that the introduction should make up 10% of the total paper, a 20,000 word dissertation should have an introduction of roughly 2,000 words. Remember that this is only an estimate, and your introduction could vary.

Literature review

You will have gathered and reviewed the most important primary and secondary sources relevant to your topic during your research. Literature review, as the name implies, is where you assess and provide commentary on these sources, not only summarizing their conclusions but also highlighting their shortcomings and making connections between them.

The term "research gap," which describes particular areas of a topic that have not yet received enough attention in the literature, is one of the main ideas in a literature review. The ideal dissertation topics are these "blind spots," which you should attempt to fill in with fresh information or analysis. The research gap and how your dissertation fills it should be thoroughly explained in the literature review.

Main body/discussion

The discussion chapter places the prior chapter's results into context. Feel free to discuss any surprises or unexpected outcomes you experienced. Since transparency builds trust, this is a great place to express your personal views about the study process.


The dissertation conclusion, like the end of any research paper, brings everything together. This final core chapter should either provide a clear response to your research topic or examine your thesis statement. Recap and restate the findings you already stated in the conclusion rather than adding any new information or supporting evidence.


It's crucial to make sure the results are written up in an ordered manner that clearly illustrates your views and arguments. Each component should be written clearly and simply. Making sure that each component is appropriately organized will be crucial in ensuring that your reader can understand your thought process. Furthermore, it’s important to make sure your references are correctly cited throughout the document — this shows that you have done proper research and have evidence to back up each point. An annotated bibliography can be included in this section to provide additional context and analysis of your sources.

Types of Dissertation 

A dissertation is of two types: empirical and nonempirical dissertation. Let’s explore them in detail:

Empirical Dissertation 

It is assigned at the postgraduate level. In the empirical dissertation, you have to follow some ethical guidelines when you collect data from the public. For example, if you’re a student of natural sciences, then your dissertation may completely revolve around the laboratory work. 

It strongly emphasizes your ability to collect data from the real world and analyze that data. Different research methods are employed in the empirical dissertation, such as surveys, experiments, observations, interviews, or collection of all of these. 

Non Empirical Dissertation 

In this, students build up their work on the basis of other existing data and arguments shown by others. It means you need to spend a lot of time on research and reading. Moreover, there is no need to collect new data for this dissertation. 

How to write a dissertation?

Are you wondering how to write dissertation? Here is our dissertation writing guide that will help you in writing a dissertation. 

How to write a disertation

Choose the topic carefully

It is usually the first step in academic writing. Dr. Alex Patel, who is an adviser to learning development, always advises the pupils to choose a topic that is meaningful, engaging, and relevant to their career objectives. It is best to select the topic in which you are truly interested because it will help you to stay motivated through this lengthy writing as well as the research process. 

To get inspiration for a topic, you can get help from academic journals, course-related books, and articles published in newspapers. Moreover, it is good to consult with your professor during this writing process. They will guide you about the best methodology and what you can accomplish in the given time frame. 

Understand the requirements

It is very important to read the instructions carefully, whether it's an exam or any assignment. Reading the guidelines properly may reduce the chances of mistakes. By reading, you can also get an overview of what is asked of you. Additionally, ensure that you are aware of all the standard rules of academic writing. You must be familiar with writing styles such as APA format, MLA format, etc. 

Other important things that you must be careful about are how your paper looks and word count. The most crucial thing is where and when to submit your dissertation. 

Set a clear goal

After selecting the topic, make a proposal that clearly states what the purpose of your research is. It’s a good idea to get guidance from your adviser so that you can remain on the right track. 
Proposal writing is a crucial step because at this point you set the parameters of your study or research and understand the significance and restrictions of your dissertation. Additionally, this helps you to prepare mentally for what you are going to face in the upcoming phases of your document. It will provide your adviser the chance to share their feedback and suggestions. 

Remember that during the entire writing process, things will change, such as titles that reflect what you have covered in your research. Maybe your hypothesis will be proved later on. 

Stay clear on your end goal. It is advised to conduct thorough research, do a lot of reading, spend enough time on writing and proofreading, and finally, print as well as binding your dissertation. 

Start writing your dissertation

When you gather all the relevant data, it's time to start writing your dissertation. Start writing the dissertation as you collect information because it will save you time. Moreover, you'll even notice that as you begin writing and it doesn't immediately make sense. You will be learning your topic and writing the dissertation at the same time. The study's narrative, analysis, and interpretation can still be revised in its early stages, but when you start writing as you investigate, you gradually establish a structure on which you may either grow or intake. Take notes of the sources you used and keep organized. 

Don’t forget to proofread and edit

In your academic career, there comes a time when you don’t give importance to proofreading papers, especially in high level classes where your instruction does not crack down on missing a single comma or source. Your Ph.D. dissertation should be polished and of high quality that you would be proud of. To properly proofread your dissertation, allot specific time to yourself and read thoroughly what you have written. Also, edit your document where required. 
During this phase, try to ensure there is a clear difference between your statements as well as arguments. Also, check the existing research and study you’ve referred to support them. 

Make revisions

You may feel extremely isolated while working on your dissertation, and your viewpoint may become somewhat biased, one-sided, or overly focused. It is crucial to get input from your advisor as well as the other committee members. Ask your peers to review your dissertation. This is done to give room for different viewpoints that you might have overlooked. Other people's feedback is important since you can utilize it to improve your dissertation.

Savoring your achievements 

Writing your dissertation will be very difficult for you if you are completely unaware of what is a dissertation paper.  But if you do it right, then it will be your biggest achievement. If you follow all the above mentioned guidelines, you’ll write the dissertation that no one can challenge. 
Remember to give yourself a pat on the back and feel proud of the things you've accomplished and made. 

Tips for Writing a Dissertation 

You might be wondering what tips you should keep in mind when writing your dissertation. Well, here are some of the best tips for writing my dissertation:

Start Early

You know that good things take time, and your dissertation is no exception. It's important to start early and to work on your dissertation regularly so that you have enough time to make revisions, research, and find sources while still having time to relax and de stress.

Set Meaningful Goals

Set yourself realistic goals for each stage of the process. Setting achievable goals will enable you to track your development and check off milestones as you go. If you rush this part, you might have to come back later and fix the things you have already taken care of. This may make things tedious, and given the sheer amount of work a thesis requires, you might be out of your depth here.

Use a Writing Plan

Create a timeline or action plan detailing how you will accomplish your goals once you have set reasonable goals for yourself. You should include specific dates when you need to complete certain tasks, such as researching topics, studying previous dissertations, writing drafts, editing, and proofreading your work. Plan this phase out carefully. It is the most crucial part of working on a dissertation and should be given its due in terms of both time and effort.

Take Breaks

It might be rather daunting to write a dissertation at times, but it's crucial to take breaks between sessions so that your mind can relax and recover. To avoid burnout, take periodic breaks from your screen. This will give you time to collect your thoughts and return feeling revitalized.


The dissertation can be a really rewarding experience if you're willing to take on the challenge. It requires in-depth research, excellent writing skills, and organization skills. The understanding of what is a dissertation is very important. And the organization, format, and subject of your dissertation before you begin writing it. Write your dissertation in such a way that effectively conveys its thesis and main point by doing your research, making a plan, and following your plan. A dissertation of excellence requires a lot of dedication and effort, but most of all, patience and commitment. You can produce a dissertation you can be proud of with a little organization, careful planning, and effort. If you need any help, professional essay writers at Nerdpapers are more than happy to assist you.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the word count for a dissertation?

The word count for dissertation writing may vary depending on your education level. Normally,
The word count for undergraduate dissertations ranges from 10,000 to 20,000.
For master’s, it typically starts from 20,000 words and ends at 50,000 words.
For PhD scholars, it is 100,000 words.

How long should a dissertation be?

The length of the dissertation is about 100-300 pages.

What are the chapters of the dissertation?

It consists of seven main chapters such as:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References

What are the types of dissertations?

The types of dissertations include empirical and non-empirical dissertations.